El organo oriental
Another finished project means another adventure to report on.
This time I’m talking about ELOO, El Organo Oriental, an installation created by the artist Antonio Guzman and presented by Framer Framed during the recent Rotterdam Art Fair in the Intersections area, a space dedicated to the emerging art galleries in the Netherlands.
Several entities took part in this project. So naturally, there were multiple meanings, voices and contexts connected to the work. For this reason and others, this article has been quite difficult for me to begin (I subconsciously tried to postpone writing it, my very own horror vacui – wanting to say everything but fearing I’d saying nothing). El Organo Oriental is a work full of details, levels of interpretation, meanings and interdisciplinary connections. The idea of articulating all this at once had me rather terrified to begin with.
To top it all off, a few days ago Antonio (the artist), during one of his visits to the office, began explaining to me in even more detail some background insight into his own creative process and the core inspiration behind the project. When he mentioned Mondriaan and his cubist compositions, I realized it was time to start writing this article once and for all, before this flourishing horn of plenty would have imploded.
The starting point of the installation revolves around the concept of “searching for the origins”. In line with this theme, Antonio Guzman analyzed his own DNA and found himself to be a mix of three different ethnical groups; European, South American and African. This diverse mix of nationalities tells a fascinating genetical story, that can in turn begin to define Antonio’s identity. The result of this research was an a musical organ composition at the installation that was entirely based on Antonio’s own DNA. The four nitrogenous bases that constitute the human DNA are represented on a stave and translated into musical notes.
Why the street organ?
This instrument derives from a tradition that originated in Europe but has since been adopted in many parts of the world, particularly Latin America. The organ, like Antonio Guzman, is a hybrid being, the result of multiple cultural intricacies, travels and ethnic mingling. What an appropriate instrument, therefore, to describe the artist’s DNA – so rich in identities!
It’s certainly fascinating to see, or rather to hear, Antonio’s genetic history that has been synthesized in primal sounds. This simple yet unpredictable musicality immediately reminded me a John Cage’s compositions.
Guzman decided to enrich this sound installation with a visual frame made of thick cardboard sheets chiseled according to the complex structure of his DNA. These were assembled together to create a harmonic structure, a subtle homage to the organ books, whose design (which appears surprisingly modern) originates from a very old tradition.
For me, working closely to this project and seeing the installation breathing every day during the art fair was certainly fascinating. Each part of the exhibition process proved to be surprisingly exciting. Some of the highlights for me included:
– Feeling like Indiana Jones in the “Wonderland garden” of Lèon Perlée, the owner of the organ used in the installation, as well as the guardian of a forgotten paradise in Amsterdam among French waltz and Dutch folk songs.
– Setting up the installation at Art Rotterdam (which was not without a couple of last minute mishaps) was overall a great experience where I learnt a lot and met some incredible people.
– Trying to hold a smile for the audience but secretly preying “Let this torture end!” Who knew playing an organ would feel like an intense sports session?
– Proudly showing off my “Access All Area’s” badge and feeling like Anna Wintour during a gala in New York.
– Installing the work in Van Nelle Fabriek, an exceptional location which still bears signs of the Dutch industrial movement.
This was certainly a positive experience for me, and definitely one to add to my artistic/personal/athletic/work experience.