What does the inside of the Rhine sound like? From June 3rd to July 5th, 2021 media artist Frank Schulte has explored the underwater acoustics of the Rhine river with his sound installation "continuum".
In his work he detected the flow movements, noises made by river dwellers and sounds produced by passing ships along the Monheim waterfront and made them tangible as an eight-channel audio-exhibition in the Evangelische Altstadtkirche (Protestant Downtown Church) in Monheim am Rhein.
All life comes from the water. At the same time, water has always posed a real threat to the people living along the river. Both aspects were thematized in the construction of Monheim's Old Town Church (1848-58). At its portal, the handrail picks up the undulations of the water; above the door to the sacred space, a stained glass picture shows a scene from the biblical story of Noah (Genesis 7ff). The Flood covers the land, the dove with an olive branch in its beak ascends in front of a rainbow, it stands as a sign of the new covenant between God and man.
Sound spreads faster under water than in the air and carries information there over greater spatial distances than light. Therefore, animals living in water have a wide range of receptors to perceive sounds. This sensitive field of perception is sensitively disturbed by the increasingly added emissions of shipping by humans. This, too, is made clear in the sound installation. Likewise, in a light reflection of Rhine water, the artist addresses the increase in microplastics from industrial wastewater, which were recently found in large numbers on the banks of the Rhine near Monheim.
For "continuum," Frank Schulte placed special microphones inside the river along a length of about 200 meters. From here, the signals were transmitted into the church and reproduced in a multi-channel sound installation. Parallel to this, the real river view was shown on a screen. Thus, a virtual space was created inside the church, filled with the otherwise inaudible sounds generated under the surface of the water. A meditation on the eternally flowing with its coming and passing.