Decomposing Cello

Julia Rigby

Julia Edith Rigby is an experimental sound artist, composer, filmmaker and sculptor who thinks about entanglements among people, landscapes, non-humans and natural processes. She works with found materials to explore perception, sound and the interplay between human and non-human processes. Her interactive, site-responsive installations actively engage viewers through the sense of hearing. Rigby’s studio practice is largely rooted in field research. She designs sound sculptures that are powered by their environments, sonifying trees, rocks and sea caves. They improvise with the places in which they exist. Sometimes the sound sculptures are as ephemeral as the sounds they create, existing only for the duration of a single performance.

Decomposing Cello
2022, audio, wood, strings, metal eyelets, photo print

For Decomposing Cello, Julia Rigby strung a tree that had been destroyed by a devastating forest fire and turned it into a cello. The audience was invited to play the cello, and each person had a direct influence on the artwork through their own way of playing. In addition, the sounds change over time as the tree slowly decomposes and decays – the decomposition of the tree leads to the recomposition of the sound. Through active listening, the audience connects with its surroundings. The acoustic experience of the environment creates an understanding of the forest as an organism in which everything is constantly changing, new relationships are created and old ones are dissolved. Our relationship to the forest is brought into focus through this biosymphony. Are there different ways of listening? What role does the sense of hearing play in our perception of the forest?

Art installation in a dead tree