Japanese Art Installation Lets People Play Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1” As They Walk on Socially-Distanced Notes on the Floor

The glob­al pan­dem­ic has revealed the depths of sys­tem­at­ic cru­el­ty in cer­tain places in the world that have refused to com­mit resources to pro­tect­ing peo­ple from the virus or refused to even acknowl­edge its exis­tence. Oth­er respons­es show a dif­fer­ent way for­ward, one in which every­one con­tributes mean­ing­ful­ly through the prin­ci­pled actions of wear­ing masks and social dis­tanc­ing or the prin­ci­pled non-action of stay­ing home to slow the spread.

Then there’s the crit­i­cal role of art, design, and music in our sur­vival. As we have seen—from spon­ta­neous bal­cony ser­e­nades in Italy to poignant ani­mat­ed video poet­ry—the arts are no less cru­cial to our sur­vival than pub­lic health. Human beings need delight, won­der, humor, mourn­ing, and cel­e­bra­tion, and we need to come togeth­er to expe­ri­ence these things, whether online or in real, if dis­tant, life. Ide­al­ly, pub­lic health and art can work togeth­er.

Japan­ese design­er Eisuke Tachikawa has put his skills to work doing exact­ly that. When cas­es began spik­ing in his coun­try in April, Tachikawa and his design firm Nosign­er made some beau­ti­ful­ly designed, and very fun­ny, posters to encour­age social dis­tanc­ing as part of an ini­tia­tive called Pandaid. Then they cre­at­ed Super Mario Broth­ers coin stick­ers to place six feet (or two meters, or one tuna) apart. In its Eng­lish trans­la­tion, at least, the text on Nosigner’s site is direct about their inten­tions: “As this con­tin­ues we want­ed to val­ue-trans­late the social con­straints of social dis­tanc­ing into some­thing pos­i­tive and enjoy­able.”

Tachikawa and Nosign­er have “devel­oped a brand,” they announced recent­ly, called SOCIAL HARMONY “in order to spread the cul­ture of social dis­tanc­ing in a humor­ous way.” Their lat­est instal­la­tion, how­ev­er, does not incor­po­rate jokes or Nin­ten­do ref­er­ences. Rather it draws on one of the most pop­u­lar and beloved pieces of min­i­mal­ist clas­si­cal music, Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1” (pro­claimed by Clas­sic FM as “the most flat-out relax­ing piece of piano music ever writ­ten”). “Peo­ple stand on a large music sheet on the floor and notes are played the moment you step on them. By respect­ing social dis­tances and going one note at a time, the pub­lic is able to play” Satie’s piece.

Even for such a suc­cinct com­po­si­tion, this must require a rig­or­ous amount of coor­di­na­tion. But it is nec­es­sary to play the notes in order: “Since the melody changes with every stop, one can cre­ate one’s own Gymnopédie No. 1, since the played melody changes with every step.” The piece was installed at the entrance hall to the Yoko­hama Minatomi­rai Hall for DESIGNART TOKYO 2020, where it will remain until the end of the year. Sure­ly there will be oth­er forms of “social har­mo­ny” to come from the Japan­ese design­ers. Like the prac­tice of social dis­tanc­ing itself, we can only hope such projects catch on and go glob­al, until the wide­spread vac­ci­na­tion and an end to the pan­dem­ic can bring us clos­er again.

via Spoon & Tam­a­go 

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A New Dig­i­tal Archive Pre­serves Black Lives Mat­ter & COVID-19 Street Art

Watch How to Be at Home, a Beau­ti­ful Short Ani­ma­tion on the Real­i­ties of Social Iso­la­tion in 2020

2020: An Iso­la­tion Odyssey–A Short Film Reen­acts the Finale of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a COVID-19 Twist

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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