Lise Autogena

Les Miroirs acoustiques

1998 - 2007

The Sound Mirrors Project evolved from a pre-war acoustic technology that left a string of forgotten concrete mirrors along the South East coast of England. Known as "listening ears' they were constructed as an early warning system against an airborne invasion across the English Channel, collecting sound in giant concrete dishes that were operated by trained listeners to pick up distant noises from the sky. The invention of radar made the mirrors obsolete - The mirrors have since been left forgotten, facing out to Sea towards France.

Lise Autogena's Sound Mirrors Project was about rediscovering this piece of military history as a human, rather than heroic, endeavor. The plan was to construct two new Sound Mirrors on both sides of the English Channel, enabling the English and the French to speak to each other across the sea. Visitors to the new sound mirrors would not only be able to listen to the sky, they would be able to talk across the sea to those standing on a listening platform in front of the other mirror, on the other side of the Channel. The two new mirrors would turn a long forgotten defence technology into an instrument for communication between two countries - and the historically psychologically charged geographic space between England and France into a cross-Channel performance space – a sort of Hyde Park Corner across the sea.

Lise Autogena worked from 1998 in collaboration with engineers, architects, technologists, historians, local communities, town planners, public policy think tanks, a children think tank, The English and French Embassies, the English and French Ministries of Culture, the Ministries of foreign affairs - and even French President Jaques Chirac on the realisation of the Sound Mirrors Project. The project secured planning permission in the town of Folkstone (UK), but stalled in 2007 due to complex planning restrictions on the French Coast.

The development of this project is a story of how world politics changed the political and social climate of the UK and France in the period after 1998, and caused a tightening of national borders, free speech and community relations. It is also a story about the power of the individual and of human communication in humanising and reframing the institutions, structures and technologies that surround us.

artconnexion helped Lise Autogena in the development of her project in France with the English art consultant Hazel Colquhoun.