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Listening to the ocean

Grenfell professor's blue whale artwork to be exhibited at The Rooms


By Pamela Gill

It began when nine blue whales died in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, washing up on the shores of Trout River, Bonne Bay, in Gros Morne National Park.

Prof. Marc Losier of Grenfell Campus’s visual arts program immortalized the 2014 tragedy in a series of works, How Deep is the Ocean (Narratives of Loss), using a variety of photographic techniques to represent the story of the whales’ demise.

Prof. Losier’s research about whales for the project has also led him to new interests around bio-acoustics and underwater recording, both in relation to marine mammals and commercial ocean traffic noise.

His work that combines the two will be exhibited at The Rooms in St. John’s from Jan. 23-April 18.

Underwater collaboration

In late 2019 Prof Losier, whose practice specializes in photography, film installation and sound, travelled to Barcelona, Spain, to attend the World Marine Mammals Conference.

While there, he met with scientists from all over the globe and learned about the ways they study and follow particular whale species, both photographically and acoustically.

“I also met with an amazing team from Nova Scotia – Ocean Sonics – that has been developing specialized hydrophones for recording and broadcasting underwater sound,” he said.

This technology was instrumental in the development of the acoustic artwork being presented at The Rooms as part of Helloland! Art, War and the Wireless Imagination, curated by Darryn Doull and Melony Ward.

A section of Still Life III (Narratives of Loss), 2018.
Photo: Marc Losier

“My work for the exhibition will involve the live broadcast of underwater sound from Bonne Bay,” he said, adding the work is in conjunction with a suite of interviews with community members, scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum and museum technicians involved in the collection of the blue whales from the area in 2014.

Richard Kelly, project engineer with the Marine Institute, is helping Prof. Losier to engineer the installation of the hydrophone in Bonne Bay. In addition to the underwater broadcast, the interviews will be played at The Rooms, as well.

“The exhibition is going to generate an oral history archive of the environmental disaster from 2014 that will be broadcast in Gros Morne National Park on FM radio in late summer 2021,” said Prof. Losier.

In late 2020, he installed a photographic mural, Still Life III (Narratives of Loss), on the outside wall of a fish plant at Trout River, bringing the whale “home” again. Read more on CBC’s news site here.

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