Ophan is an installation incorporating a physically restrained, customized hexacopter as a mechanized cantor, flying and reciting all 28 verses of chapter 1 from the biblical book of Ezekiel.
When Ophan is at rest, with no people present at the center of the space, the hexacopter softly hums, whispers, or even sings to itself (its favorite song is “Someone to Watch Over Me”). When a presence is detected in the space, the hexacopter’s rotors turn on and it takes flight, struggling against the cables that restrain it, singing and gesturing its way through all the biblical verses mentioned above, as sung in Hebrew in the Yemenite tradition by the Cantor Dan Jacobi. The Yemenite style of Cantorial singing-chanting (cantillation) is monotonous – that is, there is no melody, rather a droning recitation similar to other eastern musical traditions. The cantor who recorded the verses for Ophan tuned his voice to the pitch of the buzzing generated by the hexacopter’s rotors, so that they create a harmonized droning sound when combined.
At random intervals during the flight, Ophan’s chanting is interrupted by a live broadcast of the Israeli Defense Force radio station (Galei Zahal). When the broadcast takes over, Ophan’s gestures change as well, it wildly flashes its lights and enters a semi-epileptic seizure. Ophan is in the air only for a short while, and thus takes many flights to finish reciting the entire chapter as it usually manages only 3-4 verses before landing again.
Ezekiel 1 is one of the main roots for a branch of Jewish Mysticism called “Merkabah mysticism”. This name refers to the esoteric tradition concerned with achieving visions of the chariot of god and it’s component angels, usually via a shamanic out-of-body experience. The installation is named after one of these angels in particular – the “Ophan” (a spoked wheel in hebrew). The Ophan as described by Ezekiel is essentially a mechanical being, a flying entity that is a wheel within a wheel, both of whose rims are covered with eyes. It is remotely driven by the spirit of an anthropomorphic angel, the Cherubim, that is “within it”.
Documentation video of a full “session”:
Installation with custom made hexacopter, control, power and sensing equipment, custom software, speaker, and lights; 2014
Special thanks: Andy Trench: hexacopter skeleton assembly; Brian Dimmock: limb fabrication; Allan Visocheck: LED assembly and arduino programming; Dan Jacobi: Ezekiel vocals; Ehsan Ghoreishi: singing and additional vocals; Special thanks to Yoni Goldstein, Dr Sangyun Lee, Greg Bailey, Daniel Davidovsky, the Assor family and Caroline Stevens.
15' x 15' x 12'