The combination and transfer between different mediums image and sound are explored as metaphor in the audio-visaul artwork The Reconciled Project (2012- ). Intermedial tension as metaphor for inter-subjective interplay between the work of art expressing trauma and a viewer, demands a mediation of the post-traumatic emotions, and furthermore, a possible assimilation of trauma. Mediation and assimilation of trauma through intermedial art were explored throughout the real-time interactive audiovisual performance The Reconciled Project (2012- ).
Photographs by Isabel Grobler, at an international conference Engaging the Other: Breaking intergenerational cycles of repetition (2012). http://www.engagingtheother.co.za/
The underlying theme of the performance deals with the ambiguous nature of parenthood. On the one hand, it refers to a parent as guardian. On the other hand, it deals with over-protectiveness and the persuasive nature of a parent. The performance is divided into three acts. In Act I, the compassionate perception of parenthood is represented by the image of a mother comforting a baby accompanied by a lullaby played on a piano. The influential and destructive nature of parenthood is revealed throughout Act II and Act III of the performance.
Each act consists of music played on an electric piano interactively engaging with imagery projected on a screen with a computer and MIDI controller as a corporeal interface. The music in the Act I, Lullaby in D major, is an arranged version of Johannes Brahms’s Wiegenlied: Guten abend, Gute Nacht Op. 49 No. 4 accompanied with an animated series of mono-prints depicting a mother comforting a baby.
Act II, Reconciliation in B minor, consists of a range of melodies subsequently triggered by means of a MIDI controller, gradually constructing a ‘sounding labyrinth’. The music in Act II is accompanied by the same mother-child imagery. However, as the tempo of the different melodies are separately adjusted by means of a MIDI controller, a second and third video stream are progressively (and aggressively) merging with the first video stream which distorts the mother-child image. The second video stream depicts a reaching hand from the left, grabbing towards another reaching hand (third video stream) from the right.
The tempo of each melody is adjusted separately and each with its own value, which gradually distorts the music as well as the mother-child image until the performance reaches an unbearable yet affective climax. The climax is followed by the Act III, Lullaby in B minor, which consists of a melancholic version of Brahm’s lullaby, accompanied by an animation of the two hands endlessly reaching towards each other . The two almost reaching hands are each pre-programmed to be separately controlled via selected notes played throughout the lullaby, as well as the dials and sliders on the MIDI controller. In other words, the lullaby is played in correlation with a consistent attempt to either separate or reconcile both hands. Finally, the third act progresses, or rather regresses towards a motionless picture and one final note sounding through the piano.
Different layers of tension are evident throughout The Reconciled Project (2011- ). The different tensional dimensions are progressively layered throughout the development of the performance, which remains unresolved. Tension begins with the perpetual flow of the labyrinthine-like constellation of melodies triggered by the MIDI controller. In addition, the distortion of the melodies, which creates dissonance and atonal harmony, intensifies the tension as two uncanny hands penetrate through the mother and baby image. Furthermore, another level of tension is created between the irregular distorted melodies and disfiguring of the image through the real-time audiovisual interaction. The irresolvable tension can be sensed by the body as medium. Thus, the viewer is affected through an intermedial relation between the artwork and body (as medium).
The audiovisual performance is a ‘ritualization’ of the post-traumatic “acting-out” as well as an attempt to create distance from the trauma. The “acting-out” is performed throughout Act II as the mother-child image is distorted by two destructive hands violently grabbing yet reaching towards each other. This act of destruction is a ritual through which emotions such as helplessness, resentment and anxiety is mediated. The aim of the performance is to create a potential space for an audience to critically reflect on memories and past experiences associated with complex family dynamics.
Above: Performed at Wits University, Johannesburg, http://www.dramaforlife.co.za/
Below: Performed at the Sasol New Signatures Competition, Pretoria Art Museum, http://www.sasolsignatures.co.za/content/catalogue-2013