COLD: translating the ambiance of rivulets into air-conditioners


View Jordan Lacey's Biography

Jordan Lacey is a research fellow, sound installation artist and musician based in the School of Design, RMIT University. 

COLD: translating the ambiance of rivulets into air-conditioners



In 2019, I began a project of curating an exhibition, translating ambiance, and working on my own artwork for the exhibition, COLD.1 COLD is a sound art installation that explored how the ambiance of a wild rivulet environment might be translated into a small urban space. The idea for both exhibition and artwork came out of my broader research project2 into wilderness ambiances and how they might be translated into cities via urban installations, in a way that could facilitate new relationships between humans and the city. This approach, figured as 'translating ambiance', wants to challenge the urban-nature dichotomy by revealing possible approaches to the production of new natures, and the ways technologies might provide access to more-than-human modes of sensory apprehension and environmental awareness.

Working collaboratively with visual artist remi freer(sic), who provided the lighting design, I wanted COLD to express translated ambiance as an entanglement of technological mediation, embodied experience and environmental expression. This process attunes the artist and audience to feelings and relationships generated within wilderness as they are experienced and re-imagined in an urban context. COLD began in the wilderness with ambisonic and hydrophone recordings of a river environment that were repurposed into a quadrophonic sound and light art installation installed in an urban laneway. The particular wilderness area I worked in was located in the Alpine high country, in the central highlands of the state of Victoria, Australia; and the selected urban space was an outdoor laneway3 running adjacent to the exhibition space. Before discussing the making and installation of COLD in detail, I will first elaborate on the concepts new nature, more-than-human sound, ambiance, and translating ambiance.


Translating ambiance, as an approach to the design of urban sounds (Karmanov et al 2008) challenges an urban-nature dichotomy, which presents nature as restorative and the urban as destructive to human health. This dichotomy reveals a romantic ideation of nature (as sublime) that risks ignoring the actualities of embodied experience. While certainly trying to avoid such a rigid and romantic dichotomy, a translating ambiance approach does understand the human body as subject to an expanded range of restorative and imaginative encounters in wild places that are not necessarily present in the urban. This is due to urban spaces being programmed by capitalism to control space (Lefebvre 1991) and aestheticize desire (Böhme 2017a), thereby reducing human experience to activities centred around consumerism. I discuss this in a prior work that argues the soundscapes of the urban are controlled by functionalist imperatives, and that art installations are able to rupture these controls by opening human experiences to the new (Lacey 2016). This momentary opening, I would speculate, can provide us with access to more-than-human worlds. The more-than-human, in this paper, refers not only to non-human bodies but also to those subjectivities that exceed our sensory apprehension of the world. Posthumanist scholars (Braidotti 2013; Ferrando 2016) and sound scholars (Cox 2019) often refer to this non-human force as zoë (meaning: life-energy). This force, I propose, is often more affecting in the wild where the controls of capitalism are less prevalent; the artist (particularly a sound artist, like myself) is attuned to ways to direct these forces into the urban through rupturing artworks.

The method of translation that I explored in COLD contrasts with approaches that aim to introduce the biomorphic forms of nature into cities, as advocated, for instance, by biophilic design practices (Kellert 2008; Beatley 2010). In these cases, urban forms are replaced with nature. Instead, I work with translating ambiance to see and hear how the urban might come to express the wild through its own material conditions­. In so doing, I hope that the urban might become (unfold into) a new nature, in which wild Earthly expression might transform a city -- not simply or directly through the introduction of natural forms -- but through more-than-human experiences expressed through situated artworks. In this paper I will detail the processes by which the artwork COLD worked towards and with such translation, by reimagining a wild ambiance within a programmed space of the urban. To begin, I will discuss the importance of sound, particularly field recording, in artistic translation.

