“I like art that is magic. I don’t like art that is just clever.” -Brian Eno
Brian Eno’s multi-media installation 77 Million Paintings in the YMI Cultural Center on Eagle St in Downtown Asheville is an atmospheric experience, combining a visual collage of digital imagery and light with a layered “ambient” soundtrack.
Eno has long been known as a master of the technologies he chooses, and has worked in a variety of capacities as artist and recording engineer. He points out that technology is all around us, and is not limited to that which is simply “new, or just doesn’t work right yet.” Despite his defense of the Grand Piano as a piece of “technology” that made entirely new styles and forms of music possible, Eno composes his work predominantly on machines; computers, synthesizers, samplers, and sound generators. Though he wryly refers to himself an “ex-Moog user,” he acknowledges the portal Bob Moog’s invention opened for the possibilities of music and sound, and his installation is right at home as a component of Moogfest 2011.
The formal properties of 77 Million Paintings incorporate a geometric arrangement of flatscreen monitors, each of which call upon a series of layered images which are constantly changing. The arrangement hangs on the wall as a sort of devotional mandala, while the darkened room becomes a ritual space populated with identical couches , tree trunk columns, and plaster cones illuminated by LCD lights. The soundtrack , like the imagery, is actually six different soundtracks layered over one another, also called upon at random.
A visitor’s first impression may be to chuckle himself into the back room of the Octopus’ Garden Smoke Shop. However, like much of Eno’s work, the illumination comes not with the simplicity of the first impression, but with the experiential effect of the passage of time.
“I’m interested in working with Time and people’s Attention Span… The Uneventful.” he says.
As the visitor becomes aware of the changes slowly taking place within the space, his experience and understanding of his surroundings shifts and he becomes a participant in that change. Visitors come, stay (for an extended period of time in some cases), and go at random, reflecting the behavior of the images and sounds. Eno claims that he is “more gardener than architect,” delighting in the quantitative process of “planting seeds” and then surrendering to the course of nature.
The installation illuminates a universal notion found in the natural world – the world that produces trees from seeds – the same world that produces urban festivals devoted to electronic music : that each moment is uniquely different, beautiful, and will never happen the same way again. Therein lies the magic.
What: 77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno
Where: YMI Cultural Center – 39 S Market Street, Asheville, NC 28801
When: November 2, 2011 – November 30, 2011
Hours: 11:00 AM to 6 PM Wed – Sat / 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM Sun (closed Mon and Tues)
Pollinate Asheville Arts + Life Synthesizer Smith McAulay is a musician, writer, painter, carpenter, contractor, craftsman and owner of WSM Craft. He builds sacred spaces with words and wood, intention and innovation. He welcomes input or inquiry: firstname.lastname@example.org