At Bartley + Company Art, Wellington until 5 September
Artist Marcia Lyons learnt to deep-sea dive in pursuit of her art, to record the mysterious sounds made by Humpback
whales in the sea near Hawaii. In Emergent Submersives, her first solo exhibition in New Zealand, she invites viewers to
immerse themselves in a deeply blue, expansive environment, replete with whale sounds, and to share the eerie underwater
The exhibition is based on the artist’s research over the past year into the little understood ‘toning’ ritual (possibly
akin to chanting) performed by Humpback whales near Maui – a ritual that they are believed to have carried out at the
same point for millions of years. As scientists investigate this phenomenon, so too, Lyons’ probes prevailing views,
political attitudes and knowledge surrounding the whales behaviour.
Lyons asks gallery goers to enter a virtual world and to feel the almost inconceivable pressure experienced by the diver
as they descend and encounter the actual physical vibrations of the whales and their communications – an experience that
in Evolutions, the main work in the exhibition, she has abstracted out and projected back as a live or movie-painting.
A novel feature of the exhibition for viewers with Bluetooth enabled on their phones, is the opportunity to take part in
what may be seen as an experiment in interspecies communication exchange. Simulating whale communicating behavior,
Bluetooth will automatically send ocean ‘sound waves’ to viewers’ cell phones.
An American, now resident in New Zealand, Lyons has been working at the forefront of digital arts practice since the
early-1990s, as both an artist and educator. She established the Digital Media Fine Arts programme at Cornell University
in the United States in 1998 and came to New Zealand in 2005 to develop the Digital Media programme at Victoria
University of Wellington. She has previously exhibited in the United States and Europe.