Displacing Vibrations


Displacing Vibrations is a multi-media exhibition by artist Wendy Wischer, in collaboration with geophysicist Jeffrey Moore that includes 2D and 3D works inspired by an interest in creating a unique experience that shifts the perceptions of the culturally rich and iconic red rock arches in ways that unveil connections with our surroundings, specifically, the unique landscape of southern Utah and the controversial issues around ownership, stewardship and National Treasure. Using amplified and sped up recorded vibrational data, these sound vibrations became sound sculptures played through high tech sound systems, making the inaudible, audible. This multi-media installation holds the potential to create a memory of the arches as dynamic, lively features, constantly in motion and constantly evolving in response to forces from their surroundings. This collaboration with Geology and Geophysicist Jeffrey Moore focuses on monitoring the dynamic behavior of natural rock arches in Utah. His goal is to ultimately provide a means to distinguish elastic and inelastic rock behavior using ambient vibration measurements, in order to evaluate changing structural health of revered natural landforms with high cultural value. Through my creative research, I focus and highlight environmental issues, translating data into personal meaning and creating artwork that moves the viewer in poetic ways. I use a wide range of information that can be used creatively to link nature with technology, science with mythology, and personal identity with universal connections, in hopes of finding impactful ways to connect people more deeply with the environments they live in and with each other.

View Project Site


Between January 2018 and April 2019

Sites and Institutions
University of Utah

Interdisciplinary Art + Science Collaboration Sound Art Multi Media Geology


Installation Art New Media Structural Dynamics Seismology Rock Mechanics Geology Geophysics

  • In December 2017, the boundaries of Bears Ears were cut by 85 percent, seen on the right. In the same stroke, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, was reduced by 47 percent, seen on the left. The images are cut out of acrylic mirror reflecting the chalk drawing of Sunset Arch on the opposite wall as well as the viewers that pass in front.
    photo credit: Amelia Walchli (2019)
  • Viewers see their reflections in the acrylic mirror boundaries placing them as stakeholders and part of the impact. The boundaries show the former and current boundaries of National Monuments Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante.
    photo credit: Amelia Walchli (2019)
  • Pulse is a subtle animation created using vibrational data from four of the red rock arches found in former protected National Monuments Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah. The vibrations were captured with seismic recording devices by Geologist Jeff Moore and his team. The vibrational data was then modified through speed and amplification and put into a sound composition by Wendy Wischer. The intention is to show how rock is dynamic and responsive. The chalk drawing was accompanied by erasers but no chalk, viewers could remove but not add once something was erased.
    photo credit: Wendy Wischer (2019) - https://vimeo.com/manage/330221505/general
  • This faux landscape and sound sculpture, allows viewers to sit upon the rock and arch to both hear, and feel the vibrational sound. A high tech subwoofer is inside the faux rock and surround sound speakers are mounted at the ceiling. The sound piece is 45 minutes, looped.
    photo credit: Wendy Wischer (2019)
  • The vibrational sound is felt and heard throughout the room with a high tech subwoofer placed inside the faux rock sculpture. The sounds include seismic data mixed with other vibrational sounds in a 45 minute composition.
    photo credit: Amelia Walchli (2019)
  • A multi-media installation of sculpture, sound, animation and non-traditional drawing that is the result of a collaboration between artist Wendy Wischer and Geologist Jeffrey Moore. The sound sculpture contains vibrational recordings using seismometers of red rock arches in Utah that are no longer protected within the recently shrunken boundaries of National Monuments Escalante and Bears Ears. The vibrational data has then been modified with speed and amplification and then combined with many layers of added sounds to create the soundscape that makes the inaudible, audible. 2019
    Wendy Wischer (2019) - https://vimeo.com/manage/330278070/general

See Attached: 1000 word, illustrated narrative as a word document.

Displacing Vibrations

A collaboration by Artist Wendy Wischer and Geophysicist Jeffrey Moore

Displacing Vibrations is the result of a recent collaboration between Sculpture Intermedia Associate Professor Wendy Wischer and Geology and Geophysics Associate Professor Jeffrey Moore, at the University of Utah, which focuses on data collected through evaluation of the dynamic behavior of natural rock arches in Utah utilizing ambient vibration monitoring. This installation uses Moore's research, funded by the National Science Foundation, as the inspiration, subject matter and sometimes medium for the artwork, all inspired by an interest in creating a unique experience that shifts the perceptions of the iconic red rock arches in ways that unveil connections with our surroundings, specifically, the unique landscape of southern Utah and the controversial issues around ownership, stewardship and National Treasure.

