Tod Machover’s latest music composition/installation opens at the 60th Venice Biennale


Tod Machover

Tod Machover

Saturday — Sunday
April 20, 2024 —
November 24, 2024

Tod Machover’s latest musical composition/installation, Sailing Through Fire (2024), opened at the 60th Venice Biennale on April 20, 2024. The work is a collaboration with celebrated Korean visual artist, Lee Bae, and is an integral part of a full-building installation at Venice’s Wilmotte Foundation. This multisensory experience takes visitors through the circular processes of nature—from growth to destruction to regeneration to creation, and is based on an ancient Korean ritual: collecting wishes for the New Year on slips of paper, building an enormous structure out of pine tree limbs topped with a bamboo tower, burning the entire structure in an all-night ceremony, and the using the remaining ashes and charcoal to create stunning artifacts that project hope and determination for the future. Lee Bae’s multiple art works in the installation—a spectacular wall of reflective carbon puzzle pieces, giant charcoal-produced traces on walls and floor produced with specially-designed rake-brushes, a charcoal-inspired tower cast from bronze, and a glowing yellow “moon room” beckoning visitors to reflect on time, memory and recurrence—all bring visitors through this powerful process of reflecting on the relationship between humans and nature.

Machover's music for the installation was commissioned especially for the pavilion and greets visitors as they enter the building. It accompanies a monumental 60-foot-long video that documents Lee Bae’s process of burning wood into ash, and using that resultant charcoal for creation. The music uses a combination of cello sounds (both lyrical and brush-like scrapings), transformed recordings of the actual burning ritual and other nature sounds, and various layers of electronics. Besides ushering visitors into the exhibition, this music can be heard throughout the building, setting the mood and guiding reflection on the underlying concepts and feelings proposed by the pavilion. Sailing Through Fire plays in the space through a multi-loudspeaker system—creating a complex wash of sound as well as detailed interactions—with an audio mix produced at the MIT Media Lab by Ana Schon (MS ’25). 

La Maison de la Lune Brûlée is on view at the Wilmotte Foundation every day from 10am to 6pm from now through November 24, 2024.

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