Project 21 - Sounding


Caro McCaw / Vicki Smith / Andrew Hornblow
An Urban Dream Brokerage Project
22 September – 15 October 2017
165 George Street
Property Partner: NKI Trust

Sounding investigated the connections between noise pollution, whales and dolphins living off the coast of Dunedin. Using sound and social engagement Sounding helped navigate the problems Otago’s sea mammals are facing.

The public in Dunedin were invited to explore two interactive exhibitions in spaces in George Street and the H D Skinner Annex Gallery at Otago Museum, and to join workshops, performances and discussion events.

Ever wondered how a whale communicates? Enrol in a workshop to help assemble electronically enhanced umbrellas that respond with sound when entering Dunedin’s wi-fi ‘oceans’. Join a life-sized whale performance troupe, and join the project at the Museum opening (30 September) and the Vogel Street Party October 14, or come along and watch.

Sounding sought to help us better understand our marine mammals’ aural environment, echo-location, and sonic disruption in Otago’s oceans. It was a call to action for better management and research into the connections between noise pollution and the whales and dolphins of New Zealand. Parallels were made between land-based and ocean-based communication spaces that we can’t see. 

Sounding was the fourth Urban Dream Brokerage Dunedin Gig City commission, a commission programme that supports engaging and innovative data-rich arts and culture projects utilising digital technology in Dunedin city. Sounding was also funded by the Dunedin City Council, Creative New Zealand and supported by Otago Museum, Otago University and Otago Polytechnic.

Sounding was created by Dunedin’s Caro McCaw, West Coast artist Vicki Smith, and Taranaki ‘Internet of things’ enthusiast Andrew Hornblow. Together they worked with Otago University whale researcher Professor Liz Slooten, sound artist Leyton Glen, the Otago Museum team, Otago University Marine Scientists and design students from Otago Polytechnic. The performances were choreographed by artist Katrina Thomson.

Events which took place:


Join a workshop. Working umbrellas respond with sound whenever they enter into one of Dunedin’s wi-fi ‘oceans’!

Registration details:

Register to participate in pop-up whale performances

Volunteer whales are needed for public performances.

Find Out More: Symposium

Saturday 7 October: Otago Museum’s Hutton Theatre

10am‒12.30pm: Hear from artists, scientists, and museum professionals about their varied work with our whales 

Film Screening Sonic Seas:  1pm, followed by panel discussion 2pm

Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 October: Tours of Otago Museum’s Marine Gallery

Help whale and dolphin research

The NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust conduct research into the connections between whale strandings and oil exploration using sound. Sounding is collecting donations to support research, or donate directly at Whale Dolphin Trust.

Media: 'Sounds like a Problem': Otago Daily Times video and story on Sounding

'Wi-fi oceans to wash': Stuff story on Sounding in Dunedin

Images: Justin Spiers 

Kate Schrader