Christopher Steenson is an artist, currently based between Dublin, Belfast and Co. Kerry. His artworks often takes the form of site-specific projects, which use the act of listening as a way of dealing with the complex, hidden layers of a place or context. Using field recording, analogue photography, archival material, computer programming and writing, Steenson’s practice is concerned with the changing elements of our environment – such as declining wildlife populations and the climate crisis – and the entangled role of human activity in causing these changes.
Drawing on what sound theorist Michel Chion refers to as the acousmêtre, Steenson considers sound to be as spectre that “haunts the visual” – a disembodied presence that evades direct visualisation. In making his artworks, he invite people to listen deeply to temporal and spatial permutations of a soundscape, giving presence to processes that act upon our environments that are often inexplicable through sight alone. Working in tandem, Steenson’s analogue photographic practice acts as a visual corollary to his engagement with place. These images give a material aspect to my practice, acting as a parallel through-line to Steenson’s activities in the field, orbiting around the subjects of his sound works, while anchoring them to a specific context.
Steenson’s most-recent works focus on noise pollution and radiospace and their entwined effects on wildelife, through the use of audio recording, electromagnetic field recordings and hydrophone recordings. This has included documenting the detrimental effects of underwater noise pollution on fish in the Mediterranean sea, caused by the global ship trade; to the effects of electromagnetic fields on birdlife, produced by wireless communication infrastructures.
Christopher Steenson (b. 1992) originally studied Psychology at university, before embarking on a PhD investigating the relationship between auditory perception and human movement control. Eventually, he became disillusioned with academia and the prospects of a satisfying career as a postgraduate researcher. Nevertheless, the PhD taught Steenson valuable skills, such as audio synthesis and computer programming, which he realised could be used to creative ends. Additionally, through reading psychological, philosophical and anthropological texts on auditory perception, he became increasingly interested in the representational possibilities that sound offered as an artistic medium.
To date, Christopher Steenson’s work has manifested itself as site-specific performances and compositions. These works have appeared in a bank vault, church hall, univerity stairwell and city street way. His work has been shown at the EastSide Arts Festival, the Imagine Festival of Politics and Ideas and NCAD Gallery, Dublin. His tape-based composition Let Me Tell You was recently included on a compilation sound works curated by Catalyst Arts, which was premiered at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast. He participated in Sounding Paths 2019, a residency for site-specific sound and intermedia project in Syros, Greece. He is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.