For his residency Karl Van Welden invited Frederik Croene to PACT. After the close collaboration with Frederik Croene as pianist and composer for MARS II, a follow-up story will be written with EARTH I. More than ten years ago Karl Van Welden initiated United Planets, a cycle of visual and performative work based on terrestrial or human presence in the universe. How does humankind relate to the immensity of the universe? Using the planets in our solar system as anchor points, he searches for artistic answers to this fundamental question.
The EARTH series focuses on compelling societal issues. The first chapter in the EARTH series is a co-creation with Frederik Croene. This time climate change is the point of departure. Nowadays the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling: global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic sea ice, extreme events and ocean acidification.
In the performance EARTH I they make use of a big felt cloth. They want to investigate the impact of felt on music – the effect on musical acoustics – and on the pianist while playing the piano. During the performance the felt dampens the music and increasingly restricts the pianist's freedom of movement. A felt canvas, as long and as wide as the stage, descends over the pianist, who imperturbably interprets his 'melody'. Suspended from several points, the felt appears and is slowly forming a sculpture that takes on imperceptibly different forms. Sometimes it looks like an appearing or disappearing mountain landscape, sometimes it transforms into an abstract sculpture that slowly but surely threatens to suffocate the pianist.
Besides EARTH I, they are collaborating for a new album of Frederik Croene. During the first lockdown, he worked on new piano pieces under the title Solastalgia. This neologism describes the feeling of mourning at landscapes lost through climate change, but also the eco-fear of a threatening, uncertain future. Karl Van Welden is making a video for every piece. The first one premiered at Klarafestival (BE) during the residency at PACT Zollverein. 'Diamond Princess, 17/02/2020, Yokohama - Japan' was shot in February 2020, while Karl Van Welden stayed in Japan. At that time, the cruise ship Diamond Princess was in quarantine and anchored at the Daikoku Pier in Yokohama. On board the ship, the first infections with COVID-19 outside China were detected. Van Welden captured this momentum from Akarenga Park. The set-up of the music emphasises the dramatic metaphor in which humanity, like the passengers of the Diamond Princess, has stuck.