ANNA & MARIE
composed in 2018/19
Anna & Marie (2018-19) is an audiovisual intermedia work that comprises an interactive installation, and a series of performances based on ergodic storytelling, for electric violin, baroque violin, and real time generated sound synthesis, video projections and light design.
Anna & Marie is based on the 18th Century anatomists Anna Morandi (1714-74) and Marie Bihéron (1719-86). Through their work as anatomists, they became pioneers in the field of ceroplastics – the art of making wax sculptures of human bodies and inner organs. Anatomical wax models were in high demand during that era, in response to the strong interest in autopsies that had become a major field of research in medicine. Due to the lack of cooling systems corpses for anatomical studies were hard to preserve. A cleaner, more durable and odor-free alternative were wax models. Although their primary purpose was for medical studies and research, ceroplastics became an artistic practice in their own right and therefore form a fascinating intersection between art and natural science with epistemic objectives. Accordingly, some wax modellers were surgeons that followed their artistic vein, and others were artists who trained themselves in medicine and anatomy.
Both Morandi and Bihéron were highly respected practitioners in their field, which was otherwise almost exclusively the domain of men. The former was working in Bologna, the latter primarily in Paris, and although they both partly shared the same clients, as e.g. Catherine the Great, there are no historic indicators that these two remarkable women ever met.
1. Point of Departure
The point of departure of my project Anna & Marie is the story of a fictitious encounter of these women, which is told in eight different versions during the weekend of the Donaueschinger Musiktage. These variations are enacted in performances in which two violinists – Barbara Lüneburg on electric violin and Susanne Scholz on baroque violin – perform in an audiovisual environment. Their playing generates a spoken dialogue between the characters Anna and Marie, that can optionally be followed through headphone earpieces that are distributed throughout the performance space. The performance and its underlying narrative are designed according to ergodic storytelling – also known as “choose-your-own-adventure” storytelling. While performing the piece the violinists navigate in 3D environments that are projected on two separate screens, each relating to one of them. At particular junction points in the environment the performers can decide how the story of the fictional encounter will unfold, which has far reaching musical and also visual consequences. The variations of the story range from intimate friendships via joint business ventures to mutual hostility or even destruction. Through the dialogues a personal relationship between the two characters evolves. However, the unfolding story also reveals details about their work circumstances, gender issues and cultural aspects of their time – issues, many of which still have relevance today.
Concert versions with dialogs and subtitles
2. Ergodic Storytelling
Depending on the chosen path through the story the performance can last anything between 10 minutes and about three-quarters of an hour. Each variation of the story eventually leads to an audiovisual situation which remains as an installation after the performers have left the space. This installation situation offers various forms of interaction for the audience to explore. The 3D environments that the violinists navigated through can now be accessed by audience members – similar to a computer game – by picking up a game controller and walking through the environment. While moving through the environment, fragments of recordings of the violin parts of the most recent performance become audible. The performances have now become “inscribed” in the virtual landscape and can thus be retraced by the audience member.
At the same time fragments of the last version of the story are also retold, that can again be followed by picking up the same headphone-earpieces that are available during the performance.
Another layer of experience available to the audience is the exploration of the physical space through ‘Augmented Reality’ via tablets that are offered. These tablets generate sounds, virtual objects and texts when they are pointed at particular images that are distributed throughout the installation space. The texts present historical details about the lives of Anna Morandi and Marie Bihéron and thereby offer complementary background information, paired with interactive audiovisual events.
Similarly as the wax sculptures of human bodies resulted from the merging of medical research and artistic practice, in the project Anna & Marie I sought to combine historic accuracy and counterfictional free play of fantasy, which altogether shape a multilayered aesthetic experience. The audience is invited to explore the various manifestations and layers of this work as a musical, visual and spatial experience.
Composition, 3D design, light design, script, VR and AR programming: Marko Ciciliani
Electric violin: Barbara Lüneburg
Baroque violin: Susanne Scholz
Interactive score programming: Andreas Pirchner
Script editing: Kelly Lamb
Recording of text of Anna Morandi: Beatrice Baglione
Recording of text of Marie Bihéron: Nelly Bollon
Commissioned by the SWR for the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2019
A co-production with the Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM) of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, made possible with a research grand by the Austrian Science Fund FWF as AR364-G24.