Live: Quadratura Interpret “The Monotone Symphony” by Yves Klein @ GV Art, 01/03/2010

This symphony…consisted of one unique continuous “sound,” drawn out and deprived of its beginning and of its end, creating a feeling of vertigo and of aspiration outside of time. Thus, even in its presence, this symphony does not exist. It exists outside of the phenomenology of time because it is neither born nor will it die. However, in the world of our possibilities of conscious perception, it is silence – audible presence.”

This is Yves Klein, describing his original Monotone Symphony performed on March 9th, 1960. This initial rendition consisted of a small orchestra playing one continuous note for 20 minutes, whilst naked models covered themselves in blue paint and cast patterns over a gigantic canvas. Despite the fact that Quadratura’s version features an entirely new piece of music and replaces the models-on-canvas with dancers working alongside advanced video projection technology, the original concept behind Klein’s work has been kept very much intact.

In fact, it is arguable that this new technology has allowed for Klein’s concept to be more vividly realised. As the dancers spin and leap, their outlines form a radiant blue glow on the projection screen behind them, which remains in place for mere seconds before melting into nothing. This process occurs at varying speeds throughout the performance, with the faster and more intricate parts of the routine shadowed move-for-move by a glow which dissolves as quick as it comes, and held poses memorised and imprinted as beautiful blue shapes before dimming and fading away. Whereas Klein’s rendition had his models’ movements immortalised in blue paint prints, Quadratura allows for these moments to be frozen briefly in time before being cast out of existence. It’s a gorgeous effect , and one which is demonstrated by a group of dancers who have clearly worked with the technology enough to explore its potential throughout the routine.

For the accompanying score, Quadratura have broken away from using a singular held note and created an entirely fresh composition, cleverly retaining all of the key elements of the original symphony – including a drifting disregard for tempo and space – whilst flooding the performance area with thick, morphing surges of melody. The piece is comparable to soundscape creators such as Oophoi and Steve Roach for the way in which it cascades as a steady flow, burying chord changes in amongst a deep textural mesh, and does well to re-interpret Klein’s concept as well as staying true to it.

The performance suffered slightly from two issues that were arguably outside of the artists’ control. One was an issue with the PA, which occasionally broke into splutters and crackles and sometimes only operated out of one channel. The other was the incessant click of camera shutters and relentless use of flash photography by some audience members throughout the entire piece – unfortunately this left me unable to fully immerse myself in the symphony at some points.

However, due to the conceptual nature of the piece, I am able to completely ignore the technical hitches and audience distractions and review the Monotone Symphony for the times at which its message and concept were faultlessly realised. At these points, Quadratura demonstrated a deep understanding of Klein’s work and delivered a beautiful and unforgettable snapshot of infinity.

Monotone Symphony from Quadratura on Vimeo.