Positions and Practice – Le Grand Orchestre des Animaux / The Great Animal Orchestra Reflectio
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
Figure 1: Sutherst 2016
Visit to the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris to see the exhibition ‘The Great Animal Orchestra’, based on the work of Bernie Krause.
Bernie Krause is an American bioacoustician, scientist and musician. Over the last 50 years he has collected over 5,000 hours of recording of natural habitats, including more than 15,000 wild species from all around the world. The Great Animal Orchestra is split into 3 sections.
The first section is essentially a large dark underground room with a visual display of animal and natural world ambient sound vocalisations represented as spectrograms (green lines and dots of light). The display covers 3 walls and at the base of the display walls is a shallow water pool, shining like a highly polished surface. As I entered the room, I could see other visitors sat on large cushion cubes or lying on the floor.
This installation is a sensory experience, almost meditative. It evokes emotion in the viewer. Recordings of animals and the environment from various places including Africa and America are played and represented by the spectrograms and reflected in the water pools. The experience is mesmerising and immersive. The ambient soundscape is punctuated with explosions of sound from animals. Bernie Krause intends his work to consider the environmental issues of the twenty first century, and the immersive experience of this room helped me to think about the natural world.
The next section is another dark room that contains Plankton, A Drifting World at the Origin of Life. This is a video installation which features both aural and visual elements. Artist Shiro Takatani, worked in collaboration with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to produce a beautiful and mesmerising trip through the beauty of marine micro-organisms. Sitting on the steps inside the room, I was astonished at how stunning the images of the plankton were. Whilst I enjoyed this installation immensely, I did at times have difficulty in making sense of the aural aspects. Sakamoto’s composition is beautiful in its own right yet I struggled at times to make links to the visual elements. Nonetheless, the installation is stunning and demonstrates that how work is presented can affect our interpretation and appreciation of the subject.
Figure 5: Luc Boegly. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, “The Great Animal Orchestra” Installation view
The final section is on the ground floor of the stunning transparent building of the Fondation Cartier. The exhibition in this section is dominated on one side by a gigantic artwork by Cai Guo-Qiang. The work, White Tone, was created using Qiang’s favourite medium – gunpowder. Qiang drew the animal outlines with black gunpowder before he set them alight. The final artwork appearance reminded me a prehistoric cave painting.
Figure 6: Luc Bogey. Installation view of Cai Guo-Qiang’s White Tone at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2016.
Figure 6: Shu-Wen Lin.
A video installation close to the gigantic work explains Qiang’s process for producing the work. This covers the source inspiration for the work – it is a two-dimensional take on Heritage, a large installation of life-size replicas of animals (both predator and prey) gathered around a water hole, that was commissioned by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in 2013. What is not explained and if left for the viewer to wonder about is why Qiang has chosen to reimagine the installation as a gunpowder drawing .
The other half of the ground floor features paintings, ceramics, photographs and videos focused on the animal world. The presentation of the work reflects the orchestra feel with the use of varying heights for the images and seating and presentation walls made from terracotta bricks (designed by Mexican architects Gabriela Carrillo and Mauricio Rocha). The circular form adds to the orchestra feel.
On one presentation space, beautiful dioramas occupied my gaze for a not insignificant amount of time. The terracotta seating opposite this image was inviting and a great place from which to admire the work and discuss the MA Photography course with a fellow student. Inspired by the work, we discussed our practice to date, how we arrived on the course and our aspirations for the future.
‘The Great Animal Orchestra’ is an inspiring and stimulating exhibition that has demonstrated to me that how work is presented can affect how it is interpreted and appreciated.
Figure 7: Sutherst 2016
Figure 5: Boegly, L. From artnet News. 2016. Fondation Cartier Stages Oddest Summer Show – artnet News. [ONLINE] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/great-animal-orchestra-exhibition-fondation-cartier-541805. [Accessed 23 November 2016].
Figure 6: Boegly, L. From Inexhibit. 2016. “The Great Animal Orchestra” at the Fondation Cartier Paris. [ONLINE] Available at:https://www.inexhibit.com/case-studies/the-great-animal-orchestra-at-the-fondation-cartier-paris/. [Accessed 23 November 2016].
Figure 7: Shu-Wen Lin. From Cultured Magazine. 2016. Sonic Boom: Cai Guo-Qiang | Cultured Magazine. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.culturedmag.com/cai-guo-qiang-fondation-cartier/. [Accessed 23 November 2016].