The Airship Orchestra by Melbourne art and technology company ENESS is reinvigorating cities across the world with a spectacular immersive art experience.
The temporary artwork is a mystical tribe of 16 otherworldly inflatable sculptures (some up to six meters) all supported by a fully networked internal system of motion sensors enabling its characters to respond to passers-by, behave as a choir, and compose a fresh, generative score each night.
“Ethereal notes build into a soothing, almost hypnotic symphony as audience members interact with a strange assemblage of alien characters in Airship Orchestra. Individual creatures that resemble quirky sea urchins ebb and glow, emitting different sounds as their pixelated digital eyes blink and follow passers-by. It’s as if a bunch of larger-than-life, pop vinyl figures have suddenly come to life to form their own version of the Electric Light Orchestra or Jefferson Starship.”– Patrick McDonald, Chief Arts Writer, SAWeekend The Advertiser
“Beamed from the night stars, skin streaked with galaxy and voices like a stardust”, the artwork includes a generative soundscape synced with light that spans over a 500 square meter area – an adventure that is aesthetically dynamic both day and night.
The Airship Orchestra’s sound experience is its own spatial environment, immersing visitors in an arresting score written character-by-character for a full choir.
“The artwork was developed with certain characters taking vocal positions like tenors, baritones, or sopranos. The notes produced are playing in real-time, and the sound evolves as visitors interact with the characters. To do that based on the principle of a choir with characters having their own individual voices is really complex,” Artist and ENESS Founder, Nimrod Weis said.
Under the stewardship of Weis, Melbourne-based art and technology company ENESS has been creating new types of connections for the last two decades, with the primary creative purpose of stimulating cross-generational connection and joy in public spaces.
This is achieved through various techniques including mash-ups of tech elements – such as the inclusion of LED eyes – with softer materials, organic forms, and anthropomorphized characters.
“As with all our work, there are intriguing details to discover such as friendly LED eyes that blink and follow visitors from creature to creature, and these artful moments are underscored by a rousing, rising rhythm that transports participants to another world,” Weis said.
This combination of approachable technology and relatable but naïve aesthetic tends to bring out the child in everyone; stimulating playfulness in a way that loosens up behavior and introduces unexpected delight into people’s experience of public spaces.
But it is not just the public realm that is transformed by this immersive experience, it is how people respond to technology-driven art and sculpture, particularly when it appears in unconventional spaces.
Although the studio works with many mediums including LEDs for permanent public art, Weis’s particular fascination with inflatables relates to their ephemerality, enabling him to combine textile patterns, the DNA of ceramic forms as well as abstracted, simplified flora and fauna in a way that creates a new visual vernacular. At the heart of every ENESS inflatable sculpture lies a sweet simplicity, a storybook-style language that opens the hearts and minds of all ages.
“That’s the really amazing thing about ENESS, we are a collective so we have musicians, industrial designers, programmers, a writer – there are so many disciplines internally – so it’s not just one mind that is producing the outcome.”
– Nimrod Weis, Artist ENESS
“The Airship Orchestra was launched in 2020 in Xintiandi Shanghai and then touched down at The Yards for Light Yards in Washington DC and was most recently in Prahran Square in Melbourne. In all locations, the demographic changed throughout the evening.
A lot of families visit the exhibit earlier in the evening and during that time the reactions are more boisterous. There is always a happy band of kids running through and around the installation. Something about the diffused, glowing light; the towering friendly figures, and the supernatural soundscape resonates with children and so they dash around excitedly. It seems to be a trigger for their own imaginative worlds. Adults of any age, as well as babies, are often found spellbound and mesmerized. It really is like entering another world.”
Forthcoming Airship Orchestra exhibitions:
The Brisbane Festival, 3-12 September 2021
The Sydney Festival 6 January-26 January