Laboratory

A Multimedia Opera Project about the Amazon

Technical rehearsal for the third part of Amazonas – Music theatre in three parts at ZKM_Medientheater | © ZKM, Felix Gross


The clock is ticking away. The destruction of the rain forest continues unabated. It is disappearing quietly but unremittingly. Artists and social scientists from Europe and Brazil are now giving a voice to the rain forest, along with the indigenous people of the Yanomami, in a multimedia opera. By Joachim Bernauer

In an unusual combination of music theatre, technology and social science, a group of German, other European and Brazilian partners have joined forces to put together a multimedia opera about various dimensions of the Amazon. The central issue is the precarious plight of the world’s largest rain forest, with its unparalleled natural resources, and the destruction thereof that has been going for decades. The artistic approach to the project is based on the latest findings in technological and anthropological research. It regards the collaboration with indigenous Amazonian groups as a long overdue dialogue between contemporary societies. A large-scale communication programme with symposiums and publications, as well as an educational programme for schoolchildren, will round out the two-year production phase of the opera, which is to be premiered on 9 May 2010 at the 12th Munich Biennale for Contemporary Music Theatre and subsequently performed not only in Brazil, but also in Lisbon. Parts of the project will also be shown in Rotterdam and Vienna.

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“We are confronted with misunderstandings, but these may very well be productive misunderstandings.” (Joachim Bernauer)


The story of this opera is based on what Peter Sloterdijk referred to at a workshop as the “Amazonian anguish”, the dread of imminent loss. The rain forest is the protagonist of the opera. It is endowed with a voice not only by the multimedia works of German and Brazilian artists and scientists, but also by the Yanomami, one of the last great native peoples of South America. Native American cosmologies and shamanistic spirituality are contrasted with scientific and technological world views, providing new insights into all the issues facing the Amazon: bio-diversity, slash-and-burn land clearance, and genocide, but also bioengineering, nanotechnology and climate change. The complex interrelations between these areas of inquiry will give rise to art works that should enable the public to see and hear the world of the Amazon in a whole new way.

Joachim Bernauer, Brazil 2008 | © Amazonas-Musiktheater

Since 2006 an ever-expanding team of European and Brazilian experts and artists have been working closely together on this project: media artists Peter Weibel and his ZKM Karlsruhe team and José Wagner Garcia, Leandro Lima and Gisela Motta (São Paulo), composers Klaus Schedl (Munich) and Tato Taborda (Rio de Janeiro), sociologist Laymert Garcia dos Santos (São Paulo), the shaman Davi Kopenawa (Watoriki), the anthropologist Bruce Albert (Paris/SãoPaulo) and director Michael Scheidl (Vienna). Peter Ruzicka (Munich Biennale) is the musical director, Peter Weibel (ZKM Karlsruhe) is the director of media art for the project.
Joachim Bernauer
is the director of the Goethe-Institut in Lisbon.

     

    “We are confronted with misunderstandings, but these may very well be productive misunderstandings.”