“Please touch the exhibits,” says a board outside Dylan Martorell’s artwork at the Aspinwall House at Fort Kochi. Visitors gladly oblige as each touch of theirs is answered by a different sound – clanging bells, the strum of a tambura, or a deep rumble.
Martorell specialises in “interactive, sound-based, site-specific work” and he has produced a series of works for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale that opened here on Wednesday.
His exhibits incorporate the sounds and smells of Kochi. One of his works has aluminium pots with speakers inside and handfuls of powdered spices on top. As the volume of sound increases, the vibrating speakers send up a cloud of spices that mix together to create a collage of scents. “This is a direct response to my experience of visiting a spice market at Mattancherry,” says Martorell, his palms stained yellow by the spices.
Martorell creates music out of trash. Most of the items he has used in his work – aluminium pots, broken clay tiles, plastic bottles, and spices – have been collected from the premises of Aspinwall House. These random objects and a few recorded sounds, put together using Martorell's self-taught robotics skills, make pieces of art that invite the visitor to create their own music.
The Australia-based musician had in July created a similar work with Buddhist monks in Thailand. He taught the monks to collect items and improvise to create music. In Kochi, the artist, who plays the guitar, the piano and several wind instruments, hopes to engage his audience and encourage them to create music too. He says he would like to work with small groups of children, like he has done at Melbourne where he lives. He is also thinking of setting up a free musical taxi service during the biennale, in which “people get picked up and they play the drums as they get taken to the different biennale sites.”
Martorell is eagerly looking forward to this year’s edition of the Cochin Carnival on New Year’s Eve, and even hopes to pitch in with a performance.