Claire Sawers

Freelance Writer

Month: August 2014

Interview: Yann Seznec

The List
15 August 2014

Yann Seznec on his fan-based work, Currents, in the Edinburgh Art Festival

Yann Seznec has installed 172 computer fans inside a police box on Easter Road and is inviting audiences to step inside.

‘At its most basic, sound – whether it’s someone making music, or the act of speaking – is basically the physical movement of air. What we hear, is the motion of air molecules.’

To explain his latest project, Currents, Edinburgh-based sound artist Yann Seznec is rewinding to the first spark of an idea, which triggered a thought process, which led to an art installation and live performance, commissioned as part of Edinburgh Art Festival. He’s fascinated by the invisible forces behind the noises we react to, but particularly the noises that we are oblivious to; because we’ve trained our ears not to hear them anymore.

Computer fans, for example. There might be one within earshot right now. But it’s unlikely your ears are registering it, says Seznec. ‘Like the buzz from the fridge, we’re bombarded by these constant low frequencies around us, but we’ve developed the ability to block them out – so we don’t go insane.’

Seznec got hold of some discarded computer fans – 172 to be precise – from a UK computer recycling charity, and has installed them in a police box on Easter Road. They’re wired up to a computer which gets weather updates every ten seconds from six stations around the world – the often wind-slapped cities of Cape Town, Wellington and St Johns, Newfoundland, as well as Delhi – where the earliest report of a mechanical fan is believed to come from – plus one each in Thailand and China, as close as Seznec could get to the factories where the computer parts were originally manufactured. ‘Even a fan has interesting historical, political connotations. Colonisers who weren’t used to the heat got servants to fan them. I liked the idea that an Indian man invented a mechanical one.’

Seznec’s work is then presented as a walk-in installation, where three people at a time can allow mechanical winds to caress or pummel their faces (depending on what the winds are up to at that time in Delhi, Cape Town etc, Seznec has programmed the fans to react accordingly, turning on the requisite amount to produce a similar blast of air). The installation works in ten second bursts, as the fans need time to cool down in such a confined space.

Besides creating a sonic, sensory experience; maybe a sybarite frisson on a muggy Edinburgh day, or a fleeting sense of the giant, meteorological forces buffeting the globe in real time, it’s typical of Seznec to focus on the technology we are surrounded by, and how it colours and manipulates our environment. His work is often concerned with electronics; he’s a frequent collaborator with experimental musician Matthew Herbert and has created a mechanical, playable pigsty (for One Pig) and virtual piano (for Twenty Pianos) in the past for him. For the performance element of Currents, Seznec’s created his own miniature orchestra, from computer fans and mics. ‘It creates these wonderful clicky clicky sounds, and amazing dry, percussive sounds. And I had to call it the Yann Seznec Fan Club, because I’m basically a giant dork.’

Currents installation, Easter Road (corner of Albion Road), until 31 Aug, 10am–6pm, free; artist talk, Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 26 Aug, 6.30pm, free but ticketed; performance, Trinity Apse, 31 Aug, 6pm, free but ticketed.

Review: Siddhartha the Musical

The List
2 August 2014
4 stars

Siddhartha the Musical

Siddhartha the Musical

A Buddhist musical about spiritual enlightenment, with lasers, fireball projections, porn heels and pounding Euro beats? And it all began as a rehabilitation programme in a maximum security prison in Milan? It’s unlikely you’d imagine any of that, when you hear they’ve made a stage version of Herman Hesse’s 1920s novel about the Buddha’s journey. But, welcome this glorious oddity into your life with pure love, for it is as utterly mesmerising as it is ridiculous.

The opening scenes feel like stumbling into a cruise ship ballroom. Spray-tanned, nimble gym bodies leap across the set, belting out lyrics like ‘Gods of the sky! What is the meaning of life?’ The glossy, high-camp production follows Siddhartha’s journey – pampered ‘I’m alright Jack’ prince, then homeless truth-seeker, and eventually radiant wise man (portrayed by a Richard Gere-ish Michael Nouri, the one American/English actor in the otherwise Italian language, subtitled production). It’s a loincloth-version of Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane, transported to a meditation class, with more-is-more singing to accompany it all – and that unlikely combo leads to something incredibly enjoyable, perhaps not necessarily for the reasons the producers had in mind. Regardless, the enlightened crowd are up on their feet for an ovation when it ends.

Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until 24 (not 6,13), 6.10pm, £15 (£12).

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