D Ý R A at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“D Ý R A is a soundscape of almost unearthly beauty”
D Ý R A is an immersive sound installation from artist Su Shaw (SHHE) who began this project as a 2022 Made in Scotland scratch night contribution. Shaw then was asked to return to present at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. In some ways, this is the simplest show you will encounter at this year’s Festival, but the more you engage with it, the more you will realize that you have discovered something that is rich, deep, and quite profound. Co-produced by Laura Edmans, with sound production by Su Shaw and Sam Annand, light design by Emma Jones, and set design by Adrian Murray, D Ý R A invites you into a remarkable soundscape, inspired by the Dýrafjörður in Iceland.
The basement of Summerhall gives a few clues that what you are about to experience in D Ý R A is unusual. As you wait in line, and then prepare to enter the space, it feels like a rite of passage. And like all rites of passage, you have to be willing to leave everything behind. You must remove your shoes. Enter an empty space — what seems like a white geodesic dome with the northern lights shifting across the surfaces. You are invited to lie down on comfortable mats, looking upwards. And then D Ý R A begins. Perhaps the experience is slightly different for everyone, but the careful layering of the top sounds with the barely perceptible deeper sounds affect not just the ears, but the eyes as well. Sometimes the intensity becomes almost too much. It is like a scouring of the senses. But it is not painful, just wonderfully mind clearing. At the end of fifty minutes, you will not want to leave. Fortunately, D Ý R A’ s team have thoughtfully allowed an extra ten minutes in which you can gradually return from your sound trip, ready to re-engage with the world you left behind.
Shaw has created this extraordinary soundscape from collecting “found sounds.” What this means in practice is selecting a particular location — the Dýrafjörður in the Westfjords — and exploring it in a minimalist way. The music of D Ý R A is recognizable as ambient, but what is so paradoxical about it is that it is composed out of all the different kinds of silence that Shaw has found in the Westfjords. Silence, it turns out, has a remarkable effect on the mind. D Ý R A is a soundscape of almost unearthly beauty, but it is also an exercise in listening. As you transition between the sounds and the silences, something happens. You absorb the experience, but leave something of yourself behind. The noise of a familiar life that you brought with you, perhaps. When the show is over, it is hard to return to sounds of mundane lives. But there’s something about D Ý R A that has refreshed and renewed. You’ll want to return soon.
Reviewed 6th August 2022
by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Samuel Temple Cryptic Nights
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