BJ Nilsen: ORE
 

By Arie Altena 

ORE by the Swedish sound artist, field recordist and composer BJ Nilsen is a piece about the sound of mining. The composition is based primarily on recordings that Nilsen did over the past four years on locations that are connected to mining iron ore and also coal. Arie Altena interviewed Nilsen on occasion of the publication of the LP ORE (released by De Player). Together they chose fragments from interviews that Nilsen did as part of his research, as well as text fragments that represent some of the directions of Nilsen’s research into mining, iron ore, its impact on a society and cultural relevance.

[Beginnings and inspiration]

‘I became interested in mining and iron ore during the first Dark Ecology trip in 2014. Dark Ecology was a commissioning and research project organised by Sonic Acts from Amsterdam together with the Kirkenes-based curator Hilde Methi. In total there were three research journeys up North to the area where Norway borders on Russia. It’s a very interesting region, it’s remote, there’s a lot of heavy industry, mines, problems with pollution, as well as impressive sub-Arctic nature. The effects of climate change are much more present in daily life. The idea of Dark Ecology was that artists, curators and others would visit this region in order to develop new works that somehow reflect the changes and issues that we all face: rethinking our entanglement with nature, with heavy industry, the landscape, and also pollution. I have always felt attracted to the otherworldliness of heavy industries and industrial areas. These landscapes are quite mysterious because you generally don’t really know what is going on there.’

‘All mines are magical, and always have been. The guts of the earth are teeming with elves, kobolds (cobalt!), nixies (nickel!), who can be generous and let you find treasure under the head of your pick, or deceive you, dazzle you, making modest pyrite shine like gold, or disguising zinc in tin’s clothing; and in fact the names of many minerals contain roots meaning “trick, fraud, dazzle.”’

Primo Levi, Il sistema periodico, 1975, English translation (amended), The Periodic System, 1984.

‘During the first Dark Ecology research journey I signed up for an excursion into the Sydvaranger iron ore mine in Kirkenes. The excursion started in the main factory hall of the plant in Kirkenes where they process the iron ore, and then descended into the ‘black hole’, down into the mountain. It was 45 minutes walk down in the tunnels. You are getting closer and closer to the point where they are digging out the ore with machines. There is a suspense to be down there. You hear all these low frequency sounds. They drill and hack the ore out from the mountain and bring it on a conveyor belt up to the machine hall where the stones are grinded into a fine dust. This is done by big machines that are rotating with metal boulders inside. The sounds in the factory are impressive. From a visual perspective it is also breathtaking. There are so many layers: there is dust everywhere, foot prints on the floor, a lot of visual information and hardly any colour. Just different monochromatic tones of grey and black.’

‘The iron ore is refined and filtered, making sure the pure magnetite comes out. Only a small percentage of the ore is iron, the rest is slag and waste. It is a process that somehow relates to my own artistic process. I’m always processing and refining my field recordings. I apply filters, use electronics. It’s a kind of sound alchemy. All to get to the desired result: the gold!’

‘The waste comes at a pretty big cost. You still need to drill, mine, blast and so on. You don’t get any money for the waste. The ratio of ore to waste needs to be sound.’

Interview with Ylva Ståhl and Kristoffer Johansson from the Sydvaranger mine in Kirkenes, by Benny Nilsen, Hilde Methi and Annette Wolfsberger, March 2018.

‘The degree of creativity in mining is limited. There are a lot of constraints. You have to be creative by operating within the constraints set by mining laws, environmental laws, technical issues, rock strengths, equipment limitations, costs. But that is exactly what I like about mining.’

Interview with Marco Keersemaker, CITG, Technical University Delft, by Benny Nilsen, 2018.

‘In mining there are two types of waste. One is the waste you make to get to the ore. If you have a gold mine and the gold layer sits 50 metres below surface, you have to remove 50 metres of waste. The ore layer contains only a certain amount of the mineral that will bring you revenue. The ore goes to a processing plant and there you take out the tailings and the rest is the waste of your process. It can be a slurry, it may contain chemicals or poisonous materials so you have to contain it and treat and store it properly. Sometimes this can go horrible wrong. It is important for companies to manage this. More waste means more costs.’

