Absconditi Viscus (or Hidden Entries) is a series of sound compositions based on phonic excavations and sonic mining of Birmingham City University’s School of Art archives from the period 1914 to 1918.

The project considered the notion of historical sonic information that was lost but still permeates within the archive along with the possible effects on physical and psychological space that can carry a legacy for subsequent generations. From October 2014 to March 2016 sound artist Justin Wiggan worked alongside current staff and students at Birmingham City University in a series of workshops that explored possible phonic residue left within the School of Art and its archive as a result of these four years of global conflict, emotional turmoil and huge social turbulence. This revealed the impact such trauma had on teaching and learning at the School and had been embedded into the mental and physical constructs of both the physical building and the people who worked or studied there during the Great War.

The information gathered from the archive and from the workshops has been used to create 5 compositions. These have been translated as QR codes, inlayed with gold leaf, and cut into Indian Red Stone tile by local mason Peter Houldey. The 5 tiles have been embedded into the fabric of the building at Margaret Street (please refer to map for locations) and can be accessed using a smartphone QR code reading app (available from any app store).

Each tile acts as a research terminal for the listener, giving a glimpse into the time period through the collection of sonic clues. Each year has been synchronised with brainwave frequencies in order to stimulate the brain activity of the listener and connect them with the time period and events, the physical building, and the emotional impact of the war. The tiles have been placed within the School of Art in ascending order of frequency relating to each floor and to chronological events.

Related reading: Article about this project in Routledge by Dr Sian Vaughan