The audiovisual artist on Orchestral Aquarium, an installation of weightless bodies floating in ethereal sound
This year marks the end of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and the four year festival which has tentatively run since 2008 promises to deliver a grand finale like no other. As part of the line-up running through till September, expect to see Cate Blanchett perform at the Barbican as well as artists such as David Hockey, Mike Leigh, Fiona Shaw and Toni Morrison exhibiting work across the UK.
For the latest event on the London 2012 Festival calendar, Austrian-born and Chicago-based audiovisual artist, Kurt Hentschlӓger (whose ZEE artwork in Liverpool we featured recently here ) showcased CORE - an “orchestral aquarium” of weightless bodies floating in ethereal sound - at an unprecedented and other worldly installation at UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ironbridge Gorge.
Dazed Digital: Can you tell me about the concept behind CORE?
Kurt Hentschlӓger: CORE is s generative while also composed installation, a work that has had both a visual and an equally important sound component. Both video and sound are designed as one synchronous audiovisual impression and rendered moment by moment. It’s an installation for five groups of 3D animated human bodies in a zero gravity environment, all of which create sound while interacting with each other. In total 115 virtual bodies and thus 115 sounding voices. CORE, as part of my figurative work over many years, is a reflection on the contemporary human body, specifically in an era of technological enhancements and our desire for omnipotence.
DD: You've exhibited your work in some fantastic places around the world. What makes the Ironbridge Gorge such a unique place to showcase your work?
Kurt Hentschlӓger: Ironbridge is just an exquisite example of a place coming full circle, from what must have been quite idyllic unspoiled nature in, let’s say early 1700, to becoming the cradle of the industrial revolution - from a loud, smelly and very busy, getting wealthy, to a scenic and quite very wonderfully relaxing location, but now as a manicured park site of sorts. It’s really a splendid reminder of how long ago already our technologically driven civilisation got started. The first iron bridge in the world still stands here, built in 1779.
DD: You're based in Chicago. Spending so much time away from Austria, being able to look at your upbringing there more objectively. How do you think this has ultimately affected your art?
Kurt Hentschlӓger: Recently I was in a residency, for CORE actually, at EMPAC – Experimental Media Performance Art Centre, in Troy, upstate New York, and the director there, Johannes Goebel told me that the piece to him appeared so very Austrian, just by its tonality, Mahler etc. It came unexpectedly and cracked me up, but it's true you can’t escape your socialisation. At this point also, after 15 years in the US, I feel am significantly influenced by American art and culture, becoming more and more a cross Atlantic hybrid.
DD: How do you begin to process your ideas, develop them, experiment, and then translate them into the final pieces?
Kurt Hentschlӓger: Well, I just always craved intense experiences, both in a cerebral as well as physical sense. Music is a good example, as it can be both abstract and emotionally charged at the same time, overwhelming yet conceptually complex. Regarding the development of ideas, it’s a long-term process, wherein one idea often leads to another. Sometimes things linger in the background, before I get to realise them. Lack of time is always an issue, especially with bigger projects like CORE.
DD: How would you describe the tone of your work?
Kurt Hentschlӓger: Melancholic by tendency. Changed over the decades, from quite aggressive to rather meditative.
DD: What has driven you to make this type of immersive artwork?
Kurt Hentschlӓger: There are generally a few topics that always inform my work. Nature of perception and identity in regards to who we are inside versus what we perceive as the world outside / around us. The ephemeral versus the tangible. Our lust for technological enhancement, and immortality.
CORE, Glass Classroom, Museum offices on Coach Rd, Coalbrookdale, Telford, TF8 7DQ