Artist Residency : August 2020

During August 2020 ALOES spent a month on the island of Örö in the southern outskirts of the Finnish archipelago. Örö is a 2 km2 island that was used as a military fortress from the early 1900s until the end of 2014, after which it became part of the Archipelago National Park. As the island had been closed for tourism for over 100 years, its nature is home to many rare species.

On this special location we have explored nature and history, while wandering around the island. We have gathered audio and video material and we have written custom software to process image and sound. With this material we have created short audiovisual compositions that combine site-specific, nature- and landscape-related elements, while exploring the idea of remoteness and being surrounded by sea with limited access to resources. Through our audiovisual compositions we want to create an experience that can transport an audience to a place without ever visiting it.


Alex: Apart from the obvious reminders of Örö’s history as an island in military use, on our walks and climbs we found a lot of less obvious and explainable remnants of former activity on the island. Rusted steel structures that looked like they were once cranes in (now) odd places, Russian text scratched into the rocks, metal rings drilled into the coast at places where nothing else is visible anymore. Speculating what the function of these places and items was and why they were there was very interesting.

Bent Trees

Alex: Near the coastline of the island not a single tree is growing straight. The wind pushes into the first trees of the forest, bending most inward from the coast. Due to storms some trees aren’t just bent over, but have grown into weird shapes, broken, twisted and continued growing in weird angles. The unpredictable shapes add to the dynamic feel of the island.


Marloes: For some reason I imagined Örö to be a very silent place, with no traffic on the island and barely any permanent inhabitants. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We used to live in an apartment in Helsinki relatively close to a highway crossing. Whenever we slept with the window open we’d hear a faint but audible highway hiss. It never really bothered us, it was just there all the time. It was quite a windy the day we arrived on Örö. After we checked the house and unpacked some of our things, we sat down on the stairs in front of the door, listening. A very similar hiss to the one we would hear at home was audible on this island without traffic, only this time it was produced by the sea.


Marloes: we’d been told that adders are quite common on Örö. I had never seen one in my life, so when we encountered a snake pretty much on our doorstep, I had to check what kind of snake we were dealing with. It very obviously was an adder that we were sharing our yard with. After this first encounter we saw many more. We speculated that the adder often sunbathing near our front door was always the same one. I almost stepped on a snake during a walk. I almost drove into one while cycling, twice! Alex even had one on his foot during a walk at night, luckily he was wearing rubber boots. We got very used to looking out for snakes while walking and often mistook dark coloured twigs spotted from the corners of our eyes for snakes, something that even continues now we’re back in the city.


Marloes: Dotted all over Örö are smaller and larger bunker complexes. We have probably peeked into all of them. When we entered one on the east-side of the island, we saw a sleeping swallow on a ledge next to a nest. We decided to leave the bunker so we wouldn’t wake it up. We passed by the same bunker a few days later during one of our many walks. The sleeping swallow wasn’t there during the day, but in the nest we saw tiny beaks, softly squeaking to be fed.

Travel Synth: performing

Marloes: We initially planned to make videos of short performances in nature, but with the amount of snakes, insects and other wildlife around, we decided to restrict our performance and composition practice to inside the residency house.

Travel Synth: programming

Marloes: Before going to Örö I had built a portable, battery powered synthesizer. It wasn’t completely finished when we arrived. I still had to do most of the programming, as I wanted to add elements from the island into its sound.

* (find the spider)

Radar Tower Video

Alex: After a few days, we started playing around with the radar tower close to the residency house. I wanted to work with the constant movement on the island, the radar tower, the birds, the ants, and the crickets. I made a controllable program that uses the difference between frames to generate mesh shapes during our residency. We used the program to create some videos for Marloes’ sounds.

Barn Birds

Alex: After experimenting with the Ants and Crickets video, I tried to shoot some video of the swallows that built their nests in the roof of the barracks next to the residency house. Every once in a while they were zipping in and out in beautiful circular patterns. Marloes made a composition to the visuals, which was also an interesting experiment as usually we fit the visuals to the sound.

Travel Synth: modules

Travel Synth modules (from left to right):
1. audio output | 5V power input | key switch
2. 4 channel passive mixer with mute buttons
3. ADSR synth with MIDI input: with sine wave | saw wave | noisy cricket layer | glitch mode
4. sample player with 10 samples recorded on Örö
5. contact mic module
6. synth with MIDI input: with sine wave | radar tower wavetable | glitchy envelope controls