Magdaléna Manderlová

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HISS is an artwork consisting of a sonic essay and an artist book made in 2019. The work is based on an excursion I made to the North Bohemian region in the Czech Republic in the same year. The region contains a major coal mining field, and the traces of mining and extractivism have permeated the landscape over the last couple of centuries. I engaged with the specific environments through my body – by walking and listening, and collected field-recordings, photographs, and text. I invite the audience to feel and explore these spaces, and I encourage the readers and listeners to linger and drift through an alternative time, sound, and light.


Listening, deep listening, acoustic ecology, fieldwork, sound art, mining, extractivism


Description of the work

HISS is a work based on my field trip in the North Bohemian region in the Czech Republic, 2019, consisting of an audio essay and an artist book. In 2018, I was invited by the curator Tereza Zachova to participate in the group exhibition “The Earth/Current way of living” in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. Ústí nad Labem is the capital of the North Bohemian in the Czech Republic, a region which contains a major coal mining field called “Mostecka uhelna panev / North Bohemian coal basin”, and the traces of mining and extractivism have permeated  the landscape over the last couple of centuries.

This was very exciting to me since I have been working with landscapes marked with anthropogenic activity, like mining, in the long term. I can say that my relationship with mining is very personal, as I myself grew up in a place lying on a large coalfield (Upper-Silesian coal basin) and several of my relatives were miners, as well as my partner’s family who comes from Sulitjelma in northern Norway. This is something that interests me both because of my own autobiographical story, and because of the global consequences of mineral extraction.

I decided to do a field trip by myself, in which I walked in and around the mine pits and their closest surroundings. During one week, I engaged with this landscape by walking over 100 km while listening to the surroundings. My aim was to feel – and to meet – the landscape, to absorb its natural and cultural stories while widening my sonic imagination. I collected field-recordings, photographs, and I wrote my observations and reflections.

These places were often off the beaten track, the places “in-between” – in-between the closed gates and the fields and meadows, in-between the fences and villages. I was curious to see the pieces of landscape that once used to be mine pits and were now in the process of “mine reclamation” (restoring of the land that has been mined) – planted with geometrical grids of trees, or filled up with water.

Over a hundred settlements and villages were moved or destroyed as a result of the mining activities from the 17th century to the mid-1990s; as well as the water systems which were poisoned, manipulated and moved to make space for the industry. I visited some of these locations and tried to look for the remains, to sense something where there was often nothing left today.

I walked through Bilina, Branany, Cernice, Duchcov, Jedovina, Lom u Mostu, Marianske Radcice, Milada, Most, Osek, Roudniky, Trmice, Usti nad Labem, Vrsanska vyhlidka, Vysoka Pec.

The methodologies that I used were mostly listening and “soundwalking” – active listening to the soundscapes of the specific environments. I also used something referred to as sonic imagination – the capacity to feel, think, and dream through sound. You can widen the listening experience by imagining e.g. how the particular space sounded like before or would sound like in the future. These concepts that I’m inspired by come from the fields of acoustic ecology and deep listening.

In the sound collage, I worked with my writings and recordings collected during the excursion. I composed small bits of music, which are inspired by what I heard in my recordings. That can be referred to as musical responses. Katherine Butcher and Alex Murray-Leslie kindly recorded the voice-over for me.

For the book, I worked closely with a graphic designer Kateřina Baránková, who created the whole design and typography, and also helped me to choose the photographs used in the publication. We decided on the “risograph” printing method, which involves a process similar
to that of screen printing, and gives a particular graphic quality.

The sound work and the publication are meant to be experienced together, or closely after each other, as they together create the whole piece.



Manderlova – HISS pdf


About the Author

Magdaléna Manderlová is an artist from the Czech Republic, based in Trondheim, Norway. Along with an MFA degree from the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic (2015), and an MFA degree from The Art Academy in Trondheim, NTNU (2018), she also has a musical background as a singer-songwriter and was active in the Czech indie scene 2012-18. In recent years, she has been performing in the context of
experimental music.

Her artistic practice is engaged with in-depth field investigations, grounded in listening practice. She is inspired by and her work is formed by deep listening and acoustic ecology. Her works often take form as site-specific sound installations or sonic essays which are composed of field recordings, poetic text, and music.

To cite this piece

Manderlová, Magdaléna. “HISS.” Fusion Journal, no. 19, 2021, pp. 145-174. http://www.fusion-journal.com/HISS/

First published online: March 2021

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