Vexations

Handmade realtime moving image for a 15 hour piano performance.

To celebrate his 75th birthday, the composer Stephen Montague organised a 24 hour concert at St John’s Smith Square in London. We were recruited to create visuals for a 15 hour performance of Vexationsa piece written by Erik Satie, but first performed by John Cage. It is a short piano piece played 840 times.

While it was tempting to create something digitally that we could leave running through the night, it felt like cheating. There were 15 pianists doing one-hour shifts through the night, so we opted to do the same and recruited 12 friends to help us create analogue visuals in realtime.

We took turns drawing a concentric circle onto tracing paper with every repetition of the piece. The resulting drawings resembled the rings of a tree, or the patterns of Zen gardens (John Cage was a Zen Buddhist).

In order to project the drawings in realtime, we created a giant lightbox lit from above with camera below facing upwards which projected the drawings onto a screen hanging behind the piano resembling a giant sheet of paper being constantly filled and cleared.

In collaboration with Noura Andréa Nassar and Léa Silvestrucci.