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Turning sound into sculpture, Brian Eno fuses art and technology with 'Turntable II'
Turntable II by Brian Eno|
Image: Brian Eno 'Turntable II' 2024 © Brian Eno courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery photography Luke Walker 2024

Turning sound into sculpture, Brian Eno fuses art and technology with 'Turntable II'

Turntable II challenges conventional boundaries between sculptural art, design, and functionality by blending colour, light, and sound. 

by Ria Jha
Published on : Feb 21, 2024

The renowned musician and composer Brian Eno debuted his first Turntable collection in 2021. Eno unveiled the Turntable II in 2024 after a slew of improvements and tinkerings that demonstrated his developing creative vision. This most recent version of his inventive product design is currently on display at London's Paul Stolper Gallery, captivating audiences with its blend of artistic expression and technology.

The Turntable II is made with a circular platter and base that alternate colours on their own, phasing through various combinations of generative ‘colour scapes’ easily. The way the lights change, how quickly they change, and their pattern are all programmed, but they change slowly and randomly with the ability to play vinyl at 33 and 45 rpm. It’s the softness of these colours and the way they merge that is so seductive. When it doesn’t have to do anything in particular, like play a record, it is a sculpture,” the product designer shares. Turntable II, which Eno has called both a sculpture and a record player, may also be used as an ambient lighting piece while the vinyl is not being played.

Following his early experiments with light and sound design in the late 1960s, Brian Eno was fascinated by the complex, nuanced, and unpredictable results produced by seemingly simple deterministic systems. Eno notes that the apparent simplicity of these systems belies a deep complexity, a concept that he finds to be in striking agreement with both the ideas of cybernetics and the theory of evolution. “I use the same sorts of generative processes in music as in painting, based on overlapping unsynchronised cycles. Several overlapping light cycles will keep producing different colour balances and blends - and different shadow formations that slowly evolve and never exactly repeat. The process is simple, the results are complex. I started using light and video because I wanted to make visual experiences that had some of the qualities of musical experiences - that’s to say, that existed and changed in time. I wanted to make very slowly changing paintings, to blur the edges that separate those different forms,” Eno explains.

According to Brian Eno, the conventional boundary separating art and design is not inflexible. He compares art to media such as ceramics where interaction is innate, viewing art as including both active participation and quiet observation. Eno draws attention to the odd trend that meaning-related queries often surface in the setting of avant-garde or complex music, in contrast to the more widely acknowledged enjoyment of mainstream music. Eno emphasises the transitory nature of artistic expression and the impossibility of absolute ownership or completeness, reflecting on themes of impermanence and seizing fleeting moments concerning any possible meaning within his work.

With its blend of generative colour scapes, ambient lighting functionality, and vinyl playback capabilities, the Turntable II transcends traditional categorisations, blurring the lines between sculptural art, functional objects, and a lighting design. Eno defies preconceived ideas about what defines art and design with his visionary approach, which is based on his lifelong fascination with complicated systems and his goal to create immersive, ever-evolving experiences. Viewers are inspired to reflect on the transient aspect of life and the beauty found in living in the present moment as they are captivated by the Turntable II's interplay of light, sound, and form.

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