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A Recycled Plastic Organ Creates an Eerie Sonic Playground

A new musical installation in Stockholm makes the audience challenge their own preconceptions of the use of plastic.

Anna Marks

All photos by José Figueroa, courtesy the artists

“We want to make the piece communicate with the audience, to open their minds to spatial and musical abstraction in a playful and humorous way; to let go of logics and explanations and to view things from new angles. We’re curious about what different materials can achieve if put together and used in another way than they’re meant to. To lift the seemingly ordinary into something larger.” Johanna Mårtensson

Orgel is an art installation and musical piece by composer Ida Lundén and set designer Johanna Mårtensson which challenges the concept of traditional instruments by using non-traditional materials. Made anew from contemporary materials and values inherent, it transforms our preconceptions of how we define ceremonial and musical spaces.

Essentially, Orgel, which exists at Fylkingen, a space in Stockholm, is a contemporary version of a traditional organ; where plastic tubes and objects make up seven wind instruments and sound is produced via compressed air. Interestingly, each pipe (and organ) produces a different sound. Orgel celebrates the use of ordinary, cheap materials—shaping them into something of worth. It challenges our preconceptions of using simple, used materials to create dramatic ritualistic experiences and sound that would have once only belonged within a church or ceremonial space.

At Orgel, visitors adapt to the installation, becoming a part of the philosophy at work. The different personalities in the audience create varied feelings and melodies. As Mårtensson says, “We wanted to develop our interest in working with interactive objects—to invite the visitors to become performers and activators of the room, to find the objects becoming something else when used. Our aim was to find a non-hierarchic way of collaborating both with one another and with the participants. Allowing you to think abstract, surprising one another, exceeding limits, trying out shapes and sounds out of everyday materials.”

The atmosphere organs create within a church is an important part of a traditional and ritualistic ceremony; Orgel creates a similar spiritual gathering with its visitors making a moving, mystical climate within the room. Mårtensson explains, “We worried about that it could be chaotic when the visitors entered the room. But we were pleasantly surprised that the participants took it seriously and that the atmosphere in the room was so attentive and spiritual. But if the visitors were to be chaotic, it will probably make the piece interesting in another way.”

Orgel from IdaJohanna Orgel on Vimeo.

The installation makes us question the real value of used materials and how we feel when an object made out of a cheap medium is compared to a traditional object and is found to be just as effective. It shows us that the substance of an item can be irrelevant in the creation of a ritualistic and sentimental environment, demonstrating that many unorthodox objects can be successful in the creation of such experience. Furthermore, it allows us to query whether the prior knowledge of what an instrument looks like or is made of evokes the same reaction and attitude to the sound stimulating the spiritual experience. It reminds us how important it is to acknowledge used material in a world which is craving the production of new objects while also encouraging and nurturing meditation and wonder in a society that appears to have forgotten how to collectively contemplate.

To learn more about Orgel, click here.

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