Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica by Amy Ouzoonian
It’s mid-December and the temperature in New York has finally reached 46 degrees. New Yorkers clamor for their sweaters and snow boots and complain that it hasn’t been the sunny 65 degrees they were spoiled with up to this point.
It’s December, the sparrows in New York have not gone south and they’re fighting over a stale bagel tossed on the sidewalk outside Rockefeller Center.
Christ people! It’s fucking Winter! We’re supposed to be shoveling snow at this point!
Does anyone find something wrong with these pictures?
DJ Spooky aka Paul Miller aka that Subliminal Kid goes to Antarctica to get to the root of the issue of Climate Change. Mixing sounds he recorded at the Southern tip of planet Earth with a turn-table and theremin and live performance of two violinists, an upright bass and piano, Spooky is the sorcerer conjuring sounds that connect with projections.
Standing at the center of an upside down V-formation on stage, Spooky, the mad scientist of sound mixes visual media of Artic glaciers, bodies of water, penguins and reels of old Russian footage projected onto three screens – two behind Spooky and the musicians and one transparent screen that comes down in front of the performers. At this moment you can see a body of water in motion and Spooky and the musicians riding on top of the waves. When there is a mountain of snow projected, you can see the performers climbing with the wind and snow formations.
The projections were further exciting when they became vector lines of the glaciers, music notes, and molecules that suddenly burst out over the audience, adding to the spectacle of the performance and allowing the audience to feel that they were part of the artistic expression.
At this point, I have to say that even I could not look away to take notes for this review. And to think, that I hadn’t even planned on attending this performance.
For most of 2009, due to lack of personal funds, I’d found myself missing out on a lot of the performance and art world. I’d received several emails from Spooky’s list about the show but knew that I couldn’t afford a ticket for a show at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). So, I sent Miller good vibes and continued searching for work.
Then, I got an email from Spooky’s list about a poetry contest. The winner would receive two tickets to one of the three shows that week. I had become inspired, which wasn’t an easy thing for me to be at the time.
I did my research and wrote Terra Australis, which is what explorers first called Antarctica. Believing that this frozen, barren land was a mythological place that existed as much as the garden of eden, the sub-zero territory went unclaimed by other countries for centuries. The poem was a winner so, I went and promised Steve Cannon of A Gathering of the Tribes, a long time friend of DJ Spooky, that I’d write a review.
Spooky’s vision for much of his art is admirable. He joins concepts from various cultures to create questions and reveal truths. Unlike many, who take the stance of exposing truth, Spooky does not set out to terrify us or point the finger and say, “this is your fault” or “how can you just sit here? Go out and fix global warming.”
If we were overwhelmed in our seats it was because we were in awe of the beauty of the land and it’s sounds, amazed that it is owned by no one and captivated by it’s history as a landmark.
Of course climate change is a frightening occurrence and I agree that toxic emissions in the ozone atmosphere add to this rapidly increasing problem, but Spooky’s Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica says, with a child’s wonder, “hey, did you know about this?” His intention is not to overtly terrify us or to be condescending, but to remind us that our actions have a chain reaction and that there is a world outside of the perfect life we’ve engineered for ourselves. That this other world is a living, breathing organism with a heartbeat that begs to be heard. DJ Spooky arranges Antarctica’s voice and the land tells us its story.
Watching Spooky’s Antarctica unfold was inspiring and reminded me that this life is not all about me and my own financial woes, but something greater.
Terra Australis By Amy Ouzoonian
Ptolemy knew you Wrapped rope of wind Fabled curve of fire and ice.
Your sound crawled Deep Sang red and sank orange dawn Drank light through powerful Veins. This diamond sutra Vibrating green Rain Springs Of DNA Coil blue and indigo in cog frio
Fear Rings and Experiments spear and splint To make sense in the splice of death And dream. Samadhi: Violence Greets peace Eats when Terra Nova sleeps.
Her face is Minnesota Nice.
The price of a melting glacier Is 1,000 species And the numbers are rising From her hands that change
Oil into shame Promise into progress Progress into blame.
Last seen Scaling a sky that beds with desert Snow.
Every God Damn Day, Trumpeted by the sun, She bleeds Back into myth’s well of Emotion like the tongue That challenges symmetry And science.
Open your mouth And take this country In you Until you cannot imagine A world without the Southern most Tip of Terra—
A semblance of all mantras Stamped into a code Embedded Within.