The Nervous Atmosphere

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The Nervous Atmosphere

The Nervous Atmosphere is a response to artist Zoë Barry’s life-altering encounters with lightning.

In September 2008, Zoë was driving her car when lightning struck the windscreen – then minutes later another strike hit the road in front of the bonnet. Six months later, lightning hit Zoë’s home while she was inside.

“Fortunately my car and house protected me from the full force of the strikes. But I did develop strange symptoms that affected my regulatory system, brain function, spacial awareness and state of mind,” said Zoë.

“These experiences changed how I exist within nature. I thought that nature had chosen me. I felt like I was leaving the human realm, as if lightning could see me, and that it would keep finding me,” Zoë explained.

Told through text, live looped cello and striking design, The Nervous Atmosphere is a transportive new Chamber Made solo work, co-presented by Arts House and created by Zoë, who is a cellist, composer and theatre-maker.

The Nervous Atmosphere is a haunting glimpse into myriad strange symptoms as well as the chaos and confusion provoked by these bizarre and terrifying moments.

“The Nervous Atmosphere is like a hypnotic meditation. These overwhelming encounters with nature shocked me into a new relationship with the forces of nature, electricity and the mind,” explained Zoë.

“I made this work to make some sense of it all, to keep the vibration of that moment in time resonating, so we can experience it together. It is highly charged – the nervous atmosphere,” said Zoë.

The Nervous Atmosphere conjures the awe, rupture and isolation experienced when faced with a situation so much larger than ourselves and loops around to a place of connection and groundedness.

Ahead of the world premiere season, Zoë will be joined by Associate Professor Jonathan W. Marshall for Invisible Forces. This is a fascinating discussion about 19th century parascience, neurology and magnetism as well as the profound experiences that charge The Nervous Atmosphere.

Arts House Co-Artistic Directors, Emily Sexton and Nithya Nagarajan, highlighted that The Nervous Atmosphere is generating a huge amount of excitement and anticipation.

“Zoë is an exceptional artist and generous music leader as exemplified in her award as Telstra Music Teacher of the Year a few years back. We are proud to support an artist based in regional Victoria to premiere a cutting-edge new work in Melbourne,” said Emily and Nithya.

Chamber Made Artistic Director, Tamara Saulwick, said Chamber Made are pleased to be working with Zoë and her team of collaborators on this stunning new work.

“Zoë is a remarkable artist whose breadth of experience across composition and theatre positions her beautifully to deliver the kind of cross-artform work we are passionate about bringing to audiences,” explained Tamara.

The Nervous Atmosphere was commissioned and developed through the Arts House CultureLab program. It features in the current Arts House season that includes 13 new and bold performances, installations, keynote talks and exhibitions.