October 31st, 2011 · Kathy Grayson of The Hole

Matthew Stone's Shamanic Journey

As part of Performa 11, Matthew Stone will be presenting an audio-visual performance at The Hole titled Anatomy of Immaterial Worlds, on November 3rd at 9 pm. The majority of the piece is composed of a computer-generated soundtrack that draws from the history of dance music, but doesn't actually have drums in it. The visual component is a 3D-rendered trip down a dark and glowing tunnel, just as people who experience shamanic journeys often go down a sort of descent into a hole. The performance culminates in a classical score that Stone has written.

Kathy Grayson: Have you gone on a shamanic journey before?

Matthew Stone: I’ve learned a basic shamanic journeying technique for altering your state of consciousness. On a very basic level, you move from a waking consciousness into something that is closer to an intensified and conscious daydreaming. You listen with closed eyes to a repetitive drum beat and “journey” into your mind. The technique that is often used in a neo-shamanic context is an amalgam of various traditions, but still has some cultural trappings: deerskin drums, etc. I wanted to reinvent the process using contemporary music production techniques.

What is the experience of your performance piece like? 

I have designed it so that the audio at the beginning is identifiable as structured music, but as time progresses the “music” devolves into a monotonous bass pulse. By this point the visual element also descends into total darkness. The pulse tone is at the same tempo as the shamanic drumming, so should send some of the audience into a very different head-space. 

Is this a musical piece?

Yes, it certainly starts off that way. A traditional idea of music and culture as a whole I guess, is that designed external stimuli affect the ordinary senses to produce an internal reaction. The monotone bass section of the performance operates outside of this context. While there is sound and an absence of light that are both perceived directly with the senses, they act as sensory deprivation, rather than as actual stimuli. Although you hear it, it’s not to be listened to, but rather a continuous noise to obliterate all other noises and your senses in general.


Will people be experiencing a kind of shamanic journey?

The computer-generated video in the piece is a metaphor for my experiences of “journeying.” But then the shift from “music” to “noise” in the soundtrack and the immersion into darkness is there so the audience can utilize what is essentially an archaic ecstasy technique. It’s a piece that creates an audience of artists, instead of “cultural responders.”

What have been the responses to the performance [at the Institute of Contemporary Arts] in London last year?

I’ve never had such a polemic response to anything. People walked out, someone screamed at the end “Who let this happen at the ICA? Who is responsible for this?!” But then somebody else said that the sound provided “the best massage I’ve ever had.” One friend had a conversation with penguins and someone else heard voices and strange chamber music that was not actually there. Then I also got a crazy email that read, “The amount of new emotions I felt in this one piece was overwhelming. I was almost afraid to leave the room because fear of going back and living life in the past.” I don’t think it’s necessarily useful to listen to good or bad feedback, but to have such visceral and disparate responses definitely says something.

Matthew Stone's Anatomy of Immaterial Worlds takes place on Thursday, November 3rd, at 9pm at The Hole, 312 Bowery Street, New York. Click here for more information. Stone's solo exhibition Optimism as Cultural Rebellion at The Hole runs November 1 through December 10, 2011.

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Tags: matthew stone, performa 11, the hole Category: