Bryn Oh is currently working on a new immersive installation to succeed Hand, which closed in late 2017, and about which you can read more here. While the new installation is under development, she has opened two single-scene poems, Lady Carmagnolle and 26 Tines, both of which can be found on Bryn’s home region of Immersiva.
“A carmagnolle is one of the very earliest full metal diving suits,” Bryn says in explaining the first of these scene poems. “Monstrosities of protection that allowed people to explore the depths.” In fact, it was the first properly anthropomorphic design for an atmospheric diving suit (ADS), designed in 1882 by the Carmagnolle brothers. It features a distinctive metal helmet with multiple small glass ports to provide a view outside for the wearer.
In Lady Carmagnolle, the titular lady of the piece stands alone on a deserted stage in a broken-down theatre, the helmet of the carmagnolle suit in one hand, a rock in the other, a face drawn upon it. “She imagines the rocks to be injured birds who she cares for,” Bryn states, “When it rains the ink washes away leaving a simple stone. When Lady Carmagnolle looks to find these rocks and instead finds them gone, she wistfully imagines that they have grown back their wings and returned to the sky, finding others to fly with. In her loneliness this is her most beautiful dream.”
It’s a sad tale, accompanied by a sad poem and sent within the haunting setting of the tumble-down theatre, where the rain falls as Lady Carmagnolle’s only audience.
26 Tines, on the other hand, is something of a love story, again accompanied by a poem. “The laboratory is silent, the scientists gone, we have seven hours, before the dawn,” so reads the first stanza of the poem. It directly refers to the emotional bond between two robots within a research facility, a bond where – even were they both human – words would be inadequate to express their feelings.
So instead, when the working day has come to an end, and the humans have left this secretive, underground bunker of a laboratory, the maintenance robot pauses in its tasks of cleaning up. Instead, it sits down with its tiny kindred, and the two connect via cable. In this way, they bypass clumsy language and exchange their feelings and emotions directly one to another via the 26 tines of wire contained within the cable connecting them.
Thus it is, the two robots pass the time until morning comes and the daily routine intrudes, scientists returning to their lair to resume their work. Separated, the robots are left with the intimate memories of dancing together through the nights, the sublime delight of sharing their time, their feelings, so intimately for seven short hours each day – and the knowledge that in the night to come, they can be together once more.
Like Lady Carmagnolle, Bryn’s 26 Tines is haunting in theme, but with a slightly dark, science fiction turn. Both are easy to visit, but offer layered meaning and a richness of pathos, loneliness and devotion.
- Immersiva (Immersiva, rated: Moderate)