On the night of 31 May 1942 three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney harbour in a surprise attack that resulted in the deaths of twenty-one Australian Naval personnel and six Japanese submariners. Tokko-tai was a suite of installations commissioned by Mosman Art Gallery exploring and commemorating those events and their legacy. The exhibition was staged in a massive decommissioned world war two era oil storage tank, where fuel oil was stored to supply naval battle ships.

I created a multi-speaker soundscape for the space that was installed around a site-specific installation by Sue Pedley whose work is shown in the image above, including (in the background) large-scale frottage drawings of clothing, made on naval charts of Japan’s Seto inland sea and Sydney harbour.

My text from the exhibition catalogue: “Immaterial, sound evokes memory and activates emotion. Using field recordings made in Japan – by Sue Pedley on Teshima and by Gary Warner in Kyoto – ’Orange-Net-Work-Soundings’ explores the poetic potential of compositional randomness, using three sound sources. The first represents machinic confinement – a cramped sonic interior of rumbles, squeaks, grinding and clanks, emerging from a thudding heartbeat that slowly decays to silence. The other two sources represent the flux of psychological and spiritual interiority – memories, desires, fear, determination, pride. Here, fleeting aural alignments of Japanese voices, song and music, nature and everyday life, constantly entwine and dissipate.”

An excerpt from the soundscape: