To mark 100 years since the sinking of the RMS Titanic, there have been numerous events organised this week to commemorate one of the most compelling disaster stories in history, from memorials, dinners, theatrical performances as well as the very modern addition of a realtime Titanic twitter feed.
The event that caught AnOther's eye is one taking place this Sunday, to coincide with the day in which the British passenger liner sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean. At London's Barbican Hall, leading British composer Gavin Bryars will perform his legendary 72-minute The Sinking of the Titanic composition with his ensemble. The work, inspired by reports that the Titanic’s string ensemble continued to play the hymn Autumn as the ship sank in April 1912, was written as an "indeterminate" and open work; intended to evolve with the addition of new elements. "Many brave things were done that night but none more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea...the music they played serving alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recorded on the rulls of undying fame", Titanic survivor Lawrence Bessley was quoted as saying.
Composed in 1969, performed in 1972 and first recorded for Brian Eno’s Obscure label in 1975, Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic was originally scored for small orchestra and tapes. Bryars’ exquisite piece has been interpreted, adapted and performed in innumerable subsequent configurations. It has been performed in various locations including in a Napoleonic-era water tower, a Belgian art nouveau swimming pool, a 1950s Swedish dance hall, a Huddersfield night-club, and New York's Guggenheim Museum.
To coincide with Bryars' performance, photographer Javier Marquerie Thomas will be showcasing a unique series of of work inspired by three iconic Titanic works including Bryars' composition. Sharing his striking still lives, Marquerie Thomas here discusses the motivations behind his work.
What are the key themes and ideas behind the exhibition?
This exhibition strings together a subjective biography of the sinking of the Titanic. There have been many artists, musicians and writers who have taken the story of this catastrophe as inspiration for their work. My photographic series overlooks the work of three authors who have worked with this historical event. First there was Gavin Bryars, who composed an outstandingly beautiful piece of music in 1969; in 1978 Hans Magnus Enzensberger published a collection of poems written over a period of 10 years; in 1992, my father, Carlos Marquerie Bueno, directed a theatre production where actors with rusted metal props, costumes and set, recited Enzensberger’s poems, using Bryars' composition as a soundtrack. All three pieces shared the title The Sinking of the Titanic. Now in 2012, to commemorate on the 100th anniversary, I've undertaken my own rendition.
"When you see an image of an object – a tea cup, or a toy doll – found by a submarine on its journey into the dark depths of the ocean, you get a compelling feeling of nostalgia, you're literally looking at the ruins of oblivion"
What do you find most inspiring about the Titanic story?
There's a very melancholic process in the surfacing of this particular historical event, it is literally hidden, occult in the depths of the Atlantic. There's an amazing cult attraction surrounding the Titanic too. I've always been fascinated by its story, from picture books as a kid, to Bryars' music, to Kate and Leo as a teenager. There's an element of kitsch that I love about it too. I think that it's the everyday lives of the affected victims that generate such an interest, people relate to them. And when you see an image of an object – a tea cup, or a toy doll – found by a submarine on its journey into the dark depths of the ocean, you get a compelling feeling of nostalgia, you're literally looking at the ruins of oblivion.
Do you have a favourite work and why?
I don't think I could pick one. I'm very attached to all of the objects in the still lifes, I grew up playing with them. And I'm extremely happy with the portrait of Bryars. His music has accompanied my artistic process and has been a reference point to me for a long time now. We didn't really speak much while I was shooting, we were calm, serene and observant. Just as I'd anticipated. It was an honour to meet him.
Gavin Bryars' The Sinking of the Titanic performance takes place at the Barbican on Sunday April 15 at 20:00. Javier Marquerie Thomas's exhibition runs from May 1 - 10 (Mon-Fri 9:00-17:30 / Sat 10:00-17:30) at Dreamspace Gallery, 1-3 Dufferin Street, London EC1Y 8NA.
Coordination by Olena Slyesarenko
Text by Laura Bradley