"How Corals Think" Kaohsiung 2017

“How Corals Think” Kaohsiung 2017

During the third session of Penghu Experimental Sound Studio, between April and July 2017, I had the chance to collect underwater sounds of coral reefs. Check the previous post for listening examples and explanation of this project.

I feel no need to explain how important is it to learn more about those threatened and vanishing environments. We all know that we’re at a turning point, no matter how strong is the denying power.
My personal experience with corals reefs of Penghu took a very strange turn between 2008 and 2009, when a cold current, caused by the warming and melting of mountain snows in China, arrived in the archipelago and wiped 90% of the corals. Nowadays, the area is slightly recovering, but in fragile condition, endangered by human activities.
Being focusing on sound, and trying to collect sounds of the fauna living among corals, there was a moment when I felt there is something to discuss and consider : how come so few people feel concerned, how come this topic is so remote and abstract to them. Letting audience listening to sounds of living creatures, could it change a bit the representation of marine environment as a simple resource of proteins and good tastes ? Can we grab the attention of the public, not only by explaining the emergency of the situation with a discourse, but also by letting them hear the sounds of living creatures ?
During the same period of time, I was absorbed by readings from the field of anthropology, by researchers who try to redefine our Western concept of “Nature”. There was especially one inspiring entitled “How Forests Think” by Eduardo Kohn. This work presents the very complex relations between Runa people in Ecuador and their living environment. The book engaged me to ask another question. If the fauna present in the coral reef is producing sounds, especially for communication purpose, they are exchanging meaningful signals. Then what is it to think with the Corals ?

A first version of this on-going project was presented during the exhibition “開幕:南方-問與聽的藝術 The South – an art of asking and listening”, curated by Manray Hsu, at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan (June to September 2017).