BUBALUS, BUBALIS 14-40,000hz
This work is informed by Zheng Mahler's long term ethnographic research on Lantau's wild water buffalo, which looked into the ways the island's geography and wetland ecology have been shaped by its bovid (water buffalo and cow) populations. Once known as the “rice basket” of Hong Kong, Lantau suffered substantial agricultural decline in the 1970s and 1980s, during which time water buffalo and cattle once kept for agricultural labor were released into the wild and became feral. These nonhuman agents – water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) in particular – have terraformed their new landscape, turning abandoned farmland into biodiverse wetland ecologies. The delicate, spontaneous web of life thus created will soon fall under siege as Lantau Tomorrow Vision, the land reclamation megaproject, continues its course.
The exhibition room is an assemblage of the instruments used in their research. It features a sound sculpture consisting of field recordings the artists collected by following the traces and trails of the wandering buffalo on the island. A binaural microphone was constructed replicating the forms of buffalo ears using 3D scanning and printing to best capture the sonic perception of an animal physiognomy. The recordings are split into two sets: the ultrasonic frequencies only the buffalo hear are presented visually through the water speaker, an apparatus capable of translating vibrations into animated, intricate patterns of water ripples; the frequencies within human hearing range can be experienced through headphones connected to the binaural buffalo mic, giving the audience a spatialized experience of buffalo hearing. Selected text of the artist’s background research and field notes is additionally documented in a companion booklet.
This project forms part of an ongoing multi-species sensory ethnography series Zheng Mahler are developing around Lantau Island’s buffalo and other local species.
The work is an attempt to acknowledge the limitations of human sensory capacities and how technology can be used to ‘mediate’ these constraints - with the understanding of technology as extending consciousness- in order to find a minimal condition necessary for embodying more-than-human sensory experiences.