Communicating Vessel: Portal of Emotion

Christian Groothuizen, University of East London

The object is 3D printed from data sourced from a series of field recordings made by the artist. The recordings explore sound’s complex relationship with architecture and the built environment. The work describes both the exploration through making of real objects and a nascent enquiry into ‘Sound Objects’ as phenomenological events, drawing from Pierre Schaeffer’s view that the Sound Object, ‘is a kind of phenomenological quest for the essence of sound’. These investigations form the basis of an investigation into architectural space, sound and memory.

In his Ten Books of Architecture, Vitruvius (80 BCE to 15 BCE) describes how bronze ’acoustic urns’ were placed amongst theatre audiences to enhance the vocal performance of actors on stage.

There are no known extant examples of this Greco/Roman technology. With the rediscovery of Vitruvius’ writings in the middle ages, many stone chapels, throughout France and England, were constructed with stoneware urns placed within the walls to obtain a similar effect. Modern scientific analysis shows that the effect is negligible. A recent theory suggests that the vessels were employed as portals to communicate with angels.


Christian Groothuizen is a New Zealand born artist, working and living in London. He has been described by Creation Records founder Alan McGee as ‘a bit of a space cadet’. He was a founder member of the 80’s Indie rock band The House of Love, after the band’s demise in the mid-nineties he studied architecture and became a full-time educator. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Fine Art at the University of East London. His interests are in sound practice, listening, field recording and exploring the phenomenological and emotional role of sound and acoustics within the built environment.

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