"Rain After Ash" leads audiences through a dreamlike experience in the gardens and galleries of Pasadena's Pacific Asia Museum using video shot by award-winning media artist Jason H. Thompson, music and soundscapes by Louchouarn, and performances by actors Jeff Thomas Gardner, Marnie Mosiman, and Alpha Takahashi.
Adapted by Madden from the work of American poet Craig Arnold---who mysteriously disappeared in Japan--the piece examines the artist's relationship to fate as well as how the Internet changes our experience of loss. Madden incorporates Arnold's poem, "Hymn to Persephone," and his blog, "Volcano Pilgrim," in the narrative of "Rain After Ash," which unfolds from multiple perspectives, blurring reality and dreams.
The piece "marries Arnold's literary preoccupations with Greek myth with the artist's exploration of contemporary culture's technological response to random and uncontrollable forces," Madden said. "Unlike traditional theater, this is an immersive and interactive experience. Audiences have the freedom to move around and see what they want."
In the spring of 2009, Arnold was in Japan on a fellowship when he disappeared while exploring a volcano on Kuchinoerabu-jima, a remote Japanese island. Search teams tracked his movements to the edge of a high and dangerous cliff, and authorities said he could not have survived a fall. Information about the poet and his disappearance is abundant on the Web: The New York Times and other national news outlets covered the incident, and friends and family created a Facebook page devoted to his search.
Louchouarn, an adjunct associate professor of digital media and director of Occidental's Keck Language and Culture Studio, composed music for the piece using elements of Japanese pentatonic scales as well as classical instrumentation and ambient electronica.
"This innovative project allowed me to explore the interplay between the intimate and public worlds of sound," Louchouarn said. "Because the audience is moving through time and space, I aimed for a very open and inviting musical structure while aiming to convey the mythic and the hyper-real."
"Rain After Ash" will be performed at 7:30 and 9 p.m. from October 4 to 6 and October 11-12 at the Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena. Advance reservations are mandatory; the audience is limited to 50 participants per performance. "AxS" (pronounced "ak-sis") is a two-week festival exploring the themes of fire and water. The festival celebrates Pasadena's heritage as home to great arts and science institutions, with art, dance, music, theater, and conversation.