STIRring Dreams: The anatomical variations of Tobias Gremmler’s at Venice Biennale

As part of the new audio-visual artwork presented, the artist cuts past the boundaries of art viewership towards an installation that immerses the audience into the space.

by Sukanya DebPublished on : Jul 24, 2022

Biennale Danza 2022, as part of the 59th Venice Biennale, presents five sets of programs that look at the interdisciplinary nature of dance, the body, and movement, through the lens of technology, active participation, workshops, films and collaborations. As part of Biennale Danza, German-born practitioner Tobias Gremmler presents an immersive installation of larger-than-life sized human-inspired anatomical variations and constructions in movement.

Tobias Gremmler is known as a ‘media scenographer’ in the expanded field of artistic production, a phrase that is combinatory of the set of practices that he encounters and encompasses through his works. He has previously worked through a milieu of technological visualisations and apparatuses, moving across various art settings – from exhibition and installations, to performance, and further on towards theatre and dance productions. Through the mixture of mediums that inform his practice, from motion graphics to interface design, his work stands out in the contemporary extended field of production.

In conversation with STIR, Gremmler describes the trajectory of his scenographic practice, “I started my career in theatre, composing music for dance. Although it was more than three decades ago, I still have a strong connection to theatre and music. Theatre involves a wide range of artistic disciplines, such as dancing, stage and costume design, and performing arts. The digital world shows us a similar bandwidth. And both areas are crossing the boundaries of reality by creating virtual scenarios.”

Audience members immersed in Fields – A Scenographic Media Installation, 2022, Installation, Tobias Gremmler | Biennale Danza 2022 | Tobias Gremmler | STIRworld
Audience members immersed in Fields – A Scenographic Media Installation, 2022, Installation Image: Courtesy of the artist

The fluid forms that occupy the darkened space are made of glowing lines that churn and move against and with each other to form and re-form bodies in conjunction. The mise-en-scène provides an audio component as well consisting of an enveloping ambient sonic landscape that is rooted in the visual presentation of the works. What is ephemeral in dance and performance is captured in this rendering of bodies, as the spiralling lines resemble the muscular system from an anatomical study, especially in the complex mesh of networked lines that are present. In this marriage between technology and an immersive environment, it is impressive to witness the seamlessness produced by the rise of aesthetic technology. It’s like what the screen always dreamed – to blend into our reality, for what is the screen but a mirror into our very lives? The space between the bodies becomes a force field of attraction, characterised by a compulsion towards one another.

Gremmler speaks to the nature of ‘form’ in his work, “To me, form goes beyond a physical shape. It spans towards time and space. I consider music and motion equally as form as architecture, design or a physical body. It can also express psychological, philosophical or social aspects. I’m not “freeing form” but expanding the perception of form.”

As part of Biennale Danza, Gremmler presents a work titled Fields – A Scenographic Media Installation that combines the elements of installation, theatre and dance. The spatial setting of the Biennale provides an immersive component, allowing audience members to become part of the frame-less work of art. Through the act of immersion there is no beginning or end to the work, but only the movement that is produced through the visualisation of bodies being formed from abstraction and slowly intermingling, colliding and transmuting. The tracing of movement can be seen as challenging as is the technological output, through the interaction between virtual bodies that amass speculative, aesthetic weight, in their translucent yet paradoxically, seemingly turgid materiality.

Attraction and formation between simulated bodies | Biennale Danza 2022 | Tobias Gremmler | STIRworld
Attraction and formation between simulated bodies Image: Courtesy of the artist

Speaking to the form that the moving bodies take, the artist speaks to STIR, “I shifted the attention from the dancers towards the space in between human bodies. Boundaries often appear in space and remain invisible. Similar to connections. I expose them visually, like magnetic fields whose forces affect movement, attraction and collisions.”

Extending the question of boundaries, art is a field that is all about the making and breaking of such, and sometimes this can be seen in a very literal sense, where there is an ‘unframing’ of the artwork. In a broad historical sense that attempts to reflect on critical notions around the separation between art and life, European art has evolved since the Renaissance period and can be seen through the lens of instituting the ‘frame’, that being of the painting, towards artworks that completely reject the same. Gremmler, on the other hand, through his contemporary scenographic studies and initiations creates a space where the stage is set for the audience to be immersed.

Depiction of Fields – A Scenographic Media Installation Video: Courtesy of the artist

The multidisciplinary artist says, “I am creating scenarios comparable to theatre, but without a linear narrative and separation of stage and audience. The visitors define the narrative by walking through the scenery, perceiving it from different angles in their individual rhythms. Instead of being fixed in a seated position and observing a play for a fixed duration, the audience enters the stage and becomes a part of it. It is like creating a spatial and temporal experience likewise.”

The projection of multiple bodies as they merge into one | Biennale Danza 2022 | Tobias Gremmler | STIRworld
The projection of multiple bodies as they merge into one Image: Courtesy of the artist

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