Four members of the danceroom Spectroscopy (dS) team – artist Becca Rose, musician Lee J. Malcolm, and University of Bristol PhD students Mike O’Connor and Mike Limb – recently returned from a magical 10-day installation at the first ever Bhutan International Festival (BhIF). dS was installed in a custom built geodesic-dome, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in a park in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, with a backdrop of Buddhist sculpture, temples, prayer flags, and mountain skies.
The festival theme was collaboration, and the thin Himalayan air was thick with fusions of creativity and spontaneous art. We held talks, dance interventions, and electronica music sets with the dS system. Collaboration is an integral component of dS: led by Royal Society Research Fellow Dr. David Glowacki, it’s a Sci-Art fusion that relies on interaction between a talented team of artists, programmers, and scientists. dS transforms participants into energy fields, which in turn warp the particle dynamics of a simulated atomic nano-world, generating both sound and image.
One of the highlights of the dS installation was the overwhelming positive and creative response from the Bhutanese public. There were over 2000 visitors during the course of the festival, including groups of local school children and teachers. This is the first time a sci-art piece of this scale has been exhibited in Bhutan, and it was exciting to work with such a curious and engaged community.
The dS team interacted with teachers and artists from a local artist initiative called VAST, who installed thousands of prayer flags in the park adjacent to where dS was set up. Each flag was hand-painted with a mantra of compassion. There’s some beautiful poetry to how a prayer flag works: the idea is that the energetic matrix of the atmospheric winds – and the resonance that arises as the physical flag flaps in the breeze – disperses the mantra into the wider world. One intriguing takeaway from the festival (which we’re still thinking about) occurred when one of the VAST artists pointed out to us that the dS idea – whereby physical bodies are transformed into luminous forms and embedded in an energetic matrix of light and sound – has a lot in common with the idea of a prayer flag.
We had a blast interacting with other international artists at the festival, many of which had never seen anything like dS. A very special movement occurred when 10 Assamese Monks from Mujuli Island made an impromptu appearance in the dome. These monks specialize in dance performance, and as they practiced their traditional movement, dS’s generative sound algorithms spontaneously produced an intense feedback we have never heard before (click here for a link to video footage).
On the final day of the festival, Lee J. Malcolm and Mike O’Connor even had the opportunity to meet the king and queen of Bhutan.
The aim of the Bhutan International festival is to build an annual vehicle for ongoing funding of the creative arts in Bhutan. Their mission is to provide a platform on which artistic ventures and individuals can flourish, and encourage a network to promote Bhutanese artists. BhIF was founded in August 2014, has filed for 503c non-profit registration in the USA and is seeking non profit status in Bhutan. It is supported by partners from UK, USA and Bhutan, including VAST (Bhutan), RAPA (Bhutan), ABTO (Bhutan), Learning Planet (UK), Edenlab (UK), and Woodstock Film Festival (USA). We were honored to be part of this very special event.
To continue their international collaborations, dS will be touring the dance performance, Hidden Fields, in California in early March. More details can be found here.