Ostraka is a kinetic sound sculpture that explores the spatialisation of sound in the engine hall of the Technical Museum Oyfo, in Hengelo, Netherlands. For this work, Mike Rijnierse has repurposed an old parabolic dish transforming it in two reflecting moving heads. Once an antenna for satellite communication, this instrument is now a vehicle for acoustic expression.

Rather than utilising standard devices, Rijnierse strives to make music without loudspeakers. He investigates the multidimensionality of sound by entering in dialogue with architectures. Since sound is vibration propagated in waves, Ostraka reveals the physicality of sound by concocting compressed air as sounding element sprayed on the parabolic surfaces. By reflecting them, the work projects itself throughout the museum’s hall.

Ostraka, kinetic sound sculpture, 2023

The relation between sound and space becomes evident when the public takes an active role in hearing. By standing still or moving through the museum, visitors become aware of the sound traversing air. The rhythmic composition is generated by a custom algorithm that controls the valves’ openings. Through this ever changing pattern, ‘Ostraka’ joins the cacophony of machines in Oyfo’s engine hall.

The title of the work, Ostraka (from the Greek ostracon, singular; and ostraka, plural) refers to broken ceramic shards which were often re-used for writing small pieces of text in ancient times. Those fragments of pottery that carried messages, bills, ballots or intimate letters are here resurrected into surface for acoustic experience. As one walks through the museum, and Ostraka orbits above, air pulses reach one’s ears at different times, as if the old dish antenna had gained a voice of its own.

Read Michael van Hoogenhuyze’s perspective on Ostraka

Artwork Mike Rijnierse
Programming and electronics Rob Bothof
Pneumatics & 3D modeling and printing Jelle Reith
Engineering René Bakker
Mentoring Michael van Hoogenhuyze
Intern Hugo Remmer

This work was made possible with the generous support of Mondriaan Fund, Stokroos, Hoogwerkt and Oyfo Techniekmuseum. Special thanks to the team of Oyfo and former curator Johan van der Veen.