The sub-ambient vibration of a city is perceived by the human body as a natural phenomenon, but hardly converted into direct consciousness in everyday life. DAS NUMEN’s project Sonor incorporates a change of this dynamic, by providing a new and apparent form to the subconscious sensory perception and putting it into an intensified focus.

DAS NUMEN is a Berlin-based artist collective consisting of: Julian Charrière, Andreas Reiner, Markus Hoffmann and Felix Kiessling. The artists unite a scientific starting point with an artistic perspective in their works and consequently create an ambivalent borderline experience. DAS NUMEN translates phenomena of nature into urban contexts and creates spaces of aesthetic experiences, in which the viewer can move independently and sensitize oneself to the surrounding environment.

With Sonor, they created an exceptional interactive sound installation, presented at Schinkel Pavilion (Berlin) in 2013. The installation combines the intense engagement with space as an instance and the artists’ fascination of biological systems.

Sonor transforms the exhibition space into an urban observatory, combining the interior and the exterior space. The existing architecture on its own, with its extravagant round shape and the serially arranged window openings, allows an exclusive visual impression of the natural environment. The sweeping view of the urban exterior extends the recipient’s range to locate himself. The artists added an acoustic image of the surrounding city to the space, by connecting it to seven surrounding neighborhoods. This process is based on an intelligent translation system: Cartographically abstract relationships are transferred into the room via a minimalistic interface. Geophones, positioned in cooperation with the Geophysical Institute of Potsdam, record an exact digital image of their vibrating environment and transmit it to the exhibition space in real-time.

Once in the exhibition space, the digital signals are transmitted via transducers onto the glass surfaces of the windows and being immediately converted into vibrations. Depending on the recorded intensity of the seismic activity, the amplitude of the individually induced vibration changes. The self-oscillation of the windows, stimulated by external influences, formulates a transcription of digitized input signals into perceptible and audible frequencies.

The selected frequency spectrum was defined by the artists from the specially determined resonance frequencies of the windows, because the acoustic effects are most clearly apparent in this explicit frequency band. By this means, the mutual superposition of the radiated and the intrinsic fundamental resonance frequency, induces as high as possible a self-amplification and thus the sonorous image can be optimally formulated.

By exemplifying an active acoustic amplification of the seismic waves of the environment, Sonor serves as the antithesis of passive viewing. The discrete, yet resilient, basses of the seismic events oppose the visual perception of the area and create both a sensory and cognitive perception beyond the visual and spatial limitation of the explicit space. Visitors acoustically follow the activity levels of their precincts, based on the sounds of the transducers and approach life outside the exhibition space through this perceptual enhancement which aims to raise the level of awareness.

The room is receiver, and – as part of the building- , sender at the same time. Oscillations, evoked by the acoustic translation, transform the room itself into a sounding body which blends into the architectural noise of the city itself.