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Heartbeats with piano tweaks

Couple Jonas Dept and Oat Montien will put on a unique artistic musical performance at Emporium this Mother's Day

The first sounds heard even before your entrance into the world are your mother's hypnotic heartbeat. It's generally believed that it is a sound critical for the development of a foetus -- a biological and emotional connection unlike any other.

Live In The Moment by Jonas Dept and Oat Montien. Photos courtesy of The Mall Group

Musician and artist couple Jonas Dept and Oat Montien are taking this connection and transforming it into sonic and physical form for their latest site-specific art performance, Live In The Moment, to take place on Mother's Day on Saturday at Emporium's E-Space.

Here's what they're going to do: Inviting pairs of mother-and-child through Emporium's booking system (where some rules like having to spend 5,000 baht at the department store apply), the duo will amplify the sound of the mother's heartbeat using scientific apparatus they've been developing for months. Jonas Dept, a classically trained Belgian pianist, will improvise musically over the heartbeat, which will conduct Thai artist Oat Montien's charcoal strokes on his canvas. The feelings, sentimentality and the relationship between mother and child will then hopefully show in both sight and sound.

Oat Montien sketching from Jonas' music.

An example already hangs proudly from Emporium's ceiling, a space usually taken up by bright and loud advertisements. Three stories high and on a giant white scroll, Oat's energetic and passionate charcoal strokes make out a beautiful young mother, looking fondly at her sleeping infant in her arms.

"It was quite interesting when we were at Studio 28 filming [the making of this piece] and we projected the heartbeat sounds," said Oat last week as he and Jonas were setting up the project. "Everyone was affected, subconsciously hypnotised. Because I think it's a sound that we hear in the mother's womb, so it triggers your subconscious in a very interesting way."

The majority of Oat and Jonas' works deal with relationships and intimacy, visual or invisible. Believing that everybody has an energy which is passed to one another, they look to create this energy into art with music or drawing.

"And what better sound to represent relationships than the heartbeat?" said Oat.

Though the project may sound overly sentimental to some, it is a new and intriguing concept to those who are tired of the usual Mother's Day celebrations and ceremonies. In a way, it's also bringing an artistic experience to the masses whom may never have been interested to ever step foot inside a gallery.

"It's not theatre, it's performance art, so for it to happen, we want it to be as real as possible in a space that people feel more natural," explained Oat. "Galleries are a very different setting for that kind of experience. It's intimidating! We're bringing art to the mothers. I think it's nice! We're giving it to them instead of waiting for them to come and visit a gallery."

Oat Montien for Live In The Moment.

Having been together for a little over a year, the couple have developed their own language in order to work together as an artistic team. Oat listens to the sound textures in which Jonas plays, developing his strokes accordingly, and Jonas' playing is also sometimes influenced by the sounds of Oat's scribbles on the canvas, creating a two way interaction between the artists.

"The process is quite similar for both of us," explained Oat. "We try to be as present as much as possible. We're just trying to be there and experience all the things that triggers the breath, the heartbeat, and different movements and the atmosphere which comes out through my lines. The medium I'm using is charcoal. Charcoal can create very thin and very thick lines in many pressures and levels. For me, it's the closest medium to breathing. So therefore, I think I can capture how I feel at the moment -- how I'm breathing at the moment most accurately with charcoal."

Jonas, who also tries to be as present as possible, listens to the heartbeat as a sort of percussion, using it as a tempo in which his music will develop and build up.

"But then I allow the music to also set free from the tempo and keep the heartbeat as a second voice, which doesn't have to regulate everything strictly," he said. "It's like a meet and escape situation. Sometimes [Oat] will push the tempo to become faster. I feel his desire to go towards some direction -- I can hear it and we interact both ways."

The project will only occur for one day, and with seats being quickly filled up, it's best to book as soon as possible via Emporium's website.

"I think it's lovely," said Oat excitedly. "It's quite memorable. That's what art should be. It shouldn't be serious and you shouldn't think a lot and read a lot. I think you should experience art. It should be accessible and felt. You can take it as a piano performance, or watch someone drawing. Or you can partake and see the whole circle happening with your heartbeat."

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