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Musical colour explosions of P. Struycken at the Groninger Museum

Monday 17 June 2019
P. Struycken, Dynamic colour space for the composition …explosante-fixe… (1971–1993) by Pierre Boulez, 2004–2007, photo: Marten de Leeuw
P. Struycken, Dynamic colour space for the composition …explosante-fixe… (1971–1993) by Pierre Boulez, 2004–2007, photo: Marten de Leeuw © Groninger Museum

The Groninger Museum unveils a unique audio-visual installation by the Dutch artist Peter Struycken this month. The music of the 20th-century composers Alexander Scriabin and Pierre Boulez will fill the darkened interior of the Coop Himmelb(l)au Pavilion. Five three-by-four-metre screens whose positioning echoes expressionist architecture will project real-time computer-generated images. Walking among the screens, visitors can experience an intensely colourful journey through the music. The exhibition P. Struycken – Exploding Colours Set to Scriabin and Boulez opens on 29 June.

Pierre Boulez

Between 2004 and 2007, Struycken (b. The Hague, 1939) developed an installation for the Coop Himmelb(l)au Pavilion based on a piece by the French composer Pierre Boulez (1925–2016). Struycken has professed great admiration for Boulez, who makes measured use of computer-manipulated sounds to achieve a complex spectrum of acoustic effects. Struycken used Boulez’s composition …explosante-fixe… (‘fixed explosion’) as the basis for a dynamic spatial work featuring computer-generated projections. This show marks the first time the work has been on view since it premiered in 2007.

Alexander Scriabin

Struycken’s Boulez installation will be shown alternately with an updated version of a work he made between 1997 and 1999, inspired by a symphony by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915). Along with musical parts, Scriabin’s 1911 score for the dramatic Prometheus: The Poem of Fire included two parts prescribing light changes. Struycken sticks precisely to the prescribed colour shifts but in design terms freely interprets the cosmic light effects that Scriabin broadly described. Originally made for TV, the work has undergone a notable expansion for this exhibition. It will be projected on five large screens, each of which will take a slightly different path through the colour scape every time, making every showing unique.

Ir. D. Dekkers wrote the software for both works and digitally synchronised the five-screen projection.

25 years of Groninger Museum building

P. Struycken and the Groninger Museum share a history stretching back more than 50 years. The artist first had a solo exhibition here in 1967; others followed in 1984, 1999 and 2007. Commissioned by the building’s architect, Alessandro Mendini, he developed a colour palette for the museum’s ever-changing interior walls in 1994 and 1996.

The current show is part of the museum building’s 25th anniversary celebrations, along with other special exhibitions and a range of festive activities.

P. Struycken – Exploding Colours Set to Scriabin and Boulez is on view from 29 June 2019 through 9 February 2020.