77 Million Paintings

Artist: Brian Eno
Location: Lapa Arches, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Year of completion:2012
Researcher: Ashley Guindon

The audiovisual work 77 Million Paintings by Brian Eno was installed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on October 19-21, 2012. The work was selected as one of six public artworks for Other Ideas For Rio, a biannual art event that will culminate in the 2016 Olympic Games. The work consists of a video and sound work projected on the Arcos Da Lapa (Lapa Arches).

Eno is perhaps most well-known for his contributions as an ambient musician and for his work with pop music artists such as U2 and Coldplay, for whom he creates concert lightscapes, but he also works as an artist. 77 Million Paintings was originally produced as a video and software work in 2006. It contains music and approximately 300 abstract, original digital artworks, all of which are cycled through randomly, thus creating a seemingly endless display of light, color, and sound. The piece can be bought for individual use, and has been exhibited in various configurations at galleries and art and technology centers worldwide. It has also been installed in iconic public spaces before, most notably the Sydney Opera House in 2009. It is an ever-changing spectacle, never the same twice, and Eno adds new content often. He refers to his work as “video painting.”

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The 2012 version of 77 Million Paintings was installed at Lapa Arches for a short duration—October 19-21, 2012. The Lapa Arches are part of the Carioca Aqueduct, an eighteenth-century relic that runs through the middle of the city and now serves as a bridge for the only remaining active tram line. The area surrounding the Arches could be considered old and run-down, but it is also culturally rich, with a lively live music and nightclub scene. It is a bustling place, with plenty of sound and traffic.

Eno’s aim with 77 Million Paintings seems to be to bring that traffic to a halt. For the Rio installation, he created many new designs with extra details. He also mixed sounds into the existing ambient “music-scape” live in response to the noise of the city. The captivating light and movement aimed to arrest the viewer and immerse them in an ambient atmosphere. The slow motions and changes of the work must be taken in slowly; they cannot be simply glanced at or they might be missed. Eno certainly succeeded in arresting the viewer. The crowd that gathered to watch the performance was so transfixed that they stayed even through a rainstorm. The audience also remained with the work because of its participatory nature. By using the light and their bodies to cast shadows on the arches, they embedded themselves in the work and interacted with the Arches in a way they may never have been able to otherwise.

The installation at the Lapa Arches gives 77 Million Paintings a new and interesting context. On one hand, the Arches, so old and steeped in history and culture, contrast nicely with this spectacular display of new media and technology. On the other hand, both elements represent human-made technological advancement—one old and one new, but both cutting-edge for their time. Eno sees his work in relation to the history of painting, not that of video art, and so it is fitting for the work to be paired with a historically rich setting.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency