Video with surround sound in collaboration with Tim Wainwright
TATE Britain (May 2007)
The Old Operating Theatre Museum (December 2007)
Gallery 1313, Toronto (May 2008)
NCAD (National College of Art and Design), Dublin, Ireland (Feb 2011)

DVD version available with the publication The Art of Immersive Soundscapes, University of Regina Press


John Wynne

In the ITU (Intensive Treatment Unit) of Harefield Hospital, where this piece was shot, both the sound and the treatment are intense.  When a patient is wheeled in from the operating theatre, curtains are drawn around the bed for the sake of privacy, and to minimise potential distress to other patients as the newcomer is attached to various monitors, pumps, suction devices and drips.  But the curtains do nothing to attenuate the sound; indeed they heighten auditory sensitivity and arouse the imagination.  ITU patients spend much of the time heavily sedated on strong pain killers, and they often suffer from paranoid, sometimes violent hallucinations, moving in and out of consciousness amidst what anthropologist Tom Rice has called the “cacophony of disease”.

ITU could be considered a kind of acousmatic video piece.  The term acousmatic music is used to describe the art of composing with sound which is “shot and developed in the studio, projected in halls, like cinema.” (François Bayle) The original Akousmatikoi were students of Pythagoras in the 6th century:  he is said to have delivered his lectures from behind a screen or curtain to reduce distraction and enhance their ability to concentrate on the content of his teachings.  The curtain in ITU, however, inevitably also brings up notions of theatre and performance.


ITU premiered at TATE Britain in 2007.  Later in the year, it was curated by Claire Staunton of Inheritance Projects to show in the Old Operating Theatre Museum near London Bridge, the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe. It was projected precisely where a doorway once joined the theatre to the hospital wards on the other side.