Mel O’Callaghan: Pulse of the Planet

May 27 - August 27, 2023

Co-curated by Peta Rake and Shauna Thompson.

Pulse of the Planet is a major solo exhibition by Paris/Sydney-based artist Mel O’Callaghan that synthesizes several years of research, collaborations, and ways of knowing. For the last twenty years of her practice, O’Callaghan has explored resonant objects, spaces, and tools and how they affect, codify, and connect bodies. By working alongside experts in other fields, O’Callaghan seeks to ask new questions through her artistic practice and to highlight the natural synergies between disciplines, as well as how highly curious researchers reciprocally approach complex questions about our existence.

The works in this exhibition bring together trans-disciplinary creative thinkers—oceanographers, physicists, microbial ecologists, hydrofeminists, and musicologists, among others—whose divergent research areas converge around the most urgent problems of our time, including planetary shifts, the viral age, climate futures, interspecies living, and what lifeworlds we must be attentive to and why. Drawing on our innate impulse to connect with one another and to the earth’s inexplicable forces, Pulse of the Planet sees all bodies—human and non-human—as sites of revelation and connection.

The exhibition brings together a chorus of works that begin at the planet’s very depths; at a site from which all life is said to have emerged kilometres below the surface of the ocean. O’Callaghan’s collaborators recently made a hydrophone recording at the East Pacific Rise—a site on the floor of the Pacific Ocean at the boundary of diverging tectonic plates—which captured vibrations beneath the earth’s surface, a phenomenon often referred to as the Earth’s heartbeat. Previously, these vibrations were emitted at a constant low frequency of 7.83 hertz, but in recent years scientists have witnessed an increase to 8 hertz. This alteration of frequency reinforces the complex planetary changes that are currently afoot. We might understand this shifting, pulsing vibration as a bodily connection with all life, both on a microbial and an immensely geologic scale, that underscores a universal resonance that trans-gresses global borders.

At the centre of the exhibition is a durational performance featuring two large-scale tuning forks installed on a resonant chamber. When played, the tuning forks emit a fundamental note that creates a sympathetic call and response with the body on a cellular level that is in solidarity with the heartbeat of the Earth. During a series of performances through-out the course of the exhibition, the performers and audience members will become conduits for sympa-thetic sound and will be called into an awareness of their own somatic rhythms, calmed nervous system—pulse, breath, and movement—and to consider the notion that the Earth, too, is a living organism.


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