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Bad Weather

Performance of Baroque theatre noise machines

Bad Weather is a performative sound art event centred around Baroque theatre noise machines that have interested Arturas Bumšteinas – the author of the idea of the work – since 2012. The artist first worked with the sounds of baroque noise instruments in his project Epiloghi. Six Ways of Saying Zangtumbtumb (Deutschlandradio Kultur, 2013). Together with a professional theatre carpenter, for the Bad Weather project he has re-created wind, rain, sea and thunder imitation devices, identical to the ones whose canon settled in European theatres over the 17th century.

In the Baroque era, noise machines constituted a small part of the whole theatrical illusion – the one invisible to the eye of the viewer, positioned at the theatre‘s wings and behind the scene. In Bad Weather, noise machines are generators of conceptual “climate”, but like any other man-made mechanism, the wind machine is not a self-operating perpetuum mobile: its spontaneity is influenced by human (or horse) muscle tension and his / her creative will.

In Bad Weather, the ensemble of performers remains coordinated by having replaced musical notes or choreographic instructions with weather charts from various centuries, as well as their decontextualized fragments, to organize the dynamics of the work and metaphorically “set to rotation” the wheel of natural phenomena.

Each version of Bad Weather is always slightly different, depending upon the peculiarities of the hall and overall context of the event. And what is to be said about the singing voice…? The aria is floating around in the sonic space looking for the body to pin to.

In 2019, author of the piece Arturas Bumšteinas was awarded with Borisas Dauguvietis Earring (Special prize of the Golden Stage Cross award ceremony) for innovative and original steps in the theatre (integration of sound experiments into new theatre forms in performances Olympian Machine and Bad Weather). An LP Bad Weather Long Play was released the same year.

Baroque theatre noise machines performance “Bad weather” (Cricoteka, 2017)

The performers are not making sound effects per se; what they are doing is more analogous to accomplished jazz musicians improvising their way through a well-known standard.

John Doran, The Quietus, on “Bad Weather” as premiered at Unsound” festival

Bad Weather not only unveils the mechanism of the theatre and creates an impression of being there (i.e. behind the stage), where the viewers shall not be, but also allows examining the matter of the theatre, involving into a true theatre of sensations: in contrast to the Baroque people, here the openly operated mechanism draws the viewers into the raging elements even more.

Rima Jūraitė, Krantai

This piece, imitating sounds of turbulent or even threatening nature in safe environment, is obviously different every time, even though it has a very clear central axis – the noise machines. The piece invites to openly explore, observe and, most importantly, to listen to the environment, questioning the sources of sound and assessing the mechanical ways to excite the imagination.

Akvilė Zarankaitė, Literatūra ir menas

“Navigations”
Gallery version of Bad Weather performance

In Baroque theatre, the work of stage hands was often carried out by sailors, who operated stage machinery as if navigating a sailing ship. Therefore, in the gallery version of Bad Weather performance the Baroque rain, wind and thunder machines move in large empty space, following the paths of tropical cyclones and leaving traces of plant seeds they are carrying over the ocean. Phenomena of ancient climate, viewed from an ever-changing perspective, become a multifaceted experience, a ritual to get an eyeful. Presented in cooperation with Kala Sound System.

In 2020 Navigations received an international Carapelli for Art prize, established by Carapelli Firenze S.p.A.

“Navigations” from “Bad weather series (National Gallery of Art, 2019)

Nevertheless, even formally we might regard this genre as mechanical machine theatre – a direct heir of the exotic art variety of the Baroque era in the present day studio, theatre or gallery. Perhaps this is where the artistic intrigue of this piece is hidden.

Tautvydas Bajarkevičius, Šiaurės Atėnai

The key experience related to Navigations is that of listening and hearing. Surely, it is very interesting to visually explore the wooden construction of Baroque machines. <…> In Navigations the sound producing machines are not hidden – they are deliberately openly exhibited. The act of sound production turns into the subject of performance.

Ramunė Balevičiūtė, menufaktura.lt