Brian Eno

Chiesa di S. Carpoforo

From John Cage’s silence to Brian Eno’s music; from a density of signals to a scarcity and simplicity of them. Cages silence is born out of noise; Eno’s music arises from the silence that the noise provokes around us. Cages realism brings us out of our towers, or our islands, into life. Eno’s abstraction leads us from the chaos of life to the silence of the tower, of the island. But in reality the tower is threatened; in reality, the island will be invaded. Eno clearly pushes us from the artificial territory of possible worlds into the fantastic domain of the imaginary.

Perhaps this is why his “Crystals,” 1984, seem to be segments or visions from the primordial and lovely, but now vanished, planet of Krypton, mythic zone of unfortunate birth. In fact, and not accidentally, Eno’s most recent video/musical work has great prescience, containing a tacit promise of the sublime; for the moment, however, it remains a small, subtle pleasure. In this installation the “Crystals” were a small spectacle buried in the crypt of San Carpoforo. They had a bit of the demonstration, the experiment, about them, and they were highly suggestive and perfectly structured, yet limited by the shadowy enclosure of the crypt, an ecclesiastic setting at once both real and metaphorical. The work stems from Eno’s investigations of the late ’70s, when his interest in video was distinctive in that it avoided the narrative and documentary intent that seemed to have characterized the medium throughout its brief history. He seems even less involved with the music-video clips prevalent today.

The “Crystals” consist of a series of monitors mounted one above the other and facing upward. Above and around them various volumetric structures, open at the top, recall both architecture and Minimal objects (and Eno, in fact, uses the term "video sculptures’’ to describe these objects). The video screens are used as luminous sources to swathe the solid shapes in colors which change continuously in accordance with music emitted by a separate system. The flow of sound is integrated with the flow of the ever-changing visual spectacle, and the result is a unique work, to be felt around one and to be seen before one. Thus the dual results, both visual and aural, remove the spectator to a position typical in Western culture, that of critical, nonparticipatory contemplation, and also stimulate a mild, inevitable astonishment derived from the immediate realization of pleasure in attention.

This attention has neither precise nor predetermined targets; what is solicited is a state of attention, somewhere between diffusion and concentration. At first analysis, individual visual and sound elements are reducible to a simple elementary unity (still the influence of Minimalism, but reinterpreted in warmer tones), and both move in concert, creating an enveloping and radiant mass of great intensity. The spectacle is thus one of mutations (from Cage to Eno there is a single yet manifold Zen thread): perceived forms demonstrate mutations of quality, intensity, juxtapositions, and relationships, as well as immediate, almost primal, harmony. But while the music, which maintains the same transparency as Eno’s “ambient music” of a few years ago, has the capacity to develop in various directions, the visual event remains circumscribed and concentrated upon the luminous poles of the objects, upon the small spectacle. the objects, upon the small spectacle.

Pier Luigi Tazzi

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.