by Dilpreet BhullarNov 15, 2022
“Ambisonics” refers to a method of representing sound in a three-dimensional space that takes into account aspects such as velocity. While the idea of ambisonics arose neatly half a century ago, it is only just now being worked out in a big way, with its integration into cutting-edge tech such as virtual reality. One of the major ways ambisonics diverges from traditional surround-sound formats is that traditional set-ups often bounce sound from one speaker to another, but ambisonic techniques are applied towards the creation of a “sound-world”, i.e. a smoother, more stable and continuous sphere of sound around the listener. A particularly interesting and recent ambisonic project is Forevermore I Play from Andree Martis, a Portuguese audio-visual artist who undertook the conception and creation of the installation for her MFA at Goldsmiths University, London. As her website explains, the project finds its conception within sacred, meditative spaces, over a process of exploration that has taken the artist 13 years. Since 2008, Martis has immersed herself in practices such as Raja Yoga, Vipassana Meditation, Turkish Hamam Baths and Native American Temazcal (Sweat-Lodge) Rituals.
These spaces and the sensations and epiphanies they provoked inspired the installation. Martis expands on this, telling STIR that she began to undertake immersive audio-visual installations in earnest after experiencing and awakening inner states through her participation in such practices. The artist mentions experiencing, in particular, an extremely heightened awareness of sound, which she began to treat as part of the meditative experience in its larger sense. The ideas generated in her mind through the experiences she participated in would grow, and were eventually actualised through artistic endeavour, such as her MFA Project, despite the limitations she worked through. Her first poly-sensorial piece was created in October of 2020, which was installed in Peckham, London. It was conceptualised around creating a cosmically transformative experience in a space, over the span of seven minutes. The feedback she received was highly encouraging, and so she continued her audio-visual excursions into 2021, with Forevermore I Play being her latest work.
Martis worked through a framework of equality and empowerment for the social collective with this piece, attempting to interrogate the role of our minds and bodies within society. Forevermore can be experienced as a singular audience member certainly, but Martis clearly meant for her work to be met as a collective experience. This is equally true for some of the practices mentioned above, as meditative experiences have long since been used as a sort of two-way channel between the individual and their social realm. What Martis is doing here is adding new experiential dimensions to practices built upon ancient knowledge.
When discussing this piece, the artist is clear that she does not want to simply create work that is aesthetically and intellectually stimulating, but to also manifest spaces for healing within the world, and to contribute to the emotional well-being of those who engage with her practice. She explains, “My work is intimate. From the second you enter the spaces I set up, your senses start to awaken and the energy around you and within you changes. It feels like a kind of return to the womb, surrounded by a comforting warmth and sonic geometry, and pulsations of light envelope you to make you feel very intimate with yourself. It is kind of like becoming a child again, with a renewed desire to explore, touch, feel and interact with the space.” The artist continues, saying “The size of the space feels as though it widens through the projections I create, and the room becomes a gateway to another dimension, creating a sensational feeling within your body. Technology allows me to transport audience members to another world where they engage with all their senses as they explore the space. They feel like performers enacting a collective rebirth.
One of the most interesting aspects of Forevermore I Play is the inclusion of microphones. When asked about this, the artist explains that they act as one of the ways for audience members to engage with the space they find themselves in. She says, “The microphones are placed in front of a visual. Once audience members read a mantra found on them, the visual reacts to the sound and changes.” Martis included these in order to aid in the manifestation of a deeply focused state within her audience members, as well as vibrations of new frequencies through their bodies after repeated readings of the mantra.
Discussing her captivating visuals, Martis tells STIR, “The visuals within the space are all connected to sacred geometry, the cosmos, nature, science and visual energy. There is some generative motion graphics as well as coding that goes into creating these, and code also allows me to generate audio-visual reactions once the audience members interact with my work. Juxtapositions of medicinal flowers with circular mandala graphics, imagery representing the vibrations of our body and light cells as energy, waves of energy and frequencies of sound - all of these find their way into my visual work.” What brings together the fascinating experience Martis has crafted with Forevermore is the scents she mixes and disperses throughout the room the piece is set in. She explains that these are meant to create an uplifting sensation among audience members, and to heighten the intimate states they experience. The artist’s work is not only an exploration of the psychological and the spiritual, but also a strong example of how ancient or traditional practices can find their way into the technologically-enabled art of our times. Martis hails from Portugal and has made an interesting move from her earlier Fine Arts and Fashion Photography practice, to the Masters in Sonic Arts course at Goldsmiths. She is clearly someone who believes in blending creative techniques, and does so with a great deal of thoughtfulness. Martis states that she wishes to extend Forevermore I Play worldwide, and would like to work in close collaboration with architects in order to create spaces that expand on the sensorial experience she is crafting. She is also exploring the possibility of creating an app that would function as an extension of the experience. It remains to be seen where her work will go in the future, but it will undoubtedly be of great value for audiences to engage with.