Drawn Chorus

Creation of embodied drawing processes responsive to the detrimental impact of human-produced sound on humpback whales


  • Maria O'Toole Independent Artist/Researcher




contemporary drawing, sound art, humpback whales, listening, embodied acoustics, anthropogenic noise pressure, art and science, Cook Strait, Te Moana-o-Raukawa


Sound is essential to humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae. It is their primary means of communication. Noise—unwanted sound—travels through the sea as pressure, and it travels further in the sea than in air. This practice-led research situates my drawing practice within the context of aesthetic developments arising from responses to environmental pollution that originates in human activity. The methodological investigations underpinning the research speculate on and imagine the humpback whale’s experience of human created sound as it interferes with their oceanic waters. Through the development of an in-depth drawing research process that tunes into bodily, sensory and gestural responses to ocean acoustics, a visual language for the unseen sound forces experienced by whales has evolved. Relational encounters with science and ‘nature’ played a role in the production of this knowledge.

Author Biography

Maria O'Toole, Independent Artist/Researcher

Maria O’Toole is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington), Aotearoa New Zealand. Her drawing practice engages with a contemporary attitude in drawing that explores resilience, risk and empathy through environmental projects. She creates lyrically abstract drawings influenced by sensory experiences of space and observations of the rhythms within them.

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