Environ/Man is a spatial multimedia installation in which live performers will play music and dance periodically.
Three large objects dominate the space. I call these objects loci, places. The loci are being projected by moving images and lights. Each of the loci have their own soundscape. On the walls there are still and moving images to be seen; drawings, prints & video’s.
The visitors are free to move between the loci and will cast shadows upon them. The island-like EDE can be walked over or sat upon.
Also the payers roam freely in the installation. They may carry portable sound-amplification.
The application of mist and smells is being investigated, as well as means to make the installation react to visitors.
Environ/Man is a self-contained project, but also a step on the way towards a form of ‘abstract music theatre’ or ‘spatial film’ as I call it.
On the walls or panels around the installation sketches, studies and source material for the project may be seen: still and moving images, prints, drawings.
[This is my own translation of the extensive project proposal, originally in Dutch. Apologies for the crudeness of my English]
Schematic sketch of the spatial installation Environ/Man
Sulphur, Wax & Sugar
(2009) was for me a very good ‘restart’ of my dedication to the synergy of sound and image. Something I have been fascinated with since very long, but hadn’t worked on since the 1980’s.
(2011) was a wonderful learning experience. I worked on a great piece of music by Steve Reich, in collaboration with a wonderful orchestra and conductor and in commission of a festival of international renown.
In 2013 I collaborated on another project involving light and music, the Holland Festival programme Brooklyn to Berlin by the Berlin Kaleidoskop Ensemble and Lee Ranaldo. Alas, as yet this project is poorly documented.
For the programme in 2013 I started working with video
. At that time the video was intended to control the LED-walls of Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ.
Especially after these last projects I realized that, however much I had learned from them, both my reacting to music and doing so with the LED-walls were limiting my creativity. In that respect, the first project had been the most satisfactory, since soundscape, light design and live music worked well together there. We even got the mayor of Amsterdam to take part!
In 2014 I developed a plan for a multimedia performance. This piece would take the shape of ‘abstract music theatre’, or, as I coined it, ‘spatial film’.
In search of dramatic and narrative structure, I got interested in Western movies, in particular in How The West Was Won, one of the last great epic Westerns. How The West Was Won also grasped me, because it dealt with the paradoxical relation between man and nature, between man’s ‘natural’ inclination to expand his horizons and the impact this has on nature, on his environment itself. And not only on the natural environment, man also tends to turn his urban environment into jungles. This subject tuned in with my own fascination for similarities between the human body and natural phenomena such as landscapes, hills, clouds, plants and trees.
I wrote my first project plan The Stew Now Saw How
, designed five objects and the same amount of ‘characters’ that would play parts in a theatre perfomance, comprised of five acts. A five piece combo would also take part in the performance, playing live and singing. But no words!
On the musical front I asked Oğuz Büyükberber
to join forces with me. Oğuz is a composer, clarinet and bass clarinet player and video artist. I also involved Anke Brouwer, who had composed the surround soundscape of Sulphur, Wax & Sugar,
back in 2009.
For the first part, entitled NOW
, I drew a storyboard and animated it into a video of about eight minutes
. Oğuz provided it with a soundscape.
Based on this story board, I also editied a short ‘pitch-clip’
, intended to raise interest for and inform about the project. Anke reworked and enriched Oğuz’ material to compose the soundtrack for this.
June last year I presented my project to Guy Coolen in Antwerp. Guy is director of Transparant, international music theatre production company and of the festival Operadagen Rotterdam
(Opera Days Rotterdam). Guy suggested I submit NOW
for the Opera Days Rotterdam.
To show my work
Being a graphic artist, the idea to show my work in an exhibition was never far away. I could show sketches, stills, renderings and possibly also sell work to fund my development.
Meanwhile I extended my artistic activities into multimedia and started to explore space and time. This is fuelled by my ambition to generate total environmental experiences in my audience.
Alongside, or maybe rather as a continuation of this expansion of expression, I will involve live performance in my art. The human body is a landscape, a living organism, integral part of nature itself. At the same time, man is a machine, a computer, a cerebral, anti-natural construction. Or at least, he behaves that way. This is an important part of my artistic fascination. It is thus my goal to include not only images, objects, space and sound, but also people playing, singing, dancing. These performers will react to the environment I have created, but also influence it, shape it. For the time being no complicated sensor driven technology will be used but rather ‘simple’ video mapping, light and shadow and variations in translucency of objects.
Initially the presentation to strive for was a linear theatrical performance, where an audience would be on a grandstand. Meanwhile I am investigating a more organic spatial organisation of the different elements & parties involved. Performers & witnesses should literally be on the same level, the spectator should be part of the environment.
To this I was inspired among others by the work of my daughter Yinka (ie her theatre project OnehundredHomes HonderdHuizen) as well as that of my son Benjamin (see his CODARTS Circus Arts graduation act X88). They both are looking to reduce the distance between the audience and themselves as performing artists and are in search of true links between their work and the every day lives of their audiences. They shy away from traditional theatre and circus, for their rigid conventions and confinement in the entertainment industry. Visiting a theatre show is often more similar to ‘going out’ than to ‘digging in’.
This fall I found a suitable location and period for the exhibition aI had in mind: Studio Tent
in the North part of Amsterdam, March 2015.
