Lightforms/Soundforms, an enlightening (quite literally) show on view until 1 October at Arts Santa Mónica in Barcelona devles into the current state of affairs of visual artist and musician Brian Eno. Brian Eno who claims with verve to love this city, where he recently delivered inspiring talks at Sonar 2016 and the CCCB Center, and attended a 1992 conference at the same Santa Mónica location. So, honouring this personal link, he chose to showcase his own work here, too.
Produced in collaboration with Sonar+D, in a building owned by the Generalitat de Barcelona, the show occupies three floors. One site-specific installation called New Space Music is placed in an old cloister, Claustro Max Cahner, where the acoustics are rather sweet indeed. It also promises to be a popular hangout spot for the whole city, as it’s found at a popular spot near the end of the famous Ramblas.
Curated with passion by Lluis Nacenta, this exhibition might require some framing for the average viewer who is not overly familiar with Eno’s work. His research his based on the use of light as a primary medium fused with sound components, both redefining chosen architectural spaces (each piece lives comfortably in its home) and the multi-sensorial possibilities that come from such combinations.
On the third floor of Lightforms/Soundforms is Eno’s 77 Million Paintings, a large-scale audiovisual installation that requires some time to be enjoyed properly in all its beauty. Perhaps the same amount of time needed to spend before his light boxes on the second floor, to appreciate the shades and nuances of colours blossoming almost meditatively into other hues that the artist calls “colourscapes.” The aim is to lose yourself within these pieces, to therapeutic effect.
The show doesn’t cut off at Arts Santa Mónica, but is extended to Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, where travellers hear Eno’s compositions at baggage claim, an experiment he already tested in other cities. This other, non-museumy side of the exhibition is freer and wide open to all sorts of interpretations. Just like David Bowie and Bjork, who both have retrospectives hanging at this moment, Eno has been capable of stretching the form of pop music into something else, andLightforms/Soundforms is perfect proof of this.
During the press review, I had a chance to ask his opinion about the state of the art world and its future; where is everything headed, Brian Eno?
He sagely replied, “I have this idea that we have spent most of the last five hundred years thinking that there are some people called artists and then there are some people called the audience. And the people in the audience are not the same as the people who do the art. A lot of what I am doing is trying to break that idea down. I think as we move into a future where anything that can be automated will be automated, that means all the non-creative jobs will be automated soon. We have to accept that we are all now in the position of being artists of some kind.
“Now, some of us do it for a living, like I do. Most people do not realise it, but they spend a lot of their time thinking like artists, thinking creatively. So I believe we should start to dignify that. And start to say that is actually the most essential part of our education. In my third world country we just moved away from that idea. We now have a system that says the most important things are science, technology, engineering and maths. They do not include arts on the list. And this to me is such a fatal mistake.
“Of course those four things are important, it is essential that we know about those. But it is also essential that we understand that we are in the process of making the world, all of us, creating the world, we are not just containters into which you plug the right information so we can go and do nice office jobs, we are the people who will make the future, and we have to accept the responsibility and the joy of being creative people.
“So I am very pleased to see that now everybody is a photographer. For example, everybody has their phone and suddenly everybody is taking amazing pictures. It’s bad news for photographers, ’cause they’re out of a job, but it is very good news for everybody else. And I am very pleased to know that everybody can make an album now, and they do not need to struggle to convince someone in a record company to give them the money to do so.
“I have this phrase that I use sometimes which is: children learn through play (we all know that), but adults play through art. So I think that the continuation of our learning life is that we carry on thinking of ourselves as children and as artists and I am looking forward to see art developed in that way. That’s the direction I want art to go in.”