Heavens Breath – Surrey Art Gallery BC Canada

Chris Welsby, 2007.

An electronic media installation and dance collaboration with.

Brady Marks (Software design), Scheherazaad Cooper (Odissi Dance) and Andreas Kahre (Percussion)

Science, art and religion converge in the iconic dancing figure of the god Shiva. Shiva’s dance has its roots in the sacred Hindu texts and is copied from temple drawing but in our own times the statue is seen by physicists as a representation of sub atomic energy, and by astronomers as a representation of the Big Bang theory of the cosmos.


Heaven's Breath

Based on the eleventh century figurine depicting the Hindu God Shiva dancing the world into, and out of, existence, the installation combines dance with interactive technology and live weather data from around the word to produce a weather powered dance animation. Drawing on the cosmologies of East and West, ancient and modern, science and religion, the installation is driven by the wind; by the massive cooling and heating system of the rotating earth, which produces the energy to sustain biological life.

Heaven's Breath

A sequence of still images taken whilst the Odissi dancer performed the historic dance sequence along with multiple still images of a rotating wheel of fire and images of the galaxy were loaded into the computer. The sound of tabla drumming, together with other abstract percussive audio recordings were likewise uploaded to the computer’s hard drive.

Heaven's Breath

Using custom software both the images and the sound are edited and mixed by incoming data relayed in real-time from weather stations around the world. As the wind increases, the dancing figure of Shiva turns from a single static dance position into a blur of multiple limbs and flashing fire. As the wind changes direction, the ring of fire which frames the large circular screen rotates, tilting on it’s axis like an animated model of the atomic nuclei. As the wind dies, the vast spaces of the galaxy flash across the gathering darkness.   The thunder of Shiva’s drum morphs into a series of harmonic progressions and abstract patterns. Like the weather that drives to software, every moment is completely unique. The system tends towards instability continuously creating new and unexpected combinations of image and sound from the pre-recorded materials.

Heaven's Breath

In Heaven’s Breath, Shiva the god of creation and destruction, symbolic representation of the Big Bang theory of the cosmos, is depicted as a whirligig dancing to the play of the wind. Does Shiva cause the wind to blow and the planet to rotate or is it the other way around? Do we have agency in our dance with Nature? Will knowledge transcend ignorance or are we doomed to dance our way to evolutionary oblivion?

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