The Inhabitant of the Watchtower

For his durational project The Inhabitant of the Watchtower, Richard Rigg developed transmitter/receiver to take field recordings around the high desert. The transmitter/receiver strips the sounds that are within human audible range, within the adapted speaker, leaving only ultrasonic sounds and the noise of this erasure.  Beginning August 17, 2012, the results can be heard on an audio broadcast at www.theinhabitantofthewatchtower.net.

"The project expands upon ideas present in Rigg's wider body of work; it functions to sidestep rational thought. By following an arcane line of inquiry it explores the facets of human perception and understanding: a quest for meaning that's intent lies within the realm of poetic lyricism rather than dogmatic conclusion.

This process of removal creates a portrait of the baron environment of the desert. The resulting work echoing the isolated tundra by removing any audible elements of the site that could be actively perceived by a person.

By creating this sound portrait of the desert site, Rigg also shows the process of exclusion that takes place in sound recording. Sound, an element directly related to site and found everywhere, is generated in the natural environment. Recording removes sound from it's own context and gives an artificial interpretation of site. This interpretation is far removed from the perception of sound that takes place through direct experience.

The inaudible frequencies which will remain in the recordings range in source but include insects, birds, wildlife and other features of this natural habitat. By retaining these imperceptible frequency ranges an awareness is brought of the detailed messages of co-existing elements which exist outside of our comprehension.

The device will be transported by the artist from his studio in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK to High Desert Test Sites in the Joshua Tree desert, where it will be left to gradually decompose in this exposed and desolate environment. Once installed in it's desert location the process of taking these field recordings will begin and then they will be accessible from the internet.

The desert location of High Desert Test Sites at Joshua Tree, California will expose the ultrasonic apparatus to extreme conditions allowing the work to exist over a time-frame completely subjected to the environment. This unique ecology forms a discussion on extended sites in relation to artwork. It looks to the desert field, a location stripped down and void of human habitation, architecture with minimal natural life. Looking to earlier concerns brought about by artists like Smithson and Judd regarding non-site and the intrinsic value found in nature as an environment for art.

Following this broadcast a publication will be released, which expands the concepts formed during the project. Invited writers will develop this publication with Richard Rigg, annotating his schematic plans and records of the project which explore the value found in this unique and far-removed location."


The Inhabitant of the Watchtower is a collaboration with CIRCA Projects and coincides with and expands upon ideas in his exhibition Lacuna at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.