Melt Me Into The Ocean Project

Project —

Series of installations, performances, walks and workshops in Santa Cruz using sounds from underwater in the Monterey Bay.

What pulls us to the ocean?

And when we arrive at its edge, what do we experience?

Melt Me Into The Ocean imagines a deeper dive at the point where land and sea meet, bringing sounds up from under the surface, filling our air space with liquid motion from beneath the ocean. And while we look out at the surface of the ocean, feet on the land, ears underwater, how does our sense of place expand to integrate the submarine world into the presence of our imagination?

In Santa Cruz we live on the edge of a vast marine sanctuary, a submarine canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon, filled with life, resident and migrating through. When I look out I try to visualize in my mind the sheer depth of that canyon, the amount of space filled with ocean, and the proximity of vastness to this small city. I remember the first time I reached the edge of a desert canyon overlook in Utah, my stomach caved in as if punched hard and I burst into tears. I couldn’t process that sudden vastness of scale dropping away beneath me. Now I imagine the darkness of the three dimensional space underwater, and the sounds that flow through it, five times faster than sound moves in air and reaching greater distances, sounds above and below my hearing range. I imagine my body orienting itself in this cold, liquid, sonic world. And then I feel my feet on the ground, in this place, looking out.

I listen through my body, I learn through my body, and sound helps to open up a sensitivity and vocabulary for integrating my bodily sensations with a sense of place and a sense of identity. Memory is stored in the body, sound acts on the body. Energy flows through and out of the body, and many times gets blocked in it. Healing is associated with allowing the energy to flow again.

Leaning over the edge of the wharf I’m listening to a hydrophone I’ve lowered like the people fishing around me lower their lines. I can see it shining in a thick shoal of glistening anchovies hugging the wharf posts that are coated in muscles, barnacles, kelp and giant star fish, red, orange and pink. I hear these creatures clicking and snapping and I can hear sea lions barking underwater. Somehow I’m surprised that they can make these sounds underwater as I’ve seen them on the jetty throw their heads back and open their mouths showing big pink tongues and yellow teeth. I find myself thinking of their bodies in relation to mine, and whether I could make sounds underwater in the same way, without breathing or drowning. And then a sea lion comes darting through the anchovies chasing a larger fish, and all is flow and energy exchange.

What do I mean by the ocean as energy exchange or chi? I link it to the flow of sound, the flow of energy in and through the body, the flow of energy within the liquid ocean, and the flow of energy from ocean to climate systems world wide. If I think of the ocean not as filled with objects, but as a flow of energy exchanges, I come closer to it and enable it to move over me on land. It’s influence in a coastal zone is always present, particularly in the air, in moisture, in smell, in sound. The coastal redwood forests thrive on the foggy moisture from the ocean system. Everything is somewhat softer, skin more supple, temperature steady. The coastal band absorbs the energy of the ocean by its proximity. The ocean has influence well beyond its surface, much as the energy of a human body has influence well beyond the surface of its skin. I notice that our visual sense identifies surfaces as solid boundaries, as beginning and ends of objects, as identities and influence bound and contained by surface. In contrast our sonic sense hears beyond surface, it recognizes whats beneath and outside of skin and ocean and beyond the walls of a room. Our sonic sense recognizes energy exchange and flow.

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