OĀZE is an island anyone can visit from anywhere in the world; all you need is access to a computer, a set of headphones and an open mind. Created by Una Lee as a sound map, the work blends aural art, visual art and fictional storytelling into one.
You can download OAZE for free and read our interview with the artist below.
What gave you the idea to create OĀZE?
It all began with sound maps. Since I learned of their existence, I always wanted one of my own. They reveal interesting connections between geography and the sound of places, letting us listen in and imagine what it is like to be there. They let us daydream - what a lovely thing.
Yet as the dreamer I am, being tied to one real region – be it a small town or the whole globe – seemed limiting. I also felt that something was missing in the sound maps I was listening to, which after a considerable amount of reflection on my part turned out to be the aspect of time.
Most sound maps hail from one particular time, which could potentially lead to the misunderstanding that the recording should represent that specific place forever. But for me soundscapes are absolutely ephemeral, fluid and evanescent.
For OĀZE I went around the subject by integrating the passage of time within a fixed visual topography, and blending in the life story of a person through the introduction of one fragment or chapter at each time and place.
The island stands for an entity that is whole on its own and self-sufficient; an independent piece of land holding a person’s entire life, like memories are contained within a body, and sound recordings in a sound map. This is also why I wanted the work to be download-based as opposed to an online map, so that it can exist in its own terms as an absolute thing.
Is there a real place or several real places that are captured in OĀZE?
All the sound recordings in OĀZE are genuine; we aren’t as advanced in technology as to fabricate synthetic field recordings to such an extent just yet. The recordings were made in Northern Ireland, Northumberland, the Azores, the South Korean countryside and more, each appropriated as necessary. I tried hard to leave out any sound that would position the work in a specific era or place. There are hints of what century it could be in, but the distinctive sounds of digital devices or modern means of transport like cars and aeroplanes were intentionally excluded (although this was extremely difficult!).
The graphic illustrations were initially based on real places, before they went through abstraction. Aerial views of coastlines of Cornwall, towns in Croatia, harbours in France and Italy, an isle in Australia and more were chosen based on their visual merits but mainly to serve as inspirations. I asked my mother who is a hobby painter to draw preliminary sketches from these found photographs, which I then turned into the final version of illustrations by omitting, adding objects, choosing colours and stylising.
Where does the name OĀZE come from?
It is a made up word based on its phonetic quality (pronounced /oaːz/ with Ā borrowed from Japanese romanisation) as well as the appearance in its written form. As a fictional place I wanted the island to remain nameless and at the same time give the work a title that didn’t mean anything literal.
However, the word can be interpreted as ‘oasis’. It is what ‘Oase’ in German means, which quite resembles the title word. I find the meaning itself is conceptually suitable as well. Inspired by this, I wrote the words of the song within the sound map in an invented language, assuming that ‘oāze’ was ‘oasis’, and that this made up language could phonetically produce such a word as oāze (/oaːz/).
Fun fact, for me anyway - very recently I found out that there is an actual place called ‘the oaze’ in Kent, England which refers to a piece of tidal wetland. I presume it’s pronounced /oase/ though - close to how the river Ouse is pronounced.
Una Lee is an artist in perpetual pursuit of found sound and ways for alternative storytelling. She sings, narrates, writes stories, collects field recordings and makes things. She also composes and designs her own live and/or fixed performances and intervention scenarios. Most of her works, whilst being primarily sound-based, incorporate interdisciplinary aspects such as performance art, visual art and theatre practice with interest in exploring time, memories and representations. She is native of South Korea and currently based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.