Sound is a powerful tool -- many of us are familiar with how the mere hearing of certain sounds can evoke certain memories in our minds. In contributing to a recent exhibition on an ancient but still significant Roman wall, architecture studio NEON created this wind-powered art installation at the old Chesters Roman Fort, which recreates the sound of 500 galloping horses -- sounds that might have been heard when the Roman cavalry that guarded the wall and occupied the fort 1,600 years ago. Watch the sculpture go:
The wall, dubbed Hadrian's Wall after the Roman emperor who commissioned it more than a millennia ago, is one of the world's largest remaining Roman historical artifacts, and is a 73-mile long defensive fortification that runs through the northern part of England. While it's been lost to history as to why exactly the wall was built by the Roman emperor Hadrian at the time, it's now a major tourist attraction in Britain.
NEON founder Mark Nixon explains some of the concepts and challenges behind their Cavalry 360 sculpture:
The challenge of describing something that was no longer physically there and acknowledging the way the horse changed mankind's relationship to the landscape were key to our approach. Like written fiction, we were excited to offer a half description of the subject as a means of evoking the imagination of the viewer to fill in the gaps.
The sculpture has a circular form and stands 12 metres high. It features 32 turbines with rotating arms and cups that catch the wind and kinetically activates it to produce the sound of knocking. These turbines are configured as pairs in reference to a turma, or what the Roman army called a cavalry unit of 30 horses.
Standing in the middle of the sculpture's middle, one gets a full, panoramic view of the landscape and a sense of being surrounded by this "galloping" sound produced by the system of turbines. When the wind picks up, the sound quickens, giving life to this memory of the forces that once occupied this fort. The sculpture's turbines are also designed to pick up the wind here and there, so that one also gets a ghostly sense of that horses are trotting in from different directions as well.
The tendency for history and its artifacts to be squirreled away in musty old museums means that often people don't get an opportunity to experience history and a historical landscape first-hand. It's slowly changing as cultural institutions shift from previous models and methods of doing things in order to stay relevant, but installations such as this one could be another way to encourage the general public to take part more directly in the past, in order to understand the present and ponder the future. More over at NEON.