Gods of Machines

Gods of machines
Gods of machines

What if you could create music and make videos by just turning a wheel?

Verdensteatret, a group of installation artists from Norway are doing just that inside the crumbling Currency Building on Dalhousie Square. The dilapidated exterior can easily beguile a curious onlooker as to what’s going on inside. The courtyard looks exactly like a setting for a science fiction flick – wheels of every size mounted on pedestals, large convex lenses refracting rays of projected light, eerie, distorted shadows on a large plastered wall. Robotics or poetry in motion?

“It all starts with a tiny detail,” says Asle Nilsen, a senior artist of the group. “For us, it started with a lamp, an object and a lens. It then grew organically and included machines and projections. Now, it’s more complex and sophisticated. As we go along, we try to discover what machines can do for us, add a soundscape, include videos and try and see what becomes of it. Machines give us endless possibilities to toy with,” he said. “And in the process, the objects interact with their surrounding space to develop a language of its own.

The logic, the purpose and the goal of the artwork take shape on their own,” added Piotr Pajchel, another artist. Talking of space, we asked them why they made the Currency Building, a structure that was partially demolished to make way for a highrise, the setting for their show. “This building has such an interesting architecture. It’s history will add another layer to our composition,” feels senior artist Lisbeth Bodd.

For this motley crew of artists, storytelling is all about weaving layers of information together. Lisbeth feels that Kolkata, as a city, offers them many such layers to talk about. “You stand in one corner of a crossroad and see so many stories unfolding themselves simultaneously. The contrast, the variety of moods makes it a perfect setting for artwork such as ours.” Needless to say, the group has already explored the quaint bylanes of College Street, took boat rides on the Ganges and marvelled at the chaotic activities on Mallick Ghat at dawn.

The installation is named “And All The Questionmarks Started to Sing” – a line from Nobel prizewinning Swedish poet Thomas Transtromer’s The Great Enigma – and starts off on Saturday. It is a hybrid between automatic installation, performance and concert set in a landscape of kinetic sculptures. “You might rack your brains finding answers to some very tough questions in life. But if you can make these questionmarks sing, the answers don’t matter,” elaborated Asle, adding that with its diverse setting, Kolkata might just be the inspiration behind their next artwork.

Physically, the work involves animation, micro-puppetry, music, lights and shadowplay. All the objects contribute in producing the resultant artwork but also are part of it. Science fiction or artwork, without a dekko, it’s impossible to make the questionmarks in ones mind sing!

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