Casting Lights and Shadows upon Kiamat

We spoke with Berlin-based transmedia artist Thais Nepomuceno to understand her process of bringing the visual aspect of the theatre-musical Kiamat to life.

Thais casting shadow during Kiamat rehearsal.

Doing the lighting design for Kiamat musical on easter weekend felt nostalgic for Thais. It reminded her of the time when she was part of a local art group in her hometown, when they used to do big theatre production to reenact Passion of the Christ every year.

Growing up in the poorer area outside Rio, Brazil, young folks like Thais didn’t have easy access to art and cultural activities. At least not until the city started a project to give young people a chance to engage with such activities. The city funded a production that would be shown for free (or for a small fee). Around the production the kids would take part in various workshops to learn music, acting, dance, wardrobe and costume design, and other the technical aspects of art production. Thais was 17, and she was looking to learn something new. She recalled, “I joined the lighting workshop and I actually still in touch with my tutor from back then. I’m really grateful to be a part of that program. It helped me when I finally had to choose my career. I knew what I wanted to do.”

Before finishing her bachelor program for Art Design in Brazil, she had a chance to stay in Portugal for a year as an exchange student in a cinema school. “By then I knew that I want to return to Europe to see more, to do more,” she said. To get the skills that she needed to secure more opportunities, she did a master program for Audio Visual Contents in Valencia. She eventually found a job, but it wasn’t quite the life that she wanted. “I had a good life there. Good weather, good people. But (Barcelona is) not good for jobs,” she said. It was 2017 and the political sitation in Brasil was deteriorating. She decided, “I wanted to get a better options to work in my field, so I moved to Berlin.”

Although she mainly work as a light designer, Thais had done numerous things in Berlin. she said, “I did some collabs before pandemic started. I’m currrently enjoying my work in editing documentary films. Previously I also did some video design.” From which the people started to notice her work, since she had to do some lighting design also in some of her video works.

Thais and Soydivision finally found each other around AnaConda am Ufer, Berlin. After admiring each other’s works for quite some time, both finally expressed their interest to collaborate. Kiamat was the first chance to do so.

During Kiamat’s rehearsal days in Morphine Records Raum, Thais lingered among the players. Although she didn’t take part in the music, she made sure to absorb everything in an attempt to translate the aural experience into visual interpretation.

Thais on the Process of Visualising Kiamat

“My process varies. I’m very adaptable under different circumstances. Usually I like to spend more time with the rehearsals. With music performative like Kiamat, I like to see the variations. When there’s movement, when the music or tempo changes. I like to see the things that grabs my attention and find a space where I can match the transitions of lights. When the music has the key points.

(Kiamat) has a lot of twists, but if I change at every twist, it would be too much. So I try to feel what is the major keypoints in the music where i can apply transitions or change of mood.

So basically the the first step was to feel the music and understand the narative that was created by the music.”

Thais during the Kiamat rehearsal in Morphine Records Raum.

The visual aspect of Kiamat is not only colours, but also the shapes and figures that were created by Ariel Victor. That was why Thais didn’t utilise lights only, but shadow also. To seamlessly manipulate both, Thais used an old school overhead projector (OHP). Although choosen at first because the venue was too small for conventional lighting which could generate too much electrical noise, OHP was proven to not only fit their needs, but also brought some other perks too. Because of its managable size, composing light and shadow with the OHP felt very immediate and personal.

“I tried to incorporate some nature elements like water, soil, and plants. And I tried to bring some movements to tell the story,” she said. As the music unfolded, Thais played those objects like a puppet master. She continued, “I wanted to visualise the vibration of the music. I felt like blowing in rhythm to make sense of the story and find meanings.”

Thais blowing life (figuratively and literally) into the objects during Kiamat performance.

Kiamat is bound to the narrative of heaven and hell. Thais used various colours to represent each stage of the story. She amplified, dimmed, filtered, bent, flashed and killed them to serve the narative. Sometimes her hands jumped away from the projector to shine something with her handheld torches.

On Using Handheld Torches During Kiamat

During the rehearsal I noticed a moment when Umi (Maisaroh) was chanting the mantra. It happened when someone else was playing the centerpiece or main instrument. I wanted to give some weight to Umi with the lighting on her. In other way, it emphasise her figure. I feel like her voice is so powerful and her statements is so strong, I think that people should see her. So I was trying to bring the attention to her.

Ariel Orah and Umi Maisaroh during the mantra of Kiamat.

When I bring two colors together, the light and shadows would dance behind the players like a halo or aura.

Morgan Sully playing the main instrument of Kiamat.

Thais concluded, “I like to work on the performative acts, and music as part of a narative, because you always discover something in the music that you can work with. If I had more time, I could have explored more. It was such a never ending process. There are lot of nuances. And sometimes it’s the small things that bring everything together.”

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Azhari

Azhari

Not an artist, nor a musician, Azhari orbits around the amazing people in Berlin. Translating his admiration towards them into words.