Caithness Map :: Links to Site Map Great value Unlimited Broadband from an award winning provider  


Doors Open Cromarty

31st August 2012

Photograph of Doors Open Cromarty

Artists unveil new works exploring the parallels between marine mammal and human senses.

1 September 2012, launch event, Lighthouse Field Station, Cromarty
2 - 9 September 2012, Exhibitions: daily 12 - 8pm // Evening installations: daily 9pm - 10pm

On 1 September 2012, in an event aligned to the British Festival of Science, artists Stephen Hurrel and Mark Lyken will unveil new works created during their IOTA "Sublime" residencies in Cromarty. The installations in the Lighthouse and Boat Shed, currently part of a Field Station for the University of Aberdeen's School of Biological Sciences, will be complemented by art tours and presentations by the scientists on their research which includes long term photo-identification of the local bottlenose dolphin population.

Professor Paul Thompson, Director of the Lighthouse Field Station, explained: "We are always seeking new ways to increase awareness of the marine environment and disseminate our findings. This collaboration with IOTA is an exciting opportunity for us to hear other perspectives on our work, and to explore how art might help us reach a wide audience."

Funded by Creative Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and supported by The Highland Council, the "Sublime" residencies have been spearheaded by IOTA in partnership with the University of Aberdeen.

Deputy Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor David Alston said: "Aberdeen University has given a new lease of life to the redundant lighthouse in Cromarty through their research on sea mammals. This project offers a new way of making their research available to the wider public across the Highlands."

Living and working alongside the scientists the artists have been investigating parallels between marine mammal and human senses, in particular how sound and light within the physical spaces we inhabit - whether it be natural or man-made - affects behaviour patterns. The artists have gained insight into the processes of the marine biologists and their current research findings, whilst also accompanying them on field trips to diverse and challenging locations.

Artist Mark Lyken comments: "I had imagined Cromarty would be a place of real quiet but what I tuned into almost immediately was the constant electric thrum from the oil rigs docked in the Cromarty Firth and the fabrication yard across the water to Nigg. It's an oddly urban acoustic environment which is in stark contrast to its coastal setting."

Day time exhibitions:

Mark Lyken will present new pieces of the ground floor of The Lighthouse. 'The Terrestrial Sea' is a new body of work exploring how environment affects human and marine mammal behaviour, and the parallels between the urban and coastal experience. Mark has used the underwater acoustic research to construct a collection of four sound compositions 'Dry Sea', 'Wetland', 'Sea State Three' and 'Scar History'. 'Scar History' is an installation that features cut up vocal contributions from some of the Lighthouse Field Station's team reading Mark's spoken word piece 'Bright Boom'. The title 'Scar History' relates to dolphin identification methods currently used, where individuals are identified from the scarring, nicks and lesions on their dorsal fins. 'Wetland' and 'Dry Sea', which feature the distorted underwater sounds of Cromarty - pile driving, the ferry and marine mammals, are looped one after the other. This piece will be set within a physical installation that evokes both the space's current role as a marine biology laboratory and its former life as a Lighthouse.

'The Terrestrial Sea' EP - the audio component of his installations will be released on 1 September 2012 on Gamma Proforma to coincide with the launch and will be available from iTunes priced 4.99.

Stephen Hurrel will present film and sound pieces in the Lighthouse light room, in the Boat Shed and in the grounds of the Field Station. In navigation, dead reckoning is the process of calculating one's current position by using a previously determined position, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time, and course. Advances in navigational aids which give accurate information on position, in particular satellite navigation, have made simple dead reckoning by humans obsolete for most purposes. In the film piece, 'Dead Reckoning (Boat Shed)' Stephen Hurrel plots a visual and sound journey through a land and seascape containing monuments to industry, energy and leisure. Stephen also presents 'Resonator', a piece filmed within the empty light room that features sounds of the actual space resonating as the wind blows.

Evening installations:

On 1 September the artists will launch their week-long exhibition and installation with a collaborative 'remix' projected on to Cromarty Lighthouse. The piece will include samples from both artists' works (sound by Mark Lyken and visuals by Stephen Hurrel) together with video material that has been sourced from the Lighthouse Field Station's researchers including samples of spectographs, time-lapse footage.

In 'Otolith Rings' - a work that will be viewed from the outside grass area at the front of the lighthouse - Hurrel will create a sound composition that will trigger movement of water. This will then activate projected light ripples (or rings) within the interior of the domed light room of the Lighthouse. The title references otoliths that function as balance and directional indicators in the ears of all vertebrates.

For further information visit

STEPHEN HURREL has produced installations and exhibitions throughout the UK and abroad in a range of media, as well as several major public artworks. Exploring forms of interactivity and relationships between art, site and people, Stephen uses research and dialogue as a starting point. Often utilises new technology as a way to access 'unseen' and 'unheard' aspects of our environment, ie. his live seismic sounds installation, Beneath and Beyond, recently shown at Soundwave ((5)) Festival in San Francisco in August which taps into the movement of the tectonic plates and translates them into a unique sound and vision experience. In 2011 Stephen was selected for Cape Farewell's Scottish Islands Expedition, connecting with research scientists whilst sailing to islands in the Outer Hebrides. Subsequently he has been working on a collaborative project with social ecologists, based around Barra, titled Mapping the Sea.

