"Behind every image, something has disappeared. And that is the source of its fascination. Behind virutal reality in all its forms [...] the real has disappeared. And that is what fascinates everyone. According to the official version, we worship the real and the reality principle, but - and this is the source the current suspense - is it, in fact, the real we worship or its disappearance?" - Jean Bauddrillard, Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? Translated by Chris Turner, Seagull Books, 2009
Setting the tone for what was about to transpire, that was the quote presented to me in the program for Hyper-Rainforest, a fully immersive, 70 minute sound installation/performance created by Francisco Lopez, a leader in sound art and experimental music.
Before the performance, Lopez greeted the crowd, giving us all an idea of how Hyper-Rainforest came to be and what we were about to experience. Though, obviously in a concert hall in Troy, NY, he explained that, in a sense, the experience we were about to undergo is similar to that in an actual rainforest. Both environments are acousmatic - meaning though the sounds are very real and concrete, their sources are indiscernible to us. Additionally, he put the art in our hands by stating he believes that the act of producing art is not the creative component of the experience; the ingenuity lies in the viewer/listener and in how they interpret what they are presented with. Shortly after, as the lights were dimming, I donned the eye shade provided to me by the usher and sat back as the shrill creaks and chirps of insects, accompanied by the calls of exotic birds, started to fill the soundscape of the concert hall. Though my eyes were wide open, between the complete blackness and the sound enveloping the room, my mind was filled with the images that my ears told me had to be out there. Due to the layered, sonic environment, my eyes were trying to see creatures and events that were not part of my current, physical reality.
The sequences that I found most impressive were those of the storms. You could hear the thunder rolling in the distance, and at any moment, you knew the storm would be right on top of you. When the rain came, it was oppressive. When the thunder was overhead, you could feel the vibrations. There were two storm systems where the sound was so convincing that I felt like the roof was going to collapse. The meticulous sound engineering, mixed with some of the best acoustics you can find, made sure the sound engulfed your body like a five alarm fire. Even during the the calmer sequences when the buzzing of a swarm was the prominent sound, it was so real that I almost found myself swatting the air, assured that I was keeping the bugs away.
On the drive home, I was trying to think of a fair comparison in the fine arts world. I would imagine that this installation would ellicit very similar reactions as those from people viewing an abstract expressionist piece, like any of Rothko's Color Field paintings. That said, Hyper-Rainforest is not for everyone. Some people are going to shake their heads, say "What was the point?", and walk away. Others will dive headfirst into the experience and make something out of it. If you have an imaginative, open mind and a thirst for new, unique experiences, then this is mandatory. I can't promise you will love it, but I can promise it will make your mind wander...to where? That's up to you. But that's the whole purpose of art, and in that regard, Hyper-Rainforest is a grand success.
If you live in Upstate NY and Hyper-Rainforest sounds like something you want to check out, act fast on getting tickets. The three originally scheduled performances all sold out, forcing the addition of two extra showings: one Saturday night and one Sunday night.
Thanks again to our friends at EMPAC for the inimitable experience. Go on over to their site and check out the remaining events they have for the Spring. Euphorie looks killer.