more-than-human sound

It is by now well established that sound is a powerful medium for exploring affect (Cox 2019), relations (LaBelle 2012) and sensibility (Voegelin 2010), which makes it an excellent medium for exploring the potential of translating the emotive and bodily qualities of ambiance. Key ambiance theorist Jean-Paul Thibaud (whose ideas will be discussed in more detail below) provides two key reasons why sound is treated as a privileged medium within studies of ambiance: firstly, its relationship with historical sound studies (particularly the 'sound effect' concept); and, secondly, the possibilities afforded by recording and reproduction technologies as utilised in field recording practices. Field recording (or phonographic) practices, in particular, are of great importance to the translating ambiance process. Field recording is a diverse art in which artists apply various techniques for the creation of artworks and compositions (Carlyle and Lane 2013). It offers ways to express the relations "between sound and space" and to "actively intervene in them" during field work (Gallagher 2015: 563; my italics). As such, field recording can reveal new qualities of space and provides unique methods for recreating embodied experiences.

During the field recording practices of COLD, I made no attempt to reproduce wilderness with recording technologies. Rather, as will be discussed, the technology was entangled with the chosen site in an attempt to evoke a unique listening experience. The field recording equipment became an extension of my listening capacities, affording my ears greater powers of apprehension; in this case, a simultaneous listening to the above and below the water surface. As such, field recording equipment blurs the borders between the human and more-than-human by producing listening conditions that exceed our biological limits. This might produce new ways of knowing and feeling: for instance, imagining what creature could possibly hear simultaneously above and below water; or, feeling the bodily transformations of becoming-river through listening. It is this type of affective evocation that the rupturing installation, COLD, hoped to create through translating ambiance. Which brings me to ambiance.


This paper uses both the French 'ambiance' and English 'ambient'. The French spelling ambiance refers to the work of Jean-Paul Thibaud, which has many similarities with atmosphere theory4 and the phenomenological tradition. He describes ambiance as an interdisciplinary field of study that "offers an original alternative to traditional object/subject, sensory/intelligible, active/passive dualism" thereby presenting new thinking about the connections between the senses and environment (Thibaud 2012: 14). There is a radicality to this position, which disallows objects a definite form. Rather, what the object is, depends on our perception and its mediation by the intervening mediums: sound, air, light etc. This offers the artist an enticing proposition: any 'object' can be transformed by intervening in the mediums that shape perception. Thibaud states that ambiance theory is grounded in fieldwork, is interdisciplinary, and retains a special interest in sound (Thibaud 2014; 2012). Ambiance theory's special interest in sound partly relates to its intellectual genealogy with CRESSON (Centre for research on sound space and urban environment) where the "sound effect" concept (Augoyard and Torgue, 2005) was developed. Sound effects emerge at the interface of the built environment, sensory perception and our cultural and social history (p.9); therefore, sound informs our phenomenological experience by shaping the space in which it materially propagates. Thibuad was a contributing author to Augoyard and Torgue's key text, and later as CRESSON's director, further established the concept of sonic ambiance in relation to CRESSON's sonic research. It is this intertwined relationship of sound with ambiance that makes it a forceful theoretical and practical tool for a sound artist.

Ambience (with an e) means something different in English. Although both ambience and ambiance refer to a mood, the philosophical implications of ambiance theory are more profound. Ambience as a term has less philosophical potency, insofar as it typically refers to an aesthetic preference -- or vibe ("let's go to that restaurant, the one with the pleasant ambience"). In an everyday sense, it typically refers to a quality of space (external to the perceiver), which encompass or immerses the human subject. This is different to ambiance, which requires sensory apprehension for evocation. Nonetheless, the adjectival form of ambience -- ambient -- is a concept that is still relevant for understanding translating ambiance. As Thibaud explores in his paper elsewhere in this Issue, ambient acts as a rigorous and precise term that more scientifically describes the specific qualities of an environment.5 Examples include ambient sounds, ambient light, ambient temperature etc., which become the basis of scientific measurement and data collection. In this paper the ambient qualities of sound and light are of particular interest, as it is these ambient expressions of space that I recorded with my technological devices. The ambiance of the site was the bodily and imaginative connection I made with the environment through the ambient mediums that shaped my perceptions. Ambiance emerges as an entangled becoming of human perception and worldly expression: it is, in any given situation, the becoming of the world through perception. I will now return to the discussion of translation, entangling it with ambiance, in my artwork, COLD.

translating ambiance

The COLD installation is part of my broader investigation, of which the exhibition, translating ambiance, is part. In this broader project I have been trying, as an artist, curator, and scholar, to think about methods by which the ambiance of one space might be translated into another space. The specific inflection of the term translation here is inspired by the work of two theorists -- Nicolas Bourriaud and Nils Albertsen.

