Presentation of the Vertigo Forum

Publish date
Feb. 3, 2017

For Pierre Boulez, innovation was the watchword for IRCAM. 40 years after its foundation, is it this same ambition that makes the institute one of the most prestigious research centers in the world?
Pierre Boulez, inspired by the model of Bauhaus, imagined a place dedicated to musical and scientific invention, each one stimulating the other. This was the origin of IRCAM at the moment of the Centre Pompidou’s formulation in the 70s, bringing together artists, scientists, engineers. Innovation is the inclusion of invention in a social entity. Today, through the development of technologies and their miniaturization, the acceleration of calculation in computer science, we have passed from the phase of invention in a lab to that of innovation in the world, contaminating circles beyond those of musical creation: live performance, video games, post production, sound design. But the force of the original idea remains: creating an intersection for complementary or divergent knowledge and cultures rather than each group remaining amongst themselves.

Art and music are two independent—but always connected—disciplines. How has this relationship been modified for contemporaneity?
We can easily draw the line of demarcation between arts of time and arts of space, between music and visual arts: time is absent from visual works, always available for the visitor; time is compulsory in music. But this division is an artifice and unsatisfactory as soon as we understand the importance of the spatial dimension in music. Music is in close proximity to architecture, playing with scales, playing with simultaneity between heterogeneous elements. Répons by Pierre Boulez was strongly influenced by the model of the Guggenheim Museum built by Frank Lloyd Wright, that spiral form: we always see the path we have taken as well as the path left to take. Ligeti was greatly motivated by visual illusions to create his own acoustic trompe l’oeil. He talked a lot about his passion for Maurits Escher and Brancusi. Today, a composer like Olga Neuwirth works directly from architecture, for example when she recreates the acoustic of the San Lorenzo church in Venice with the IRCAM teams, the same church where Renzo Piano imagined the set design for Luigi Nono’s Prometeo. This bouncing back and forth between musical and architectural spaces is infinite. On one hand, numerous visual artists are fascinated by the idea of a score: a sign becomes a physical signal; a graphical notation experiences its realization in hindsight. Interpretation, inseparable from music—no musical text is ever absolute—this interpretation is also sought after and envied by the visual arts.

Today, composers use typically artistic practices (video, performance, etc.) more and more and artist use more sound experiments in their projects. Can we say that in the era of Internet art and music use the same code—digital—and speak the same language—digital?
There are certainly effects of porosity between these mediums, or an effort to create interoperability among technologies. But a shared tool, or coding, does not signify a common language, or even a common syntax. The algorithm extends its reign over an infinite territory, but we cannot assert that our world is now trans-disciplinary because of shared tools. Does sharing digital tools accelerate fusion between disciplines? They certainly contribute to the dream of a total experience, of a similarity among disciplines, of confusion among he who creates, he who sees, and he who participates. But our world remains subject to remarkable cultural divides, even if they are overrun by artistic invention.

What has changed with Internet concerning the concept of creation and originality in art and music?
Internet provided immediate access to everything; even if everything has restrictions, because a lot disappears or is buried so deeply if it isn’t “called up” enough by those who browse online. The network enables a collective economy, and we can imagine that collaborative artworks will be born via this process, for the better or the worse. The idea of a unique signature is potentially upset, but even more by the power of big data, as studied today in the rapidly expanding field of Digital Humanities. Today, a young composer, a young performer, a listener, have a gigantic library, accessible in real-time, available at their fingertips: works, styles, regions, different historical periods. Stimulation or a sentiment of saturation? The artist finds himself in a situation where the archives and the corpus can literally suffocate him, where he must, in a manner of speaking, deal with a great deal of material in order to really "get started".

2017 will be the first year of the Vertigo Forum. What motivated you to institute this event with which IRCAM will formally open its doors to art?
Like in film, Vertigo will produce a zoom effect on the vertiginous present.

Vertigo will be less of a festival than a platform of exchanges and a program of artistic residencies. Vertigo will bring together the major protagonists of the sensitive and intelligible, of desire and amazement: the artist, the engineer, the scientist who influence and transgress our present. In a world shaken by technology and its uses, this form will “expose” and share new objects and artistic fictions, design, and new ideas of conception and production. This annual forum at the Centre Pompidou is a laboratory for ideas, a public meeting for demonstrations of prototypes, a multidisciplinary artistic event revolving around an exhibition. It is also a European program that brings the production of industrial prototypes closer to artistic production that, through such and such work, or misappropriation, or case uses the possibilities of these prototypes. 

How will it be organized? What are the principle characteristics of the artists you will choose? How will it change the relationship between art and music taking into account the constant advances in technology? What will it bring us in the future?
The public part of Vertigo is the week of encounters during the Forum, in 2017, from March 14th through the 18th, synchronized with the launch of an exhibition on 3D printing "Imprimer le monde" (Printing the World). Beginning in 2018, we will be able to see the first results of the artists’ residences, working closely with engineers, residences selected by a jury following a call for applications that opens on March 14 for two months. Among the cultural partners in Vertigo there is the Venice Biennial, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the ZKM in Karlsruche, etc. This cultural context fosters, I am convinced, connections between autonomous disciplines: you only have to find a common "exhibition" space to go beyond the limits of our daily lives. It is a gamble with the near future that is, simply, our present.

Interview with Frank Madlener, director of IRCAM  with  Fabrizia Carabelli for the periodical, Inside Art, Italian journal on contemporary art and culture.

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