In a time where the world is seemingly ever more connected and unbordered, this film considers whether crowds are a force for oppression, or a potential for resistance. It is an allegory for human connection, a powerful visual metaphor illustrating the nature of collaboration with music composed by producer Ben Frost.
The project was made to run as a short film and a single screen installation produced by Germination in 2009 and funded in part by the Arts Council.
In 2010 under a different title, En Masse, the piece was developed into a 30 minute 360 degrees performance in the dark with Australian recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey performing live in the centre with the audience lying beneath a swirling mass of images.
This version was produced by Arts House and was commissioned by the Adelaide Festival, Melbourne Festival and Sydney Festival under the Australian Government’s Major Festivals Initiative, managed by the Australia Council in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals Inc. Developed in the CultureLAB.
Review by Erin Keys at the Adelaide festival
Ushered in to a darkened room in a single line, as if to enter a ride at a theme park, the audience is seated on cushions laid in a wide circle. I lay back and rest my head against the soft backing. I’m breathing out the week, legs stretched and enjoying the bestowed gift of anonymity in the dark. The room falls silent, I feel relaxed, alone, even though I am surrounded. I am comfortable, I feel gentle in my body; I stop.
Projected on to a floating backdrop I am taken in to the tunnel of my thoughts, I’m lead to thoughts about death, the anxiety I have held on to fades and I am thinking that perhaps this is the space I am in when it happens. Should one be so lucky to know that they are dead and they could get to wander through a landscape of sunrise and sunset calmly until they understand ‘death’! Thoughts alternate and perhaps this is some type of hell? Am I stuck? The realising that you have passed in between the living and the dying without any more days to wake to. I think, did I appreciate my life, did I spend each day eating the landscape, or experiencing ‘happy’? The discord that runs between the parallel landscapes that is night and day. The wondering ‘where am I’?
en masse is part concert, part film, part installation and the creation of renowned recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey and filmmaker Marc Silver. I hardly want to write too much lest I say too much! It is an experiential piece, by which I mean – you really need to go, and sit, and watch, and listen, and go on your own trip. We can be amongst many and watch, but you won’t feel or think what I feel or think. In some ways it is like koyaanisqatsi translating as ‘Life out of Balance’ a 1982 film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Phillip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke.
en masse is a performance piece that came about from experiences and ideas based within nature. Silver says ‘We wanted to make a world that would hold you, yet one that also gives you space’. The music began as a series of improvisations and was responded to by six sound artists. Musical collaborators include John Rodgers Christian Fennesz, DJ Olive, Nico Muhly, Ben Frost, Steve Adam and Taylor Deupree. Each with a variety of experience, some working alongside Phillip Glass and Bjork, classical composers and others with the experimental fusion of sound, photography and architecture. The combination of Lacey, whose repertoire spans ten centuries, and the computer generated sounds creates an atmosphere of altering transformations that are unique to each performance. Redefining it as ‘electrocoustic’ they are able to wrap the audience in sound and movement.
This is a sensual experience and without being overt, en masse addresses themes like the impact of globalisation, individualism and consumerism. The subtle message of order in chaos is alluded to through the projected imagery of birds. The piece is as much about space as it is about the sound and the image, as well as, the collaborators and audience working together en masse. I don’t want to say anymore, because I really think it deserves what can only come from first hand experience. A refreshing piece that although is perfect at 30 minutes long, I wanted to indulge in the space for longer, as if returning to the mother’s womb – I did not want to leave to face the chaos that is life.