Satellite imagery from NOAA-19 captured during the morning performance in Southeast London by Sasha (left) and North London by Sophie (right).

Open Work, Second Body

Open Work, Second Body is a live-stream performance by open-weather in collaboration with author Daisy Hildyard. The work was performed twice during Reveil 2020, a global sound arts festival streaming sounds from listening points around the planet on the day of the International Dawn Chorus.

Open Work, Second Body asks: From the climate crisis to coronavirus: what are the tools we need to make sense of events unfolding on vastly disparate scales? Through spoken word, field recordings and radio reception of two satellite images, the work probes the porous boundaries between our bodies, local atmospheres and weather systems.

Performance video available on request.

▴ Still from the performance, live streamed on YouTube. Image: open-weather

Open Work, Second Body Script

[open-weather section only]

In West London
I feel the metal staircase beneath my feet,
cold and textured.
Being barefoot enhances the satellite image,
changing the gain of my turnstile antenna,
altering its frequency response.

I have set up a satellite ground station in my flat.
Its component parts are a laptop, free software (prone to glitching),
and a turnstile antenna that I assemble before each satellite pass.

We: the antenna I hold,
my body,
and the staircase beneath my feet
re-distribute energy,
produce interference patterns,
create new images.

We are more than a set of “global connections”.
Tuned to 137 MHz we are a more-than-human antenna,
a radiant body.
The satellite image:
a “work in movement” (Eco, 12).

For Daisy Hildyard,
everyone has two bodies.
Your first body is the body you inhabit in daily life.
It is the body that sleeps and eats, thinks and moves.
But your first body has an uncanny other: the second body.

“You are alive in both. You have two bodies” (Hildyard, 25).

Your second body circles the globe.
And hovers outside windows
Your body ‘leaks’ across borders
and escapes the skin’s limits
Even from quarantine,
You “converge with other bodies, human and nonhuman”

Before COVID-19, climate change disputed the quantified self,
that is, the discrete,
measurable body.
Warming atmospheres hissed: all bodies are porous.
They have multiple endings
and infinite beginnings

“There is a way of speaking”, Daisy says,
“that implicates your body in everything on earth” (Hildyard, 57).

Speaking of bodies
instead of global connections is powerful,
Also, arguably,
more accurate.

As we weather COVID-19
Where have our bodies travelled?
Where have they leaked to and who have they met?
What has entered inside us,
quietly and imperceptibly?

One definition of an openwork is an artwork created by
“holes, piercings, or gaps” (Vining, 221).

In our open work,
a weak signal
or gaps in the transmission of a satellite image
write an interference pattern that is the meeting of our first
and second bodies.
It is the coiling of our first body around the second.
It is stretching,
shifting weight from foot to foot

An open work
“incorporate[s] the second body into the first” (Hildyard, 26).
It tunes to the body
“starting from its most expansive expression”,
that is the whole earth (Hildyard, 26).

In South East London
I frighten the pigeons
a sculpture of metal
at an invisible medium
that I can sense in the cracks
between power line and tower block

To receive is not to accept or to hold
but to relay a
speed-of-light signal
that has journeyed through tropospheric currents
steel, copper and coil
sweat on palms

To receive
is to will my body
to be poised and present,
in ghostly kinship
with the satellite’s near and far-infrared sensors
talking in waveforms
to algorithms and indices
tracing clouds in the liquid crystals of a sunlit screen.

▴ Satellite image from NOAA-19 captured in North London by Sophie during the morning performance. Image: open-weather
▴ Satellite image from NOAA-19 captured in North London by Sasha during the morning performance. Image: open-weather


The work was produced in collaboration with Daisy Hildyard. Special thank you to Daisy Hildyard.

The work was commissioned by Soundcamp for Reveil 2020. Thank you to Grant Smith, Maria Papadomanolaki, Christine Bramwell and Dawn Scarfe.

Sound design by Jol Thoms.