Hanna Tuulikki 

Hanna won the Student Residency Prize in 2006.

100 breaths:100 waves

During the month long residency in Cromarty, people from across the local community were invited to record the sound of their breathing. From a collection of 100 of these recordings a sound piece was created, imitating the sounds of the sea and the rhythms of the waves. The participation of the community was a gradual process, beginning with visiting people at their work or home as well as chance encounters on the street. The piece was exhibited in Cromarty stables gallery as part of an installation which included a light cotton banner hanging from the ceiling with 100 silk-screened portraits of the participants - printed from the hand drawn originals -and a hammock suspended from roof beams which acted as a listening point.

Airs of the Sea

"When I first arrived in Cromarty I fell in love with the water that surrounds the town and the headland. It seemed so important to the place, both in the shaping of the land and to the people living there. My grandfather was a fisherman on the south coast and I remember the stories he’d tell me as a child, of his experiences out at sea, the sea that gave him food, money, happiness and sadness.

My initial idea was to explore the oral histories of Cromarty folk whose lives and identities were entwined with the sea. At the harbour I met Ronald, Erwin and Davy who worked on the ferry and they tentatively shared their stories and superstitions with me. It seems that for over 700 years Cromarty’s livelihood has depended on its proximity to the sea. The sea is a powerful mother that has shaped the land and its people, a guardian providing work for fisherman, tradesmen and, more recently, the oil and tourism industries.

I felt that in order to get a better understanding of the sea, I should spend some time with it, studying it with my senses. I spent a morning sitting on the rocks, watching the waves lap onto the stones and the clouds flirting with the water below. I closed my eyes and began to listen closely to the sounds. Sitting by the water, I became aware of the way in which the rhythm of my breath parallels the rhythm of the waves.

I breathe in the sea air and the sound of the water. The wave lifts and rises up towards the land and breaks. I breathe out. It draws near and with the mass of sea behind is pulled back again. I breathe in. My body inhabits and moves through the air, which in turn moves in and out of my lungs as I breathe. Through the medium of air sound is carried. My body is immersed in the sound that soaks the air with its vibrations and the sound moves in and out of my body as I breathe. And so, my body sails on sound in the same way that a boat sails on the sea. My breath becomes the waves.

An idea for a piece began to grow a little more: a sound work replicating the sounds of the sea using the sounds of human breath as material. I was interested in collecting 100 different peoples’ breaths in order to use them as fragments to create a whole. The sound of the waves -like our breath -is a constant sound that lived long before the tides of traffic sound that dominate today’s soundscape. The rhythm and pitch of the sea changes, as do the patterns of our own breathing. The harmonies created by many breaths heard together rise and fall, like water on water and water on land. By perceiving the recordings of peoples’ breath as self-portraits -from the inside -the resulting looped sound piece becomes symbolic of the continual re-creation of ourselves.

I began to visit the village almost every day, meeting people and collecting their breath. Some people declined, understandably feeling uncomfortable with the idea. After all, to offer someone your breath is a very intimate act. But, generally people were very open with me and we often chatted for a while before and after I recorded them. They have told me stories about their lives, shared thoughts on different subjects and offered advice. I met people from many places and of different ages; folk that were born and grew up there and those that moved there from other lands. I took photographs of everyone that participated and from these I made ink drawn portraits, with the idea of giving back something in return, and to bring a visual aspect into the work. An important part of the process for me was the connections that are created with the people I met. I wonder what they thought?

The exhibition opening was a joy. I was nervous about giving a talk and how people would respond to the work. But it seems that people enjoyed it or got something from it and it was great to see so many of those that participated there. I particularly liked watching people as they picked out who was who from the drawings.

There are many people I have to credit – over 100 in fact – but one thing I wish I could say to all is thank-you for making my stay in Cromarty meaningful. It was a wonderful opportunity and a nourishing experience. I hope to return when my life settles a little and re-kindle friendships I began to make."

Airs of the Sea

Form: Installation
Date: August - September 2006
Distribution - Location - Duration - Date:

Recording/collecting breath - Cromarty, The Black Isle, Scotland: 3 weeks: August 27th – September 18th

Installation - Stables gallery, Cromarty, The Black Isle, Scotland: September 21st – 24th 2006
Airs of the sea audio CD - Cromarty arts trust collection


Artist Residency: Cromarty Arts Trust
Breath: Beral Anderson, Rotrand Baron, Sheila Bartlett, Nick Batin, Iain Bayne, Duncan Bowers, Mary Bowers, Neil Brooker, June Breuster, Bill Campbell, Daphne Campbell, Lindy Cameron, Jane Clunas, Pete Clunas, Erin Couttes, Eva Couttes, Janet Davis, A. Demitrisu, Alex Dunn, Helen Dunn, Kenneth Dupar, Kristina Dupar, Marcus Edwards, David Fisher, Peter Fisher, Coll Fullarton, Gregg Fullarton, Helen Gardinier, Rhona Garratt, Jelica Gavrilovic, Katrina Gillies, Gimgo, Martin Gostwick, Marion Graham, Vivienne Griffiths, Malcom Hall, Diane Haugh, Pat Hay, Jean Henderson, Helen Hill, Bobby Hogg, Marsaili Hogg, Alan Hunter, Roisin Johnston, Ben Leyshon, Bryn Leyshon, Joseph Leyshon, Michelle Lowe, Angela Lynch, David Newman, Rosie Newman, Helen MacFarlane, Mairi MacNeil, Ron McDonald, Trish McIver, Bill McKinlay, Alison McMenemy, Gillian McNaught, John McNaught, Babs Mackay, Kenneth Mackay, Jean Macleman, Georgia Macleod, Gail Pocock, Leon Patchett, Denise Petrie, George Price, Colin Roberts, Joe Roberts, Ian Robertson, Rachel Roberton, Erwin Roeling, Gail Rose, Anne Ross, John Ross, Wendy Sanders, Margaret Shackleton, William Shackleton, Anne Short, Mike Schroeder, Karen Smith, Maureen Smith, Lynne Sproull, Gail Stuart-Martin, Victoria Stuart-Martin, Bill Thomson, Hector Thomson, Izzy Thomson, Patsy Thomson, Sandy Thomson, Denis Torley, Jane Verbung, Alison Watson, Rowena Watson, Ronnie Winton, David Wood, Jonathon Wood, Evelyn Wright, AllysonYoung, Ronald Young

Silk screen portraits: The Highland Print Studio

Materials: Recordings of 100 different peoples’ breaths, drawn portraits

Equipment: Mini disc, stereo mic, headphones, pro-tools, digital camera, Indian ink, paper, cotton fabric, black printing ink, 2 silk screens, cd player, 2 speakers, hammock, pillow, miscellaneous hard and wire ware.

Documentation: photographs


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19 Bank Street, Cromarty
IV11 8YE Scotland

T: 01381 600354


Cromarty Arts Trust is recognised as a Scottish Charity number SC003018

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