August 26, 2017 – January 28, 2018
East Building, Level B, Video Gallery; Free
French, born 1977
A Kiss of the Earth
Three-channel interactive animation projection
Running time: variable, looped
Sound designer: Paul Geluso
Additional animation: Ariel Li
Additional programming: Shaw Terwilliger
A Kiss of the Earth is an interactive computer-animated video and sound installation inspired by Sergei Diaghilev’s revolutionary 1913 Ballets Russes production of The Rite of Spring, scored by Igor Stravinsky. It is the story of a pagan tribe calling on its deities to restore the earth, a drama that ends with a sacrificial maiden’s dancing herself to death. This installation refers to a contemporary reconstruction of The Rite of Spring, with decor and costumes by Kenneth Archer (after Nicholas Roerich) and choreography by Millicent Hodson (after Vaslav Nijinsky).
Act One of Gruffat’s animation utilizes real-time weather data from Paris, France (site of the scandalous original production of The Rite of Spring), to manipulate the animation. For example when it rains in Paris, it rains in the animation. In addition viewers may send a text message to initiate the playback of Act Two, texting the word sacrifice, for example, to the phone number posted on the gallery wall. In Gruffat’s take the maiden’s ritualistic dance has been reconceived as a commentary on a real contemporary sacrifice: the increased exploitation of our planet’s natural resources in the face of economic and political pressure.
This project attempts to use digital technologies with the same spirit of innovation that marked the first performance of The Rite of Spring. In this way the Internet and wireless network re-envision how the work may be staged, exhibited, and received, while drawing from the same iconoclastic and riotous energy of the original performance. We live in a world where most violence and oppression occur anonymously, with high-tech vision machines that can kill across great distances, but we are disembodied from our experience of death. In this way A Kiss of the Earth reflects a contemporary tragedy.