Sound Fossils

“Sound Fossils” is a series of three site-specific installations produced in residency at the Spinola Banna Foundation in Italy, in 2018. This project explored the area of Pianalto, a clay-rich area in Piedmont, from the point of view of geological forces considered as sound.

In these sound art works, sound is not audible as a sonic entity, but is rather perceived as a process, as the origin of a morphogenetic process, as the shape of a chunk of clay.

The forces that have shaped and continue to shape the earth, the landscape, the soil we tread, may be thought of as sound. In fact, seismographies are analogous to sound waves: in both cases, a visualization of a vibrating phenomenon takes place.

Three “Sound Fossils”, created with machines built for the occasion, are clay artefacts that connect the forms modelled by geological activity to the latent sonic nature of their origin.


A partial seismography representing the movement of the earth along the east-west axis, registered in 1887 in Moncalieri, was used to program a machine that shook for days a certain quantity of liquid clay. Subsequently, the clay dried, incorporating the 1887 earthquake to create the “Sound Fossil I: Piano”.

(photo by the author)

Photos by Guido Suardi


To create “Sound Fossil II: Spiral”, a groove was engraved into a clay disc, representing the vibration recorded in the soil (seismography) as the clay was extracted by hand. Man is thus a force that modifies the landscape, like any other other natural agent.

Geophone recording vibrations while clay is collected

Photos by Guido Suardi


In “Sound Fossil III: Lines”, sixteen solenoid valves release drops of water on an inclined clay surface that is thus slowly eroded; the timing of the electrovalves is linked to the 16 bits of a digital audio recording of the Banna stream, that still erodes the land of the Pianalto.

Photos by Guido Suardi


IperPianalto Exhibition
Curated by Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna

Final exhibition of the residence project organised by Fondazione Spinola Banna per l’Arte and GAM /Turin, and promoted by Compagnia di San Paolo.

June 23rd, 24th, 25th 2018
Fondazione Spinola Banna per l’Arte, Poirino (To), Italy

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