An immersive sonic experience marks the Industry’s return to live performance
The sound of laughter drifts across the airy concrete patio outside the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Clusters of people chat and nod, leaning toward one another with intention, hungry for interaction. On a nearby street, sirens wail, a jackhammer ricochets, horns blare and birds chatter. This is the soundscape of a city waking up after the pandemic sent much of life into hibernation nearly two years ago.
The sonic artist Ash Fure and choreographer Lilleth sit just outside the museum doors, absorbing the lively scene. To them, sound is not ambient. It is the driving force of life and art, possessing the capacity to connect us on a primeval plane — in a place beyond words, where we are united by our mutually beating hearts.
“On a sonic level, sound can really hit your body from any direction,” says Fure, detailing their performance installation, “Hive Rise,” choreographed and directed by Lilleth and composed and performed by Fure and 14 dancers and vocalists.
The show, taking place at the Geffen Contemporary and co-presented by MOCA on Friday and Saturday night, marks the first live performance staged by L.A.’s avant-garde opera company the Industry since the advent of the pandemic caused the premature closure of its critically acclaimed show “Sweet Land.”
Unlike “Sweet Land” — an interactive, site-specific work filled with sung dialogue that challenged the hegemony of the rote American origin story centering white settlers’ westward expansion in the name of Manifest Destiny — “Hive Rise” is a performance without words of any kind. The immersive sonic experience uses 3D-printed megaphones, an electroacoustic score and the skills of Fure playing on two subwoofer speaker cones oscillating at a subaudible frequency. The result is a somatic landscape that seeks to cultivate a sense of collectivity during a distressingly isolating and disjointed time.
“We are living in a state of emergency,” says Lilleth, citing climate change, the ongoing pandemic and acute racial and social injustice.
The performance is an exploration of that reality and how we might organize and resist, Lilleth says, adding, “We have to learn how to be together. We have to learn how to cooperate, and we also have to learn how to downregulate our nervous systems inside the chaos.”
“Hive Rise” does not employ referential images, says Fure. You won’t see melting glaciers or suffering animals. You will encounter lightness and darkness, shadows and translucence. You will move, and performers will move around you. The speaker cones will create a constant pulsation — a frequency you can only feel in your body at first — that slowly builds and shifts as Fure uses different body parts and materials to play on them.
“You are in an evolving atmosphere that is viscerally allowing you to tune into your body and its relationship to vibration and covibration in a really unusual way,” says Fure.
Fure says that, in the midst of compounding emergencies Lilleth mentioned, they are desperate for spaces that don’t rely on speech and aren’t about “the breakdowns of communication that are so rampant and destructive and omnipresent now.”
“Hive Rise” was created to be such a space. Originally performed in January of 2020 — at the dawn of the pandemic era — inside the legendary Berlin techno club Berghain, the installation sought to bridge the individual and the whole by using the experience of sound within the body.
“That many humans in a room just listening deeply together without words for an hour is in itself a transformative form of collectivity,” Fure says.
Fure joined the Industry in June, when the company announced that Fure and interdisciplinary artist Malik Gaines had been named co-artistic directors alongside the Industry’s visionary founder, the MacArthur Fellow Yuval Sharon. The idea was to form a diverse and vibrant artistic cooperative fed by each member’s unique talents. Sharon said at the time that no responsible arts organization could remain the same after living through the firestorm of 2020.
Just what the Industry intends to do with its new shape and form will receive a partial answer with “Hive Rise,” which Industry executive director Elizabeth Cline says is extremely operatic, despite being somewhat divergent from previous Industry projects. The organization is internationally lauded for its expansive approach to opera, and “Hive Rise” pushes those boundaries further with a show that asks participants to bodily absorb the very texture and substance of sound.
“This is the beginning of the next cycle of this organization,” says Cline. “This is a completely different path for opera, with no words and no story, but how the drama unfolds is operatic, as is the scope and scale.”
Where: The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Ave., L.A.
When: 7:30 p.m. November 19 and 20
Tickets: Free with advance reservation
Running time: 1 hour
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