The curator and theorist Nicolas Bourriaud uses translation to describe contemporary artistic processes. Bourriaud's project is concerned with the foundation of an altermodernity based on the movement of signifiers, rather than on the phenomenological concerns of ambiance. Nevertheless, his insights on translation as artistic practice provide important insights into the exhibition's curation and the installation COLD. He writes,

today's art seems to negotiate the creation of new types of space by resorting to a geometry of translation (...) it refers to movement, to the dynamism of forms, and characterises reality as a conglomeration of transitory surfaces and form that are potentially moveable. (Bourriaud 2009, p.79)

In keeping with this, the ambient expressions of an environment (especially sound and light) can be considered to be moveable and transitory (in flux), which the field recording artist apprehends and translates into an alternative environment (via field recording and photography, for instance). Bourriaud also discusses how in every translation something is lost, and something new is gained (ibid., p.135). Following Bourriaud, translation doesn't seek to replicate an experience or environment, say, but to recreate it into something new while retaining certain qualities of the original experience (or environment etc).

The second theorist, who informs my thinking with the exhibition and my installation work is Niels Albertsen (2012). He uses the term "transporting" to describe how atmospheres might be presented again in other places and times. Albertsen's considerations of transportation are more focussed, for instance, on the way in which reading a book can transport the self into a new ambiance, through a process he calls "linguistic gesturing" (p.72). According to Albertson gesturing refers to the actions of the human body -- i.e. language, feeling, creating artworks etc. -- as a means to "presence the atmosphere 'again and anew' in other times and places" (p.73). Albertsen argues that for atmospheres to travel in time and space, they have to be "transformed in to some movable state"; however, he states that key to an atmospheric approach is that "gestural transport of atmospheres is not a keeping of constants" (p.73). Rather, it is the redirection of attention towards a newly meaningful experience. So, for Albertson, an atmosphere can be transported, but in its transportation something new is produced.

This recognition of the something new that happens with translation for both these theorists, is crucial to translating ambiance---as a concept, as the basis for my curating of an exhibition, and for COLD. Explicitly, translating in the figure 'translating ambiance' is a response to an oft-stated urban platitude: if the sensory stimulation of urban life creates stress and anxiety, the introduction of nature into the urban can increase our sense of well-being. I am not advocating here, a banal ambience discourse i.e. creating pleasant, immersive atmospheres to make people feel better, which could have the undesired outcome of turning nature's ambiances into yet another exploitable resource. My intention instead is to affect diverse becomings of the human body towards imaginative, evocative and vital environmental relationships. In the creation of urban artworks, translation occurs as two simultaneous modes: firstly, a technical form, whereby technologies render and transport ambient expressions into new spatial and temporal contexts, and secondly, an embodied form, whereby sensual experiences evoked in the wild are reimagined within the material conditions of the urban. In other words, there is no attempt to re-present a nature experience. Rather, humans experience urban ambiances that are equivalent in affective intensity to those encountered in the wild. I will now turn to how I attempted to achieve this during the creation of COLD.

Fieldwork: discovering the ambiance of a rivulet environment

When I began the fieldwork for COLD, on an artist residency, I didn't know the actual process by which I would record, and what type of ambient phenomenon I would encounter. It was very much a process of trial and error, as experimental processes typically are.

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Fig. 1: Recording in the field. Underground rivulets flowed through a clearing, the width and length of which reminded me of the dimensions of a small roadway or laneway.

