Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk created a multifaceted live audiovisual experience with Canadian cellist Julia Kent and Italian media art collective SPIME.IM. It all culminates in a multi-stranded live experience entitled The End Of The World, that focuses on a profound reflection on climate change, an occasion that marks the Barbican’s UK debut.
Lubomyr Melnyk arrives on stage emanating calm humility. He makes the point that we have become so fascinated with emissions that other elements of the climate crisis have gone unnoticed. We should be concerned with our consumption, acknowledging the irony of saying this in a venue such as the Barbican which does just that on a grand scale. This introduces the theme of the evening for his “End of the World” performance. Of the tension between humankind and nature and the need to make sacrifices. This is something Melnyk is very conscious of as he sees his playing within the context of sacrifice i.e. giving everything to music and notes that it’s trait of his hailing from Ukraine:
“Ukrainians are self-sacrificing for things that are important to them”
He then transports the audience with his piano. The rapidity of his playing (his style branded “continuous music”) suited to these themes in their drama and evocation. Like nature itself making its beauty known to you. Forcefully. Piano and nature to him are symbiotic. He often compares its ability to sound like every element. Once describing the act of playing as “Like having sunshine pour through your fingers”. Here it sounds like falling rain. It works beautifully with the introduction of Julia Kent’s Cello too. Its winding and eerie beauty serves as a continuous counterpoint and reinforcing the gravity of the theme. She is another artist who is inspired by and aligns her playing with nature itself. The background visuals show a natural world mutating and almost fighting against the modern one. This tension is then embodied musically when he and Julia are accompanied by the glitchy abrasive work of Spime.IM. They are an artistic collective from Italy pre-occupied with fusing music, visuals and tech to explore how the real and the virtual intersect in relation to identity. Their name derives from the Bruce Sterling coined concept of “Spime” i.e. an object existing in space and time crossed with the English for “I am”. The visuals now become jagged and stuttering. These are mapped from datasets using current climate change statistics. They look like a digital version of a topographic storm. With waves and data swirling and cascading amongst a mainly black backdrop. A storm in a computer.
The digital storm then recedes as it feels like nature emerging again. Embodied in the choral singing of the “Shards” (an experimental vocal ensemble from London) and the chance for things to begin anew. It ends the performance on a note of hope. That the “End of the World” might not be so close, if we do something.
‘With the concept of the death of the world in place, I envisioned a new segment: of sorrow and beauty, where the world reminisces about the beauty of its earlier life… this led me to the destruction, and all its gory ugliness… and the final mantra of hope.’ Lubomyr Melnyk
Barbican / The End Of The World
Artist: Lubomyr Melnyk / @lubomyr.melnyk and Julia Kent / @juliakentcello and Elina Nechayeva / @elinanechayeva and SPIME.IM / @spime.im
Words: Jamie Bryden / @jamiemacleodbryden
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Alisia Marcacci / @miabrowe