Art openings in Savannah typically involve chatter, cheese, and wine (and perhaps some whine as well).
Generally speaking, they don’t usually involve didgeridoos heralding the apocalypse.
But that’s what’s in store at the opening of the new show “Weather or Not” at Indigo Sky Community Gallery this Saturday, which artistically explores the challenges facing the world in the year 2012, up to and including the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world itself
Matthew Cooper and Chelsea DeMercado will perform their best–in–show entry “Dreamtime Synastry,” in which Cooper plays the didge in front of a projection of DeMercado’s real–time calligraphy.
It’s a powerful experience. If you’ve never heard a didgeridoo in person — it’s an ancient Australian instrument usually made from a termite–bored eucalyptus branch — nothing can prepare you for its deep, all–encompassing resonance.
“It’s a story–telling instrument. It’s a trance instrument,” says Cooper. “You eventually become encased in the sound, and it takes you to different places and inspires different feelings.”
The aboriginal instrument is deceptive in its simplicity, Cooper says, and requires physical, mental, and even emotional engagement.
“You have to give the intention to open up to all these different sounds and moods and feelings, and then you’ll start finding places where resonance happens,” he says. “It’s not as easy as hitting a drum, not as easy as strumming a guitar. It’s a wind instrument — it takes awhile to figure out exactly where that special spot is that makes that resonance.”
Combined with DeMercado’s simultaneous sketches, the extemporaneous didge performance speaks to “Weather or Not’s” theme, which was inspired by the widespread belief that the Mayans predicted that the end of the world will happen in late 2012.
The show also features work by Sarah Arkins, Charlotte Alling, Matthew Derezinski, Alex Getz, Ruth Sykes, and Thomas Wharton.
If you miss Saturday’s opening, don’t worry — a video of “Dreamtime Synastry” will loop during the exhibit, which stays up through Jan. 29.
The term “synastry” means two astrological entities coming together. In this case, Cooper says, “there’s didgeridoo being projected one way, towards Chelsea, and she’s directing light and visual art directly towards me.”
As far as the apocalyptic prediction, “I do believe there is some definite synergy with the Mayan prophecy,” he says. “And regardless of what any ancient prophetic religion says, it’s also about the fact that we’re obviously evolving — or devolving — simultaneously.
“Is the Mayan consciousness right? Is something happening or is it not? I think it’s funny, because of course something’s happening. The world wasn’t this way 100 years ago. It wasn’t this way yesterday,” Cooper says.
While the didge does sound a little like the end of the world, its historic intention — like the ragas of Indian music — is actually to bring people back in tune with the endless rhythms of the universe.
“After really learning the technique of circular breathing — which you can sort of relate to Kundalini yoga — you start to really open up,” Cooper says.
He relates the didge’s signature drone to “the underlying vibration that is always there. It’s reflective of the way the world is always vibrating, burning from the core and burning outward, and we call that ‘om,’ or the ratio of the Golden Mean. There are seismographs hooked up all over the world measuring the vibration of the earth, and that makes a tone. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re hearing it all the time.”
Cooper explains that in Mayan cosmology each person is born with a tone, a color, and a “signature,” an aspect more like the Western zodiac.
“There’s a real attention given to tone and music. A lot of my art is fueled by discovering the relationship between astrology and direct musical tones and how they relate to each other,” he says.
Playing with other people led Cooper to the realization of the true extent of the didge’s conscious auditory experience.
“It was about helping my mind open up, my heart open up. This thing forces you to do that. I don’t know of anyone who can play the didge and not open up their mind and their heart,” he says.
Some local aficionados will remember seeing “Dreamtime Synastry” at Alexander Hall in November 2011. Cooper promises that — in addition to actually customizing Saturday’s performance to the Mayan calendar —there will be some new twists.
As always, each performance is its own entity, with Cooper and DeMercado never really knowing how long it will last.
“In order to see much of anything in a literal way during the performance, Chelsea has to draw something over my eyes. Until I can actually see, the communication between us is more empathic. Then there’s a lot of eye–gazing and that kind of communication, not only with Chelsea but with people in the audience that I choose to look at,” Cooper says.
“I want people to really engage with the performance. Whether they’re sitting there struggling because they’re not sure if they like it, I still want them totally there.”
Weather or Not
Where: Indigo Sky Community Gallery, 915 Waters Ave.
When: Opening Sat. Jan. 14, 6–9 p.m.; show is up through Jan. 29
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