Visual Media

77 Million Paintings

Portable light evolution

Hard to say what this Brian Eno invention is. Part book, part screen saver, part gallery painting, part DVD video, part music, part software. It slices and dices your perceptions! The accompanying book in this package makes it clear that this an art piece that is normally exhibited in a large room. Here it comes disguised as DVD that you load onto your computer (Windows or Mac). When you fire it up, it starts to slowly generate paintings constructed by random layering of several hundred of Eno’s foundational images. Very S–l—o–w—l—y each painting melts into the next painting, so that the total number of image permutations tops out at 77 million. While the images shift, Eno’s ambient music also swirls in the background. Like an extremely slow screen saver, the result is ambient painting. But instead of happening in a gallery this evolution of paint happens in your space.

As I spent time watching these lovely paintings gradually, almost imperceptibly, evolve into another image, I had a epiphany. These 77 Million Paintings are not about colors, space, or painting — but time. The reason audiences will spend hours watching gallery installations of this same DVD is that their “nows” are elongated. If they are like me, they wait anxiously for the first image to change (Hurry up, man, this is slow), but by the time the fifth one is changing , it no longer seems slow, and by the 20th, you are in some eternal zen now. It is quite remarkable how colored lights can change time.

Besides the handsome 52-page book written by Eno, and the software, there’s also a DVD interview of him discussing the project. A very nice package.

-- KK 12/19/06

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