I spent the first day of my residency exploring the wilderness surrounding our sleeping quarters. The topology was steep and cloaked with snow gums, native and invasive undergrowth, and large coverings of snow from recent falls. In my explorations I came across a shallow series of intertwining rivulets that flowed down hill through a clearing between the trees that measured approximately 8-10 metres across (see Fig. 1). Intriguingly, I couldn't see the rivulets as they flowed beneath the undergrowth; however, it was audible throughout the landscape. Upon further exploration, I discovered small openings -- what I came to refer to as nooks (see Fig. 2) -- in the ground where the rivulets became visible. In these nooks I discovered small areas of turbulence, each of which created its own unique sounding.

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Fig. 2: A hydrophone was carefully positioned in each nook, discovering unique soundings across the watery turbulences.

Standing atop an expanse of grasses and fallen branches, while immersed in watery sounds, felt at first, an odd experience. Odd, because of its initial mystery, insofar as I could hear everywhere a sound that I could not locate. Discovering the nooks became important to me: it was like the environment was revealing the mystery of how it came to create this small pocket of ambiance. The nooks were like miniature turbulences dwelling beneath the ground. Standing equidistant between a constellation of four nooks, their independent voices merged into a ubiquitous rivulet soundscape. I decided to assemble a microphone rig that would simultaneously record the unique expression of each nook, while also rendering the soundscape it formed. To achieve this, I assembled an eight channel recording rig that comprised a Soundfield SPS-200 A-format Tetramic, 3 ASF-1 MKII Ambient hydrophones (seen in Fig. 2) and 1 DolphinEar hydrophone, all connected to a Sound Devices 788T 8-channel recording device synced to a Sound Devices mixpre-6 (this was necessary as I lacked two connectors required for the 788T). Firstly, I set up the tetramic inside a RODE windshield mounted on a mic stand which I placed in the middle of the nooks. With this, I intended to get a general ambisonic recording of the space that recorded the river's ambient sounds. Thus, I was able to combine a 3D acoustic rendering of the space with the individual recordings of each nook. Before recording inside the nooks, I used a portable Zoom H6 microphone, with headphones, to find the best placement for the hydrophones (see video 1).

Video 1: A hydrophone recording the turbulence of a 'nook'.

The Zoom with headphones enabled me to extend my ears into each nook by placing the hydrophone with a very particular orientation and location in relationship to the swells each nook was creating. The process was extraordinary in that every placement of the hydrophone -- even a minor movement, produced a new sonic world -- reminding me that any sonic environment will always produce effects that are well in excess of any one hearing; and that technology enables us to extend the limits of our sensory apprehension. Once positioned I then connected each hydrophone to the Sound Devices 788T and started recording (see Fig. 3 for a field sketch of the technical set-up).

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Fig. 3: These notes were taken in the field. Note the location of the four nooks in relationship to the ambisonic microphone location, which is in the centre. To the left is a technical sketch of the recording configuration.

I recorded the environment for one hour, with all microphone inputs synchronised. It took three recordings over three days to obtain what I felt was the best result. I had obtained what I would come to refer to as a "more-than-human" field recording. More-than-human in the simplest of senses -- no human could simultaneously listen above and below water (at least with both ears!); and yet, the technology provided me with this expanded sensory apprehension. I sensed these "more-than-human" recordings invited a translation, that might reveal deeper potentialities of the urban -- as I will revisit later.


While recording I sat and listened to the ambient expressions of the space: its sounds and lights -- while also absorbing its smells. Before recording, I was busy identifying and locating the sounds, and positioning my technology to best respond to the spatial and dynamic distribution of the sounds. During the process I was untangling cables, covered in sweat, mumbling to myself while slipping in the mud: but with the driving desire to obtain the highest quality field recording. However, when I sat quietly with the space, and let my perceptions roam freely, that is to say, without my perceptions locked into a functional task, I felt that my body began to experience the ambiance. Experiencing ambiance is a becoming; the body transforms as it is embraced by the environment. At this point the mind stops analysing and the body presents its somatic knowings, allowing the imagination to be guided into new awareness' and sensory explorations. Visually, I became entranced by the glistening of the sun on the surface of the watery nooks and also the surrounding snow (see Fig. 4).6 Each fragment of snow sparkled, with multiple refractions occurring with a tilt of the head.

