Extendable Ears

Nomination

While living with friends, I realized ‘noise’ is subjective: what’s music for me may torture others. Likewise, noise is species-dependent: animals including dogs, cats, bats, and insects can hear ultrasound (> 20 KHz) beyond our hearing perception. However, the fact that we cannot hear ultrasound does not prevent us from producing it: we use appliances, tools, and vehicles—the manufactures of which only measure operation noises in ‘audible’ frequency range.
I wondered—Am I unintentionally producing ultrasound noises that annoy other species1 ? Am I living in ultrasound-rich societies? To find out, I made a wearable device which transforms ultrasound (20~70 KHz) to audible ranges, allowing my ears to register sound frequencies similar to cats’2 . I decided to wear this device for one month (24/7) 3, feeding ultrasound noise to my ears to see if I would go crazy. Surprisingly, I found myself starting to have bizarre dreams; I recorded them in a diary.

1 Sales, G. D., et al. Laboratory Animals 22.4 (1988): 369-375.
2 Cats can hear higher-pitched sounds than humans (55Hz-79kHz).
3 In the Netherlands and Taiwan.

Credits

Programming: Kees Reedijk (werkplaats elektronica, Rijksakademie)
Consultant physician: Dr. HHF (Bert) Derkx (resident scientist, Rijksakademie)
Consultant sleep physician: Dr. Hans Hamburger, somnologist. AMSTERDAM SLAAP CENTRUM at Boerhaave MC
Consultant biologist: Dr. Kendy Tzu-Yun Teng, DVM Ph.D., University of Sydney
Design collaboration: Yi-Fei Chen (Fei Studio)

With support from Mondriaan Fund (NL), Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (NL), National Culture and Arts Foundation (TW)

Sheng-Wen Lo (TW) has been investigating the relationships between non-humans and contemporary society, often taking daily experiences as points of departure and playfully engaging with them. As a maker, his practice comprises installations, video games, and escape rooms, as well as still and moving images. He received an MA in Photography from AKV|St.Joost in the Netherlands, and an MSc in Computer Science from the Computer Music Lab at National Taiwan University. Sheng is currently an Artist in Residence at the Rijksakademie (2019-2021) in Amsterdam.