To put it crudely, it is the art of using guesswork, albeit educated, based on the previous position of the craft.
Tonight, just a bird flight away from the busy, wide-open spaces of the Cromarty Firth and the outlying North Sea, in the majestic setting of St Andrews Cathedral in Inverness, a one-off event featuring a new film called Dead Reckoning will take place. The film, by Glasgow-based artist Stephen Hurrel, will screen alongside a live music performance of The Terrestrial Sea by artist and musician Mark Lyken, featuring cellist Stacey Sievewright and two young Ross-shire based vocalists, Alice Bentley and Josephine Sillars.
Hurrel and Lyken were selected from a national open call that brought public arts organisation Inverness Old Town Arts (Iota) a record number of applications. The pair then spent May to September in residence at the Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty, a decommissioned lighthouse and, more recently, centre of scientific excellence where academics from the University of Aberdeen have been monitoring the resident bottlenose dolphin population for the past decade.
In situ, the two artists responded to the sights and soundscapes around the centre and the scientists' activities therein. Their resulting work marries art and science in the most intriguing way. Their canvas is the underwater world of the dolphins, as they weave their way in and around a seascape in which oil and gas, renewables and the leisure industries ply their trade. A nine-day exhibition in September at the Lighthouse Field Station, called Sublime, showed how Hurrel and Lyken tried to define the way in which our physical spaces affect patterns of human and dolphin behaviour, and was visited by more than 1100 people.
Tonight's free event completes Iota's year-long Sublime programme funded by Creative Scotland, Inverness Common Good Fund and Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Sublime has been running since last September with the remit to show artworks in unusual settings, from a rooftop screening at the town's Old Town Rose Street car park and live car painting on Falcon Square to art installations in a disused Stevenson lighthouse.
Building on Hurrel's previous works such as Beneath And Beyond, which addressed issues surrounding modern man's relationship with the natural world, Dead Reckoning blends image and soundscape from industrial seascapes in the far north of Scotland.
Vast oil rigs float in the mist; huge hands of wind turbines turn slowly while massive leisure crafts ferry passengers to and from outlying islands. Distorted sound, made by both man and our underwater friends, provides the sonar backdrop.
Dead Reckoning focuses on the cinematic qualities of the maritime environments of the Cromarty Firth, the Moray Firth and the North Sea, and combines these images with an emotive soundtrack featuring Glasgow-based musician theapplesofenergy (aka Steve Gribbins). The addition of underwater video and sound recordings sourced from marine researchers at the Lighthouse Field Station introduces an element of disorientation and potential danger, and provides a new perspective from which to contemplate the impact of industry on nature.
The Terrestrial Sea is a new body of sound works by Mark Lyken, who has used the underwater acoustic research to construct an EP with four sound compositions available to buy on iTunes. For the event, Lyken will perform two of the tracks, Dry Sea and Wetlands, which feature the distorted underwater sounds of the Cromarty Firth. As Lyken explains: "I had imagined Cromarty would be a place of real quiet, but what I tuned into almost immediately was the constant electric thrum from the oil rigs docked in the Cromarty Firth and the fabrication yard across the water to Nigg. It's an oddly urban acoustic environment that is in stark contrast to its coastal setting."
The whole thing is one of those inspired mix-and-match exercises that place artists alongside scientists with illuminating results. Science can often seem otherworldly to those who don't inhabit that world, as can art; but in Dead Reckoning and The Terrestrial Sea, fresh eyes and ears bring an altogether clear vision of the outer reaches of our seascapes. If art is all about different ways of perceiving the world, then this also gets the powerful message across that our scientists are doing sublime and meaningful work too.
Dead Reckoning: Sublime at St Andrews Cathedral, 15 Ardross Street, Inverness (www.invernessoldtownart.co.uk, www.vimeo.com/49255868), today, 6.30pm. Dead Reckoning will also be screened in the Free Flicks programme that begins at the CCA, Sauchiehall Street at 2pm today and forms part of Sonica, a celebration of international sonic art. www.sonic-a.co.uk