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Fig. 4: light glistening from the surfaces of water and snow

Over time I came to more carefully perceive the variety of sounds in the space. In addition to the water, I was hearing helicopters from the nearby snow fields, occasional passing traffic and the clear calls of a native bell-bird perched above me. I immediately knew I would not try to recreate a 'natural' field recording: the sounds of the urban were already here, entangled with the wild, and they would come to be translated into the laneway along with the nooks. I came to hear how the sounds diffuse through the overhead foliage and reverberate within the surrounding hills. Falling deeper into my own relationship with the space, I began to flow with the rivulet sounds and feel my body's synchronous movement with the swaying trees. For me, these poetic becomings are expressions of the ambiance -- occurring bodily, for me; while at the same time, the ambient sounds were rendered by my recording technologies.

Thinking back on this experience, it has occurred to me that in this moment, I was diffracting with the space rather than reflecting on the space (Barad 2007: 71-2; Haraway 1992: 300). Both Barad and Haraway use this term to encourage us to consider how we relate to the world. Rather than the environment being asked to reflect back at me my presumptions about the wild -- as determined by my ideations -- I let the environment diffract, or bend me, in relation to the existing situation. Its material and expressive gestures bent my body into a shape corresponding to its flows and becomings; and it was these experiences that I translated into the urban. A 'natural' field-recording may seek to reproduce a natural environment by omitting all the 'interruptions' that contradict the field recordist's ideas of what nature should be. However, by allowing the environment to bend my experiences in the direction of its own becomings -- its sounds and movements -- I came to know the environment in an idiosyncratic (embodied) way. To diffract is to move in the direction with -- the translation was then a continuation of this movement, via embodiment, towards the urban. It is this bodily knowledge that became important to the making of the subsequent urban installation.

Installation: translation into a Melbourne laneway

Video 2: COLD operating by day; lighting is synced to the hydrophone recordings of each nook.

As signalled earlier, I made COLD as part of a broader research project entitled Translating Ambiance: restorative sound design for urban soundscapes. This research included commissioning and curating the Translating Ambiance exhibition at Yarra Sculpture Gallery. This particular gallery contained the ideal laneway space for the ambiance that I wished to translate (see Fig. 5). The air-conditioners, friends of mine from previous exhibitions, were right at home in the laneway; indeed a laneway is the type of space where they would typically be found.7 Furthermore, the laneway's proportions were comparative with the discovered Alpine space at an approximate 1:2 ratio. As such, I was able to locate the four air-conditioners in the same relational locations as the four nooks (see Fig. 3) at a 1:2 scale.


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Fig. 5: The laneway was similar to the Alpine clearing made by the rivulet environment -- at an approximate 1:2 scale. The location of the four air conditioners were spatially consistent with the location of the four nooks.

I located each of the four nook hydrophone recordings in the spatially corresponding air conditioner shells (as seen in Fig. 5). The three nooks recorded with the ASF-1 MKII Ambient hydrophones were housed in three similar looking larger sized air-conditioning shells, and the singular DolphinEar microphone was placed in the smaller sized air-conditioning shell that was located in the nook 4 position (to the left of Fig. 5). Visually, the air-conditioning units recalled the two different types of hydrophonic microphones. Audibly, the resonant shaping of the smaller air-conditioning unit differed to the others, which complimented the different timbre of the DophinEar recording. In Fig. 5, speaker and lighting cables can be seen trailing off to the left of the image. These were patched into a playback system that included a minimac computer, focusrite Clarett 8 Pre USB audio card and custom-made lighting box. Reaper and Max/MSP were loaded onto the minimac. Fig. 6 shows the eight sound files loaded into Reaper. The top four files are tetramic recordings which are decoded into B-Format via the Harpex VST plugin (see inset of Fig. 6).

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Fig. 6: Audio playback was handled by Reaper and the Harpex VST plugin.

The Shotgun preset was selected in Harpex which enabled me to isolate the sounds of the four nooks in relationship to the air-conditioner placement (see circular image to the right side of the Harpex plug-in in Fig. 6). As shown in the inset Harpex VST plug-in image each of the four channels were made to overlap to better recreate the intermeshing of sounds in the wilderness environment. Audio from the four hydrophones were routed to Max/MSP which sent signals to the custom-made lighting box, causing four LED lights to switch on each time a hydrophone sound was registered. The detail in Fig. 6 shows the spiking signal of the hyrdrophone in the bottom three audio files (the fourth is concealed) with each spike triggering the LEDs via the Max/MSP patch.

I lined the inside of each shell with a translucent and refractive plastic, which created diffusive patterns. In the direct sunlight this produced a subtle lighting effect that could be observed above and to the side of each air-conditioning shell, in a way that was uncannily like the flickering of light reflecting off snowflakes or the moving surface of water. Video 3 shows the lighting during the day, while peering into the units. For me Video 3 gives the most convincing translation of my own experiences of peering into the nooks. As more of a spectacle at dusk, Video 2 was not my intended translation, yet it somehow did its own work, creating a different vital ambiance.

Video 3: Close up of lighting effect in one of the air-conditioning shells.

Audience engagements

Audience responses to COLD were of course varied -- as were my own at different moments. Many of the artists and visitors who spent time with COLD reported feelings of calm. This is interesting in terms of one of my overall project's aims to create restorative spaces in urban environments. And it is probably to be expected given that many urban soundscape design studies find the sounds of moving water to be calming (Rehan, 2019; Axelsson 2010; Brown et. al 2004). But what is fascinating is that in this case people were surrounded by industrial artefacts in an urban setting rather than the designed water features typical to commonplace urban design approaches. People were surrounded by unattractive concrete, highways, an abandoned community garden, and after the rain, long stretching puddles that seemed an extension of the installation (see video 4). The unexpected and uncanny arrival of this body of water invited an intriguing connection with the wilderness' watery ambiance, bringing out new, unexpected qualities in the artwork, not just for audiences but for me too.

Video 4: A temporary river appears in the laneway, after rain.

Some audience members also commented that the work reminded them of lost, underground rivers that have been covered by roads; that the lighting, like the sound, was meditative and immersive; and that the installation complemented, even augmented, the surrounding environment (as seen in video 4). I sensed that for them the calming and evocative affects of the Alpine region seemed to have been translated by the recordings into the context of an industrial environment. This affirmed for me that it's not necessary to try to replicate or recreate 'original nature' to create restorative or imaginative affects. Nor as artists do we need to overlay our ideas of 'nature' onto the 'urban'. For those audiences, at least, translating ambiances could create new, equally intense experiences -- across of space and time--- in a new nature/urban. Listening to audience responses, I was reminded of Salomé Voegelin's Sonic Possible Worlds (2014) in which sound art, and soundings, enable the auditory imagination to conjure new sonic worlds that are as real as the experiences that inform them. Listening to their response to this particular project, I hoped I was sensing the audiences imagining the city anew, as they encountered COLD's redirecting of the flow of the Earth's affectivities into the urban.

More-than-human, new natures

I'd like to conclude by foregrounding how this project opens thinking about nature/urban and, with it, new natures. In previous works I have speculated on the idea of creating new natures in urban spaces (Lacey 2016;2012). These ideas were influenced by Henri Lefebvre's discussions of urban space becoming a new or second type of nature (2004;1991) and Timothy Morton's critiques of environmentalisms as being overly romantic (the distant gaze) and, therefore, not connected with the here and now (2007;2010). In considering these two thinkers, I have come to see new natures as something very different to 'nature' and 'urban' as commonly understood. New nature offers a consideration of what the city can become, and how art might inform such transformations. As I hope my discussion here has suggested, ambiance theory offers philosophical and pragmatic openings towards such possibilities.

