ixia: public art think tank

ixia has taken over the ownership and management of Public Art Online from Arts Council England. The design and content of the website are currently being reviewed.

Bookmark and Share

Environmental report gives Cardigan’s Turbulence the green light

Date uploaded: February 9, 2009

A scientific report has found that there would be no adverse impact on River Teifi’s SAC designated fish species if artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Turbulence for The Big Art Project goes ahead. Released today by The Big Art Project in Cardigan, the full report is available at www.cardiganbigart.com.

The report by APEM Aquatic Scientists was commissioned by independent public art consultancy Safle and The Big Art Trust – a charitable trust to create and promote public art with local communities – because the proposed site for Turbulence in the River Teifi is close to two sites of scientific interest which are protected under European law. 

The report examined the potential impact of Turbulence – in particular the emission of light and sound – on Atlantic salmon, sea trout, and river and sea lamprey and their migratory habits. The impact of underwater cabling and the actual structure of the artwork were also assessed.

Turbulence is a cluster of 127 interactive buoys which will float in the River Teifi alongside the Strand in Cardigan. Supported by a sunken hull attached to two moorings to allow the structure to move with the tide, the buoys will contain LED light sources and a loudspeaker. Along the quayside, microphones will record the voices of passers-by, store them within the buoys and set off the lights. When the river becomes periodically turbulent – the stored sounds will be released and will be heard as a stream of voices on the quay and shore.

The key findings of the APEM Aquatic Scientists’ report are:


Light measurements determined that penetration into the water column of the light emitted by the buoys is likely to be restricted to within two metres of the structure. While this could lead to fish avoiding this localised area at night, the report found that as Turbulence will be sited on the inside bend of the river, it is unlikely that migration would be affected as the migrating fish would be able to migrate through the river in the middle and outer bend sections, which are likely to be preferred due to the faster water currents.


Atlantic salmon and sea trout migration will not be adversely affected by sound from the six proposed loudspeakers as they are ‘functionally deaf’ at the bandwidths at which the sound will be emitted and only a small proportion of the sound from the speakers would be transmitted into the water column. The report found that some sound could be transmitted into the water via the mounting pole for the speakers but that it would be unlikely to prevent fish from successfully migrating past the site.

Lamprey have poor hearing and are unlikely to detect sound projected from the speakers or be disturbed.

The buoy mooring structure

While the sunken hull would reduce light underneath it, this would be similar to any other moored vessel and was not considered to pose any impact. In fact the structure could have a beneficial effect for fish, by giving them shelter and cover during the day. Lamprey, in particular, like shaded areas during daylight.

The report has been submitted to Ceredigion County Council as well as the Environment Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales, as part of the planning approval process for the permanent installation of Turbulence in the Teifi. All three bodies have been consulted throughout the study period and have accepted the findings of the report.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Turbulence is one of several proposed public art projects around the country which form Channel 4’s Big Art Project, an ambitious public art commissioning project. The artist says Turbulence “is intended as a reflection on Welsh oral tradition, poetry and song.”

The Big Art Project is supported by independent charity The Art Fund and Arts Council England. A four-part series will be aired on Channel 4 this spring.


Wiard Sterk, Safle,
Tel: +44 (0)845 241 3684 Email: [email protected]

Turbulence, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Big Art Project, Cardigan. Photo: Big Art Project

Turbulence, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Big Art Project, Cardigan. Photo: Big Art Project