Refik Anadol's Media Design for Amériques
Organization and condensation are two crucial words to describe the influence that Varèse's musical works exert on me as an artist who borrows his inspirations from the intricate connections between spatial thinking, movement of light, visual music, and expanded cinema. The vision of Varèse's unbounded musical space, where he condenses the elements of his art into a unique level of individuality while still operating in a meticulously organized design, is identical to the simulacrum space created by projection technology in my work. Esa-Pekka Salonen, whose groundbreaking insights into classical music of the 20th century epitomized the perfect marriage of an individual and an institution, envisioned all the possible implications of these simultaneous explorations of the musically and visually organized "open space."
Even before Salonen's realization of the interconnections between Varèse's music and my artistic vision that is based on the relativity of perception, Varèse's artistic vision played a significant role in my self-grounding as a media artist. Poème électronique (1958), an 8-minute piece of electronic music that was synchronized to a film of black and white photographs selected by Le Corbusier, provided the art world with unforeseen perspectives to re-consider the meanings and musical applications of spatialization. My artistic vision owes its existence to this specific moment in media and performance arts history of the past century and I continue to be fascinated by Varèse's multi-faceted approaches to audiovisual performance. With this particular project, I not only pay homage to Varèse and his immense influence on my art but also take on a mission to revive and re-interpret his vision for the 21st century audience.
Translating the musical symbols into moments of visual epiphany, this project re-tells the story that Varèse presents in his piece. Varèse first intends to explore "new worlds on earth" and I create a fleeting aura of New York by combining the architectural structure of the interior space with projections of a representation of the sensory moment when Varèse first encountered New York. This walk marks the second portion of the project/story entitled "discoveries on earth" or what I would like to re-name as "through the tunnels of the mind." These tunnels enable me to re-imagine the interior architecture as a canvas and light as a material. On this beautifully designed canvas by Frank Gehry, I claim personal artistic space between the human mind, body, perception, and the materiality of architecture. Using the tunnel of Varèse's mind as a starting point, the journey encourages the audience to witness the interior's dynamic visual transformations through visual abstractions and create insightful glimpses into the future of architecture and its interaction with other art forms. With this visual transgression begins the third part of the project, entitled "discoveries in the sky." After the visual distortions of the re-imagined interior and the linearity of time, the audience is left with the representational image of how Varèse envisioned the future of his art in New York. In the end of our story, we come back to the present time to ultimately contemplate the meanings of "presence." This final section, "in the minds of a man," explores Esa-Pekka Salonen's material presence in the performance by inviting the audience to realize and celebrate his body movements that are simultaneously derived from and responsible for the reproduction of the musical piece that he conducts.
Amériques was the first musical piece that Varèse composed upon coming to New York and this project is fittingly the first site-specific audio-visual performance that I produce in the U.S. I approach this collaboration from the standpoint of a non-linear and ephemeral interaction between Salonen, Varèse, and me, and hope that I will be able to transform Varèse's timeless musical fiction into an immersive visual medium through which a new kind of storytelling will occur. Rather than approaching this medium as a means of escape into some disembodied techno-utopian fantasy, this project sees itself as a means of return. It aims to facilitate a temporary release from our habitual perceptions and culturally biased assumptions about being in the world, and to enable us, however momentarily, to perceive our own stories and the stories around us freshly.
– Refik Anadol