Friday, 5 November 2010


EMPATHY - an interactive sculpture about otoacoustic emissions

Otoacoustic emissions are sounds generated within the inner ear. They are considered to be related to the amplification function of the cochlea and are used clinically to measure the health of the inner ear. After being predicted thirty years previously, the existence of otoacoustic emissions was first demonstrated with the advent of suitably sensitive microphones by David Kemp in 1978.

The composer Maryanne Amacher (1938-2009) used otoacoustic emissions in her compositions, most notably in the album 'Sound Characters (Making the Third Ear)' in which she speaks of releasing the music produced by the listener as the sounds given stimulate new tones in the listener's ears.

The sculpture EMPATHY aims to simulate and exaggerate this physiological phenomena in an external, speculative way - a bodily organ becomes a specimen for examination, rather like the preserved organs in the medical history museum of the Charité nearby. A live sound feed, sensitive to the sounds around it, causes a reflexive movement in the cochlea and Organ of Corti of the enlarged ear model. This banal sound emitted by the sculpture is perceived as an involuntary echo of our ear mechanisms, reminding us of the constant empathetic relationship between our bodies and our surroundings.

Exhibited at:

Klang Körper Konservierung
Ausstellung im ehemaligen Leichenschauhaus der Charité Berlin
Institut für Rechtsmedizin der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Hannoversche Str. 6, 10115 Berlin

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