Radio chatter buzzes its tin-treble signals, wrapped in high secrecy. Coded messages designed for air traffic controllers are relayed to a vacant airfield. Heavy, military boots clang over metal. Oozing down the side of the music like ectoplasm, a deep note that could easily be the sound of an old aircraft propels itself downwards, sliding down into the wreckage of the past.
Bastion is the sound of Landguard Fort and Landguard Point’s nature reserve. Working with local residents, the very essence of the place sinks into the audio sculpture, haunting the statue of sound with its presence. Ancient scripts of folklore are retold, and myths once thought to be buried now claw their way to the surface. They are the local sounds of a specific place, a place with a unique history. The sound installation of Bastion absorbs the elderly brick and grey stone.
When Stuart Bowditch was awarded an artist’s residency by Landguard Arts (Felixstowe, Suffolk), Bastion was already an infant. The very footsteps are an integral part of the place and its audio imprint. The sound of the environment – of any environment – is just as real as the sight. Everyday and site specific activities were recorded, as were the differing seasons and the changing weather conditions. The sounds of long ago echo and enter into the present day.
Bowditch built healthy bonds and many friendships during his time at the fort. The Felixstowe and District Amateur Radio Society provided some source material for the project, a group of military enthusiasts in period costume gave a demonstration of their muskets during July’s Darells Day festival, and a night was spent at the fort with Compass Paranormal during one of their Ghost Tours. A sizeable community involvement saw Bowditch make friends with people who knew the fort and the area intimately. Brian, a dedicated volunteer who helped towards the maintenance of the fort, provided essential historical information as well as a disused shelving unit with ‘particularly good resonant qualities’, which was used as part of the final installation. Sarah, the ranger for Landguard Peninsular nature reserve, helped to shine a light on suitable areas for recording. She also shared her knowledge of the local flora and fauna. When all of the sounds coalesce, Bastion has a strange aura to it. You feel a draught of cool air coming from an empty, cavernous space surrounded by nothing but jaded, bleak stone. A stream of colder air sits beside the musket display, hinting at other spirits in the vicinity.
The Last Post rings out over the field, acting as a reminder of lives lost during war, of ceremony within the British infantry. Tall spears guard the music with notes that shoot upwards, protecting the fort. The sound recording can last for centuries without any sign of noticeable or permanent decay; likewise, after all of these years, the fort still stands strong. Bastion takes you there.