To show Environ/Man in Tent Studio would be a good opportunity to try it out, the end goal would rather be a more public space or event, such as a festival for music and theatre. I engaged Tanja Sap
(former gymnast & visual artist) & Jirin Meilgaard (acrobat) for a creative session in preparation of NOW THE STEW HOW SAW
. I have invited a choreographer for this session as well.
Together with my son Benjamin
, Tanja & Jirin I previously worked on video recordings of human body movements. We also filmed early experiments in which video was projected on moving bodies.
At home in Amsterdam and in my studio in France, I continue to make sketches on paper & I edit photography & video for the installation that is now called Environ/Man. Sometimes I also write about it, such as here and will continue to do so after more dramaturgic consultation.
Lighting design & show control company Rapenburg Plaza
advised on technical matters.
Shape & Form of Environ/Man
I see a small to medium size theatre room or an exhibition space including a stand for about twenty spectators. The space is open for visitors to wander between the objects. An occasional low bench could be provided. When a theatre is chosen, the back wall would be the theatrically rigged back wall, including technical facilities, cables, ropes, switches. The left wall would be white, the right one black.
A possible location for Environ/Man could also be a semi public cultural space, such as have been founded in former industrial sites.
The installation would include at least these three big objects:
nirgend is an angular object which surfaces are semi translucent. It is about three meters or 12 feet high and wide
an architectural structure, of which its faces are covered by
semitranslucent and flexible textile material. nirgend is ten to twelve feet high and wide.
EDE is a low, flat island, big enough to carry a few people.
a flat island-like object, comprised of organically shaped planes.
EDE is big and solid enough to carry people.
A small model of Ver West. In the installation this would be a screen of some seven meters or 15 feet wide.
3. Ver West, a ragged, wide and concave screen of semi transparent material.
The screen is supported by two pylons, reminiscent of power pylons or telegraph poles.
On the surrounding walls pictures or flat screens could be posted and video could be beamed directly on walls or partitionings. The video’s are provided with headphones or small loudspeakers.
The three big objects in the installation are being lit and projecte by lights and video. Slower and faster transitions of semi abstract imagery ‘animate’ the objects.
Visitors can walk over and take place on EDE.
nirgend is built with semi translucent stretch fabric. Its geometric shape and perspective are altered by the projections from both sides. Visitors will cross these beams and thus change the aspect of the object and their own experience. Touching and thus distorting the surfaces of nirgend by the visitor will probably be possible as well.
Ver West constitutes as it were the distant horizon of the landscape in which the objects are situated. The projection on it spills onto the surrounding walls and floor.
Especially with respect to Ver West the projection on mist or haze is researched.
The integration of scent into the installation is also under study.
The sources for the visual material of Environ/Man are several:
1. As can be derived from the introduction above, the primary source are sketches and experiments for the theatre project NOW THE STEW HOW SAW
, of which this is the pitch-clip.
2. Graphics I made within the framework of the yet unfinished project SyncRoom
could be extended and prepared (printed & framed) for exhibition.
3. Children of the Earth is a series of prints I am working on as part of the creative process that feeds the long term project NOW THE STEW HOW SAW.
This last source of content feeds into the idea that musicians and/or dancers will be invited to react to the visual environment of the installation with composed or improvised music and/or movements.
In the instance that Environ/Man be programmed at a festival such as Operadagen, performing artists already programmed at the festival will in particular be invited to participated.
The project will provide base material such as soundtracks or scores for the improvisors to use at their desire.
The intentions of these participations with other artists are both artistic and social. I see Environ/Man as a platform for collaboration as well as a laboratory for the investigation of synchronicity of sound and image, of the synergy of different media and the creation of environmental art.
Environ/Man investigates several artistic problems, such as:
- Image and sound mutually influence each other in the experience of the beholder.
- Question: how can image, sound and space play equally valuable, yet abstract parts in the experience of the visitor of Environ/Man.
Meaning comes about in the encounter of maker and public in and around the visible, audible and tangible reality of the installation.
Question: How to make this encounter between maker and audience more meaningful, more concrete and of influence to the reality of the installation.
Synergy of different media can be brought about in various ways and on several levels: through direct, automatic interaction, simultaneity or synchronicity, live interaction, improvisation, in scores of programmes and on a conceptual level.
Question: how to make effective choices in the framework of Environ/Man.
In connection to the above there are numerous technical and productional issues to resolve, such as:
Is it possible to project onto mist?
Can sound be manipulated by shadows occurring in the projections?
Can performers be supplied with portable sound amplification?
Can a projector follow a moving dancer?
Can live (streaming) video be used in Environ/Man?
Can we give the Environ/Man’s visitor’s nose something to do as well?
First concern now is to interest galleries, locations, festivals or other cultural instances to program Environ/Man. Parallel to this the work itself, of designing, modeling, shooting and editing video, researching, experimenting, evaluating, continues.
Possibilities of residencies are being explored.
I see myself taking up residency at a cultural venue for a couple of weeks, shooting video material locally, constructing objects on site and working with local artists, technicians, musicians and dansers towards a public end phase in which the installation would be open for a couple of days to a week or more. Periodical performances would be programmed with participating artists.
Parallel to this autonomous work I teach information visualisation at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. I am also interested to work as scenographer and video editor, as shown in this clip for Gregory Porter’s beautiful song Water Under Bridges.