Eric Holm – Barotrauma

In the deeper recesses of the water, the blue loses its colour, paling to grey and becoming murkier as the descent increases. The sea bed is alive with activity, and not every sound is a natural one. Barotrauma’s recordings have been submerged in the Nordic fjords just south of Oslo. Training at the Norwegian School of Commercial Diving at a time when world oil prices collapsed, Eric Holm decided to record and film his dives, capturing the music of the deep. He left this uncertainty behind as he descended to another world.

The sea bed isn’t altogether calm. There’s an entire industry down here, so you can never truly escape the tightened noose of mankind. Some people like to call it an industry (and a controversial one, at that), while others prefer the term ‘environmental exploitation’. Surely, in essence, it comes down to an abuse of the environment which no man can validate.

One man’s tonic is another man’s poison, but it comes as quite a shock when you see just how similar this industry is to the kind that we see above the water. The equipment has changed. The mentality has not. Comprising a series of underwater drills, a network of pipes and expensive deep-sea equipment, they really have no right to be there. Soaked in oil and dressed in blood money, the multi-million-dollar corporations have the power; no matter where we are on this blue planet, the Earth is taken advantage of, hardly respected by the species that she herself supports. Pipes and drills occupy what should be an isolated space, but it makes for interesting, ambient-flecked music.

Creaking caverns and reverberating clanks become dull as they pass through the heaving water. Engines engage, sending pockets of turbulence out into the deep. A constant, underlying interference is a soft tinnitus in a sea that’s perpetually unclear. The pipes carry a treble-thin infestation of light noise and a gritty layer of static scurries along the floor. The visibility borders on the non-existent.

And still, in the depths, we find the plague of human exploitation. Drills are inserted deep into the rock, plundering riches with thick, eager pipes, engaged in their permanent intercourse. In the dark water, sounds appear and echo outwards, but their precise positioning remains a mystery. Over the space of two years, Holm processed and channelled the sounds of the sea floor and its array of sub-sea equipment. The alien sounds are not always those of strange, unidentified species that call the fjords their home. Living underneath the rock, these inhuman sounds have a very human parent. Sighing, bubbling sounds blend in with distant echoes, like the eerie rumbling of a crumbling, shell-infested shipwreck. The world below is just as uncertain as the one above. Strange creatures sway and amass in the murky shadows.

Down here, everything appears calmer, but a feeling of isolation and unease has been draped over the calm water. The seabed shakes and quakes, sharing a nervous tension with the human population. Appearances can be deceiving, because when we look at the body of the water and the untroubled, still surface, it all seems so calm. Under the water, it’s a different story. Like an aftershock, echoes can still be detected and felt. The ruined, stone temples and the underwater pyramids that were discovered in a sunken city off the coast of Cuba are all reminders of humanity’s presence. Like the lost city of Atlantis, they drown in the depths, but even time can’t quite erase the structures. A phantom fingerprint is left behind, but the beached whales are there for all to see.

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