Two recent acquisitions offer two different perspectives on music and other kinds of visual orchestration. These installations are the work of Jean-Pierre Gauthier, a Montréal-based artist featured in a solo exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain in 2007, and Ryoji Ikeda, a Japanese composer and visual artist based in Paris, whose film version of C4I was presented at the Musée in 2014. While their working protocols and materials differ, these two artists share a common interest in matters related to distribution, composition and arrangement.
Orchestre à géométrie variable
“The materials guide me to the solutions.”
Jean-Pierre Gauthier is a multidisciplinary artist who, for more than twenty years, has explored the kinetic and sonic qualities of the materials he uses to produce his installations. Situated somewhere between order and chaos, permanence and fragility, orchestration and random behaviour, his recent projects show a heightened interest in musical composition. His work titled Orchestre à géométrie variable is a programmable installation made up of six sound murals that serve as the platforms for nineteen compositions which draw on a wide range of musical genres with multiple influences.
The electronic network developed for each of the murals is the product of painstaking engineering. In addition to a flowchart-like wireframe that unfolds in the space, making the operating diagram of the work and its various hierarchical levels readable, this spatialization of the network satisfies concerns of a sonic as well as a graphic order.
Each piece of wood, designed and custom-made for the various invented musical instruments, is the result of a meticulous process employing the skills used in crafting stringed instruments. These carved elements define the sonic latitude covered by each instrument. Complementing this engineering, instrument-making, drafting and musical effort is that of composer, as the orchestration of the instruments must be effective so that scores can be invented, programmed and then performed autonomously in an exhibition setting.
The mechanization of the movements by means of a program of electronic controls is translated into scraping, striking and sliding noises. The arrangement of sonic events and the modulation of their frequencies and intensity allow a musicality that is revealed throughout a piece that is punctuated with trials, modelling and unexpected occurrences. In this way, the sounds become melodies, the installation becomes an orchestra and its inventor combines in a single work the action verbs that apply to the visual artist, the composer and the conductor.
“Mathematicians are so free, they are like poets.”
Today’s world is organized according to information that is encoded in the form of data. Ryoji Ikeda’s practice is based specifically on the arrangement of that data. Since 2006, working on the premise that the operating mode of our digital age is structured on an infinite alternation of 1 and 0, this digital artist has developed his datamatics series, in which he explores the perceptive potential of this usually invisible information that pervades and expresses various realities of our world. The data are both the subject and the raw material of the sounds and images in his projects. The works in this series take the form of audiovisual concerts, installations, CDs and publications.
The piece presented here, titled data.tron, is part of this datamatics series. It consists of an audiovisual installation comprising three categories of data: computer crashes, information related to chromosome 11 DNA sequencing and transcendental numbers such as e or pi.
Each pixel relates to a data translation procedure built on mathematical principles. The projection is a means of synthesizing this information and visually orchestrating the sets of data selected. The mesmerizing, immersive images projected onto a giant screen exemplify the vast sea of data circulating in our world. They remind us that the smallest particles which form the basis of all information are omnipresent in our contemporary media universe and that the data which govern them are infinitely divisible.
data.tron tests the limits of our perception by portraying, in the shape of a data landscape, a world that is seldom expressed in physical form. The installation also reveals a kind of mathematical beauty, both abstract yet paradoxically descriptive of the internal mechanisms of computer code. It makes visible these normally imperceptible streams of data, suggesting an alternative representation of reality¾that of a world that we have manufactured for ourselves.