Muted Landscape

Image–Madelynne Cornish

Muted Landscape explores the relationship between nature, industry and human needs. The work builds on the tension between what is seen and what is heard to challenge the viewer’s experience and interpretation of the landscape. In Mänttä’s [Finland] snow-covered forests and frozen lakes, the viewer encounters what appears to be a beautiful and unspoilt natural environment. However, embedded in this terrain is the industrial infrastructure that supports our daily life: high tension power lines, sawmills and sewage plants.

​Moreover, what may look like a natural forest is an intensively manipulated agroecosystem subjected to sudden alterations, such as clear-felling, ploughing and pesticide treatments. These silvicultural operations cause substantial loss of biodiversity. In order to represent the mutable ecology resulting from the commodification of the landscape, Muted Landscape uses a process of visual desaturation to express a monochromatic territory devoid of diversity. Black is also inserted into the video to disrupt the temporal flow of the image to create moments of tension and dislocation.

Muted Landscape uses off-screen sound to further heighten the viewer’s awareness of the landscape’s hidden and layered elements. The soundtrack comprises environmental sound recordings gathered on location. They capture the often overlooked and unheard sounds of the terrain—the thawing lake, human movements, wind, power lines, and the distant sounds of the paper mill and sawmills. Headphones are used to immerse the viewer. They create an experience that allows the environment to unfold around the wearer.

The work was conceived and developed during a three-month residency at the Serlachius Museum. The fieldwork occurred in the forested area that borders the Lemmenpolku walking track and Lake Melasjärvi. My gratitude goes to the town’s residents, who generously shared their perspectives of the forest landscape and its ambiguous identity oscillating between sites of nature and industry.

Muted Landscape—was created with the support of Serlachius Museums and the Mänttä Art Festival residency program.

Muted Landscape: 2020
Duration: 14:43
​HD single-channel video, stereo-sound
​For monitor and headphones ​