Kurt Hentschläger
EMPAC/ Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth


So many questions and much to learn.

EKO is the third audiovisual composition in an ongoing series staged in complete darkness. Starting with SOL in 2017 then SUB in 2019, EKO is the latest offering from Quartz Media Art Award-winning artist Kurt Hentschläger, creator of CORE, the large-scale, symphonic installation commissioned for the 2012 London Olympics / London Festival Cultural Programme.

The name EKO sheds no light on the theme of the piece (nor does research into the meaning of the word), so still in the dark there.

Upon arrival, the theatre is lit only by 12 high red lights which fade to leave the audience enveloped in complete darkness (save for a trace of white light from the sound desk) for quite some while. Slowly, the acousmatic soundscape begins, muffled—perhaps deliberately emulating Pythagoras’ behind-the-curtain lecturing—industrial, screeching and pulsating random musique concrete sending the brain on a journey to identify the familiar but manipulated electroacoustic elements.

Some 15 minutes in (to the 35-minute piece) and intense randomly-spaced images begin. Fired onto a screen, the intermittent light show sears images (mainly the silhouetted heads of the audience in front as this is seated on the flat) onto the retina, leaving after-trails softening after the initial shock.

And there begins the attempt to link, Peter and the Wolf-like, images—from precise grids to almost script, from blobby projections to bold red crosses—and sounds… but mostly to no avail.

The cacophony seems to fly high above the head rather than immerse enhancing the disconnect but which, for me, without any perception of narrative, became somewhat tedious but the whole absolutely thrilled my far more knowledgeable sound engineer companion.

Said to be a live work, which frankly I don’t understand but probably explains the need for light on the desk, the lingering question is whether this is theatre or an art installation and just what differentiates the two. Never have I more wanted a post-show Q&A.

Interesting and apparently exhilarating for those in the know and those better able to let go of a need for narrative.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell

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