Where’s Chopin?

20-25 October, 2010

Where’s Chopin?

20-25 October, 2010


Concert-Playing Installations

by Józef Robakowski, Jarosław Kapuściński, Paweł Janicki

Curated by Piotr Krajewski

Premiering simultaneously

Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival

20-25 September 2010

Dilston Grove, London

25 September – 10 October 2010

Organised jointly by the Polish Cultural Institute, the WRO Art Center in Wrocław and Stanford University, as part of 2010 Chopin Year Celebrations.

Three landmark installations presenting completely new interpretations of Chopin’s music, integrating some of his most popular piano works with high technology to create powerful visual accompaniments, revealing the timeless power and appeal of Chopin’s music well beyond conventional concert-hall recitals.

The exhibition is a collection of interactive installations that transplant Chopin’s work to the terrain of contemporary art and digital media. Three new audiovisual installations have been created by three Polish artists – Józef Robakowski, Jarosław Kapuściński and Paweł Janicki – using unconventional strategies to engage with music. Frédéric Chopin’s works are treated as a basis for reinterpretation, defragmentation and reconstruction, and their new nonlinear structure is enhanced by the relationship between sound and image.

Pełny ekranOpen in new windowWhere’s Chopin? project – documentation from WRO Art Center on Vimeo.

Paweł Janicki

Mapping Chopin

interactive visual-sound installation, 2010

Paweł Janicki’s installation Mapping Chopin creates an immersive interactive environment that allows viewers/listeners to experience the music in an intuitive and unstructured way. Specially designed software combined with a motion-detection system generates variations on digitalized scores of Chopin’s pieces based on the behavior of the audience/participants.

Janicki’s installation uses Chopin’s Etude in A-flat major Op. 25 No.1, Valse Brillante in A Minor Op. 34 No. 2, Tarantella in A-flat major Op. 43 and Nocturne in G minor Op. 15 No. 3. Various musical parameters of the works – the dynamic range, tempo, articulation, etc. – are associated with data provided by the motion-detection system, so that people within the installation space can, through their own activity, generate phrases and longer passages. The data from the motion-detection system are also mapped onto the vertical and horizontal axes of the musical score, creating a graphic allusion to the physical installation space as well as to the keyboard projected in it, and highlighting the sequencing of the notes in the compositions and the way they’re linked to the space and to the movements of the audience/participants. The score is treated as a space where we can move in real time, and where we can discover various sound events and the relationships among them. The data flow modulates the typical piano voicings, enhancing the “natural” quality of the sound and heightening the participants’ sense of direct control over the music being generated. Because the installation’s sensitivity and main parameters are continually adjusted to the number and nature of input stimuli, it can be experienced by solo participants or groups.

This installation was commissioned by the WRO Art Center and it was funded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Polish Institute in London.

Józef Robakowski

Attention: Light! 2.0

in collaboration with Wiesław Michalak and Paweł Janicki

audiovisual installation for Disklavier & multiscreen projecton


Józef Robakowski’s 2004 work Attention: Light! was inspired by a film that the famous American artist and experimenter Paul Sharits made in 1981 in Robakowski’s apartment in Łódź under the influence of a potent dose of Chopin’s mazurkas.  Sharits’s negative was lost, but a few years later he sent Robakowski a sketch that served as a production plan when – after Sharits’s death – Robakowski made a video version of the lost work in collaboration with Wiesław Michalak.

This is how Robakowski describes the situation that gave rise to the original film, when Sharits, who was then on crutches, had come to Poland and was staying at Robakowski’s apartment: “Under the influence of a Chopin record that I’d put on full blast, [Sharits] grabbed my camera, hauled himself out on the balcony and started waving the camera around vigorously in time to the blaring mazurkas. That film was never made, because martial law was imposed and the tape was lost somewhere in a state lab where it had been left to be developed. But that performance had made a very powerful impression on us. We were very close at the time. You could say we fell in love because of Chopin and art.”

The new installation version of Attention: Light! is yet another incarnation of Sharits’s and Robakowski’s idea. Digital algorithmic sound generates images broken down into pure colors. Each note played controls the multichannel video projection, in which particular colors are assigned to particular piano sounds.

Attention: Light! 2.0 fits in with Sharits’s other works, in which he explored additive color synthesis as a structural element of film images; it also fits in with Robakowski’s interest in the energy of light, and with Paweł Janicki’s work structuralizing relations between sound and image by using communications protocols and original programming. This completely digitalized work draws on the classic traditions of structural cinema, powerfully demonstrating the energy of abstraction: the nearly biological – but at the same time totally digital – energy of forms generated by an algorithmic code.

