The website of Viennese art duo DEPART suggests Leonhard Lass and Gregor Ladenhauf have been collaborating on multimedia projects since at least 2004, when their ventures into graphic design and experimental poetry were much more literal (see Impressure Series). Sifting through their portfolio, though, is like watching the maturation of an untouchable identity. At first their work is crude and a bit unseasoned, but towards the end of ‘00 it grows into and selects its own niche of influence and ambitions. Come 2013, nearly a decade later, and they’re still getting fresh.
I’ll stress the word “ambition” again. It plays a large part of the way they structure installations, to be sure. These guys are like stubborn polyglots when it comes to creativity. They’re fluent in multiple languages of medium, and refuse to say anything without saying it in every way possible.
Stills from The House of Drift: Room I
For example, their most recent project, The House of Drift, was a multi-tier installation commissioned by and for the sound:frame 2013 festival, held this past April in Vienna, Austria. Lass and Ladenhauf worked with a team of over 40 costume designers, architects, performance artists, and graphics professionals to churn out a haunting three-part choreography, displayed in three separate video loops (Room I, Room II and Room III) during its run at Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts. The costumes alone are worthy of fascination.
Costumes from The House of Drift: Room I
Costumes from The House of Drift: Room II
Costumes from The House of Drift: Room III
Or you have Cloud Chamber Diaries, commissioned in September 2012 by the ACF New York Austrian Cultural Forum, which functions in a similar way to The House of Drift, with two films looping on two different screens, simultaneously. In this case, the screens in the installation are facing one another, demanding the viewer choose between one plot line without ever knowing how or if the two pieces are synchronized. Inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s War-Cloud Diaries, the films follow a doctor who “inhabits this space where he seemingly observes and/or controls a cloud like entity or vice versa in a virtual ritual.”
Stills from Cloud Chamber Diaries
Aurigae from 2011 is another contender, and shares the same ominous, gothic quality of the group’s more recent pieces. A single, 4.5 meter triangle stands erect in a dark room, and hosts the projection of a film that intends to capture “the periodic coalescence of opposite aggregate states, based on and structured by the rhythm of a double star system like the constellation Auriga,” according to their website. Really, it’s pretty nightmarish. Imagine Christopher Nolan and Carl Sagan designed a level for survival horror video game Silent Hill.
Stills from Aurigae
Spend your time with the other 17 pieces exhibited on their website, too. They’re all endearing in one way or another. As mentioned earlier, there’s a linear chain of style which becomes more smooth, more pronounced and more distinctly “DEPART” as the previous decade moves toward 2013.
Projection displaying The Flood Panels, 2012
Still from The Flood Panels
As both Lass and Ladenhauf are equally prolific on their own—Lass, with his personal design work, and Ladenhauf with Zanshin, an IDM/experimental electronica musical project—it’s likely we can only expect a DEPART piece once or twice a year, as has been their MO. Nonetheless, we’re willing to wait.