The ART ON DISPLAY project, initiated by the Ephemair association, focuses on public interventions in shop windows on Bucharest’s main streets. For 22 days, starting with the 28th of August, Musette Kube will be hosting 100 Chinese beckoning cats that asynchronously swing their left paws. “The Catronomes”, also know as maneki-neko cats, are a post-modern reinterpretation of Gyorgy Ligeti’s 1962 project that involved 100 metronomes. “Poème symphonique”, by one of the most important and innovative modern composers, is part of the musician’s short collaboration with Fluxus. His idea was a critique for the state of classical music during that time. The musical score is easy to follow; everything is based on the notion of randomness, but implementing it was met with criticism by what Ligeti considered “the small bourgeois with a limited artistic vision”. Moreover, the first public performance was canceled by The Netherlands TV that chose to broadcast a football match instead.
This interpretation of “Poème symphonique” belongs to the Romanian sound designer Sillyconductor. He first presented it six years ago at The National Center for Dance in Bucharest, with the help of Jumătatea Plină association. You can watch a video of the performance here. Sillyconducter, also known as Docctor Sullyni, has been working with movie scores compositions, animations, mapping shows, fashion shows, dance performances and has created sound objects/installations. Among others, he also invented a multi-piano surround installation that explores the superior limits of reproducing musical notes (Pianosaurus), he helped built a software that can generate 60 soundtracks per second, he played USB fans using guitar pedals, he made an adaptation of urban folklore for micro-tonal instruments and he conducted an earthquake.
The critical aspects of “Poème symphonique” are the same in Syllyconductor’s re-contextualization. The public performance of the battery-powered cats, that goes on uninterrupted for 22 days, can be understood in various ways. Many will say that the animated army/orchestra of catronomes has nothing to do with contemporary art, but it’s enough to watch the cats for a few minutes and you will enter a state of trance that is reinforced by the asynchronicity based on variations of time, rhythm and tonality. Even if they can only be seen through the shop window on 114 Calea Victoriei, the cats can be heard when the streets are quiet, especially in the wee hours of the morning. It’s all a matter of randomness – the site specific installation is impossible to reproduce, so each experience is unrepeatable and subjective. Using a smart phone and accessing the QR code on the window, anyone can connect to an audio flux and to the ART ON DISPLAY website.
As Sillyconductor said, “when you are working with 100 elements, each gestures is multiplied by 100. The 100th cat, the one placed in front of the group, is both in opposition with the others, but also part of them, it is a conductor, a political leader, a fitness coach and the single answer to 99 problems. I was especially interested in the asynchronicity and polyrhythmic ostinato times 100. Each cat has its own rhythm just like Ligeti’s metronomes in ’62.”
Besides criticizing “made in China” consumerism, the project can be interpreted as a hidden commercialism of the brand stores involved that seek to promote themselves at any cost, using alternative means. But seeing as ART ON DISPLAY projects are based on street visibility and exhibiting art in the most accessed public spaces, the fact remains that art, installations and performances literally have a place of their own in window cases. Still, this is the era of Corporate Social Responsability and money could be redirected towards culture.
More about this installation and an audio recording of the catronomes can be found here.