Thoughts & Insights

What does a picture sound like?

Pictures speak their own language. Even though they are seemingly silent, they do communicate with viewers and create a resonance in them. And although they only come to us as the result of an artistic process, and therefore seem static, they carry the process of their creation within them. It sounds and resonates in them.

I always knew that OUBEY’s pictures speak a universal language. Ever since travelling the world for five years and meeting people of the most diverse cultures on four continents, this universal quality of his paintings has become apparent. The documentary OUBEY- An Element of the Universal gives a good idea of this.

However, some of OUBEY’s pictures have always been sound-pictures for me. Images that do not merely speak a universal visual language, but also ring out in what is probably the most universal of all the languages in this universe – music. Some people think that mathematics is the language of the universe. This may well be so. But unlike mathematics, of which music is the artistic expression, not all people on the planet understand mathematics. Yet everybody on this planet understands music. Music is possibly a language that could even be understood by an extra-terrestrial intelligence.

For this reason alone I was very early on excited by the idea of collecting musical resonances at some point in addition to the linguistically expressed resonances to OUBEY’s pictures captured on the film of the Encounter Videos. Musical resonances could possibly open up a completely different, non-verbal level of access to his pictures in a universal language that perhaps could come even closer than human language to the very distinctive universal language of the pictures themselves. The cosmos as the benchmark and reference value of OUBEY’s art could find an unprecedented form of expression in a musical resonance.

Even though we are now living in the 21st century, however, there are still tangible boundaries between the disciplines. While it is fortunately true that the number of interdisciplinary art and research projects has largely increased over the past twenty years, such border crossings have only been perceived sporadically in the everyday world. But since the MINDKISS Project is primarily aimed at people who are not at home in the worlds of established art or science, I find this idea of musical resonance with OUBEY’s pictures particularly interesting and important.

But where and how to find musicians with not just the desire but also the capability to create a resonance to a painting in their own way, musicians who can qualitatively live up to what has been set as a verbal level in the earlier Encounters?  Musicians who are willing to engage in such an experiment? For me it was once again the start of something new without any certainty about the final outcome: grandiose failure or grandiose success. It was just an idea, not a plan.

It is one of the many almost incredible but true stories of this project, how, at the end of my three year project break in 2019, chance brought me together with the composer, musician and singer Natalia Kiés in New York. At that time she spontaneously and exclusively gave me a sample of what she was doing and I was instantly wowed by her musicality and by the poetry of her lyrics. I talked to her about my idea of musical resonances and asked her if she could imagine writing a resonance to OUBEY‘s greatest work GENESIS. She didn’t know the painting back then. After she got to know it, yes, she could imagine doing so.

Now, three years later, there is her marvellous song Mówić przez sen, with which she expresses her own personal resonance to OUBEY‘s greatest work GENESIS. With her wonderful voice she gives the aura of an enchanting dream to an already fascinating performance. She meets the overwhelming size and existential depth of the painting with an apparent lightness of touch which is the very opposite of superficial as it clothes the profound questions of our existence in the wonderful experience of a dream.

I can only describe it as a stroke of luck that in collaboration with our long-term project partner Christoph Harrer a video has been created in which some figures from OUBEY‘s GENESIS develop a moving life of their own dancing to Natalia’s music. What he has set in scene here is just as magical as the dream Natalia‘s song tells of.

For the past few days now, I have been in deep conversation with another musician whom I first contacted well over a year ago. He has now developed some ideas and I can say that I find them all very interesting and exciting. So it might well be that we’ll have a second musical encounter. And if luck or chance continues to bring us together with one or the other “right person”, I would be more than happy to have a few more of them. Because I’m still curious.


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