The recorded vibration data was modified in speed at various different rates so as to be heard and felt. These modified frequencies became part of a multi-media installation that includes video, sound sculptures and non-traditional drawings inspired by the visual components of the collected data. The exhibition creates a distinctive experience of sound including seismic data mixed with other vibrational sounds in a 45 minute composition, while shifting fragmented angles of perception through making the invisible visible and the inaudible audible, allowing sensorial enhancement of what appears familiar by providing new ways of experiencing, enriched observation and new forms of interpretation. These sound vibrations hold the potential to create a memory of the arches as dynamic, lively features, constantly in motion and constantly evolving in response to forces from their surroundings, both naturally occurring and human inspired.

In December 2017, less than one year after being designated as a National Monument, the boundaries of Bears Ears were cut by 85 percent. In the same stroke, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in place since 1996 and hosting world class natural resources, was reduced by 47 percent. With the reductions, 115 natural rock arches were stripped of federal protection.

These arches evolved in isolation over thousands of years in one of the most remote, wild, and challenging landscapes of the American West. Recent human encroachment and planned extractive actives now threatens to place increasing stress on these arches. These natural sculptures, formed over millennia through erosion, are in urgent need of protection and prudent conservation management supporting their long term preservation.

Natural arches are constantly vibrating; like a guitar string plucked by the wind or background drone of the Earth’s energy, they each vibrate with a unique set of tones set by their geometry and material properties. These tones represent a voice, a hum previously unknown to humans because it occurs at inaudible frequencies and is too subtle to feel. Speeding up ambient vibration recordings generated with ultrasensitive seismometers now makes this voice audible. Beyond a new sensory experience, vibration recordings also offer experimental means to assess structural change, concepts established in engineering and now applied for this first time to monitor the structural health of rock formations. Arches are humming their health and we’ve only begun to hear what they have to say.

The concept for Moore’s research merges three scientific disciplines: structural dynamics, seismology, and rock mechanics, building on established concepts in the field of structural health monitoring. The natural ambient vibrations of rock arches are so subtle that humans can't detect them, but they are nonetheless very real. By speeding up and amplifying the vibrations, he has created a way to make this natural hum perceivable to the human senses. He initially thought there may be some scientific value helping interpret these vibrations, rather he found that hearing the hum of the rock creates a meaningful experience for people, allowing them to connect with precious landscapes and features in a new, dynamic way. Moore states, “Working with Wendy on this project has helped us discover new ways of interacting with our project data and results - specifically in learning how to build emotional connections between humans and geologic landforms. As scientists we are trained to divest from emotion and treat our research subjects as data. Working with Wendy has helped enliven this new way to approach and treat our research subjects, as well as how we describe and talk about our data to the public. From a scientific standpoint, building emotional connections to a research subject, creates a new basis to think about the landform as an evolving feature subject to forces it may and may not find 'comfortable'. That is, an arch evolves in balance with its surrounding forces, and new forces experienced might be adverse. Building this empathetic relationship with the subject I believe helps me to better consider or appreciate the full range of experiences in the life cycle of that feature, and thus better analyze it scientifically e.g. with respect to structural integrity”.

Together, Moore and Wischer hope to inspire curiosity and a sense that these features are sensitive and fragile and need protecting. The art installation, Displacing Vibrations, was funded by the College of Fine Art Faculty Research Grant at the University of Utah. The exhibition drew a mixed crowd of artists, scientists, engineers and community members. There were a significant number of students and faculty from the Geology Department as well as the departments of Geography, Computer Science, English and Art, at the University of Utah, who came to experience the artwork. It fulfilled of our goal of bridging disciplines across campus and the community as a whole. The different artworks and text told the story of the dynamic features of the red rock arches, as well as the current political story of the recent reductions to our National Monuments.

Addressing our increasing environmental issues and global climate crisis, demands new ways of thinking and perceiving to find solutions to the ever- increasing problems we face. Interdisciplinary research between the arts and sciences holds the potential for informing new pathways of exploration and understanding, creating a beneficial flow in both directions. 



1 https://vimeo.com/330278070
2 https://www.slugmag.com/arts/art/interviews-features/voices-of-the-arches-displacing-vibrations-at-nox-contemporary/
3 http://artistsofutah.org/15Bytes/index.php/the-hum-of-nature-in-wendy-wischers-displacing-vibrations-at-nox-contemporary/
4 https://vimeo.com/330221505
5 https://www.contextartmiami.com/special-exhibitions


This exhibition was generously funded by the College of Fine Arts Faculty Research Grant, the University of Utah. Moore’s team is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.