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IMPRESSIONS: Johann Diedrick Presents “[ the hurricanes in your mouth ]” at Abrons Arts Center

IMPRESSIONS: Johann Diedrick Presents “[ the hurricanes in your mouth ]” at Abrons Arts Center
Sarah Cecilia Bukowski

By Sarah Cecilia Bukowski
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Published on June 10, 2024
Photo by Maria Baranova

Director and Sound Designer: Johann Diedrick

Composer and Music Director: Caleb Giles

Worldbuilder and Writer: Alex Smith

Performers: Temar France, Syl DuBenion, and Six

Musician: Maya Donovan

Music Performance: Caleb Giles and Paul Wellington

Further credits


 

With “[ the hurricanes in your mouth ],” multidisciplinary artist and engineer Johann Diedrick offers a transportive sound installation and performance that awakens the senses and defies description. In the bunker-like intimacy of the Underground Theater at Abrons Arts Center, three performers and two musicians activate a contained world that oscillates between the domestic and the surreal. Amid a shifting soundscape undergirded by the roar of wind and sea, Diedrick weaves popular and spiritual aspects of Caribbean culture into a seamless mesh. Three large structures ground the space and are rotated throughout the performance to reflect each dimensional shift. Sound, imagery, and text drawn from pirate radio and Jamaican sound system traditions open a portal to a cosmic dimension inhabited by totemic creatures who wield powers to conjure and enchant.

Johann Diedrick's [ the hurricanes in your mouth ], May 30 – June 2, 2024. Image courtesy of Abrons Arts Center; photo by Maria Baranova.

In the first series of scenes, the structures, painted in flat primary colors — yellow, blue, red — display capsules of domesticity: the shelves of a general store, a rustic wooden door, a homemade radio setup. Inhabited by the captivating Temar France as Zary, the resolute radio diarist, an introspective world spools out slowly through a series of journal entries that unfold from mundane to poetic realms. Her radio transmitter is her portal to the void, a place where small details of daily life are amplified and projected through the air to distances and ears entirely unknown to her. She delivers each entry with measured clarity, veering between sweetness and rage as daily life, dreams, memories, and feelings surface and submerge. She is soft and hard, tense and free, brimming with contrasts and complements that grant her a quiet confidence in the face of challenges.

Johann Diedrick: [ the hurricanes in your mouth ], May 30 – June 2, 2024. Image courtesy of Abrons Arts Center; photo by Maria Baranova.


It is here that the storm begins, ushered in by rumbling thunder and flashing lights as musicians Caleb Giles and Paul Wellington process into the space, harmonizing with the storm in spectral tones on saxophone and flute. The storm has opened another portal — one for both escape and entry — to complete the cosmic circuit of transmission: something is listening, something has received.

Performers Syl DuBenion and Six, bodies engulfed in mottled green or bright white seagrass, emerge to rotate the structures to their speckled white back sides as projections of lush landscapes and colors flicker through an amplified hum. They are harbingers of the storm and the key to shelter from it, a shelter built from nature and technology that begins with an embodied incantation with Zary at its center.

Johann Diedrick's [ the hurricanes in your mouth ], May 30 – June 2, 2024. Image courtesy of Abrons Arts Center; photo by Maria Baranova.


The ritual continues into the next dimension as the structures are rotated once again to become a sound system: two huge painted speakers connected by thick wires to a central mixer. Here the literal circuit springs to life with a low hum that builds to a deep bass rumble shot through with piercing high-pitched tones. Eardrums vibrating, the space darkens in a chaos of thunder, rain, and sirens as a wind machine sweeps across the blackness — an immersive sensory experience that attunes and transports body and mind. The lights come up to bear witness to the destruction the storm has wrought. Zary picks through the rubble; she blows unsteadily into a conch shell, shakes tiny noisemakers, and waves diaphanous flags — red, green, yellow, black — in an idle dance of trailing and leading, revealing and concealing. She comes upon her transmitter, that precious object that she had thought connected her to something large and mysterious, only to discover that it is here, in the presence of everything and nothing, that she has reached true connection.

Johann Diedrick's [ the hurricanes in your mouth ], May 30 – June 2, 2024. Image courtesy of Abrons Arts Center. Photo by Maria Baranova


The vibrant multiplicity of the world built, destroyed, and reconjured in “[ the hurricanes in your mouth ]” transcends passive consumption to arrive at the fullness and immediacy of sensation. Its metaphors of transmitting and receiving reverberate from a cosmology that pervades every vibrating atom of light, sound, material, and bodies to reveal a core poetics grounded in the everyday.


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