Jarosław Kapuściński

Where Is Chopin? [Gdzie jest Chopin?]

for Disklavier and multichannel projection of sound and image, 2010

Jarosław Kapuściński’s latest work explores the relationships between the facial expressions of people listening to Chopin’s Preludes Op. 28 and the artist’s creative reading of the same music. To carry out the project Kapuściński traveled to 12 cities around the world where Chopin never set foot but where his music has a meaningful cultural presence. Kapuściński conducted interviews and performed the preludes in one-on-one sessions with over a hundred music lovers in Tokyo, San Francisco, Wellington, Sydney, Seoul, Beijing, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Helsinki, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Mexico City. In each city he collaborated with a local photographer who documented the reactions and emotions appearing on people’s faces as they listened to or spoke about the music.

Where Is Chopin? can be performed in concert or as a pre-programmed installation using the Max/MSP/Jitter programming environment. The music played on a Disklavier piano activates multi-channel sound and a video projection.

The work was commissioned jointly by the WRO Art Center, the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival and Stanford University for the 2010 Year of Chopin and was funded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Polish Cultural Insitute in London.

Special thanks:

Photography: Lorena Alcaraz & Bernardo Arcos, Alon Bernstein, Marina Bonavento, Zhong Chen, John Edmark, Sabrina Hyde, John McRae, Bruce Osborn, Kyu-Cheol Shin, Heikki Tuuli , Constanza Garcia Ulibarri, Isil Ünal & Mehmet Erol

Editing: David Anthony Alvarado, Jason Sussberg

Production Assistants: Victoria Chang, Michael St. Clair, Michael Zeligs, Sean Zhang

Special thanks to:

Justin Ankus, Cihat Askin, Jonathan and Talya Berger, Jindong Cai, Jinquin Cai, Tali Chaimsky, Hongchan Choi, Sofia Asuncion Claro, Turgut Ercetin, Esin Gündüz, Alexandra Hay, Jan Krawitz, Ana Lara, Javier Leichman, Patricia Martinez, Sheila Melvin, Mario Mora, Adrian Rocha Novoa, Yoshiko Osborn, Johnny Symons, Helena and Tapio Tuomela


Centre for Advanced Studies in Music (MIAM), Istanbul Technical University

Center for Digital Image, Dongguk University, Seoul

Conservatorium Open Academy at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Department of Music, University of Chile, Santiago

The Musical Production and Research Laboratory at The Recoleta Cultural Centre, Buenos Aires

New Zealand School of Music, Wellington

Plantel Fernández Leal, Plantel Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City

The Sibelius Academy, Helsinki

Stanford University Department of Music

The Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts


Józef Robakowski (born in 1939) is an artist, art historian, teacher and one of the foremost figures in contemporary Polish art, renowned as a filmmaker and creator of video works, photographic series, drawings, installations, objects, conceptual projects and art events. Robakowski studied art history and museum studies at the Fine Arts Department of Copernicus University in Toruń, and cinematography at the Lódź Film School. Since 1959 he has regularly participated in major international art events, such as Documenta 6 (Kassel 1977), Film as Film (London 1979), the Sydney Biennale (1982), the WRO Biennale (Wrocław, regularly since 1989) and Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (2005). He has taken part in major exhibitions in Poland and around the world, at MoMA (New York), De Appel (Amsterdam), the Filmmuseum Wien (Vienna) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris). In his experimental film and video work Robakowski has collaborated with many musicians and composers, including Eugeniusz Rudnik, Leszek Knaflewski and Barbara Konopka.

Jarosław Kapuściński (born in 1964) is an intermedia composer and pianist who was first trained as a classical pianist and composer at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw.  He expanded into multimedia during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada (1988) and during his doctoral studies at the University of California in San Diego (1992-1997). His pieces have been presented at MoMA (New York), the ZKM Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe), the Palais de Tokyo Museum of Modern Art and Centre Pompidou (Paris) and numerous other prestigious art institutions. Kapuściński has received awards at the UNESCO Film sur l’Art Festival in Paris (1992), the VideoArt Festival in Locarno (1992 and 1993), Manifestation Internationale Vidéo et Art Éléctronique in Montréal (1993) and the International Festival of New Cinema and New Media in Montréal (2000); he has also participated in many other major international music, animation and new-media festivals, including the WorldWide Video in Amsterdam, the Annecy Animation Festival, the WRO Biennale in Wrocław and the Warsaw Autumn Contemporary Music Festival. Kapuściński has taught at McGill University in Montreal, the Royal Academy of Arts and Music in the Hague, the Art Conservatory and Music Academy in Odense and at the the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific, and has lectured internationally. Since 2008 he has been Assistant Professor of Composition at Stanford University, where he holds the Intermedia Performance Lab.

