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The Singing Rainbow

Singing Rainbow. International Festival of Contemporary Light-Sound Art

Culture & Entertainment Complex ›Pyramid‹
Kazan, Russia
2-5 October, 2010
Event Website: http://cyland.ru/.

Reviewed by Jörg Jewanski
Münster, Germany

and Michael Haverkamp
Köln, Germany


Founded in 1962, the Prometheus-Institute (http://prometheus.kai.ru) is unique in the world. As a department of the State Technical University in Kazan, Russia, it is devoted entirely to the research of the Gesamtkunstwerk. It was named after the light-symphony Prometheus (1910) by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, an orchestral score which includes a notation for color light accompaniment (luce) and was first performed with colored light in New York in 1915. The founder and irreplaceable head of the Prometheus-Institute was Bulat Galeyev (1940-2009), who published numerous books, hundreds of articles (many in Leonardo), organized Light and music concerts and conferences, developed new technical devices for combining music and light, and was a member of the editorial board of Leonardo. The last conference organized by him in Kazan took place in November 2008 – it has only been visited by a dozen of artists and scientists. Galeyev died in January 2009 and the future of the Prometheus-Institute became unclear.

Now the new director of ›Prometheus-Center‹, Anastasia Borisovna Maksimova, the administration of the University, and an executive group organized a festival ›Singing Rainbow‹ in honour of two anniversaries: the 100th of Scriabin’s light-symphony and the 70th of Galeyev. The event demonstrated that the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk and new artistic and scientific questions concerning synesthesia in music, visual art, film, language and philosophy still fascinates lots of people. It has been divided into two parts, a scientific conference and an artistic exhibition. The chosen location, the ›Culture & Entertainment Complex ›Pyramid‹‹, built during the Soviet era as an Museum of Wladimir Iljitsch Uljanow Lenin, was much more representative than the cramped Prometheus-Institute itself, where the last conference took place. This opening to a wider public audience, including a stronger collaboration with representatives from political and cultural departments of Kazan and TV-stations, a poster and an information parcel handed over to each participant demonstrated the beginning of a new era of the institute and was rewarded by more than 100 visitors to the artistic exhibition and around 30 scientists from Russia, Poland, Germany and Spain. The scientific section covered a wide field: lectures about the life and work of Galeyev, about history, theory, and practice of Light-music, and about synesthesia in psychology, philosophy, language, poetry and art. In this wide context the whole festival queues itself in a strong international new development of the last 10 years, where lots of synesthesia-conferences took place in the U.S., Spain, U.K., and Germany. An additional point of view from Russia with its long tradition in this field is necessary to complete our knowledge.

It was a successful debut of Maksimova and hopefully the institute will move forward in that direction. A 370-page conference report with 60 articles by scientists and artists, mostly in Russian, some in English and Spanish, was published at the first day of the conference. The artistic exhibition with lots of young people from Moscow, St Petersburg, Perm and Nizhny Novgorod included performances of contemporary approaches, such as VJ-ing, Videos and Laser shows, based on new technical devices, and was to some extent combined with dance. Those presentations showed that the central focus on Scriabin’s light-symphony by the activities of the Prometheus-Institute is no longer up-to-date. Instead, it is now superseded by more modern artistic styles, which, by use of computational devices, widely explore the prospects of interactivity.

During the conference, a new comprehensive book about Scriabin’s light-symphony, written and edited by Irina Vanechkina, the widow of Bulat Galeyev, and issued in Russian language under her and Galeyev’s name was published. This book seems to mark an end point to the old, but nevertheless fruitful activities of the Prometheus-Institute. Hope remains that this also means a recommencement on a contemporary base, with new and innovative artistic projects like those presented at the festival. Continuation on a high scientific level will confirm both, the outstanding rank of the old institute as well as the timeliness of multi-sensory approaches within a long-ranging future.

Last Updated 1 December 2010

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