Interview with Marco Keersemaker, CITG, Technical University Delft, by Benny Nilsen, 2018.

‘The guided tour in 2014 was very controlled. The plant was in full working order, with people working everywhere, and there were certain places where we could not go. I made a lot of recordings during that visit not knowing what I was looking for. I had come on that first trip together with filmmaker Karl Lemieux to gather ideas and inspiration for what would become unearthed (2015), a collaborative audiovisual work. It was the ability to walk around in the factory and the tunnels, listening actively to all the sounds, which provided me with the first idea for a new series of works focusing on mining.’

‘Mining is a good thing as long as you take your responsibility, not only for the surrounding environment but also for the minerals that you take out. People are tempted to excavate the ore and leave a lot of waste, which means that future mining activity will be possible in that area. You have to treat the ore with respect.’

Interview with Ylva Ståhl and Kristoffer Johansson from the Sydvaranger mine in Kirkenes, by Benny Nilsen, Hilde Methi and Annette Wolfsberger, March 2018.

‘Sydvaranger produces a high quality product with very few waste materials. The good quality provides significant environmental and cost advantages in relation to hematite raw materials, such as increased capacity of blast furnaces, reduced energy requirements for pellets production, waste reduction and lower CO2 emissions.’

Chemical structure of the product of Sydvaranger mine

Fe – 68%

SiO2 – 5.00

Al2O3 – 0.30

S – 0.08

P – 0.01

Mn – 0.05

Na2O – 0.01

K2O – 0.03

CaO – 0.35

MgO – 0.45

H2O – 8.00

Size of the product

over 0.15mm: less than 0.2%

0.053mm – 0.15mm: less than 20%

under 0.053mm: up to 80%

Source: http://sydvarangergruve.no/produkt

‘Another important inspiration was the visit to the Russian border town Nikel on that same trip. It’s a mining town with a large nickel smelter, the whole town depends on it, directly or indirectly. Both in Nikel and Kirkenes, you can hear and see the plant from almost all over town. The smelter in Nikel and the iron ore plant in Kirkenes are like cathedrals overlooking the town, with light shining from it day and night. In Nikel I was not able to record inside the Nikel smelter. I never got a permit.’

‘This mining work is tied directly to the computer age, itself an alchemic expression of man’s ingenious use of the earth. Modernity is made by the manipulation and transmutation of organic and synthetic materials through design and research. Without tantalum and niobium, there are no micro-capacitors; without gallium, no photovoltaics.’

http://www.newcriticals.com/deep-mining-deep-time/page-3.

[…]

Mineral commodities used in mobile devices

Gallium (from bauxite),

Germanium (from sphalerite)

Graphite

Indium (from sphalerite)

Lithium (from amblygonite, petalite, lepidolite, spodumene)

Platinum

Potassium (from langbeinite, sylvite, and sylvinite)

Rare-earth elements (bastnäsite, loparite, monazite, xenotime)

Sand

Silicon (from quartz)

Silver (from argentite and tetrahedrite)

Tantalum (from columbite and tantalite)

Tin (from cassiterite)

Tungsten (from scheelite and wolframite)

Source: https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/0167/gip167.pdf

[The sound of a community that depends on mining]

‘When I visited Kirkenes in 2014 the plant was in full working order. It was on 24/7. It never closed down, not even a minute. If nothing is broken there is no reason to stop the plant. It’s about economics. You have to keep on accumulating money. You could hear the rumble of it from every part of town. It of course affects the people that are living there.’

‘The sound of the mine was always present. It created a vacuum after it closed. When the mill was in full operation the only time when we woke up in the night was when the train was not going. We were living quite close to the railway, so when the train did not run we knew instantaneously that something had happened, either in the mine or in the mill.’

Interview with Ylva Ståhl and Kristoffer Johansson from the Sydvaranger mine in Kirkenes, by Benny Nilsen, Hilde Methi and Annette Wolfsberger, March 2018.

