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New sound installation at Senate House Library to launch this week

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This week at Senate House Library, London-based arts organisation Artangel are presenting a specially commissioned sound installation, featuring thousands of words for the weather in ten languages which are commonly spoken across the city. 

A Thousand Words for Weather is the first project of a ground-breaking new alliance of artists and writers called World Weather Network, initiated by Artangel and 28 cultural organisations around the world. Throughout three floors of the Library, visitors will experience the sound of the weather in response to live data from the Met Office.  

A collaboration with writer Jessica J Lee and sound artist Claudia Molitor, A Thousand Words for Weather offers a new multilingual ‘dictionary’ of words to explore the role of translation and generate a shared language that describes our changing experience of climate and the environment. To create the dictionary, Lee worked with seven other UK-based poets to translate ten words for the weather into ten languages, including Arabic, Bengali, English, German, French, Mandarin, Polish, Spanish, Turkish, and Urdu. Software architect Peter Chilvers was also recruited to create a bespoke playback system to input data from the Met Office, manipulating the installation’s sound mix in response to changes in the weather. 

The installation launches to the public from Thursday (23 June) and will run until 25 March 2023. To accompany the installation, a series of events have also been coordinated by the School of Advanced Study featuring artists and writers discussing climate change and the importance of connecting across languages, including bestselling novelist Jeanette Winterson and senior lecturer in climate science Professor Friederike Otto.  

Positioning itself as a digital ‘weather station’, the new World Weather Network will invite artists and writers to report on environmental changes experienced locally that contribute to the complex and constantly fluctuating global climate system. Beginning this summer for one year, weather reports will come from stations located in places as diverse as a coastline in Peru, a mountain range in India, a temple in Greece, a glacier in New Zealand, and a tropical rainforest in Guyana. Each organisation will share their reports on a new online platform, which will also host a programme of talks and events with artists, writers, leading thinkers and climate scientists from different parts of the world.