倪灝 Ni Hao

Structure Study III

2014

Structure Study III is a musical performance where a xylophone player translates, practices, and performs a musical piece composed entirely from dead nocturnal flying insects. I captured these insects by first applying adhesives to blank musical sheets, then using artificial lights at night to attract flying insects that are positively photoactive to be randomly stuck onto the scores.

I first got my inspiration for this work by looking at insects swarming towards light bulbs at night. Upon further investigation, I realized that this banal yet violent phenomenon is actually the result of the perversion of our quickly accelerating modernity. The invention of light bulb changed the nightscape on earth, directly impacting insects and other animals that did not have the time to adapt to their new habitat.

Xylophone first evolved from the natural instinct of early humans striking stone or wood. Throughout time the xylophone has become a sophisticated instrument that can produce complex music, while also retaining the same basic shape and function. I am interested in both the sound quality and its popularity in contemporary sound branding. The xylophone has a sound quality that is light, efficient, crisp, soft, friendly, organic and mythical which in many ways mimics the behavior of insects. A similar sound is often used in IPhone ringtones to invoke a whimsical, non-threatening alert or alarm. I wanted to invoke the same sense of feeling in this piece.

I first got my inspiration for “Structure Study” by looking at insects swarming towards light bulbs at night. Upon further investigation, I realized this banal phenomenon is actually a very violent effect and perversion of our quickly accelerating modernity. The invention of light bulb completely changed the nightscape on earth, directly impacting insects and other animals that did not have the time to adapt their natural instincts electricity. With this idea in mind, I wanted to find an existing structure that I could use to document the essence and the poetics of this phenomenon. It wasn’t long until I turned to classical music. Music is not only a time-based medium, but it is also sculpture, physical performance and mathematics all at the same time.

Using this particular art form to “rationalize” death and chaos is a gesture that is both very romantic and sadistic, which places the audiences in a conflicting position. This dilemma is even more evident when we consider the social value of insects. Insects are neither plants nor mammals, they always seem as if only nuisance to our everyday life. I think that the act of killing in this piece becomes more abstract when the emotional aspect is missing, which helps the audience to inspect the phenomenon as a whole, rather than focusing on the individual deaths. Ultimately, this performance is about the human impact on ourselves and on nature, and how perhaps we are just like the nocturnal insects ourselves - forever trapped within our own perceptions of reality.