Ryoji Ikeda, Peaches, Mira Calix and more: Laura Ducceschi on Earsthetic in Brighton

By Ben Miller | 10 December 2013

Curator's Choice: Creative Producer Laura Ducceschi on giant installations, provocative performance art and more in Brighton Dome's thrilling Earsthetic mini-season

A photo of spirals of white lines running against a black background
Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda's enormous-scale immersive art© Courtesy Brighton Dome
Ryoji Ikeda

"He’d been on my radar for some years. I first saw him at the Barbican four or five years ago.

He did an installation with datamatics in New York on a massive scale – it was an airport hangar-type thing, the audience walked inside it. The one at the Barbican was more of a performance.

I’ve always wanted to see him in the UK, and I’m quite familiar with the French company who work alongside him. Last time they were here we went out for some post-show drinks and I expressed my interest quite forcefully.

He’s difficult to lock down timing-wise because he’s a Japanese artist and he does stuff in big spaces around the world.

As far as I know he’s only done two concerts in the UK. There’s been some smaller scale stuff, but in order to put on a Ryoji concert...it’s quite a massive thing, there’s no space where we could have done it other than the concert hall.

There isn’t a screen in this country you can rent that’s big enough for it. So we had to buy this huge piece of plastic in order to be able to project this beast.

For me, Ryoji is an electronic artist and a sound artist. But I guess a lot of his fanbase, if you want to call it that, come from the visual art world. He kind of sits on that line. It’s not something you see every day on music programmes.

He’s taken data which I believe is essentially about DNA and the solar system. Using mathematical processing he enables this to be turned into a three-dimensional visual spectacular.

My understanding is that he’s taken the sound, essentially, of the solar system. He’s taken frequencies and turned it into this force of sound, but everything comes from a mathematical starting point.

When you see it coming at you, you see mathematics happening before your very eyes. It fragments and fragments and fragments, it’s quite trippy.

It’s going to take the entire width of the concert hall. We can just about fit it in. It’s such a specific piece – when you see it it’s pretty amazing. You can understand why he never wants it to be presented in a scaled-down way.

If I was working in another place, and I didn’t think that our production staff had the skillset, I wouldn’t dream of putting my neck on the block with Ryoji. Technically we are tight.

Our team enjoy it, they love it. Our Head of Production, our Technical Manager, they love the challenge of something like this. So I think that helped with the company who represent him because they’d worked with us at the Brighton Festival previously. They’re familiar with our presentation values, if you like."

A photo of a young woman with a partly shaved head and face paint and a dark jacket
© Angel Ceballo
Peaches

"She and I met up a few years ago in Manchester. We went to see The Life and Death of Marina Abramović at the Manchester International Festival together. We’ve remained in contact and every so often we have this creative conversation.

After chasing Ryoji for some time and getting this date, having got to know Peaches over a few years I just called her up and said ‘can you come and do this thing?’ And she’s like ‘well, alright then, I’m supposed to be filming, but ok.’

I think it's really important to do a question-and-answer session with Peaches around this. She’s made this film and it’s based around a performance in Berlin.

It’s kind of a retrospective of her music career. But I think if you’re going to present a work that’s quite provocative it’s really important to hear the artist talk about it.

I’m very privileged to get to spend time with artists like her on a one-to-one. It’s about drawing artists out and getting them to try new things out.

Peaches is a fascinating artist and we will continue to work with her – next time it will be a totally different piece of work: different genre, different type."

A photo of a woman in a pink dress walking through a dense forest of trees and foliage
© Courtesy Brighton Dome
Mira Calix


"Mira Calix is signed to Warp. She’s worked with so many people, from Radiohead to whoever knows – it’s quite astonishing. She’s not a household name in any way, but her work always pushes the boundaries.

This is going to be a new piece that’s not been seen before. It’s a science-based project with Imperial College London. When I spoke to Mira about this she described it as one of her most beautiful pieces of work.

She’s an artist that you can just trust. The work wasn’t fully made at the time we agreed to go with it, and I think that’s a really exciting thing to do as well – when it’s an artist you believe in, to take a risk and allow it to turn up.

You can expect to start the room fully in the black and leave it fully in the light. She cuts through paper, essentially creating a live soundscape. It’s for 200 people, so it will be intimate."

Earsthetic

"Once Ryoji and Peaches were in, from my perspective I was looking at the King and Queen of electronic work. It felt like there was something amazing about it.

What makes this programme different is that these artists are starting from a very, very visual perspective. So like with Ryoji, I don’t think he just thought ‘well, I’ll make these sounds’ and then ‘I wonder what images I’ll use?’

Who knows where his triggers and jump-off points were? And it’s the same with Peaches, she’s so provocative visually.

I think a curatorial approach really pushes us to think about what would be outside of the norm and really exciting. This work could equally sit in a gallery or concert hall.

A lot of programmes aren’t pushing the boat out enough. It’s important to enable people to see things in different ways. I think there’s so much more potential in art.

I like artists like CocoRosie who start their work from a very interdisciplinary place. When do you ever hear them, even on 6 Music? And that’s really weird, because we sold out nearly 1,300 tickets for their gig, yet you don’t ever hear it on the radio.

The sales for their UK tour, in the north, were so miniscule compared to Brighton, and I think that tells you, as a programmer, more about your audience as well.

I like to work from a visual arts model, I don’t get on with the music industry very much. It’s quite aggressive, it’s like ‘how much money have you got?’ – there’s not a lot of conversation about art. It’s not my favourite place to be.

I think artists need to be quite comfortable that you understand what they’re proposing. I guess you need to have their confidence because it is so specific. I tend to work around thematics, in a more kind of curatorial way, because it’s more fun.

The Dome gives me total freedom. Our own programme has been really solid, from Public Enemy to Nick Cave to Bat For Lashes to Patti Smith, Richard Hawley and so on.

We’re very much drawn, here in Brighton, to real artists who are not so much drawn by the commercial industry. They’re artists who are always trying out new things.

I have dialogue with programmers around the country saying ‘how have you done that?’ In this day and age there’s a thought that artistic programming can’t work financially. And I am saying ‘well, yes it can’ – if you are clear enough about what you’re doing and why you are doing it.

If artists know that your production levels are really high and you’ll be up for trying out something a bit new, do it carefully enough and it can go full circle. There’s a trust basis that we can deliver production-wise, and hopefully it will just get stronger and stronger.

Because we also run the festival, our marketing and production team are used to very specific arts projects which you don’t see being nationally promoted every day. They’re strong enough to do it.

It’s wonderful to see that this can work here in Brighton and that the audience are up for it. That’s amazing. It takes a long time to steer things in an organisation of this size, but it’s exciting to see it on the steer."

  • Earsthetic runs until December 14 2013. Mira Calix, 10, Studio Theatre; Spirit of Gravity, 11, Studio Theatre; Planningtorock, 12, Studio Theatre; Ryoji Ikeda, 13, Concert Hall; Peaches, Corn Exchange, 14. Book online.

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