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MEDIALON at 54th Venice Biennale on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion

MEDIALON at 54th Venice Biennale on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Pavilion

©Andrea AvezzùTwo Medialon MIP HD media player units along with a Medialon Manager show control license are currently running on “ The Black Arch”, a collaboration work made by the Artist Shadia Alem and writer Raja Alem to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its debut participation in the 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia running in Italy from June 04th to November 27th, 2011.

Damien Lebrun and Nathalie Grassi from CYWEB, a France-based company specialized in multimedia tools and content development, were in charge of the design, the production, and the installation of the audio/images/lighting system, as well as the programming of the Medialon show control system.

The Black Arch” installation is about two visions of the world, of two cities – Mecca in Saudi Arabia and Venice in Italy. The work is a stage, set to project the artists' collective memory, with physical representation of Black (i.e. black silhouettes of Saudi women), inspirational tales from Mecca, where the sisters grew up, and as a counter-point, the second part of the installation is a mirror image, reflecting the present.

©Andrea AvezzùWhen entering the room, the visitor is surrounded with sounds as if he was entering the Mecca, where souk, birds' market, Mecca's chivalric men dances and even joyful wedding chants sounds are all mixed. A polished steel oval, standing up like a dark looking glass, is captured on the ground by a surface of chrome marbles arranged of the same size. These two surfaces, one vertical, the other horizontal, each a projection of the other, are joined together by their reflections and images which evoke Mecca and Venice that each of them sheds.

Confronted by the black side of the ellipse, devoid of perspective, but drawn by a glimpse of light beyond, the viewer travels through an empty landscape, simply described by the sound of the desert. Then the viewer is passing a barrier to access the main installation: “The Black Arch”. The arch is set upon a multitude of reflective spheres that evoke an understanding of the two differing cultures. The barren landscape of the black side that draws the viewer into making the journey is suddenly transformed, and a new and exciting vista is discovered, full of life and energy. Here, standing, as their gaze is cast from the cube - which is descriptive of Mecca, to the arch symbolic of Venice and to the many spheres -, the viewer becomes not only engaged with the work but also an important part of it. The viewer's own image becomes apparent in an array of reflective surfaces, overlaid with projected imagery and sound thoughtfully selected from and representative of both cities. This is augmented by hearing the gentle noise of the water of and around Venice, confirming the setting of this particular landscape.

©Andrea Avezzù“For The Black Arch, the artists wanted four audio and two video projections sources along with a sophisticated and lively lighting”, states Damien Lebrun, Sound Engineer and Developer at CYWEB. “Of course, the video, audio and lighting effects had to run simultaneously. We also absolutely had to find a nice and easy tool to create and synchronize the 30 spotlights with the audio and images in situ in Venice, knowing that we would have a limited time for the integration onsite”, adds Damien Lebrun.

“It clearly appeared that two Medialon MIP HD media players to play the 30-minutes media content including audio and images files, associated with a Medialon Manager show control software for the DMX lighting control and the timeline with the Positrack (sync) functionality were the ideal solution for this project.”, declared Lebrun.

“We also needed a true reliable audiovisual and lighting control system as the project had to operate autonomously for the 6-month duration of the Biennale exhibit. Medialon brought us this guarantee”, concludes Damien Lebrun.

Commissioner: Dr. Abdulaziz Alsebail / Curators: Mona Khazindar and Robin Start

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