Paweł Janicki (born in 1974) creates interactive audiovisual systems, installations and performances, focussing mainly on microsound and algorithmic compostion. Janicki, who majored in cultural studies at Wrocław University, works with the WRO Art Center as a curator and head of R&D, and teaches in the Intermedia Department of the Poznań Academy of Fine Arts. In 2004 his internet musical performance Ping Melody was awarded the netarts.org grand prize by the Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts in Tokyo, and was nominated for an award at the Viper International Film, Video and New Media Festival in Basel. Janicki is a co-founder and longtime member of the Gameboyzz Orchestra Project, a collective exploring “lo-fi” esthetics, using computer gaming consoles to create audiovisual compositions that have been presented at the WRO Media Art Biennale (Wrocław), the Transmediale festival (Berlin), Ars Electronica (Linz) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris). Janicki is also one of the artists whose works are featured in WRO’s Interactive Playground. He is currently working on an installation entitled Oceanus under the auspices of the EU Moving Stories project.

Translated by Sherill Howard-Pociecha



(PL) Józef Robakowski (ur. 1939), artysta, historyk sztuki, pedagog, jedna z najważniejszych postaci polskiej sztuki współczesnej. Autor filmów, cykli fotograficznych, zapisów wideo, rysunków, instalacji, obiektów, projektów konceptualnych i zdarzeń artystycznych. Absolwent historii sztuki i muzealnictwa UMK w Toruniu i Wydziału Operatorskiego PWSFTviT w Łodzi. Od 1959 roku uczestniczył w najważniejszych światowych wydarzeniach artystycznych, takich jak Documenta 6 (Kassel 1977), Film as Film (London 1979), Sydney Biennale (1982), Biennale WRO (Wrocław, regularnie od 1989), Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (2005). Brał udział w znaczących wystawach w Polsce i na świecie, m.in. w MoMA New York, De Appel (Amsterdam), Filmmuseum (Wiedeń), czy Centre Georges Pompidou (Paryż). Tworząc eksperymentalne formy filmowe i wideo współpracował z wieloma kompozytorami i muzykami, m.in: Eugeniuszem Rudnikiem, Leszkiem Knaflewskim, Barbarą Konopką.

Jarosław Kapuściński (ur. 1964), intermedialny kompozytor i pianista, od wczesnych lat 90. zajmujący się kompozycją i wykonywaniem realizacji audiowizualnych. Studiował grę na fortepianie oraz kompozycję na Akademii Muzycznej im. Fryderyka Chopina w Warszawie. Doktoryzował się na University of California w San Diego (1992-1997). Jego pierwsza kompozycja audiowizualna Variations Mondrian została wyprodukowana przez paryski Institut National de l’Audiovisuel i Studio Eksperymentalne Polskiego Radia w 1992 roku. Brał udział w wielu międzynarodowych festiwalach nowych mediów, w tym Video Art Festival w Locarno, Manifestation Internationale Video et Art Electronique w Montrealu, Biennale Sztuki Mediów WRO we Wrocławiu oraz muzycznych, m.in. Warszawskiej Jesieni. Jego prace były prezentowane m.in. w Museum of Modern Art w Nowym Jorku, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie w Karlsruhe, Museum of Modern Art Palais de Tokyo w Paryżu, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía w Madrycie i wielu innych znaczących instytucjach artystycznych. Wykładał m.in. na McGill University w Montrealu, Royal Academy of Arts and Music w Hadze, a od roku 2008 jest profesorem Uniwersytetu Stanforda, gdzie prowadzi Intermedia Performance Lab (IPL).

Paweł Janicki (ur. 1974) jest twórcą interaktywnych systemów audiowizualnych, instalacji i performansów, pracującym z estetyką microsound i kompozycją algorytmiczną. Studiował kulturoznawstwo w Uniwersytecie Wrocławskim, stale współpracuje z Centrum Sztuki WRO jako kurator, kieruje również działem innowacji. Wykłada w Katedrze Intermediów ASP w Poznaniu. Jego internetowy performans muzyczny Ping Melody został w 2004 roku wyróżniony główną nagrodą netarts.org przez tokijski Machida City Museum of Graphic Art w Tokyo, oraz nominowany przez Viper International Film, Video and New Media Festival w Bazylei. Paweł Janicki był współzałożycielem i długoletnim członkiem kolektywu Gameboyzz Orchestra Project eksplorującego estetykę „lo-fi”, który swoje audiowizualne kompozycje kreowane za pomocą konsol do gier komputerowych prezentował m.in. na Biennale Sztuki Mediów WRO, festiwalach Transmediale (Berlin), Ars Electronica (Linz) czy w Centre Georges Pompidou. Jest współtwórcą słynnej wystawy Interaktywny Plac Zabaw. Obecnie przygotowuje instalację Oceanus w ramach europejskiego projektu Moving Stories.