Composer Luca Longobardi
by Emily Trace
by Jeremy Lewis
“I guess that by evading reality, I could somehow survive the horror of social distancing”
Composer Luca Longobardi, whose compositions and selections are heard throughout the Van Gogh exhibit, expands on how “Route 66 explores a state of mind, with the intention of understanding and overcoming a condition in which we have been forced by the pandemic.” His exploration of the internal was not only psychological, but highly physical too. “I thought that the best way to represent the lysergic and hallucinated state that emerges in the show was through sounds that could reflect the condition inside our body,” he says. “Let’s imagine an absolute silence that allows us to perceive our own heartbeat, the blood flow, our inner pulsation: this is the feeling that I wanted to translate into music.” After selecting the sound palette and sharing it in daily Zoom meetings with Siccardi, Longobardi began to record many small sound segments that could be linked and combined with each other independently.
Similar to how sitting in a concert hall listening to a symphony is technically stationary—but can also be a journey to the edge of the universe at the same time—Longobardi comments on how this inner psychological expansiveness factored into his composing choices. “I reimagined my instruments as my own body, recording the static noise which then became the sonic language of the work. It was like creating the grammar of a new language and then using its words and meanings. The soundtrack is therefore made up of many short moments generated by the same thought: how in depth can the search for the unreal push us?”
Of his experience composing music in quarantine, Longobardi muses that “the lockdown allowed a particular psychological condition of introspection and inner investigation.” This is perhaps why elements of Route 66 are so rooted in the natural nostalgia that arises when artists and art-lovers are confined to their homes, unable to create new memories in complex contact with the outside world. “I think most of the iconic places you’ll find along Route 66 trigger nostalgia to the viewers,” comments Guidotti. “They are the memories of a generation that is now fading away and will soon be forgotten, but in this scene, we are looking through the eyes of a child, through the filter of imagination, that brings them to life.”
With precious few artistic experiences safe enough to leave the house for in 2020, the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit has been that rare destination where visitors can feel connected to strangers in a space that would make a cathedral feel intimate. The journey continues through 2021 down Route 66, to be integrated into the exhibit soon.
After months as one of the only shows in town, Massimiliano Siccardi’s celebrated Immersive Van Gogh experience will soon be paired with Route 66, a new short film from the same creative trio. Though a stylistic departure from ‘our Vincent’ as they affectionately refer to the exhibit, art director Vittorio Guidotti and composer Luca Longobardi expand on how both pieces are conceptually shaped by how the global shutdown required artists to turn inwards and explore cities of the interior.
“The psychedelic journey from a child’s point of view was also a metaphor for the pandemic we are all experiencing,” explains cinematographer Guidotti, saying that Siccardi’s concept reminded him of one of his favourite books, Henri Laborit’s Éloge de la fuite (In Praise of Escape). “This French philosophical treatise and Route 66 have a lot in common. The show is, in fact, a praise of escape. An escape that, in this tough historical moment, many people need. Including myself…. I guess that by evading reality, I could somehow survive the horror of social distancing.”
To immerse viewers in the mind of a child, Guidotti shot the final scene of the film in the toy library of independent art museum MAAM with murals by Veronica Montanino, saying unlike the ‘cold and ordinary’ playgrounds scouted as locations, this space captured “the whole concept of the show: the power of a child's imagination, so strong that it can distort and reshape reality.” He also captured live footage of paint moving on a canvas to create the melting effect of the Painted Desert scene. “We wanted to get an organic and original feel so I decided not to use 3D animation or anything that looked too digital. By experimenting with real painting we were able to get a much more interesting result.”
Guidotti then overcame the technical challenge of capturing footage that could be re-projected onsite by using five cameras simultaneously. “Even the best cameras available on the market don’t offer enough resolution to cover the huge spaces that host our show,” he shares, explaining how multiple cameras allowed the team to record a 180-degree view with a resolution that’ll hold up in the Immersive Van Gogh’s cavernous projecting area.