Tamara Montenegro hails from Nicaragua. She is a sound artist with bachelor degree in Biology and Physics. Her work ranges from acoustic research and design, performance, installation, sound spatialization, to soundtrack composition, sound design, and djing. Read on as she talks about her project ‘Ephimoptera’, her connection to nature, and more, in the email conversation that Artecology had with her.
Tamara, could you share with us the way you connect with nature?
I have lived in and out of Nicaragua my whole life. What we call ‘Nature’, our indigenous languages here don’t have a word for it because nature is not separate from them. We are integral parts of the same thing. Over the years, I realize that I am drawn to what we call Nature in an unyielding way. I have trailed deep into the forests and the swamplands, lakes, rivers, mountains, and volcanoes of every place that I have been able to visit and explore. More than an inspiring thing, Nature is where I truly feel where knowledge is; the knowledge of how life works.
Could you please tell us what is project Ephimoptera?
The piece ‘Ephimoptera’ was conceived by choreographer and artist Laura Cruz who is from Costa Rica and resides in Copenhague, Denmark. The title is inspired by the word ‘Ephemeroptera’ or Mayflies that live for only a day. This ephemeral nature of this species is what sparked the idea of conceiving a dance-theater piece about the mysterious world of insects. We wanted to explore more in-depth about the different insects, how they live, how they move, what sounds they produce, and their life rhythms.
Laura and Adrián Garcia created the choreography, the lighting, the stage art and the costume; they even started learning Kung-fu to inspire their movements for the praying mantis scene. Apart from being the sound artist, I perform too during the overture, I play a nymph that has been caught in a spider’s web and is singing herself to the inevitable fate of being devoured while the audience enters the insect world of Ephimoptera.
You are part of Ephimoptera; what inspires you in the project?
When Laura invited me to be part of the project, I immediately fell in love with the concept. I felt it was a brilliant opportunity to allow the soundscape and the soundtrack to bring the piece alive in a multidimensional and fully immersive way for the audience. I took the opportunity to start making field recordings of the mountains around San José, Costa Rica. All three of us trekked into the forests to start documenting these sounds. We learnt how crickets are nocturnal and cicadas are diurnal and that during the night, insect groups take turns to sing their sounds in cycles. The deeper we went, the more we realized the project had a very important aspect, that of revealing how the natural soundscape actually works and how much we as people miss it in our daily city lives.
Laura approached me because a sound artist-biologist could unite the perspective of art and science. She is also a qualified nature tour guide herself and we made a strong team of artists interested in ecology and nature. This project made us realize that Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the whole of the Central America contains a vast number and variety of plant and animals species. Our tropical landscapes are a total treasure of natural resources. And that is precisely what we want to portray through Ephimoptera.
Could you share with our readers what other works you have created around art and nature?
Another one of my pieces consists of a room that emulates the dimness and colours of the light of the Savanna in the northeast of Spain in a 24-hour time span. Inspired by biomimicry, the piece ‘Flowers in my Head’ is a sound installation that plays with space perception placing the listeners within a spiraling blooming flower.
‘Wild Sounds Of…’ are field recordings of remote bioreserves in different places in our planet that have no trace of human interaction. The first has been Wild Sounds of Nicaragua. This is intended to offer rich listening and provide a reference of what the Natural world holds. I intend to reach sectors of society of people who have never been to a beach or to the rainforest, provide schools with this material for kids in remote industrial towns to know how waking up next to a river bed in the jungle sounds like.
Your work also talks about environmental awareness. Could you please share some details of those projects?
I have and continue to develop a very strong line of work where science meets art through the medium of sound and through what I call social art, which involves exploring the world through play. ‘Heart in Nature’ is a platform on which I conduct environmental awareness work. Within the same framework, Heart in Nature also offers a plethora of ‘conscious travel’ tours and workshops within several places in Central America where through an educative yet fun and exploratory approach we visit and learn about the natural landscapes and delve into regenerative ways of living.
How much of role and responsibility an artist should have in conserving, protecting nature and creating awareness about the environment?
While I don’t believe that every artist needs to address environmental issues, I am thankful for the ones who have this kind of passion. Artists can engage a small crowd or a large mass of people and impact them through their art. The environment directly influences me and the way I make art. I would say that my artistic work gives Nature a voice. I feel that whatever the chosen art form it is, it all boils down to how we relate to life. I think all human beings have a huge responsibility to live in the best way possible in harmony with our home planet, not just artists.