INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
BBC FEBRUARY 8, 2007 - by Jonathan Carter
CENTURIES OF ART AT THE BALTIC
Soothing sounds surround you in the huge twilit space as you walk quietly towards a row of silhouetted figures sat in silent contemplation of what looks like three stained-glass windows. You'd be forgiven for thinking you were in some kind of New Age church, but no, this is The Constellations (77 Million Paintings) - Brian Eno's installation at the Baltic in Gateshead.
"I'm starting to think that I'm getting into the religion business a little bit," says the master of ambient strangeness, bathed in the glow from the luminous panels. "I'm actually an evangelical atheist, but there is something I recognise about religion: that it gives people a chance to surrender. And I think part of what happens to people when they come into this show is that they practice this feeling of surrendering."
This is the first time that an installation using Eno's specially developed computer programme, 77 Million Paintings, has been shown in the UK. The software randomly overlays more than three hundred of his own hand-drawn images, constantly producing millions of possible combinations. And it's beautiful to behold. "You're reversing a pattern that's been very familiar to humans for the last hundred years or so," Eno explains. "Which is that you can always hear or see something again. What I'm doing is using those same technologies which we use to replicate experiences to generate constantly new ones.
"My experience of the piece is as fresh as the audience's. When I walk away from this tomorrow it'll carry on generating paintings - none of which I'll ever see - so every member of the audience will see a different set of images. If you wanted to be sure of seeing a repeat you'd have to watch for about four hundred and fifty years." Which is a strange and moving thought. One that makes you keep watching as each image slowly dies away, never to be seen again. At least, not until the middle of the twenty-fifth Century.