Hum! (2010-11)

Hum! is the fifth in a series of eight giant images installed on the wall of the power station at Lingfield Point, Darlington. It is part of an ongoing project called Futurescope, curated by Christian Barnes and John Kennedy.

In June 2010 Vistaprojects launched ‘Futurescope’ with their image ‘Sunflowers’, one of a series of eight 14-metre diameter images suspended from the side of the Turbine Halls' old Boiler House at Lingfield Point in Darlington.  With the launch they invited other artists to work with them or propose images that might work in that context.

As a collaborative arts practice that explores the relationship between sound and the environment, the Boiler House (a rectilinear brick box with vertical strip windows) and the circular image hanging on it immediately reminded us of an over-scaled loudspeaker; the circular image representing the speaker cone and the image of the inside of the speaker cone of a megaphone became the catalyst for HUM!

Signs still exist around the building that direct employees to “use ear protectors”, and we have been told that noise levels in the building were as high as 90dB. The site is now devoid of the noise of manufacture however, and while the image of the speaker makes no noise, it nevertheless bears silent witness to the memory of the sounds of the building on which it hangs.

As the Futurescope project developed, the image of the “Beeman” made links to Paton and Baldwin’s original corporate logo of the beehive. When we were asked for a name for our image, HUM! became an obvious choice. Firstly, it is an onomatopoeic word for the sound that the turbine hall would have made, but we also liked the allusion to the sound of both bees and former workers “busy as bees”. The introduction of actual bees to the Lingfield Point site, as part of the Futurescope project, has produced an alternative humming landscape and the magnifying of the HUM! image, like a microscope, could be seen to focus on these tiny productive hums.