Dive into the heart of the River Thames with ambitious contemporary audio art installation at the Natural History Museum


London’s Natural History Museum has today announced The River by Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen in collaboration with Tony Myatt – the third exhibition in the Museum’s free contemporary art programme – which will open on Friday 26 July.

The River is a revolutionary new sound installation that will plunge museumgoers and art lovers into an immersive encounter through audio recorded in the depths of the River Thames, a first-of-its-kind exhibition for the Natural History Museum. Upon entering the dimly-lit gallery, visitors can give over their senses to the all-encompassing sound world of the Thames. The work has been composed specifically for the Museum’s Jerwood Gallery and will be presented in close proximity to the river itself.

Recorded by Jana Winderen using specialist underwater hydrophones, the installation will be presented in High-order Ambisonic spatial sound reproduction. From the ambient crackling of gas bubbles at the source by Kemble, the bustling industry of Central London and the sprawling estuary into the North Sea, listeners will experience a huge range of sounds created and heard by aquatic species. These sound environments evolved over millions of years into a finely tuned orchestra of underwater life, but are increasingly disrupted by the imposing noise of human activity, the impact of which we are yet to fully understand.

Jana Winderen is one of the world’s leading sound artists. Her compositions and sound installations have been exhibited and performed internationally in renowned institutions and programmes such as the MoMA, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Wuzhen Contemporary Art Exhibition, China; and the Venice and Thailand Art Biennales. Jana’s work highlights sounds often inaudible to the human ear and present in inaudible environments.

Jana Winderen, Artist of The River, says: “When I lower the hydrophones into the river, another sound-world appears: stridulating underwater insects, ticking of plant photosynthesis, grunts from fish and sounds from mammals, including us. We dominate the soundscape during the daytime, but when you listen carefully, when most people are sleeping, or in areas less populated by humans, you can enter this exciting world of underwater sound.”

DIVE by Jana Winderen, Park Avenue Tunnel, New York, commissioned by New York Department of Transportation (2014)

Blending contemporary art conceptions with vital information concerning the planetary emergency, the Museum’s Jerwood Gallery is one of London’s most up-and-coming contemporary arts spaces to connect audiences and artists to the natural world. The River is the third art installation to feature in the space, following artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s The Lost Rhino (2022) and Polar Silk Road (2023) by photographer Gregor Sailer.

Alex Burch, Director of Public Programmes at the Museum, says: “Art is a vital medium through which we can convey powerful messages about our relationship with the natural world. Jana has composed a poignant merging of art and science through The River which invites us not only to engage with an underwater environment most of us are unfamiliar with, but to consider just how much human activity has affected this vital habitat.”

The Museum’s Art Programme forms part of Fixing Our Broken Planet, a global initiative of events, exhibitions and online resources spearheaded by the Museum that explores how scientists are finding solutions to the planetary emergency for nature from nature. The River is supported by Jerwood Foundation and The John S Cohen Foundation.

The River will be free for all visitors to the Natural History Museum and will run from 26 July 2024.