Other Registers is an immersive sound installation that uses specialist software (called DataScapR) to transform official quantitative data about police violence in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, into sound in a process called “sonification”. Visitors are invited to experience the data, played as sound via eight loudspeakers arranged in a circle.
Different scenographic and lighting elements have also been used in the different stagings of the installation, to make reference to the caveirão or “big skull”, the armoured vehicle used by Rio police during operations in the city’s favelas. The caveirão was a key source of inspiration for the installation because its construction includes loudspeakers which often play loud music during operations.
The sound played in Other Registers comprises three different layers. A constant “drone” sound represents civilian deaths, mapped onto the four geographical regions of Rio, and combined with data for the city as a whole. The second layer is a bell-like sound, which juxtaposes the data on police and civilian deaths to create a kind of melody. Finally, the sonification of civilian and police deaths is also mixed with a third element, the sound of a human voice reading aloud newspaper headlines relating to police violence. The different sound sources also move around the circle created by the speakers, at different speeds and in different directions. You can listen to a sample of the sound here:
Police violence is a long-standing issue in Rio de Janeiro, and the statistics for deaths resulting from police operations in the city are shocking. As Amnesty International has pointed out, this violence disproportionally affects young black men, especially those living in the city’s favelas. The high numbers of killings of civilians by the police are often tolerated by Brazilian society, in general. Members of the police forces are also killed whilst on duty.
In the spreadsheets produced by Rio’s Institute of Public Security, which were the data source for the installation, statistics about deaths resulting from police operations appear in a section with the title “Other Registers”, as if they were somehow insignificant, or less important than the rest. By giving this title to the installation, and putting the data on police violence at its centre, we aim to highlight the meaning of these statistics through a technological and abstract experience.
Other Registers was developed collaboratively by Brazil and UK-based artists and researchers (read more about the group here) as part of the Creative Lab on Social Change through Creativity and Culture – Brazil (2015-2016), coordinated by People’s Palace Projects and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Newton Fund. Since then we have continued to develop and show the installation – please contact us if you would like to find out more about the project or would be interested in hosting a staging.
More information about the data and sonification software used is available here.