COIL 2016 Festival
It’s typically considered rude to keep your eyes closed during a performance. Yet at SONG, a sound installation from the Australian based Ranters Theater, that is not the case.
SONG is part of COIL, PS 122’s annual festival that celebrates local, national, and global performance, which runs from January 5th to 17th. Those who are particularly interested in Australian art should consider attending the US premiere of Ranters Theater’s Intimacy, a play running January 11th through 16th, which explores the intricacies of intimate conversations between strangers.
SONG, on the other hand, is not a play. It’s an installation. Consequently, I’m not entirely sure what to expect as I enter the New Ohio Theater. If anything, I’m intrigued. And, as the audience is ushered into an entirely black room and told to claim a pillow on the floor, I’m mildly confused. All around me, fully grown New Yorkers take off their coats, sit criss cross applesauce, and stare at a glowing, artificial moon.
Then the sounds of nature start: clicking bugs, singing birds, crashing waves. There’s a sense of anticipation– when is someone going to come onstage? Where are the performers? I stare around me, then finally realize that the only visual element of SONG is the changing moon. The performers are hidden backstage. At this point I close my eyes, lie back on my pillow, and listen to the noises surrounding me. From time to time, the beautiful sounds of a folk duo will waft into the room. Yet, just as the audience is about to grasp the meaning of the song, the singer’s voices are washed away by the sounds of water and wind.
While the audience experience at SONG is relaxing, it’s certainly not much of a show. Rather, it’s like having a Sounds of Nature CD listening party with fifty of your friends. And honestly, after twenty minutes, I feel like a failed meditation student who can’t clear her mind. I constantly rearrange my legs to be in a less awkward position, and count how many times the guy next to me coughs.
I leave The New Ohio Theater forty minutes later feeling sleepy, but not particularly inspired. SONG could have easily been half the length and still had the same effect. Yet, if you’re looking for a calming trip to nature in the middle of the bustling city, then this performance might be for you. Just make sure to wear comfortable pants.