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brian eno
brian eno interview
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Centuries of art at the Baltic.

Soothing sounds surround you in the huge twilit space as you walk quietly towards a row of silhouetted figures sat in silent contemplation of what looks like three stained-glass windows. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in some kind of New Age church, but no, this is Constellations (77 Million Paintings) - Brian Eno’s installation at the Baltic in Gateshead.

“I’m starting to think that I’m getting into the religion business a little bit,” says the master of ambient strangeness, bathed in the glow from the luminous panels. “I’m actually an evangelical atheist, but there is something I recognise about religion: that it gives people a chance to surrender. And I think part of what happens to people when they come into this show is that they practice this feeling of surrendering.”

This is the second time that an installation using Eno’s specially developed computer programme, 77 Million Paintings, has been shown in the UK (the first was at the Big Chill last year). The software randomly overlays more than 300 of his own hand-drawn images, constantly producing millions of possible combinations. And it’s beautiful to behold. “You’re reversing a pattern that’s been very familiar to humans for the last 100 years or so,” Eno explains. “Which is that you can always hear or see something again. What I’m doing is using those same technologies which we use to replicate experiences to generate constantly new ones.

“My experience of the piece is as fresh as the audience’s. When I walk away from this tomorrow it’ll carry on generating paintings – none of which I’ll ever see – so every member of the audience will see a different set of images. If you wanted to be sure of seeing a repeat you’d have to watch for about 450 years.” Which is a strange and moving thought. One that makes you keep watching as each image slowly dies away, never to be seen again. At least, not until the middle of the 25th Century.

Jonathan Carter 08 February 07
Constellations (77 Million Paintings) is at the Baltic, Gateshead, until 15 April 07. Luminous (77 Million Paintings) is at Selfridge’s, London, until 17 March 07.
Read members' comments related to this interview.
eno's 77mill... post 5
comment by papaver borealis    Feb 18, 2007
Went to see this piece today, and spent a dreamy time gazing at preconceived art evolving into a different version of some preconceived art. Thoroughly enjoyable, which is at least a part of what art should be.

Most interested to hear the part from the ladty from the baltic saying that the mirror used in the piece had a tendency to fall off....
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eno's 77mill... post 4
comment by David Jennings    Feb 16, 2007
77 Million Paintings was also shown at the Barbican last September and October (as part of the Steve Reich season ), so the Baltic exhibition is at least the third showing in this country.

I saw about 200 of the 'paintings', and was disappointed that only about three of them were any good. Memory is treacherous, but I remember Eno's original video sculptures (shown at Riverside Studios in 1986) being a lot better.
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eno's 77mill... post 3
comment by Jonathan Carter Editor    Feb 15, 2007
Hello mikeywill69,
You're right. 77 Million Paintings was at the Big Chill last year, and I've changed the piece accordingly.
Thanks, Jonathan
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eno's 77mill... post 2
comment by paulex    Feb 15, 2007
It indeed is a tantalising tought to be able to see some beautifull pictures, knowing that you will never be able to see them again. However, this also carries the threat of "loss", and in that sense is a little bit disturbing. But all these fresh pictures are certainly very stimulating... I look forward to visit the installation, or at least to have some Eno video on my flatscreen.
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eno's 77mill... post 1
comment by mikeywill69    Feb 14, 2007
Just a small correction to Jonathan Cater's review, this video installation was first shown in the Art Field at this years Big Chill, and a very aesthetic hour or so was spent gazing wide eyed and going 'wow'.
Is Brian a modern Da Vinci?
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