‘I started thinking about the significance of the sounds in 2015 when the mine was closed and the processing plant had been shut down. The bankruptcy of the mine had a big effect on Kirkenes. Basically the whole community depended on mining. 450 people lost their job. That is a lot for a small community. It shows the fragility of a community that is based on something really hard – iron ore. Without the mine Kirkenes would have been a tiny remote fishing village.’

‘In mining the price determines what you can mine. A deposit has a certain grade, it is Mother Nature. You may have to leave it in the ground because the cost of mining is exceeding the revenue. Many iron ore mines are now being reopened because they became profitable again. Since 2004 demand from China has pulled up the prices. In the 1980s iron ore was almost a dead industry.’

Interview with Marco Keersemaker, CITG, Technical University Delft, by Benny Nilsen, 2018.

‘Mining for gold has always had a life of its own. Mining for iron and copper is driven by Chinese urbanisation. Zinc and nikel swing up and down on the market. Then there are all the new materials, associated with electronics, the rare earth minerals, tantalum, neodymion and so forth. A lot of these are almost only found in China, which control the price, and leaves all other countries vulnerable.’

Interview with Marco Keersemaker, CITG, Technical University Delft, by Benny Nilsen, 2018.

‘During the third Dark Ecology journey in 2016 we got the opportunity to walk around in the same plant without anyone working there. It was deserted, no machines working, but everything was still there. As if the workers had just left yesterday. It was totally silent. You could hear the city sounds blending into the plant. It was the reverse of the first visit: a huge factory hall with the sounds of the city instead of a city dominated by the sound of a factory.’

‘I had recorded inside and outside the plant, both the sound of the mine underground and the sound above the ground. I started thinking in sonic terms about the impact and meaning of mining. What is the relation of the sounds of mining to the community that is structured around it? I was thinking about borders, where does the effect of mining start, where does it stop. How does it resonate? How much influence does it have on a community?’

‘Sound is everywhere, and it is more valuable than you think. We use it to navigate in the world, to know where we are. In some respects it’s more important maybe than using the eye. There is still a lot that we need to learn about sound and how it affects us, and how we sound ourselves.’

‘I then looked into other sounds that are connected to the mining industry, for instance transport. I went to Murmansk which has a huge harbour where nickel and coal is brought in by railway from Siberia and then shipped down to Europe. I did recordings of the sounds of the freight trains and the harbour, which is a very large part of the soundscape in Murmansk.’

‘You cannot talk about mining in the North without getting into the question what it means for the landscape, for the people and the animals living there, for the communities and the relations between all these. In a sense, you cannot not bring out those relations: how a society depends on mining and how it affects it.’

‘We trace out all the veins of the earth, and yet, living upon it, undermined as it is beneath our feet, are astonished that it should occasionally cleave asunder or tremble: as though, forsooth, these signs could be any other than expressions of the indignation felt by our sacred parent!’

Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, book XXXIII, 77, data.perseus.org/citations/urn:cts:latinLit:phi0978.phi001.perseus-eng1:33.1

‘It is what is concealed from our view, what is sunk far beneath her surface, objects, in fact, of no rapid formation, that urge us to our ruin, that send us to the very depths of hell. As the mind ranges in vague speculation, let us only consider, proceeding through all ages, as these operations are, when will be the end of thus exhausting the earth, and to what point will avarice finally penetrate! How innocent, how happy, how truly delightful even would life be, if we were to desire nothing but what is to be found upon the face of the earth; in a word, nothing but what is provided ready to our hands!’

Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, book XXXIII, 77, data.perseus.org/citations/urn:cts:latinLit:phi0978.phi001.perseus-eng1:33.1

‘(T)he strongest argument of the detractors is that the fields are devestated by mining operations, for which reason formerly Italians were warned by law that no one should dig the earth for metals and so injure their very fertile fields, their vineyards, and their olive groves. Also they argue that the woods and groves are cut down, for there is need of endless amount of wood for timbers, machines and the smelting of metals. And when the woods and groves are felled, there are exterminated the beasts and birds, very many of which furnish pleasant and agreeable food for man. Further, when the ores are washed, the water which has been used poisons the brooks and streams, and either destroys the fish or drives them away. Therefore the inhabitants of these regions, on account of the devestation of their fields, woods, groves, brooks, and rivers, find great difficulty in procuring the necessaries of life, and by reason of the destruction of the timber they are forced to a greater expense in erecting buildings.’

