Called “Ballads,” Sarkis’s installation is made up of a set of monumental sculptures over 16 meters tall and a carillon, also incorporating light, video and music by American composer John Cage. Cage’s “Litany for the Whale” forms a permanent backdrop to the installation, spread over almost 5,000 square meters on the campus. The carillon continuously plays “Litany for the Whale” and takes the visitor on a journey into the realm where submarines and whales meet. The pendant to the monumental bell tower is a 16-meter-tall lampshade covered with white down feathers. Accompanying them in “The Futuro,” are Sarkis’s videos about water. The wharf’s original function and the surrounding water are central to the installation, which unites the building’s past and present through monumental objects, music and colored films on its windows that filter the daylight like a modern variant of stained glass.
Inspired by the church interiors of 17th-century Dutch painter Pieter Saenredam, Sarkis transformed the wharf into a “sacred meeting place,” said the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Rotterdam-based commissioners of the work. The format of the space, the special lighting and the sound of the carillon with 43 bells create a hallowed atmosphere for the installation, evoking the form of the submarines once built at the wharf. The combination makes up a “poetic installation,” as the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen puts it. All the elements in Sarkis’s work support the musical narrative, in which the visitor plays a leading role, the museum says on its website, www.boijmans.nl.
Born Sarkis Zabunyan in İstanbul in 1938, the Paris-based artist is known for his unique combination of the atmosphere of Oriental mysticism with Western conceptual art. “Ballads” runs until Sept. 30 at the Submarine Wharf.