'Airship Orchestra' by ENESS immerses visitors in art, sound, light and technology

STIR in conversation with Melbourne-based design studio ENESS about latest immersive installation Airship Orchestra, which was on display in Shanghai, China, till February 14.

by Sukanya Garg Published on : Mar 16, 2020

ENESS is a Melbourne-based multimedia design studio creating works that lie at the intersection of art and technology. Their latest work Airship Orchestra immerses viewers in a sonic spatial environment synced with light pulsation to create a mystical realm. The work, which was first displayed at Light Yards, a celebration of light at The Yards in Washington DC, is now on view at Xintiandi in Shanghai, China.

Here, STIR speaks with ENESS Creative Director, Nimrod Weis, about their immersive installations that present a concoction of art, sound, 3D projection mapping, spatial and light design.

02 min watch The immersive installation Airship Orchestra, by ENESS | Airship Orchestra| ENESS | STIRworld
The immersive installation Airship Orchestra, by ENESS Video Credit: Courtesy of Ron Blunt photography

Sukanya Garg (SG): What is the theme behind Airship Orchestra? Could you describe its mechanics?

Nimrod Weis (NW): The Airship Orchestra is a fantastical immersive installation that aims to take observers outside of themselves by delivering a meditative, joyful and mystifying experience. Often at ENESS we begin with form and the narrative emerges from deeply embedded creative themes. To this end, the narrative captures this creative emergence: the highly patterned, out-of-this-world characters evolved first and the story followed: The Airship Orchestra is a mystical tribe of otherworldly characters beamed from the night stars, skin streaked with galaxy and voices like stardust. The visitors are beckoned inside the formation to bathe in volumetric sound and rhythmic light pulsation.

In full, our custom creation showcases 20 inflatables (some up to six metres) extending over a 400 square metre area. The sound experience is its own spatial environment, immersing visitors in an arresting score written character-by-character for a 20-person choir. The generative soundscape synced with light creates a mesmeric adventure that is aesthetically dynamic, both during the day and night. The resulting music is minimal and reflective, enabling visitors to conjure their own interpretation about from where the Orchestra has materialised. 

Visitors at the Airship Orchestra can bathe in volumetric sound and rhythmic light pulsation | Airship Orchestra | ENESS | STIRworld
Visitors at the Airship Orchestra can bathe in volumetric sound and rhythmic light pulsation Image Credit: Courtesy of Ron Blunt photography

SG: Since people interaction is an almost indispensable aspect of the work itself, how do you incorporate that during the ideation and construction phase?

NW: Yes, absolutely! ENESS work is all about connecting with people and creating work that brings people of all ages together to connect with each other - both loved ones and complete strangers. Through out ideation we think through the potential of every detail to facilitate this vital outcome. 

Airship Orchestra by ENESS features 20 inflatables extending over an area of 400 sqm | Airship Orchestra | ENESS | STIRworld
Airship Orchestra by ENESS features 20 inflatables extending over an area of 400 sqm Image Credit: Courtesy of Ron Blunt photography

SG: What kind of reactions did the work Airship Orchestra evoke?

NW: It is dependent on the timing for each location. So far, in 2020, the Airship Orchestra has been featured at The Yards, for Light Yards in Washington DC, and at Xintiandi in Shanghai. In both locations the demographic changed throughout the evening. A lot of families visit the exhibit earlier in the evening and during that time the reactions are more boisterous. There is always a happy band of kids running through and around the installation. Something about the diffused, glowing light; the towering friendly figures and the supernatural soundscape resonates with children and they dash around excitedly. It seems to be a trigger for their own imaginative worlds. The adults of any age as well as babies are often found spellbound and mesmerised. It really is like entering another world.

At this immersive installation, the resulting music is minimal and reflective, enabling visitors to conjure their own interpretation about from where the Orchestra has materialised | Airship Orchestra | ENESS | STIRworld
At this immersive installation, the resulting music is minimal and reflective, enabling visitors to conjure their own interpretation about from where the Orchestra has materialised Image Credit: Courtesy of Ron Blunt photography

SG: What other projects are you working on in 2020? Could you talk about the upcoming Eyeball project that will be installed in multiple places in Australia?

NW: We have several site-specific, permanent public art projects in Melbourne coming to fruition in the first quarter this year. 

ENESS has created a permanent piece of public art for the entrance to Menzies Lane at Melbourne Central, titled Meet Me Under the Eyes. The structure comprises a long branch of almond-shaped forms, which the client requested could be a visual provocation - something completely out of the ordinary and unexpected. For the majority of the time, each 'almond' transforms into eyes that glance at, blinks and tracks the movement of passers-by. At random, the spontaneous moments of the eyes also transform into a school of fish, butterflies, leaves and ladybugs. However, these effects only happen minimally, so the people who see this transformation are treated to something special.

In addition, we have Memory Lines commissioned by the Soldiers Memorial Institute Military Museum, an interactive experience that honours the memory of fallen soldiers. This piece of public art has been created in sympathy with replica medals on display. While visitors view the medal cabinet, a reticulated system releases water onto calligraphic paper in response to the movement. Overtime, water like a stream of tears saturates the surface, revealing 499 names of fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and cousins who died while in service during the First World War. Time may try to evaporate their memory, but these honourable men who lost everything in the service of our country will never be forgotten.

The installation Airship Orchestra that lets one discover intriguing details like LED eyes that blink and follow visitors | Airship Orchestra | ENESS | STIRworld
The installation Airship Orchestra that lets one discover intriguing details like LED eyes that blink and follow visitors Image Credit: Courtesy of Ron Blunt photography

SG: As a collective, what STIRs you up?

NW: The team comes from all kinds of backgrounds: art, theatre, design, multimedia, music, software design, and so we draw on all forms of creativity. Nothing is really out of limits for inspiration, curiosity and passion. We are STIRred by art that has a transformational effect on our visitors, and by art that emotionally moves people and connects them together.

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