THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

'The Lightness of Being' was an immersive experience through sound, image, form and space that explored the lightness and weight we carry through our lives, and what it means to us. 

'The Lightness of Being' was an immersive experience through sound, image, form and space that explored the lightness and weight we carry through our lives, and what it means to us.  

FULL VISUALS

SOUNDTRACKS

Follow this link to hear the full soundtrack, as well as it stripped down to instrumentals and ambient nature.

THE PROCESS

Over the course of about five months, through the help of wonderful artists and collaborators, and through trial and error, my vision came to life. Below, you will find documentation of the entire journey.

 Collaborators: Billy Woods; Spencer Hehl

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IDEATION

The root of this concept is not new or foreign; the concepts of light and weight within our lives have been pondered through time. I researched this concept through Milan Kundera's novel, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." Kundera comes to the conclusion that we as humans only have one life to live, therefore all aspects of our lives - experiences, decisions, and memories - are fleeting and meaningless. According to him we are a mere blip in the universe, a phenomenon that will never happen again. To live a life in "lightness" is to realize this and to move through life freely, knowing that nothing matters in the grand scheme of things. At first, lightness seems positive, until we are faced with the unbearability of the absence of meaning. Which then brings us to the unbearable lightness of being. 

 

The alternate is heaviness, or a weighted life. Negatively, the heaviness of burdens can crush us, drown us, and prevent us from breaching the surface. Positively, weight can bring truth, meaning and self reflection. It can push us into the ground so we can secure our roots and grow again. Weight can give our lives meaning. Perhaps to the universe, our lives mean nothing, but that doesn't excuse the deep significance we carry for our own lives, relationships, and connections with others. 

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lightness moodboard // via pinterest

I.SOUND

I wanted the thoughts of others to dictate the course of my thesis. I did this by sending out a survey to dozens of people in my life - some friends, some family, some aquaintences - explaining the concepts of light and heaviness before asking them to share their own thoughts on it. I asked them three questions:

Do you think lightness is positive, weight negative? Why?

Do you feel you live lightly or heavily?

If you could change it, would you?

Sixty people total responded to my survey. Some individuals responded with one word sentences, while others gave me paragraphs and pages. It was incredibly moving to receive these personal responses. After collecting, reading, and analyzing, I had to figure out a way to bring these words to life.

March of 2019 was a month of gathering recordings. I went back to those who were surveyed and asked permission to use their words in my thesis. Then, I asked if they wanted to voice their own words. Again, I was blown away; 40 people recorded with me, whether it was reading from their survey, discussing freely with me, talking on the phone with me, or recording alone and sending the file over. 

 

I wanted the thoughts of others to dictate the course of my thesis. I did this by sending out a survey to dozens of people in my life - some friends, some family, some aquaintences - explaining the concepts of light and heaviness before asking them to share their own thoughts on it. I asked them three questions:

Do you think lightness is positive, weight negative? Why?

Do you feel you live lightly or heavily?

If you could change it, would you?

Sixty people total responded to my survey. Some individuals responded with one word sentences, while others gave me paragraphs and pages. It was incredibly moving to receive these personal responses. After collecting, reading, and analyzing, I had to figure out a way to bring these words to life.

March of 2019 was a month of gathering recordings. I went back to those who were surveyed and asked permission to use their words in my thesis. Then, I asked if they wanted to voice their own words. Again, I was blown away; 40 people recorded with me, whether it was reading from their survey, discussing freely with me, talking on the phone with me, or recording alone and sending the file over. 

 

The process of interviewing and listening was a unique experience in itself. I found myself silent, able to absorb the personal thoughts of people I know and people I love. Friends, family, peers, professors. It was a moving experience. 

Additionally, everyone had a wide range of opinions on the subject matter, which is exactly what I hoped for. 

In total, I had 9 hours of recordings that I condensed down to a 10 minute track. Throughout the process of transcribing, organizing and consolidating, I decided I wanted to have the track move throughout a day; starting with midday sounds of the wetlands back home, going into an evening thunderstorm, through the night, and ending in the morning. 