Avoiding a conventional subject-object division, ambiance theory resonates with new natures. By focussing on the mediums that shape our perception, ambiance theory unfixes the world and my place in it. The blurry in-between of ambiance collapses any division between me (subject) and the world (object); rather, I am situated in the becoming of ambiance. Thibaud writes that "ambiance places the sensorial world at the very centre of living space and constitutes a condition of possibility" (2012:14; his italics). Possible worlds emerge through us and the ambient mediums we encounter; a becoming-real (rather than the real) which is shifting and amorphous, never fixed and static. Ambiance challenges me to consider that there is no fixed world -- its possible manifestations and becomings are as varied as the lives that perceive it.

The wild--in all its ancientness and more-than-human diversity (animals, plants, animus)--is often perceived as alive with vitality (experienced as imaginative and restorative affects) that may be diminished by the urban. But by focussing on the ambiances of both environments, COLD tries to imagine how wild affects might be rediscovered -- via embodied translations--in our cities--by unhinging any straightforward distinction between the city and wilderness. The material conditions of the urban are reconfigured to express the affectivities of the wild, by momentarily ridding urban space of its functional demands. The wild does not seek to control, it is an ever-becoming entanglement of materialities, forces and possibilities: a transversal vitality, which the artist can express anew in the environments humans inhabit.

In making COLD and in the broader discussion in this paper, I have come to sense how translating ambiance, and technological mediation, might expand our perceptions into 'more-than-human' experiences. The urban becoming-wild in COLD, resounds with the promise that technological mediation offers access to worlds beyond typical human apprehension. In so doing, the material conditions of the urban come to express themselves anew. These are the material assemblages that I figure as new natures. Burying myself in the rivulets of the Alpine was joyful, in part, thanks to the technology that enabled me to discover new sonic worlds in the land, expanding my possible relationships with the environment. Through technology, unheard subjectivities that typically exceed the perceptual limits of my human body, came to speak to me in more-than-human voices. The ambiance that inhabited my body became the translation that flowed into the urban---enlivening the work that was COLD.


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Thibaud, J. (2014), 'The backstage of urban ambiances: When atmospheres pervade everyday experience', Emotion, Space and Society, 15: 39-46.

Thibaud, J. (2020) "A brief archaeology of the notion of ambiance", Unlikely Journal of the Creative Arts, 7.

Sumartojo, S. and Pink, S. (2018) Atmospheres and the Experiential World: Theory and Methods, Britain: Routledge.

Voegelin, S (2010) Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art, New York: Bloomsbury.

Voegelin, S (2014) Sonic Possible Worlds: Hearing the Continuum of Sound, New York: Bloomsbury.


  1. The exhibition was held in September 2019 at the Yarra Sculpture Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. Further information about the exhibition can be found at the website:, and in an interview completed with Foreground (see: Clement, 2019). 

  2. Translating Ambiance: restorative sound design for urban soundscapes is a three-year Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant, awarded to Jordan Lacey (2019-21). 

  3. A laneway is otherwise known as an alleyway or narrow roadway. 

  4. It should be noted that the 'sound installation' discussions of atmosphere theorist Gernot Böhme (2017b: 187) and the 'atmospheric design' discussions of Shanti Sumartojo and Sarah Pink (2019: 95) both articulate the affective possibilities of atmospheric intervention; however, this paper will maintain a focus on ambiance because of its strong relationship with sound studies (Augoyard and Torgue, 2005; Thibaud 2014). 

  5. This point is also discussed by Ulrich Schmidt (2013), who uses the term "ambient field" to describe the immersive nature of an "ambience". It is interesting to note that Schmidt, who uses the ambience (rather than ambiance) spelling, places his emphasis on an ambience's external and encompassing qualities (p.176); whereas ambiance refers to the becoming of our perceptibilities via ambient mediums. 

  6. The snow was observed at a higher altitude on another day's exploration. The similarity in the glistening of the watery and snowy surfaces caught my attention. 

  7. I would imagine the four units had climbed down from the walls and assembled themselves in some type of ritualistic configuration.