DARE Art Prize

A composer working with sounds below the limits of human hearing has been announced as the winner of the inaugural £15,000 DARE Art Prize by Opera North and the University of Leeds’ Cultural Institute.

Full_large_6df626f911a356c64121170ae27422aeSamuel Hertz will spend the next year in collaboration with researchers at the University and Opera North staff in the creation of groundbreaking new work.

Following a classical training, Hertz’s practice has expanded to involve a wide variety of media including modified and self-designed instruments, sensor technology, movement and dance. He has studied composition and electronic music with Pauline Oliveros, Fred Frith and Zeena Parkins, and has worked with Morton Subotnick and Alvin Curran, among others. He currently divides his time between Berlin and San Francisco. Hertz aims to work with a scientist from the University of Leeds on an electro-acoustic chamber piece, using transducers to produce low frequency infrasound that can be felt rather than heard, and investigating the effects this might have on wellbeing and mood.

Aimed at challenging artists and scientists to work together on new approaches to the creative process, the launch of the annual Art Prize is part of a programme in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds, which has become a globally recognised model for collaborations between the arts and higher education.

Applications were received from artists in all media from around the world, and the five-strong shortlist included proposals for a whale choir, an investigation of cosmic bubbles, and a piece using slime mould as a model for creative activity. The winning entry was selected by a panel comprising Opera North’s Projects Director Dominic Gray, Professor John Ladbury, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, and Nicola Stephenson, Exhibitions and Projects Producer at Harewood House, Leeds.

Samuel Hertz, winner of the first DARE Art Prize, comments:

“I am honoured and excited by this opportunity to work with the University of Leeds and Opera North in an investigation of the sonic and bodily relations between humans and the environment.

I expect this year will be enlightening and productive both for my practice, and the practices of my collaborators in our joint expedition into the drama of the unheard realm of infrasound. I’m very thankful for this opportunity to work with the people and resources from both institutions, and cannot wait to begin.”

The collaborative process will begin in the spring with a DARE ‘Sandpit’, bringing together a broad spectrum of academics, experts and artists around Samuel Hertz to present provocations and discuss related research, experience and opinion. The outcome of the year-long collaboration between artist and scientist will be revealed in March 2018.


Writer and artist Gary Zhexi Zhang is already engaged in a project involving cultivating slime mould and observing its “swarm intelligence” and “social” behaviours. He proposed an interactive film installation – and possibly a performance with Opera North ­­- using the slime’s behaviour as a model for the creative process.

Marina Rees is based in Iceland, where she has been researching and mapping the skeletons of whales using sound. Her proposal focued on the modes of communication between marine mammals with darkened installations receiving live transmissions from marine environments, and the Chorus of Opera North transformed into a whale choir.

Currently studying for a PhD at the Royal College of Art, Melanie King is interested in the visual language used by astronomers. The work of Professor Tom Hartquist of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds has been central to her investigations, and she has related his research on ‘cosmic bubbles’ to soap bubbles in 17th century painting. She proposed an installation of experimental optical and perceptual illusions based on the University’s own galactic surveys.

Robin Dowell and Joanna Lampard have backgrounds in sculpture and illustration respectively, and developed a collaborative project on the poetic idea of culturing and classifying emotions with a scientific rigour. They were keen to work with psychologists, bacteriologists and physicists on new work on this theme, in the form of sculptures, images or books.

The winner was announced at the launch of the DARE tenth anniversary celebrations in the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds on Monday 13 February 2017. The fruits of the year-long collaboration between artist and scientist will be revealed in March 2018.

The DARE Prize is created and delivered through the DARE partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds and funded through the Opera North Future Fund.