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Florasonic: Lakshmi Ramgopal: A Half-Light Chorus

  • Lincoln Park Conservatory 2391 North Stockton Drive Chicago, IL, 60614 United States (map)
Photo by Thumy Phan

Photo by Thumy Phan

Lakshmi Ramgopal: A Half-Light Chorus

Exhibition Information:

May 6-July 22, 2018
Daily, 9-5pm

Lincoln Park Conservatory*
2391 North Stockton Drive
Chicago, IL, 60614

May 6, 3pm: Installation Opening Performance
Lakshmi Ramgopal (vocals, sruti box, movement)
Lucy Little (violin)

July 22, 3pm: Installation Closing Performance:

Lakshmi Ramgopal (vocals, sruti box, movement)
Lucy Little (violin)
Subi Shah (vocals)
Sonal Aggarwal (vocals)
Asha Rowland (movement)
Rosé Hernandez (movement)
Kiam Marcelo Junio (movement)


After hearing an unknown bird sing for years outside her grandmother's house in India, Lakshmi Ramgopal wonders about the importance of birdsong to memory and kinship in A Half-Light Chorus, her installation for Experimental Sound Studio’s Florasonic series. Set in the Fern Room of Chicago's Lincoln Park Conservatory, the installation features a four-channel recording of vocalists imitating the calls of birds from India and Sanskrit literature. Punctuated with original Tamil odes to individual birds, this shimmering tapestry of arias, whistles, clicks, and cries plays with the diurnal rhythms, forms, and functions of birdsong. These sounds immerse the Fern Room's greenery in a cross section of India’s avian bioacoustics.

The installation opens and closes with multidisciplinary ensemble performances of Ramgopal's new music and arrangements of tracks from Tamil and Hindi movies. She will be joined by musicians and butoh and Bharatanatyam dancers and will invite the participation of audience members. For the opening, the audience members will learn special sounds and gestures for the show. For the close, the audience will have the opportunity to go “birding” by hearing individual birds from the installation on cassette—a technology that revolutionized the study of birdsong—and viewing spectrograms of their calls. A Q+A will follow.

Vocal contributors to installation:
Lakshmi Ramgopal
Shakthi Ramgopal
Malathi Ramgopal
Nivedita Gunturi
Sonal Aggarwal
Bindu Poroori
Olivia Hickner
Nandini Khaund
Subi Shah

The birds:
Asian Koel, Jerdon's Nightjar, Indian Nightjar, Mottled Wood Owl, White-Throated Kingfisher, Jungle Myna, Pied Cuckoo, Puff-Throated Babbler, Black-Naped Oriole, Brown Fish Owl, Indian Peafowl, House Sparrow, Garuda, Large-Billed Crow, Purple Sunbird, Indian Pitta, Crimson Fronted Barbet, Rose-Ringed Parakeet, Blue-Bearded Bee Eater, Tawny Eagle, Bar-Headed Goose, Little Egret.

This installation is dedicated to Shakthi Ramgopal.

*ACCESSIBILITY: the Lincoln Park Conservatory Fern Room is a tropical environment and can be very warm. There are short staircases leading into the main space of The Fern Room.

About Lakshmi Ramgopal

Photo by Thumy Phan

Photo by Thumy Phan

Over the last four years, the work of Chicago-based Lakshmi Ramgopal has transformed from explorations of electro-ambient pop idioms into expansive performances and installations. Under the moniker Lykanthea, her debut EP Migration garnered praise from Noisey, Chicago Tribune, and Public Radio International’s The World for its alchemy of synths, catchy melodies, and Carnatic improvisatory techniques. The record led to a European tour, Leipzig’s Wave-Gotik Treffen, and an opening performance for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, where she shared a bill with Billy Corgan, Lupe Fiasco, and Jamila Woods. Amid all this, while completing a PhD as a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, she teamed up with Paula Matthusen to create “Prex Gemina,” a sound installation for the AAR’s show Cinque Mostre.

Since the death of her maternal grandmother and birth of her niece last year, Ramgopal has turned her attention to herself with atavistic questions of motherhood and personal legacy. Her installation Maalai, which she showed at Chicago’s Comfort Station for The P.O.W.E.R. Project in 2017 and which will reappear at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, explores the histories of women in her family and the contemporary practice of Hinduism in domestic spaces with real and fabricated audiovisual records. With A Half-Light Chorus, which Experimental Sound Studio commissioned this year for its Florasonic series, she considers memory and kinship with an installation in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory featuring vocalists imitating the calls of birds from India and Sanskrit literature. Both projects accompany multidisciplinary ensemble shows that herald a shift in Ramgopal’s storytelling—one that eschews cold electronics and embraces the warmth of the sruti box, unprocessed vocals, and performance art and dance.

These journeys find a home in Ramgopal’s follow-up to Migration, which is due later this year. A study in the search for renewal after loss, hope mingles with despair in her new record. In Lykanthea lies the eternal possibility of transformation and rebirth.


Dedicated page for installation:

Special thanks to:
Experimental Sound Studio
Chicago Park District
Rachna Ramya Agrawal (Sumbhaav School of Kathak Dance)
Heather Lerner (Department of Biology, Earlham College)
Sushma Reddy (Department of Biology, Loyola University; The Field Museum)

Later Event: May 7
OPTION: Angel Bat Dawid