Pearla Pigao: Discoterium, 2022 / Photo: HAM/Maija Toivanen

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The music- and technology-oriented Vuosaari Upper Secondary School in Helsinki has unveiled a new public artwork that allows you to play music with your body movements. Artist Pearla Pigao’s interactive installation Discoterium spans the airspace of the building’s stairwell.

Discoterium consists of eight circular, hand-woven textiles. The patterns of the textiles are based on audio files that have been translated into the visual form of weaving instructions using the logic of graphics software. Together, the weavings form a visual translation of the first eight notes of the chromatic scale. Four of these textiles act as instruments.

Pearla Pigao has a background in both music and textile art. She explores the relationship between sound and matter by creating links between musical composition and weaving. Pigao weaves conductive metal strands into textiles and combines these weavings with a synthesiser and analogue oscillators that produce sine waves. When the viewer is near to the work, an electric field exists between the viewer and the textile. This field changes with proximity. In this way, the artist transforms the weavings into sound-producing instruments whose frequency rises and falls according to the proximity of the player’s body movements to the work. The number of players also influences the resulting music.

According to the artist, the chaotic composition and circular shapes of the installation were inspired by the planetary system. These counterbalance the angles and straight lines of the building. The colours of the work, on the other hand, work in harmony with the architecture.

Pearla Pigao (b. 1984) is an artist, musician and artisan living and working in Oslo. Pigao has received numerous accolades and awards for her interactive installations. Pigao has held numerous exhibitions at home and abroad. One of Pigao’s works has previously been exhibited in Finland in Helsinki Contemporary’s joint exhibition Future Delay in 2019.

For the sound engineering of Discoterium, Pigao collaborated with an electronics developer Henrik Waarum (b. 1988).

Vuosaari Upper Secondary School was designed by Verstas Architects. The City of Helsinki adheres to the Percent for Art principle, which means that approximately one per cent of the City’s new construction and renovation expenses are dedicated to the creation of new public art. In recent years, extensive construction efforts have made it possible to commission art for many public buildings in Kalasatama, Konala, Lauttasaari and Jakomäki, among other Helsinki areas. HAM Helsinki Art Museum serves as an arts expert in these projects, and the works are added to the City of Helsinki’s art collection managed by HAM.

Source: Helsinki City, Department of Culture and Leisure