Art/Culture  •  Impressions

Art of the Heartbeat by Jonas Dept and Oat Montien

Inspired by the bond between child and mother via various mothers’ heartbeats, artists Jonas Dept and Oat Montien performed a live event to celebrate Mother’s Day

August 16, 2017
The heart beats at a rate of 60 to100 beats per minute, varying on your physical state. Over nine months in the womb, a child hears the heartbeat of its mother and a unique bond forms between the two. Inspired by this bond between a child and a mother via the sound of a mother’s heartbeat, artists Jonas Dept and Oat Montien created a site-specific art installation and performance to celebrate Mother’s Day called Live in the Moment.

Live in the Moment, which took place in Emporium’s E-space on August 12th, was the creation of Jonas and Oat that comprised of a grand piano, a giant white easel with paper, and a set of stacked canvases for the “models”, pairs of mothers and children who took turns being subjects of (and in) the performance.

The piano was for Jonas, a pianist who trained at the prestigious Royal Conservatory in Brussels and has played for numerous cultural institutions before settling in Thailand ten years ago. Oat Montien is an alumnus of Central St. Martin’s who continues his practice as an artist from his studio in Bangkok while also teaching at Chulalongkorn University.
Looking down to Live in the Moment
Inspired by the notion of intimacy and the heartbeat that forms the irrevocable bond between mothers and their children, daughters and sons were alternately asked to amplify their mother's’ heartbeat by placing a stethoscopic device on her heart as Jonas live-composed a musical piece to the beat of the heart and Oat created a simultaneous life-sized drawing.

The performance was designed to be visible from several perspectives: for the mother and child, and for Emporium customers from the ground, the escalators, or higher levels.  Some of the mother-child pairs were recognizable, including Khan of Thaitainium, Duang Poshyanonda the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, and Polpat Asavaprapa with their mothers. Watching each person and their mother, you could see familiar characteristics and the bond was evident.

Each unique heartbeat of a mother served as the starting point for Jonas’ piano composition. As Jonas put its, “While piano music slowly emerges through the heartbeats, Oat’s charcoal rhythmically strokes the paper, letting the portrait’s outline appear. By doing this, we offer a visual-sonic ‘present’ that capture a special moment on that day.”
Polpat Asavaprapha and his mother
Cindy Bishop and her children
Khan Nuanual and his mother
Duang Poshyanonda and her mother

The actual experience was exactly that, a one-off, time-sensitive experience, different with each sitting pair, each of which required the full attention of all parties, the models and the artists. Whilst sitting on the white seat provided for the mother and her child, you could sense an atmosphere of emotional and physical spotlights. The space was small enough such that it was physically intimate, and a connection was able to form between the participants. And yet, any self-consciousness from sitting in front of the artists dissipated as Jonas’ hands flew over the piano keys, absorbing everyone into the music.

What was clear was how intuitive he was, not only to responding to the rhythm of the heartbeat that formed the background of his composition but also to the movement and interaction between mother and child. Artists have that: an ability to interpret what they see and feel and use it in their work. His partner, Oat stood before an enormous easel drawing broad strokes with stick of charcoal in some instances, and then small delicate lines that depicted both mother and child.

Oat also moved to the rhythm of the music, it was as though he could also sense the relationship between mother and child. More than a physical resemblance appeared as his strokes covered the paper: a sense of the intimacy and relationship between mother and child appeared. It was precisely that: an exercise in intimacy and one also of synchronicity, for in that moment the subjects, Jonas, and Oat were all together in the moment.
Jonas Dept and Oat Montien