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The Proliferation of the Sun

Berlin 2014

Otto Piene "The Proliferation of the Sun"

More than 1,100 digitized glass slides had to be converted into moving pictures for a revival of a major Otto Piene work, Proliferation of the Sun.

Date 24.10.2014
Services Audio Video
Museums & Culture

The artist had hand-painted the slides in the 1960s for the recently invented carousel projector to beam multihued iridescent orbs onto surfaces in galleries, off-site spaces and basement movie theaters. Nearly 50 years later, seven projectors cast digital clips onto screens with images sequenced in exactly the same order for this reprise. Although now automated, the installation is accompanied by an audio tape of Piene's instructions to his projectionists determining tempo and timing and his rhythmically entrancing composition The Sun.

When Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie tasked satis&fy to provide AV support and convert over 1,100 digitized glass slides into film clips for an Otto Piene retrospective, the job would prove to be memorable in more ways than one. "Having often supported major museums in Frankfurt and handled off-site projects in the nation's capital, this was our first job for a major museum in Berlin - and what a special gig it was in the Mies van der Rohe exhibition hall at the Cultural Forum," says Uwe Buhrdorf, struggling to curb his enthusiasm. Proliferation of the Sun is one of three parts of a major Otto Piene retrospective entitled More Sky jointly organized by the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle.

satis&fy staged many elaborate events in museums, but never an actual exhibition so Uwe Buhrdorf, project manager and managing director of satis&fy Berlin, was delighted when the city's new national gallery took up the organizers of the CTM Festival, formerly known as club transmediale, up on their recommendation and asked the company for its support. Having studied art, Uwe is familiar with the work and the art world, and understands the technical challenges of such sensitive projects. Buoyed by experience, he was undaunted by the prospects of working closely with Otto Piene, museum curator Joachim Jäger and his research assistant Babette Marie Werner. The project was enormous in scale and scope.

This was the first show of such magnitude even for Piene. Before this year's tribute in Berlin, his work had been featured mostly in smaller galleries. As an artist who sought to break out of the confines of museum space, he liked to exhibit at off-sites and public venues. Presented in the Neue Nationalgalerie every night from 10 pm to 3 am on July 16 through August 31, this slide show dating from 1966/67 is a case in point: He created the original for a small off-site stage in New York and presented it in Nuremberg, Cologne and Dortmund in 1967.

Many trial runs were held in the open exhibition hall after the slides had been digitized and the clips reviewed on monitors.

Once Otto Piene was satisfied, his "poetic space voyage," a trippy odyssey through time and space surrounded by psychedelic colors, shapes and sounds, could begin. Visitors were free to wander the installation space, their shadows dancing on the projection backdrops and merging with the work, or lounge about, enjoying the Pauly Saal's excellent drinks, as the dark reaches of the imaginary space drew them in. Either way, guests were thoroughly fascinated with the show.

It was a great honor for satis&fy to be part of Piene's biggest show. 

It may well be the first of many more exciting exhibits to come, but it was also the last show the artist would witness, marking a triumphant end to an influential career. Celebrated by thousands of guests as a visionary innovator at the opening on July 16, Piene died unexpectedly a day later at the age of 86. At the request of his family, Piene's vision of three white 'air sculptures' hovering in the sky above the gallery's roof was realized for the Sky Art Event on the night of July 19. Like the sun in his eponymous work, their radiant power proliferated far beyond the Potsdamer Platz.

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