2007: Ghost Station

Lower Bay Station, which has been out of use since 1968 (Toronto’s ghost station) is used as a vessel to contain sounds that are within and below the threshold of human hearing – infrasound and tactile sound – where sound is felt rather than heard. Low frequencies created by cars and subways are contributors to the cacophony of infrasonic noise that exists deep below the rumbling of the city. These tactile sounds have also been associated with paranormal activity and ghost sightings.

The rumblings of Lower Bay

 Spacing contributor Carolyn Tripp writes about Kristen Roos’ sound installation in Lower Bay as part of Nuit Blanche.

Maybe it’s the lingering effect of the late, great Ninjalicious’ taste for exploring the oft unseen, but there appears to be a growing public fascination in exploring the more interesting facets of our city. BC artist Kristen Roos’ sound installation in Lower Bay as part of Nuit Blanche titled Ghost Station deftly managed to contribute to the existing intrigue of the venue. September 29, art enthusiasts were spoiled with yet another opportunity to travel several stories down into the depths to which we are so seldom granted access.

Although the public has access during Doors Open and TIFF employed it for their festivities, it’s a rare treat to see an art installation in such an unusual venue. Built in 1966, the station was used for only a few months before being abandoned for what is now the Bay-Yorkville stop above. This past summer, passengers were treated to a viewing from their cars as repairs were done on the line as well, watching in curiosity as the trains rumbled through dusty corridors and walls with — gasp! — no advertising.

For his sound installation, Roos set up several powered subwoofers in the train cars and tactile transducers, which vibrated pieces of metal above (hidden in the ceiling tiles) creating a powerful atmosphere with deep, booming and ambient sound. Inspired by minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, as well as Shona music from Zimbabwe, this installation was deft at encompassing both power and sophistication. Roos also relates his infrasound installations and experimentation to those used in African cultures to evoke paranormal experiences.

Roos himself was previously unaware of Lower Bay when he was initially asked to do a Nuit Blanche project, but once introduced to the space, he was keen to the installation there. “My research has lead to a realization about cities, and the low frequencies that are so predominant in urban centers, Roos writes on his Ghost Station blog. We live in a wash of low frequencies that are looked at as the sound of the spirit world in many Indigenous cultures, and are beginning to be looked at as the sound of the paranormal in scientific research.”

Personally, I’ve never seen such a fascination with sound art before, with record crowds (estimated in the 15,000 range) lining up around the corner on Cumberland to get a chance to get into the space. Many lingered, and I’ll admit that I couldn’t keep myself away for long, going back down the steps for a second helping. Appropriately haunting, if only for 12 hours.