Responding to the space and function of the elevator, artist Robin Rimbaud mixes urban field recordings of airborne bats to create Ricochet – Seeing in the Dark. Far exceeding the frequencies detected by the human ear, a bat emits ultrasonic signals as a means of orientation in its environment – a process termed echolocation. Once produced, the signals bounce off surrounding objects and return to the bat’s extremely sensitive ears, which detect subtle changes in the sonic waves to develop an audio “image” of the nearby terrain. To accommodate the comparatively handicapped human ear, Rimbaud decelerates these calls and re-mixes the resulting tones for this installation. The reflected noises mirror the elevator’s rebounds between floors, while pointing to the often-unnoticed interaction between sound and the everyday architectures we occupy.
Rimbaud is hardly a novice at collecting the un-heard. In the early 1990s, equipped with a portable radio scanner, the London-based artist intercepted and recorded the inaudible energy waves blipping about the cityscape, most of which were cellular phone conversations.