Loris Gréaud

Loris Gréaud, The Snorks: A Concert for Creatures, 2012, 35 mm, color, 28 minutes.

The Snorks: A Concert for Creatures is a new twenty-eight-minute film by French artist Loris Gréaud, starring David Lynch and Charlotte Rampling. The film is currently playing on several screens in Paris and will be shown as part of an international concert tour with Anti-Pop Consortium (who created the film’s subaquatic sound track) this fall and winter. Here Gréaud discusses how he came to make a movie about deep sea creatures’ glowing reaction to an underwater hip-hop concert.

MAKING A HIP-HOP CONCERT FOR SEA CREATURES was an incredible challenge—not least of all I had to explain to my parents that this is what I wanted to do! But it really became an obsession for me. My fascination with deep seas and the organisms living in them began when I saw a report on TV, which likened bioluminescent activity to “underwater fireworks.” The images of these creatures lighting up the dark water, creating so-called blooms, was so fascinatingly beautiful and also raised many questions for me. Without having a specific project in mind, I began to do a lot research. I found out, for instance, that bioluminescence is the most common form of communication on our planet and that we know more about the surface of the moon (where there is no life) than we do about the bottom of the ocean. My inquiries eventually led to meetings and collaborations with various experts—scientists, pyrotechnicians, and musicians. I met with researchers at MIT’s Sea Grant College whose experiments using certain frequencies to stimulate unicellular organisms had triggered bioluminescent blooms. They showed me grainy, low-res images and I was inspired. My quest became to find a way to diffuse music deep underwater. But it wasn’t until later that I decided to make a movie about the process and the results.

When I was considering what music to play to for the creatures, I immediately thought of Anti-Pop Consortium. I first heard the band as an art student and I remember feeling like I was listening to music from the future. Their arrhythmic beats and unique lyrics—a combination of philosophy, poetry, and hip-hop—was initially described as “Abstract Hip Hop.” So I met the band and explained my project, and they signed on to write all new music. I gave them carte blanche as long as they imagined that they were making music specifically for the underwater creatures.

To make the concert, last March we launched a hydrophone from a submarine research station called Antares, which is one and a half miles below the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Toulon in France. This was the most difficult moment, but also the most beautiful. The underwater microphone was so powerful that we could actually hear the music from the boat. We didn’t have any live-feed images from below, but then suddenly all of the computers started blinking. This meant the creatures were blooming and we knew the experiment was working. The scenes you see at the end of the movie—the underwater fireworks!—represent the actual bioluminescent response to the broadcast of APC’s music.

I’m really excited by how this project—the film and the concert tour—can reach many different audiences. People interested in music, science, cinema, and art will all get something different out of it. The Antares researchers, for example, were game to do the experiment with me, but they didn’t necessarily think we would get a reaction. Now they are working on a scientific publication based on what happened during the “Concert for Creatures.”