Brian House, Åsmund Gamlesæter, Peter Edström, Ricardo Contreras
turbin setting
turbin inpipe
Installation, Mölndals Museum, Mölndal, Sweden
2003 December
Turbin brings the Götafors river back inside a historical turbine hall in Mölndal, Sweden, in order to give the audience an experience of its energy as once captured by mechanical process and as now transformed to aesthetic ends.

The space is thirty-two meters long, situated beneath what was once a nineteenth-century manufacturing plant now utilized as offices. The turbine itself was dismantled in the 1960s, though segments of pipe remain at each end of the hall, now sealed with brick. The room spans multiple levels, has uneven floors and ceilings, and remains near its original state aside from a metal walkway traversing its length. Without modification the space is silent, pitch black, and cold. The turbine room is maintained by Mölndals Museum which invited this installation.

Historical research uncovered the story of a man who for twenty-five years early in the twentieth century regulated water flow through the turbine, turning a manual valve wheel to match the voltage requirements of the factory.

For Turbin the path of the original pipe, as suggested by the remaining segments, is partially reconstructed with a series of rings. Each ring consists of plastic lights in the approximate diameter of the original pipe. Speakers are distributed through the length of the hall.

Initially, the sound consists only of distributed water drops that indicate the expanse of the dark room. A valve wheel mounted vertically from the floor at the back of the space (directly in front of the remaining pipe) is indicated by a single light bulb positioned below it. The wheel serves as an element of interaction between the audience and the installation; turning it affects both light and sound in a continuous transformation and amplification of their own physical effort as well as of the the flow and energy of the river as translated into the turbine space.

All sound is processed from the actual sound of the river immediately outside, captured via microphone. As the wheel is turned, the volume of the sound amplified in the turbine space increases. Additionally, the natural voice of the river metamorphizes according to a synthesis algorithm that organizes the sound according to a generative, tonal composition in increasing effect toward the far end of the hall. As a result, the audience experiences a continuous transition from raw to totally composed sound from one end of the space to the other. A subwoofer placed in the extant pipe section behind the valve provides visceral feedback of the process.

In addition, the frequency of the pulsation of light across each ring increases with the degree of rotation of the steering wheel, indicating the directional flow of the water. The lights serve to reveal the space out of the darkness, both reconnecting its length and transforming it from a closed area into a conduit of energy. When the wheel is fully turned, this tranformation is at maximum velocity.
Thanks to
Per-Anders Nilsson,  Lars Gahrn,  Mölndals Museum
Writing / press
2003 December 19