Moving Sounds of Ombea
I was strolling through an old building that was filled with many people, artworks and ongoing performances, when I came across this door with large red writing on it that read 'Ombea "Best Apartment Downtown"' which also had strange sounds resonating from behind. Nearby there was a bunch of people messing around, chatting and mostly trying to figure out what was going on from behind the door and waiting for their turn to enter. Then some guy came to the door unlocked it, then a girl came out apparently excited and out of breath. She turned to him and asked "Can I have another try later on?"
This is what international theatre festival looked like on the 11th, 4+4+4 DAYS IN MOTION , which took place in Prague, Czech Republic on May 19th-30th 2006. Since then Ombea have appeared at the ZOOM , digital culture festival in Brno, Czech Republic in the 2nd week of October, and recently installed at lab.30  festival in Augsburg, Germany.
The guy unlocking the door was an author pash* , as he calls himself. Pash* is a student of the Prague Film Academy (FAMU), prolific painter of characters from the world of cute weirdness which he places around the streets of Prague, and after Ombea (designed with cooperation of Mash.64 and Viktor Soukal) also a new media artist.
Ombea is an interactive installation, consisting of an empty room with 4 speakers, 4 light sources and 2 cameras, which are placed within a space which is at least partially isolated from light and sound coming from outdoors, provided with a lockable entrance; a computer is located outside the ombea space with max/msp/jitter patch which serves to direct the space reaction. Ombea reacts to movement of a visitor within the space depending on: [movement = dark + noise] or [calm = light + silence] and that reaction takes place on various levels depending on the history and behavior of a visitor and their position in the space. Common time spent inside is at least 8 minutes. Visitors leaving Ombea are asked to write down an e-mail address with promise of sending them a black-and-white diagram, named by pash* as protocol, depicting their behaviours.
pash* does not inform the visitors of what to expect before they enter into Ombea because he prefers them to find out for themselves. And as soon as they get used to its nature, they then start to explore themselves. Quickly, finding out that the notion of spatiality in Ombea doesn't propose their motion within four walls but the freedom (even though in a closed room) of body and relief of other people watching them making whatever silly movements (as the movement leads to darkness) which make sense just to them. pash* is not as much addressing the visitors senses as he is making the visitor to sensitize his body.
Many who enter Ombea expect some sort of projection on the wall, then they just sit down and wait for a while to see what will happen. After about four minutes when one of them inadvertently moves, it triggers of the sound. When trying to figure out what is going on they then get to know more subsequently what Ombea is about. And when overwhelmed, visitors enter Ombea repeatedly and then more advanced explorations begin to take place, eg. a pair of girls suddenly flip out: jumping and running around in order to make the Ombea sound as strong as possible, or a certain male visitor sits calmly on the floor for almost half an hour and then looses control in the last two minutes.
So what is actually going on inside Ombea?
Ombea is what Russian conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov calls a total installation, a designed experience. We can't use here Kaprow's term environment because pash* isn't surrounding visitor by no intentional means. On the contrary pash* is not even closing the visitors in a room, he is just putting away the outer world; introducing them to the Construct - blank virtual reality, a zero space.
And finally, probably the most important idea which brings visitors to enjoy Ombea and/or come back later to try it out once more, is that pash* is offering them the power to move a sound, even though for a short time and within limited space. It's the idea of a technological extension, aestheticizing an unbounded body movement, as sound contour.