Mutek 2009 Day 3 – Atom 1

Ping…whirr…bong….these are the sounds that greeted all in attendance at Mutek's Atom 1. We were led onto the darkened stage at Theatre Maisonneuve. There we saw 64 white helium balloons suspended in the middle of the stage. We all began to sit on the floor in a circle around the balloons (I was thinking as I did this that this was not the most comfortable environment). The stage was packed with people. We were all there to see the first of three shows by Robert Henke (from Monolake) and Christopher Bauder. It was the North American premiere of Henke and Bauder's show featuring music and the aforementioned 64 helium balloons and the buzz was high.

The balloons started off just above head level (remember we were sitting on the floor) and illuminated with red light. Suddenly the red lights went down and sounds started to come from the speakers. Each of the balloons were intermittedly illuminated in time with the sounds. They rose and lowered to make shapes, like a staircase, a funnel, a slope, and even a carpet of overhead lights.

The concept these two artists came up with for the show is that each white balloon represents an atom in a complex molecule. Each movement is computer-controlled cable winch and the lights are extra-bright LEDs. Bauder controls the movement of the balloons and Henke the music and LED lights. They make quite a team.

The shape, lights and movements of the balloons coincides with every sound emitted. The two together creates a sonic and visual tapestry. You sometimes feel like you are under a blanket of stars while listening to some rather funky music. It totally creates an atmosphere. The fact that you are so close to the balloons adds to the feeling that you are sitting under the stars.

Two warnings: while sitting on the stage at Theatre Maisonneuve is a super cool concept, but not a comfortable one. After about 30 minutes many members of the audience were shifting around trying to find a comfortable position. Thankfully for my back and butt the show was only roughly 45 minutes long. And secondly, if you are epileptic or prone to migraines then this is not the show for you as it can sometimes be hard on the eyes with the bright, pulsating lights.

You have two more opportunities to take in this unique show with Atom 2 and Atom 3 happening today (Saturday) at 3:00 and 7:00.

Additional Information:
-Website: www.mutek.org
-Ticket Price: $15.00

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