Christopher Steenson is an artist, currently based between Dublin, Belfast and Co. Kerry. His artworks often take the form of site-specific projects, which use listening as a way of dealing with the complex, hidden layers of a place or context. Using field recording, ‘found sound’, analogue photography and writing, Steenson’s practice is concerned with the shifting elements of our environment, such as declining wildlife populations and the climate crisis, and the entangled role of human activity within these changes.1
Bio & Career
Drawing on what sound theorist Michel Chion refers to as the acousmêtre, Steenson considers sound to be as spectre that “haunts the visual” – a disembodied presence that evades direct visualisation. In making his artworks, he invites people to listen deeply to temporal and spatial permutations of a soundscape, giving presence to processes that act upon our environments that are often inexplicable through sight alone. Working in tandem, Steenson’s analogue photographic practice acts as a visual corollary to his engagement with place. These images give a material aspect to my practice, acting as a parallel through-line to Steenson’s activities in the field. His practice draws inspiration from the foundational work of sound artists such as Max Neuhaus and David Dunn, as well contemporary practitioners such as Jana Winderen and Stephen Vitiello.
Steenson’s most-recent works have focused on noise pollution and radiospace and their entwined effects on wildlife. His artwork False Detection (2019–21) traces the effects of electromagnetic fields on birdlife, produced by wireless communication infrastructures. His national public sound artwork, On Chorus (2020), highlighted the effects of noise pollution by recording the sounds of the spring dawn chorus during the first Covid-19 lockdown and broadcasting these sounds across Ireland, using Irish Rail’s train station PA systems. On Chorus (2020) used the strategy of networked broadcasting to encourage actions of collective listening, to connect individuals together during times of social distancing.
Since beginning his artistic practice in 2017, Christopher Steenson’s work has manifested itself as several site-specific performances, sound works and installations. Steenson’s work has been presented by CCA Derry~Londonderry (2021), curated by Locky Morris and Catherine Hemelryk; CCA Glasgow’s Radiophrenia (2020); NCAD Gallery, Dublin (2019); Pallas Projects/Studios, Dublin (2019); EastSide Arts Festival, Belfast (2017); and The Old Jesuit Monastary, Syros, Greece (2019). His tape-based composition Let Me Tell You (2018) was included on a compilation sound works, curated by Catalyst Arts, Belfast, and was premiered at the Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast.
In 2019, Steenson participated in Sounding Paths, an international residency for site-specific sound and intermedia projects on the remote island of Syros, Greece. In 2020 his artwork proposal Wren Radio received a high commendation by the judges at VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art for their public art open call. His work has also been featured in various publications and media outlets including Paper Visual Art, Irish Times, RTÉ News, RTÉ Radio 1, The Irish Examiner, Dublin Inquirer, The Quietus and BBC Radio Ulster. Steenson have received funding from the Arts Council of Ireland (2019, 2020, 2021), the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (2019 & 2020) and Kerry Arts Office (2020).
One of Christopher Steenson’s most recent projects was On Chorus, a large-scale public sound artwork, in collaboration with Iarnród Éireann/Irish Rail, BirdWatch Ireland and Fallow Media. This artwork generated significant media attention and acclaim within Ireland and beyond. In April 2021, the artwork won the award or ‘Best Use of Creativity in the Workplace’ at the Business to Arts Awards. An artist’s LP for the artwork will be released in November 2021.
Upcoming solo exhibitions include Soft Rains Will Come at VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow (February 2022). In March 2022, Steenson will participate in a 4-week residency at Interface, Connemara – a residency for encouraging collaboration between the arts and sciences. In Summer 2022, Steenson will also begin a collaborative research project with Ormston House, titled Crex crex, crex crex, crex…. that will connect artists and field experts (i.e. conservationists, community activists, and farmers) to learn about the corncrake and its place in Ireland’s cultural heritage.
Awards and honours
- 2022, ESB Brighter Future Arts Fund (in Partnership with Business to Arts)
- 2022, PS² Freelands Foundation Artist Programme (2022–2023)
- 2021, Visual Arts Bursary Award, Arts Council of Ireland
- 2021, Agility Award, Arts Council of Ireland
- 2021, Highly Commended Proposal for Wren Radio, VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art Open Call
- 2021, Best Use of Creativity in the Workplace for On Chorus (2020), Business to Arts Awards
- 2021, Creative Work Bursary, Kerry Arts Office, Kerry County Council
- 2020, Professional Development Award, Arts Council of Ireland
- 2020, Visual Arts Bursary Award, Arts Council of Ireland
- 2020, Support for the Individual Artist Programme: General Art Award, Arts Council of Northern Ireland
- 2020, Covid-19 Crisis Response Award, Arts Council of Ireland
- 2019, Support for the Individual Artist Programme: General Art Award, Arts Council of Northern Ireland
- 2019, Support for the Individual Artist Programme: Travel Award, Arts Council of Northern Ireland
- 2019, Travel and Training Award, Arts Council of Ireland
- 2022, Soft Rains Will Come, VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow, Ireland
External links & References
- “About” Christopher Steenson https://christophersteenson.com/about