Alta Pressão

Sandra Rocha

22 September | 05 November, 2022

Press release

HIGH PRESSURE

Surrender to the sirens(?)

As part of the creative project proposed by the BeBest laboratory, the artistic production agency Foveartsand the contemporary music hall La Carène, a Breton musician, François Joncour, and an Azorean photographer, Sandra Rocha, explored the coastlines of Oceanum Nostrum, in Finistère and the Azores, over the course of a season spent between Portugal and France. For a deeper understanding of the ecological dangers threatening our coasts, the artists shared the same research sites as the scientists from the BeBest laboratory in Brest and the Okeanos laboratory in the Azores. The four audiovisual installations, along with the photographs, are a paradoxical attempt to articulate the beauty of these endangered marine spaces. The artists explored the myth of the siren in the popular imagination of these two island territories, thus enhancing the work of oceanographers and ornithologists, to whom we must urgently pay heed.

The figure of the siren is a myth as fertile as it is powerful for questioning our sometimes contradictory relationship with the environment and the vehement denial of the huge ecological and human catastrophe of our time. In Breton culture, the Marie-Morganes are beautiful creatures, born of the sea (‘Mor’), who make love outside the underwater caverns of Morgat or entice fishing boats towards the reefs of Ushant. In Greek mythology, sirens are winged creatures, half-woman half-seabird. They seduce sailors attracted by their alluring song and their cries. The disoriented seamen crash their ships on the reefs before being devoured by these enchantresses.  

The two artists embarked on a quest to find the sirens of today, successively exploring the black and indented coastline of the volcanic island of Terceira and the battered granite shore of the island of Ushant, at the tip of Finistère. Of course, the sirens of these coasts constantly evaded them. If touched, they become incarnate as luminous adolescents and later metamorphose, re-adopting their avian forms to return to the blue skies of Terceira Island or to glide over the cloudy shorelines of Brittany.

Sirens are invisible, and yet visible everywhere, and the two artists drew inspiration from each other to guide us towards them.

Sandra Rocha’s organic drawings depict furtive presences. The images, both still and animated, are hewn from the basaltic and granitic depths, the bursts of light on the water and the clouds obscuring the summits of the volcanoes. Rocha does not just find inspiration in the lands she explores but creates images to extend them and bring them to life in the imagination. The photographer alternates between being siren and gorgon. She knows all the paths leading to the sulphurous heights, she knows where to place her feet to descend to the crater and capture the last rays of the night that give the moss on the green slopes a fluorescent glow. She directs her characters so that the light lands perfectly on a cascade of hair or on the dewy skin of a shoulder.

François Joncour’s musical world mixes sounds captured by oceanographers, electronic music, human voices, and string and wind instruments. The sonorous texture of the compositions meets the dreamlike visual writing, Sandra Rocha’s limpid colouring, to breathe life into this land of fairies, seductive but poisonous.

Musical creations inspired the images and vice-versa. Here, Rocha’s still and moving images suggest a bleeding naiad, wounded by the hypnotic magenta reflection in the sea, spilling into a pool of water at sunset. There, presences are suggested by slow, suspicious movements at the foot of a cliff or even by the appearance of imminent danger in a static shot of a sea of boiling oil.

François Joncour’s musical creations anchor all this in a perceptible reality. The poly-instrumentalist wizard juggles influences, the sounds captured by scientists in the depths, the cries of shearwaters on the cliffs and of tropical parakeets, to give voice to the creatures. He absorbed liturgical music, bossa nova, Brittany’s Kan ha diskan and British pop to offer inspired, graceful and sombre compositions to Emilie, Camilla and Pauline.

His compositions for this project transport us to a state of enchantment, but also one in which we sense the arrival of a mysterious threat. Sirens send us, by turns, well-intentioned warnings or threats of terror and death. Their slippery appearances and charming or strident voices cause us to get lost, send us to sleep, wake us up. Obvious figures in this era of warned-of catastrophes, they shout their threats into the void and later take their revenge for not being heeded. At a time when other kinds of sirens are wailing over Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, the voices of youth under high pressure constantly sing to us that the wonderful is poisoned.

So, will you surrender to the sirens?

Emmanuelle Hascoët


 


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