Georgius Agricola, De Re Metallica, 1556

[Sound sources for ORE]

‘In ORE different layers of time are overlapping, from the deep time of geology to the superfast time of our current economy and the future. For the record I used recordings from the iron ore processing plant in Kirkenes, both with the plant working and not working. When it was empty, I mapped out the building by recording it. You hear the room tones, pigeons flying around, doors flapping, and the sound of the town blending in. I used recordings from Pasvik, south of Kirkenes, where the rock is at least 2.9 billion years old. The north of Norway is one of the oldest rock formations in the world. It doesn’t relate directly to mining, but it extends the project to include geology, deep time and stone. Those recordings symbolise the stasis of time. The mountain just sits there. The sounds are environmental. I made field recordings in the winter, you hear ice crystals cracking because there was a layer of ice on the snow. I also went to Näätämö/Neiden and just over the border to Finland because it’s land of the Sámi, and I wanted to have that in. The Sámi have a lot of respect for nature. Throughout the landscape there are sacred stones that are very important to them. I also worked with stone as an instrument, striking and recording it. I did the same with coal. I made recordings of the sound of striking coal at the house of Hilde Methi, a curator who lives in Kirkenes. She still stores coal there in a small outhouse (called ‘kullbingen’). There are recordings from the harbour of Murmansk with the coal trains coming in from Kuzbass in southwestern Siberia. The next phase in the processing of iron is represented by recordings from inside the Tata Steel factories in Wijk aan Zee, 30 kilometers from Amsterdam.  I also visited Most in the Czech Republic because there is a huge operational open pit mine. It’s not iron ore but lignite, ‘braunkohle’. It is vast scar in the landscape, and really an incredible place. . The recordings I did in the former mining region of the Netherlands are again more environmental: the mine near Heerlen has been developed into a park and nature area. I’m very interested in the hidden layers and history the landscape. That’s why I wanted to have a thread about the regeneration of mining areas. I think it is important to explore the changes that the surrounding landscape and the mining site itself are undergoing, from active to closed, from contaminated landscape to re-vegetation. The future is represented through using radio emissions from space and a recoding from the probe that landed on the comet  67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. And then there are sounds used for seismic interferometry: the decoding of ambient seismic noise, micro earthquakes and also surface bound sounds. What I like about these recordings is that they already have been processed through the rock and soil and transposed into human hearing range.’

‘With what reverence did I behold for the first time in my life, on the sixteenth of March, more than five-and-forty years ago, the king of metals in small, delicate leaves between the fissures of the rocks! It seemed as if, having been doomed here to close captivity, it glittered kindly towards, the miner, who with so many dangers and labors breaks a way to it through its strong prison-walls, that he may remove it to the light of day, and exalt it to the honor of royal crowns, vessels, and holy relics, and to dominion over the world in the shape of genuine coin, adorned with emblems, cherished by all.’

Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, 1800/1802, English translation Henry von Ofterdingen, 1842

‘”Sir,“ said the old man, as he turned his gaze upon Henry, and wiped some tears from his eyes, „it must be that mining is blessed by God; for there is no art, which renders those who are occupied in it happier and nobler, which awakens a deeper faith in divine wisdom and guidance, or which preserves the innocence and childlike simplicity of the heart more freshly. Poor is the miner born, and poor he departs again. He is satisfied with knowing where metallic riches are found, and with bringing them to light; but their dazzling glare has no power over his simple heart. Untouched by the perilous delirium, he is more pleased in examining their wonderful formation, and the peculiarities of their origin and primitive situation, than in calling himself their possessor. When changed into property, they have no longer any charm for him, and he prefers to seek them amid a thousand dangers and travails, in the fastnesses of the earth, rather than to follow their vocation in the world, or aspire after them on the earth’s surface, with cunning and deceitful arts. These severe labors keep his heart fresh and his mind strong; he enjoys his scanty pay with inward thankfulness, and comes forth every day from the dark tombs of his calling, with new-born enjoyment of life.’

Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, 1800/1802, English translation Henry von Ofterdingen, 1842

‘If, as Novalis and many of his friends believed, stones, metals, and rock strata amount to transcriptions of the earth’s history, what better place to study that history than in the mines and caverns of the earth, where the entire record is preserved and exposed? At this point the ancient conception of mines and mountain caverns as places of lapidary activity encounters a a second folkoristic notion—that in the interior of mountains time stands still.’

Theodore Ziolkowski, German Romanticism and Its Institutions, 1990, p.34.

‘The composition follows a more or less linear path – starting with deep time. It just turned out that way, perhaps because that’s how we generally tend to structure material. But the chronology is interrupted a couple of times, and the different time planes are cut-up, they interact and overlap, because I mix sound recordings that were done at different times. In that way I present different layers of time, from slowly unfolding sounds that represent deep geological time, to sounds of transport, to the sort of sounds we recognise as science fiction to denote the future. The work creates a third space that belongs to the individual listener and which arises from the interaction between the original space and imaginary space, created through the composition and sound processing.’

‘The recordings bring out specificities of the sound of materials. They give a voice to what does not have a voice itself. I became inspired as well by the work of the Soviet composer Alexander Mosolov. His work Zavod (The Iron Foundry, 1926/27) brought the sounds of industry into music. Initially it was meant to be part of a larger work, the ballet Stal, and it was praised as a mighty hymn to machine work.’

‘The Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung wrote: ‘The composer seeks to describe the sublime pathos of human energy subduing nature’. Zavod is built, like a conveyor production line, of small elements used in ostinato technique, and layered to produce a complex orchestral web. At the climax, a great number of separate sonic micro-events are combined. Glorifying the machine and the brave new world.’

Larry Sitsky, Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-garde, 1900-1929, 1994.

‘There is a little homage to GRM and Pierre Schaeffer on the record. For me it relates directly to iron ore in so far that the type of musique concrète and tape music developed at GRM was made possible by magnetic tape. I mixed part of the recording in the GRM studios in Paris where I was working on another acousmatic piece. Magnetic tape was the medium of my youth. I had hundreds of cassette tapes, mostly TDK.  It made me recognise again how close we are to the source of ore, and how my development as an artist was shaped by iron ore.’

[Deep time and the sounds of the Earth]

‘Far down in the Earth the rock is actually moving. Workers hear the rock talk, it crackles, it makes sounds, spits slivers. These can be an indicator that something is about to happen, the sounds tell something about the stability of the rock. Listening underground is like reading the environment. Geologists read the stone, but they also listen to it. By physically interacting with the stone you can determine what material it is. Different types of stone give different frequency readings. Geologists use seismic soundings to map out the resources in the earth. They put geophones in an array, and record the blast of a detonation underground. It gives them an image, a bit similar to sonar. It’s mostly really low sounds that you have to transpose up three times to get within human hearing range. In practice it’s quite mathematical, but it still it is part of the sound world too. Through soundwaves geologists are able to map what is underground.’

‘At times beyond 1 sec, events in the passive image lose their spatial coherence and cannot be identified unambiguously with reflections in the active image. Thus, as we would expect, it seems harder to extract deeper reflections because of the larger geometric spreading of body wave. Having longer records of the ambient seismic noise (days, weeks) might solve this problem because potentially we would record waves from more sub-surface sources and consequently improve the stacking power and illumination of the ambient-noise data.’

Deyan Draganov, Xander Campman, Jan Thorbecke, Arie Verdel and Kees Wapenaar, ‘Reflection images from ambient seismic noise’. in Geophysics, vol 74, No.5 September-October 2009, p.A66.

‘In Kirkenes they have a well kept archive of data from over a thousand drill holes, starting from 1910. They can just continue from where they left off, because they it so well preserved.’

‘We have records from all the 1285 drill holes. We miss records from 1906-08, but apart from that we have everything. The resource here is well mapped and defined. It forms the basis for all mining activity. Without the record of the drill holes you would not be able to do anything. (…) When you do a model you want to use as much data as you possible can. (…) We actually use data from 1910 to make models today. The more data you have, the better geostatistics you get.’

Interview with Ylva Ståhl and Kristoffer Johansson from the Sydvaranger mine in Kirkenes, by Benny Nilsen, Hilde Methi and Annette Wolfsberger, March 2018.

‘We dig deep into the earth to get to layers of deep time, extract it and use the ancient material, in the case of coal, for electricity, for heating the house, commodities, to type a message on a phone. It’s absurd when you start to think about it. So much time is compressed in this material and it’s burned up in minutes. It’s not like wind or the sun, which give you immediate energy. It’s millions of years compressed into hard materials that are burned up, like coal, or painstakingly refined to yield useful metal.

‘The miner’s notion of value, like the financier’s, tends to be a purely abstract and quantitative one. Does the defect arise out of the fact that every other type of primitive environment contains food, something that may be immediately translated into life – game, berries, mushrooms, maple-sap, nuts, sheep, corn, fish – while the miner’s environment alone is – salt and saccharin aside – not only completely inorganic but completely inedible? The miner works, not for love or for nourishment, but to ‘make his pile.’ The classic curse of Midas became perhaps the dominant characteristic of the modern machine: whatever it touched was turned to gold and iron, and the machine was permitted to exist only where gold and iron could serve as foundation.’

Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization, New York, 1934, p. 77

This ungraspable void of deep time fascinates me: the time compressed in iron ore, the coal that started billions of years ago as organic material, the gold flecked asteroid far away in space, or the more recent ‘slambanken’ in Kirkenes, a manmade landscape of unusable slag that might be mined in the future.’

‘The slambanken is a totally artificial, man-made landscape that has formed because the waste of the iron ore processing was flushed into the fjord. It is a base of hard rock under the water with different layers of material. It is a playground for sedimentologists because you can see how land and deltas form. We did a study and tried to identify how thick the layer was in different areas. We took samples and ran them through the laboratory in order to identify how many tons of final concentrate we would be able to get out of the slambanken. When they were cleaning the old silos they flushed everything out into the slambanken. This was part of a test production of around 30.000 tons. We can see layers of hematite. It is not enough to make a mine plan, but enough to get a small cash flow. You have to take a boat to get there. We have a tunnel that leads there.’

Interview with Ylva Ståhl and Kristoffer Johansson from the Sydvaranger mine in Kirkenes, by Benny Nilsen, Hilde Methi and Annette Wolfsberger, March 2018.

[The future of mining]

‘In 2018 I visited the mine in Bjørnevatn, near Kirkenes. It was winter, and it felt really otherworldly. There was a lot of snow and ice, which made it interesting soundwise. It was really silent, it gave me the feeling that time had stopped and made me consider the future of mining. The harsh climate makes mining in the Arctic quite difficult. But climate change is driving the developments. Rosatom has recently started building a new sea port in Novaya Zemlya to facilitate mining there. It will be the northernmost mine in the world with an expected output of 220 thousand tons of zink, 50 thousand tons of lead and 16 tons of silver. Production is due to start in year 2023. There is also people that are speculating on asteroid mining. Like the USCSS Nostromo from the Alien films, a commercial hauler, transporting automated ore and oil refineries between outer colonies and Earth. Asteroid mining sounds like science fiction but in 2017 Luxembourg passed an asteroid mining law that gives companies ownership of what they extract from celestial bodies. The idea is that you find an asteroid which is rich in some kind of rare metal that we really need, and claim it.’

‘Mining is quite a conservative business. But information technology and data analysis brought a revolution, and now we see things change through the use of robotics and AI. The mines in Kiruna, Sweden, are very advanced. Everything is operated remotely, nobody is working underground. We will see more of automation, especially in places like Australia where labour is very expensive.’

Interview with Marco Keersemaker, CITG, Technical University Delft, by Benny Nilsen, 2018.

‘Space mining will provide raw materials from the space environment to be used in space. Large quantities of raw material at relatively low cost can make current satellites more capable and less expensive, helping the current satellite operators improve the services they are able to deliver to their customers on Earth. Once a supply chain of materials is established in orbit, it will encourage new applications and new business models as entrepreneurs attempt to introduce even more services that people on Earth find useful. The possibilities are truly endless. Space mining could open up a wealth of new resources and opportunity to build economies beyond what we have on Earth today, and allow humans to become an interplanetary species.’

Source: faq of Space Resources, Luxembourg, https://spaceresources.public.lu/en/faq.html

‘The list of resources that can be mined is long: aluminum, cobalt, iron, manganese, nickel and titanium can be used in construction. Water, nitrogen and oxygen can be used to sustain space travelers and to grow plants. Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are useful rocket propellants. Rare Earth Elements, used in everything from catalytic converters to smartphones, could be brought back to Earth. They include iridium, platinum, silver, osmium, palladium, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium and tungsten.’

Source: faq of Space Resources, Luxembourg, https://spaceresources.public.lu/en/faq.html

‘I am drawn to the Arctic as a sound recordist because of its relative remoteness. The landscape is fairly untouched, it is scarsely populated, it’s desolate. The sounds of nature are not often interrupted by other sounds. Except for the mining, but that then is also why I find mining in the Arctic especially interesting. The relentless nature in the Arctic constantly reminds you that you are a human being and that you are not really supposed to be there because the harshness of the environment might kill you. It’s good for the human psyche to be reminded of that. You can only survive there if you work with nature. If you work against it, it will kill you. The people in the Arctic have a lot of respect for nature, it forms them.’

‘The Arctic is changing quickly. If it goes on like it goes now, the ice will open up and it will not be so desolate anymore. That is quite interesting. Will it mean that other places will become desolate instead, uninhabitable? What shifts will we see? What shifts happened in the past? Why did people in the past settle in an environment like this? Were they forced up North by circumstances? These questions are really haunting me.’


ORE focuses on the audio dimensions of contemporary mining techniques, ranging from deep time (geological and evolutionary processes occur on profoundly different timescale than those we deal with in our daily lives) to the Anthropogenic Now, as the harvesting and re-shaping of the Earth through mining will have major environmental consequences which will be evident far into the Deep Future. ORE invites the audience to stretch their perception of how we relate to sound; with regards to the erosion of sound, rhythm and musicality within objects, architecture and even the landscape. The acousmatic experience opens up a new way of listening and guides the listener to discover the path from the sound to the musical. ORE will be performed in its full acousmatic potential at Présences Électronique at GRM in Paris in early 2019 and will be released by De Player Rotterdam as LP.


BJ NilsenУголь 2018 5’59” (4 speakers, loop) Source material: Coal trains, Murmansk Railway Station, 29.11.2015, Coal house Kirkenes, 10.03.2018 Installation for Kullbingen Open on 12 March, 17:00-18:00 hrs With thanks to the Creative Industry Fund NL The Coal House at Le Maires vei 1, Kirkenes will open its doors for the very first time on Monday 12 March 2018 at 17:00 hrs premiering the sound installation Уголь. Kullbingen is open on Monday 12 March from 17:00-18:00 hrs.

BJ Nilsen is currently in Sør-Varanger to research and gather material for his ORE project, which started off with an interest in the audio realm of mining, rooted in the fascination of how such an extremely old technology rooted in pre-historic times still provides a majority of the resources for our high tech society. ORE is conceptually inspired by indigenous (monumental) art as well as contemporary Earthworks. In both cases, soil, landscape and Earth serve as a canvas: blocks of rock can be shaped into new meanings and tell stories. In the auditory realm, the sound of the landscape, the sound of the use of land and the exploitation of minerals, rocks and soil form the acoustic ‘canvas’ re-enacted through a sound system.

In conversation with curator Hilde Methi, BJ Nilsen will give a work-in-progress insight into his work, and talk about using sound as research methodology.

With thanks to the Creative Industry Fund NL, Sonic Acts, de Player & Extrapool.