RON ARAD’S “CURTAIN CALL” WITH A LIVE PERFORMANCE BY LAIL ARAD AND VISUALS BY FLO KOHL AND ELLIS PENDENS AT THE ROUNDHOUSE IN LONDON
Until the 29th of August, one of London’s most iconic music venues is playing host to renowned designer and architect Ron Arad’s Curtain Call installation.
Arad’s 360˚ installation was originally presented at the Roundhouse in 2011, and now returns as part of the Roundhouse 50th Anniversary celebrations. Already hosting a number of musicians since it began this month, the amazing floor-to-ceiling artwork made of 5,600 silicon rods (suspended from an 18-metre diameter ring) is the perfect canvas for striking visuals.
Brought to audiences by the ‘Bloomberg Summer at the Roundhouse’ program, Curtain Call Live has and will feature musicians GAIKA, Eska, Dan Deacon and the London Contemporary Orchestra featuring world premieres of commissions by composers Mica Levi and CHAINES. Musicians Kutiman, Daniel Landau, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Universal Everything and KIMA join previously exhibiting artists (from Curtain Call in 2011) Babis Alexiadis, Mat Collishaw, Ori Gersht, Greenaway & Greenaway, Gabriel & Shira Klasmer, Christian Marclay, Javier Mariscal, SDNA and David Shrigley for the 2016 Curtain Call.
One of London’s brightest talents, Lail Arad, recently supported Ivor Novello nominated DJ and musician Matthew Herbert at Curtain Call Live on the 10th of August. The immersive experience included custom artwork by photographer Flo Kohl and editor Ellis Pendens together with Arad, linking both melody and visuals for a powerful performance and one-of-a-kind experience. Champ speaks to Lail Arad, Flo Kohl and Ellis Pendens for the details on their collaborative project specifically for Lail’s performance at Curtain Call Live. Images of the experience aren’t enough, this was an attack of the senses in the most poetic way.
What was the concept behind this project?
Lail Arad: I wanted to create a new piece, specifically for Curtain Call at The Roundhouse, which played with my lyrics visually as well as musically. After our previous collaborations it was an obvious choice to commission Flo Kohl and Ellis Pendens. They’re very intimate with my songs and I was happy to give them free reign.
Flo Kohl: I wanted to submerge the viewers in a virtual aquarium, and the setup itself is perfect as you can experience it either from inside or outside. It’s a playful experimentation with scale.
Ellis Pendens: Flo and I bonded over many years of caring for fountain pens—cleaning, filling, repairing. The process of flushing ink from pens underwater and the forms the various inks created inspired us to find visual echoes in nature. Much of the video incorporates Lail’s hand. Whether this is the trace of her in fragments of her handwriting, or literal shots of her writing her brilliant lyrics, her words are paramount. The film has visual references to an experience I had many years ago at a temple in Kyoto, where visitors would drop their wishes, handwritten on slips of paper, into water. Flo and I attempted to replicate the way those letters lifted from the paper: layers of wishes floating in the milky water.
This display has been created before by Ron Arad in the Roundhouse, why replicate this installation?
Lail: Curtain Call was a real hit in 2011 so The Roundhouse decided to bring it back for their 50th anniversary celebrations this year. Some of the video content has happily revived, but there’s also a lot of new work and performances. That’s the beauty of the installation – it is a platform for many people’s work as well as being stunning in it’s own right – so it always feels new.
Flo: I was excited to use this existing format and create something within those confines. It was quite a challenge for both of us.
Can you tell us more about the material used for the 360 degree ‘curtain’?
Lail: The 6000 rods that make up the curtain are made of silicon, so it bounces and sways as people walk through it – or perhaps you mean the video material that’s being projected during the performance? Flo can tell you more about that…
How long has the process been from initiation to execution this week? What challenges have you come across?
Lail: We first started sharing ideas a few months ago. I wrote some new songs since then which will feature along with tracks from my new album The Onion.. For me it’s an ongoing process. Flo and Ellis Pendens were probably working much harder meanwhile!
Flo: Well Ellis and I felt quite honoured that Lail gave us carte blanche. We actually filmed it in six cities in four different countries, primarily over two months. It was important for us not to rely on animation or excessive computer effects, which is why we went out of our way to shoot effects in camera.
Ellis: One of the biggest challenges was purely physical. Flo hiked into a tremendous waterfall in Portland to capture some of the footage, and I went waist-deep into the North Pacific.
Lail, you are a renowned musician and have performed across London, why is this venue and performance so special?
Lail: I was born in London and always love playing home-town shows, but the Roundhouse is a dream – architecturally and historically. I grew up pretty involved with the venue, it was local to me, and I did some projects with them when I finished high school. I think they’ve really got it right both in terms of their programming and their work with young people. And of course it’s not every day you get to perform inside a grand installation designed by your father!
How big was your team for this project? Can you tell us who was involved?
Lail: It was really just the 3 of us, with some invaluable help from the Curtain Call tech crew of course.
Flo: It was really just Lail, Ellis and me. We stole Lail for a day of shooting, and the rest was done with just the two of us. But Lail isn’t off the hook yet, the performance tomorrow is on her!
You have worked together before, tell us about collaborating together.
Lail: It’s always been a joy! I first met Flo when he shot an event I curated – I loved his photos so was delighted when he asked to do some portraits. The rest just rolled on from there.. we developed an idea for a music video made of stills which worked beautifully (for the single “Lay Down”), and Flo’s photographs were then featured in a lyrics book published by The Society Club for the release of my album. Ellis Pendens was photo editing and keeping us focused throughout both projects, and it’s been wonderful having her co-direct this new piece. I feel very lucky to work with them.
Flo: It happened quite organically, we met when I shot one of Lail’s performances, and bonded over the fact that we are both morning people. There aren’t many people that will reply to emails before 7am. Ever since then we started running into each other at art shows and events. Then I shot Lail for an ongoing portrait series I’m doing, and it all just started from there.
Ellis: I first met Lail through her music. Every bit of it resonated with me, and I was delighted that we all shared a certain aesthetic and understanding.
Will you be working again together? What other projects will you be working on for 2016?
Lail: I sure hope so! We can’t stop.. there are already a few ideas in the pipeline…
Flo: Oh definitely. Ellis and Lail have been discussing a new video, I’m looking forward to shooting it as soon as we have recovered from the Roundhouse (so, the morning after maybe?).