Sweet, hypnotic and vital, water can also flood and devastate. An extraordinary aquatic performance, Holoscenes floats between dream and reality, between the world as we know it and the catastrophe that looms. In this living installation, American artist Lars Jan faces up to the intriguing beauty of devastation. An urgent SOS and a call for resilience.
A giant aquarium sits imposingly in the heart of the city—on the new Esplanade Tranquille. Scenes from daily life unfold there: someone tunes a guitar, someone else sells fruit or reads the newspaper. In less than a minute, they are submerged under twelve tonnes of water. Amid this captivating chaos, their gestures are transformed and people adapt. Mixing dance and physical theatre, the artist holds up a mirror to passersby reflecting the fight against climate upheavals. How far can we go in adapting? An extraordinary visual and visceral experience.
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Created and Produced by Early Morning Opera / Lars Jan
Created and Produced by Early Morning Opera
Conceived and Directed by Lars Jan
Choreographed by Geoff Sobelle
Performed by Benjamin Kamino + Emmanuelle Martin + Annie Saunders + Geoff Sobelle
Show Control and Lighting Design Pablo N. Molina
Sound Design Nathan Ruyle + Mikaal Sulaiman
Sound Engineering Duncan Woodbury
Costume Design Irina Kruzhilina
Technical Director Eric Lin
Project Manager Christopher Pye
Company Manager Alexandria Yalj
Hydraulic Design Larry McDonald
Automation Design Erich Bolton
Created with the support of Robert Rauschenberg Foundation + MAP Fund + Surdna Foundation (New York) + NEA
This engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts + Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Presented by Hydro-Québec with the support of The Cole Foundation + Quartier des spectacles Partnership in association with Écoscéno
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch + David Dalgleish
Premiered at Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, Toronto, on October 4, 2014
About the artist
Lars Jan (Los Angeles) Early Morning Opera
The American artist Lars Jan is the son of immigrants from Afghanistan and Poland. Multidisciplinary in his approach, he is a director, writer and visual artist and the founder of Early Morning Opera, a laboratory that combines live performance with new technologies and unique experiences.
The American artist Lars Jan is the son of immigrants from Afghanistan and Poland. Multidisciplinary in his approach, he is a director, writer and visual artist and the founder of Early Morning Opera, a laboratory that combines live performance with new technologies and unique experiences. His work deals with questions about the private and collective spheres, and are marked by striking, enigmatic imagery. His 2015 multimedia piece The Institute of Memory(TIMe) was a reflection on memory that integrated family archives with tangible digital structures. In 2018-2019 he presented a theatre work based on Joan Didion’s essay The White Album at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival and at the UCLA Center for the Art of Performance.
A monumental installation inspired by climate change, Holoscenes was a sensation in New York’s Times Square in 2017 as it coincided with the US withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords. Initially presented at Nuit blanche in Toronto in 2014 and later on in public spaces in Sarasota, Miami, London, Abu Dhabi and Australia, the piece features performers moving in an aquarium subjected to cycles of flooding. Proposing a new form of monumental, aquatic art, this living sculpture calls into question the human capacity to adapt to climate change.
“Holoscenes is a chilling intervention many hope is fiction, not forecast […] An epic performance-installation […] As the water level rises and falls, the actions take on the qualities of a fraught water ballet.”
Kara Weisenstein, Vice (États-Unis), 2017-06-02
“Part surrealist performance, part sculpture, part escapology-style spectacle.”
William Fowler, The Guardian (United-Kingdom), 2016-09-29
“The title of Jan’s installation is a play on words. Not only does it relate to the geological Holocene era, the 11,700 years since the last ice age, but it also plays on the theatrical notion of a “hollow scene”, an idea that Jan, whose background is in performance art, finds metaphorically dark and chilling.”
Nick Leech, The National, 2016-11-10
“The ordinary man settled into his ordinary ritual. He lay down at the bottom of the empty, cubelike aquarium with his ﬂuffed-up pillow, crawled under his sheet and shut his eyes. But he was roused abruptly by a stream of water, […]. Then, just as suddenly, the water level dropped, only to rise and fall again for the next 45 minutes while spectators sat mesmerized.”
Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times (United States), 2015-12-04
“As scientists and politicians in Paris wrestle with the complexities of battling climate change, here in Miami, an artist, Lars Jan, is inviting people to view it in a way, he said, that makes people “feel climate change in their guts, rather than just understand it.”
Lizette Alvarez, The New York Times (United States), 04-12-2015