Exploring Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro technique through music, electronics and imagery
How do you explore an artist’s technique using music and cinematography? There are many ways to do it, of course. But perhaps, few are as immersive as that conceived for Oskur, a video art production that premiered on November 8, opening this year’s online edition of the Three Palaces Festival with a bang – or more aptly, with a melodic performance that uses a specific architectural site to reinterpret Caravaggio’s technique of using light and dark.
The project is a collaboration between contemporary musician Gabi Sultana, electronic artist Koen Tryssesoone and film-maker Mark Dingli. Before you start viewing, make sure you give this production your undivided attention. The experience is immersive, to be approached holistically, enjoying both music and visuals as they play off each other.
From a technical point of view, the way Oskur works is ingeniously simple: as the music progresses, the site is portrayed during different times of day, using piano notes to trigger specific events. The visuals are represented as a sequence of mini clips split in time, with the audio information generated by a modular synthesizer also triggering a sequence that controls the imagery.
The production presents three recorded live takes of improvised music as though it was performed within the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum through the use of a reverb imprint of the underground burial site. Each recording focuses on a different local space, creating an ever-changing experience of Maltese heritage as the visuals evolve according to the music and the triggers.
Caravaggio’s famed chiaroscuro technique is thus recreated via a live interplay between three mediums – music, electronics and imagery. The result drastically changes our perception of the sites being presented, presenting a series of glitchy visuals that alternate between light, dark, monochrome and saturation.
If Malta’s heritage were to be viewed through Caravaggio’s lens, is this what we would see? This is a question that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes or no’, but the trio behind Oskur certainly succeed in making us delve deeper in a most enjoyable manner. A worthy curtains-up to this year’s online edition of Three Palaces Festival – bravo.
The Three Palaces Online Festival is organised by Festivals Malta.