MARK LYKEN is a visual artist and musician based in Glasgow. His paintings toy with scale and time, explore worlds within worlds and chemical universes at a microscopic level. Mark's music (under the name Lyken) reflects this same detail, decayed sounds and transmissions shimmer in space, a melodic sea of scientific musical patterns that chime with that certain universal emotion. He continues to record, travel and exhibit, applying his abstract style to different surfaces & mediums. Mark was involved in a previous IOTA project last December when he and other Team Recoat members painted cars in the Old Town Rose Street car park. His debut album Bit Rot is out now on Gamma Proforma.

Over the last 25 years, the Lighthouse Field Station of the Marine Biology department at the University of Aberdeen has developed an internationally recognised research programme, using photography, bio-acoustic techniques and a range of tracking technologies to study the abundance, movements, sound and underwater behaviour of seals, dolphins and other marine wildlife. For further information visit

The project has been supported by University of Aberdeen, Creative Scotland, The Highland Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.


Exhibition/ Installation

2 - 9 September 2012 'Sublime'
Lighthouse Field Station, Cromarty, Black Isle
Exhibitions: daily 12noon - 8pm
Evening installations: daily 8pm - 9pm

IOTA presents new film and sound works by artists Stephen Hurrel and Mark Lyken; created during their "Sublime" residency and informed by their collaboration with marine biologists from the University of Aberdeen's Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty.

Free // Further information:

Events Programme

Sat 1 Sept // 19.30 - 21.00 // Special Launch Event // LFS // Free

Preview artworks by Stephen Hurrel and Mark Lyken.

Sun 2 Sept // Mon 3 Sept // Tue 4 Sept // Wed 5 Sept // Fri 7 Sept //

Sun 9 Sept // 13.00 - 13.30 // Art Tour // Meet at the Lighthouse // Free

A tour of all the artworks lead by either the artists or an IOTA staff member, highlighting some of the key themes and challenges to working with sound.

Mon 3 Sept // 19.00 - 20.00 // Calum Davidson: Science Talk // Old Buoy Store // Free

Delivering the marine energy revolution in Scotland - opportunities and challenges? Calum Davidson, Director of Energy & Low Carbon at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, will give an overview of changes in the marine economy and industrial activity of the Highlands.

Tue 4 Sept // 19.00 - 20.00 // Paul Thompson: Science Talk // Old Buoy Store // Free

Paul Thompson will describe the Field Station's current research on underwater noise, explaining how marine mammals use sound and outlining recent research and conservation effortrs to reduce the impacts of industrial noise on their populations.

Wed 5 Sept // 19.00 - 20.00 // Stephen Hurrel: Artist's Talk // Old Buoy Store // Free Stephen Hurrel will discuss his collaborative 'mapping the sea' project based on Barra, titled Sgeulachdan na Mara/Sea Stories. This is an art-science-community project in collaboration with social ecologists Ruth Brennan (SAMS) and Iain MacKinnon (Crofting scholar) and Barra fishermen. Part of Cape Farewell's Sea Change programme and funded by a Creative Scotland First in a Lifetime Award.

Thu 6 Sept // 13.30 -14.30 // Barbara Cheney: Science Talk // Old Buoy Store // Free

Barbara Cheney will illustrate how the Field Station's studies of seals, dolphins and seabirds have used photographic and marking techniques to follow the fate of invididuals animals for more than two decades, revealing new insights into their behaviour, movements and ecology.

Sat 8 Sept // 10.00 -16.00 // Doors Open Day // Lighthouse Field Station // Free

As part of the Highland Council Doors Open Scheme, the University of Aberdeen will be opening the doors of the Lighthouse Tower, Keepers Cottage and Old Buoy Store. Alongside the opportunity to view these historic buildings, designed by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson, staff, students and artists will be available to present and discuss their work.

Sat 8 Sept // 10.00 // Ian Stephen Talk: Adrift // Old Buoy Store // 8 adult, 6 con

Presented by the Black Isle Words 2012

One of two Black Isle Words events being held at the Field Station, Ian will be sharing of his maritime poems that reflect a love of the sea. Also including some short films made with Andy Mackinnon of Taigh Chearsabhagh in response to navigating the routes of 3 Gaelic songs in community-owned vessels.

Sat 8 Sept // 14.00 // Ronda and David Armitage Workshop // Old Buoy Store // 8 adult, 6 concession. Presented by the Black Isle Words 2012

If you've ever caught a glimpse of the Lighthouse Keeper childrens' stories you won't be able to resist this workshop. The books are full of adventure and humour, with the most beautiful illustrations. This workshop is aimed primarily at 4 - 7 year olds, but adults are very welcome too, you'll be treated to a lighthouse keeper story and see David create a picture.

[Printer Friendly Version]