I used Garageband to create instrumentals, sourced the sounds of nature and wildlife, and used Adobe Audition CC to mix the sound. The final output had voices coming from the two left speakers, while other voices were coming from the two right speakers. The instrumentals were surrounding the space. When standing close to the installation, the viewer was able to hear different voices all around them.

Moodboard 02

heaviness moodboard // via pinterest

II. IMAGE

Back in December of 2018, I discovered Mandelbulb 3D, a program that generates 3D fractals. By changing equations and numbers, the user is able to generate out-of-this world forms. I decided to use this as a visual component. I liked the idea that fractals could be found within nature, and within us. Below are some of my initial fractal renders used throughout my piece in various ways.

 

The fractal forms ended up being a huge visual component, although maybe not noticed as much. The ripples, waves, and distortion throughout the piece was all affected by my generative fractal displacement maps. I rendered out various sequences of fractals, and then used them as effectors on other pieces of footage and photos, almost like a force rather than an image.

 

 

The images used is 75% my own, 25% stock. All of the botanical photos were gathered in the previous year (I had an obsession with taking photos of flowers and never knew why, until the collection worked perfectly for what I needed here). I have been studying to become a designer for years, and here I had the chance to be an artist again. The fractal effectors and forms paired with my chosen imagery was based on artistic instinct. Nothing I chose was based on a rule of design; it just felt right, so I went for it.

 

Ultimately, my visual imagery is up for interpretation. I allowed my sound to drive my image and form 100%. Once the soundtrack was finished, it felt natural to create the visuals that corresponded with each part of the story. Below, you'll find my final visuals, as well as the full length image and soundtrack that was displayed during the event. 

III. FORM + SPACE

The final challenge was creating an installation; a sculpture for visual projection and a space that could encompass my audience. I hosted two nights of this experience, and prepped throughout April 2019. I had this awesome space outside my house in Savannah, GA. It was brick paved, set in between three houses; nature taking over the ground, the houses, the wooden fencing. 

I played around with the form for a few weeks, experimenting with different fabrics and materials, and settling on pieces of natural canvas and twine to create an organic form lifted off the ground, carabiner-clipped to 15 foot high pulley systems. 

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Alright so, not to get *too* sentimental, but this project meant the world to me. It was such a journey of personal growth. The collaboration with friends was beautiful. The mentorship from my professors was beautiful. The amount of work I created on my own - visual, sound and form - was fucking beautiful. 

Thank you John Colette for believing in my vision and guiding me through this process. I took my senior course specifically with you because I knew you would motivate me to push my boundaries of artistic vision like I never had, and that is exactly what happened. Thank you Kelly Carlton, for inspiring me, acknowledging my drive to learn, teaching me so much and supporting me through this project. Thank you Spencer Hehl for taking the time to capture my process, so I can look back on this achievement in such a great way. Thank you Billy Woods for pushing me to do better, giving me great advice, and helping me setup and take down during those humid, buggy nights.  


Thank you to Adam, Agustina, Ahdo, Allie, Alvin, April, Billy, Charlotte, Cher, Chris, Christian, Cody, Connor, Dani, David, Desmond, Emily Christian, Emily Leopold, Halle, Irina, Jacob, James, Joanna, Joe, John, Julia, Kelly, Lauren Dybowski, Lauren Makechnie, Linden, Luke, Madison, Maggie, Marcelo, Maria, Marika, Mason, Monica, Nate, Pao, Rasita, Reeva, Renee, Russel, Ryan, Sam, Spencer, Stephen, Ted, Tim, Veronica, Will and Zach - for taking the time to answer my questions, and thank you to those of you who took the time to record with me or for me. Reading all your words and eventually getting the privilege to hear them aloud was a gratifying experience. Thank you to the people who came out and supported my live show. Every time I watch my process, or the full soundtrack + visuals, I am filled with so much gratitude and pride. Thank you to everyone who helped make this vision a reality. - Ally

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ALEXANDRA RAE MUNRO © 2020

 



ALEXANDRA RAE MUNRO © 2020