A choreographer, an interaction designer, and a composer walk into a bar … That’s the basic premise behind a series of collaborations commissioned by Made, an interdisciplinary workspace and gallery in Berlin. Made is in the business of bringing together brilliant people from wildly disparate professions to create art. When I visited Made last year, a robotics engineer and a violinist had just finished building a robot that sculpted wax vases based on sound waves; in 2010 Made invited Talib Kweli to narrate a “typographic ballet.”
On a cool evening last week, Berliners gathered in Made’s Alexanderplatz headquarters to watch the premiere of their latest commission, a “living sculpture” called Future Self by choreographer Wayne McGregor, media art collective rAndom International, and award-winning composer Max Richter. The lights dimmed, and two dancers arranged themselves around a dense lattice of brass rods hanging from the ceiling. As the dancers moved, a series of 3-D cameras captured the activity, while thousands of LEDs soldered to the rods lit up to imitate their movements. The pair, separated physically by the sculpture between them, danced together inside the glowing frame.
“A piece like this is like doing an experiment at school, you know?” says Richter, who scored the excellent 2008 film, Waltz With Bashir. “You put that in the test tube and that in the test tube, and you hope for an explosion.” The rAndom team did months of research and tests in London, perfecting a script that would take movements picked up by 3-D cameras and mirror them in the lattice of LEDs. Meanwhile, McGregor worked with Richter and two professional dancers to create a piece that exploits the effects of the glowing sculpture. Finally, the team flew to Berlin in April to set up the finished piece.
The premiere was over in a few short minutes, but afterwards, audience members lingered for hours to interact with the sculpture. Richter noted that while the performance had ended, the life of the piece was just beginning.
Future Self is on public view at Made until June 3.