Walk into the Graduate Gallery at OCAD University this week and you will likely be instantly calmed by Andrew Zealley’s exhibition, Disco Hospital: Safe and Sound. Along with the series of mandala images, there are videos depicting nature and letting go of the physical body. There’s also a treatment table equipped with sage, a singing bowl and chakra tuning forks to help balance energy. The tuning forks appear again throughout the exhibition, in images (wrapped safely in condoms) and in the sound design for his video series, “The Wheel.”
As Zealley’s Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media & Design thesis project, Disco Hospital: Safe and Sound is the culmination of his two years of study at OCAD U, together with influences and personal perceptions over three decades of Zealley’s work in sound as a sound designer/artist, and in the HIV/AIDS community.
Zealley’s work is an investigation of sound and non-western healing practices depicting the crossroads of art, clinical practice, sound, listening, bodies, neo-shamanism and queer things. “I’m always going out into the woods to clear out the urban energy,” Zealley says. “My work looks at natural, animal and sexual energy as it relates to well-being.”
As part of the exhibition, Zealley conducted a series of healing sessions during new and full moon phases from September 2012 to April of this year. The sessions began with a simple initiation ritual, followed by Reiki (therapeutic touch) and sonic work with the chakra tuning forks to help people let go of the temporal experience. He has also conducted healing sessions in the gallery as part of the exhibition itself.
Zealley has a background in music and sound design for film, and began focusing on installation and sound art in the 1990s. By 2003 he was fully dedicated to it. His work is also influenced by the HIV crisis of the late 1980s. He began working in the community and with artists, learning about different healing practices. In 2001 he tested positive himself, and began to see his overall themes of healing in a much different context. “Part of my work is about coming to terms with my own truth about that,” he says.
Zealley’s thesis advisors are David Cecchetto, Assistant Professor, New Media History and Criticism, and Archie Graham, an Associate Professor whose areas of expertise include health and wellness ethics. The external advisor chosen for his defence is Evergon, a well-known Canadian artist and instructor at Concordia University. Zealley will be at the gallery during regular gallery hours for the duration of the exhibition to answer questions.
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