Beyond Perception © Ryan Wheatley; Beyond Perception © Ryan Wheatley;

Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen, Melbourne

When Art and Science Collide

The Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen exhibition at Melbourne Museum’s Scienceworks is designed to educate and inspire teenage minds by inviting them into the world of STEM and physics using interactive experiences.

Arup was engaged by Scienceworks to compose long-form soundscapes for the entire Beyond Perception exhibition, including the installations Ripples in Spacetime, Waves at Work, Energetic Vibrations and Turbulent Encounters.

These soundscapes were carefully crafted to support the messaging and aesthetic of the exhibition which took two years to conceive and is intended to remain a fixture at Scienceworks for the next ten years.

Using the very concepts of the exhibition, the sonic content was created using data sonification (auditory renderings of information) to real-time augmentation and generative input. The result is a living breathing creation demonstrating intangible concepts like gravitational waves, sound, aerodynamics and the electromagnetic spectrum that builds a world of wonder and discovery.

Project Summary

79 loudspeakers play the spatial soundscape

10years to visit the exhibition

$3.7millionto create the exhibition

Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen transports visitors into a world of augmented sound composed by Arup’s Acoustic Audiovisual and Theatre team.

Visitors enter via The Cacophony, an abstract amalgamation of the concepts from the rest of the exhibition. They are invited to lie on cushions and be bathed in abstract projected imagery of the exhibition’s scientific concepts. Contrary to the title, the soundscape of this area encourages people to relax, dwell and let the visual and sonic information wash over them. Detuned spherics (radio atmospheric signals from lightning discharges) have resonances applied and connect the listener to a world beyond perception. Modified elements of the rest of the exhibition wash in, out and across the space, hinting at the experience that lies beyond.


© Ben Healley

This exhibition is really about inviting young teenagers to play with the space and play with the concepts of physics. ”

Mitchell Allen Mitchell Allen Soundscape Designer

In Ripples in Spacetime, museum-goers are invited to collide two black holes together on a lycra screen that responds to the interaction using Open Sound Control in real time. Sonifications of the Big Bang, the discovery of gravitational waves and radio waves recorded in Saturn’s rings enhance this truly immersive experience.


© Ben Healley

There’s a lot of research into health, healing, productivity and even education - the way people learn - that shows that noise has a real link to these things. This research is helping us design places that are comfortable to be in. ”

Jess Gouthro head shot Jessica Gouthro Senior Acoustics Engineer
Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen
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Radio waves recorded in the Earth’s ionosphere combined with the delicate sounds of animals foraging in the undergrowth bring to life the macro to micro-imagery in Waves at Work.

An interactive display showcases fluid dynamics within Turbulent Encounters. The tactile response to turning dials allows for varying colour washes across multiple screens and adjusts with each turn of a dial.

Visitors engaging in Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen - a truly immersive experience. © Ben Healley

Arup has a history of working with artists and as artists, and by playing in this field, we’re able to demonstrate our creative approach to design. ” Mitchell Allen Mitchell Allen Soundscape Designer

Beyond Perception: Seeing the Unseen delivers a whole experience of anticipation and discovery coupled with the beauty and wonder of a fascinating unseen world.