Lighting design

Nature-inspired / technology developed – The invisible vision of the Quiet Ensemble

There are different ways to trigger a reaction in human beings. Italian duo Quiet Ensemble does this through performances and installations which simply can’t be unnoticed.

Today we will learn something new through the works and words of the Quiet Ensemble, exploring their path into becoming an established duo that fuses technology and nature into performances and installations to experience personally and closely. 

As the worlds of performance art and installations collide with the planets of design and architecture, we witness a multitude of majestic celestial explosions where compounds mix and intertwine in a beautiful mess, generating new composites.

Something is unsettling about the works of Quiet Ensemble. Violent rhythms, sudden movements, unpredictable sounds in dark settings. Your comfort zone is at stake here, but for your own good: you learn through the unknown and fear makes you think quick.

Who are Fabio di Salvo and Bernardo Vercelli? How did your journey in design begin?

Quiet Ensemble:

“We met about eleven years ago, both coming from really different backgrounds but somehow going in the same direction we found each other in a crossroads. We started working together on our first projects, mostly having video mapping and interactive systems as main tools. We found out pretty early the actual starting point of the journey, once the spark of Quintetto arrived in our mind we understood the great interest and potential concerning the field of nature. A great universe opened up to us, we started exploring nature and technology, each underlining the other. 

That field of research helped very much enjoying the work, we would find ourselves working together with snails and Arduino, lights and leaves, water and electricity: a very interesting universe to explore and to be part of. “

Why Quiet Ensemble? Why focus on installation design and visual experiences?

Quiet Ensemble:

“The moment of the “Quiet” is that moment when one stops and starts listening, looking at things that surround us. The quiet ensembles are those hidden orchestras and microscopic theatres that we don’t give attention to, but that are still happening around us every day.

We’d love to awaken the childish wonder dormant within us, underlining the invisible, the soul of things, the greatness of the microscopic, to evoke another world and realizing that is the one we live in. The spectacular world that is given to us during our time… we are continuously spectators of marvelous lights, movements, and sounds, given to us by the falling snowflake or the dying tree. Everything is talking to us, we just need to listen to a little more.”

What kind of reaction do you observe in the audience observing your performances and installations? Is there a specific feeling that you try to evoke?

Quiet Ensemble:

“The projects we create are very different from one other, often we find ourselves pushing over the limit. In The Enlightenment, for example, we are using sound and light in such a very powerful way that people sometimes close their eyes and put hands on their ears. In Orienta we push the limits of patience so people might leave, in Unshaped we are quite accommodating so the audience looking at the work sometimes has an open mouth.”

Through your work, you explore the relationship between chaos and control, nature and technology: can you tell us what process you follow when creating your projects and what sparked your interest in exploring and merging these elements?

Quiet Ensemble:

“The basic exercise we practice is keeping eyes and ears open, while walking around, while doing everyday actions, waiting for the sparks. 

The spark could be a leaf falling, a light bulb flickering, a particular smell, a puddle reflecting light, the sound of birds passing by or a neon tube breaking dark.”

Your continuous exploration and treatment of technological & organic components submerge your audience with your work. What fields and inputs, inside and outside of the design world inspire you?

Quiet Ensemble:

“The mechanisms of nature are perfect, imitable, but not replaceable. Undoubtedly pacemakers and artificial limbs are a wonderful and useful replacement. What scares us most, however, is the artificial sea, or the artificial sun.

However perfect a replica may be, it will never match and show the same unpredictability that makes so unique a living organism, or a tree moving in the wind. We’ve had a particular process, started totally into nature, collaborating with snails, mosquitos, and pineapples.

Gradually, we started getting closer and closer to light and dark matters. We just noticed that we did not choose this actually, we found ourselves starting up the Quiet Ensemble while changing water to goldfishes until this actual moment, re-creating digital fireflies and making open moving heads “talking” to each other.”

You have worked with various big companies such as Adidas, Vogue, Mercedes, Ferragamo, iQOS, Toyota and many others. How do you combine your artistic identity with the brief of a client to make them happy while staying true to your practice?

Quiet Ensemble:

“At the beginning of the Quiet Ensemble, we were a bit skeptical concerning the collaboration with big brands, consequently, our productions were somehow forced into a commercial approach. Since a few years, we moved quite comfortably in such collaborations, also because they started giving us mostly a “white canvas” to work on.

Adidas, for instance, gave us a specific color as the only limit, on the occasion of the Vogue event we made music out of a model’s body while dressing up. We understood the potential and the joy of such works, understanding that we had freedom of expression also in such occasions.”

What is one part of your creative process that is invisible to the audience, difficult and tiring, but crucial to your practice?

Quiet Ensemble:

“Right above we were talking about “the spark” and how it instantly gets to our heads. The hard part is to make it real, to build it up and share the same spark with the audience. We have many ideas in the closet for which we do not understand how to make a piece or performance out of yet. 

Another very crucial part of the work is the decennial collaboration between us two. 

We spent so much time together that we went through so many different phases of life, fights, loves, successes and failures, escaping animals and explosions.

It is a continuous search for balance as we both change in time we have to adapt each to the other, that’s a great challenge. Since a few years, we’ve started collaborating with a few other people and since last year we’ve got a third person working full time with us, three is a good number.”

Dream-question: if you had the chance to collaborate with any artist or designer on a project of your choice, what would you do and with whom?

Quiet Ensemble:

“We follow artists and their work, we do not have a specific one we would dream of working with… We’d love to collaborate with many of them, as designers we appreciate very much Nendo or Azuma Makoto, as artists, we love Olafur Eliasson or the United Visual Artists, we do have many musicians, fashion designers and painters we appreciate very much, we stay open to possible future cooperation.”

What is the next step for Quiet Ensemble?

Quiet Ensemble:

“We just “left the nest” and we are migrating to a new studio right now. These pandemic times have slowed everything down, so we take the occasion to put down on paper a few projects we’ve had in mind, so once we get to the new studio we start right up working on those.

We are having in mind a deaf orchestra and a performance visible only with closed eyes. But we’ll talk about that when the time comes.”


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