Studio Drift, the Amsterdam-based artist duo made of Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn, were scheduled to hold a performance at New York’s Pace Gallery on 12 March, the same day that President Donald Trump announced he would be cancelling flights between Europe and the US due to the coronavirus. Rather than stick around and risk being stranded in New York, the performance was cancelled and Nauta and Gordijn booked flights back to Amsterdam for later that day.
But that left the pair’s kinetic sculpture Ego, which had been installed earlier this month as part of the gallery’s Pace Live programme, “in quarantine” in New York, Nauta says. Made from more than 16km of hair-thin Japanese fluorocarbon so fine that it catches the light as if it were spiderweb, Ego takes the form of a massive floating rectangle activated by eight motors that allow it to dance with improbable, graceful movements.
“Every string in Ego is connected to something else, which is very much what we notice right now, how much we are dependent on our whole chain,” Gordijn says. “Every one of us is in an ecosystem and it’s not just your direct neighbours or friends who affect your life, but it's all these different chains of people. We now see how connected we are and that we shouldn't just care about ourselves but about the whole chain.”
“This is what the piece is about—our world is as big as the possibilities that we can see and the perspectives that we create, which become our truth,” Gordijn says. “If you are not open to different realities or unknown situations, you can completely lose it. It makes us question what is really important and what choices we have to make.”
The work was created specifically to serve as the set for the Dutch Travel Opera House’s 2020 production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, a 17th-century opera based on the Greek myth of Orpheus. But with most theaters, galleries and museums currently shut, Studio Drift and the Dutch Travel Opera House opted to upload L'Orfeo to the internet, where it can be streamed for free by viewers at home.
And what’s next for Ego? “The big dream is to tour the show,” Nauta says, “to bring it to the Metropolitan Opera in New York would be amazing. We are working on that.”