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NIGHTINGALE is a sound installation created for the Charlton Centre Car Park, in Dover, Kent.  The work was created originally as part of a commission for a group-show exhibition entitled Paradise Revealed, which was curated by Christine Gist, and took place at the Car Park as well as at the Pines Gardens at the near-by town of St Margaret’s at Cliffe.

Since the exhibition, Robert’s installation has been purchased by the car park’s owners: Targetfollow – a leading commercial property investment and development company with a commitment to encouraging and supporting art within local communities.  As a result, the Nightingale piece has been installed permanently at the Charlton Centre Car Park for the appreciation of all those who use the facilities.

The installation makes use of a recording of a male nightingale calling out for a mate.  This bird is an endangered species, at least in the UK, arriving in late spring each year where it begins its visit by singing night and day in order to attract a female partner.  Its call is a rich and virtuosic collection of short phrases, ranging from bubbling motifs, engine-like chugging sounds and high pitched repeated crescendos.  As such, it has found its way into our canon of literary and poetic works – from Keats to Shakespeare, where it symbolises love, hope and reflection.

In Robert’s Nightingale installation, the bird also calls out - though not only to the wildlife but to other users of the Car Park as well, reaching beyond the immediate space and to the different shopping levels below.  According to Eric Grey, the Centre Manager, the birdsong has had the effect of attracting people up from the different floors where they have parked their car.  The bird calls out for a female partner, but attracts humans….

The ever-changing song comes from a one-speaker-source hidden from obvious view, enticing the listener to search, and therefore relate to, the space in a different way.  The listener is encouraged to not so much listen to the work directly but to perceive the space through the work, and hence the physical space of the car park feels different.  (It is this detail which led the Car Park Manager and the Site’s Owners to want to keep the work as a permanent feature as one result is that the Car Park is perceived as a safer and friendlier space).