© 2010 - 2019 by Ensemble Black Pencil 

Interior 123

Virtual Reality performance

Music: Florian Magnus Maier

Virtual reality images: Marcel Wierckx


‘As regards my means of expression, I try my hardest to achieve the maximum of clarity, power, and plastic aggressiveness; a physical sensation to begin with, followed up by an impact on the psyche.’

Joan Miró


The quest for brutal expression in the work of Spanish-Catalan surrealist master Joan Miró (1893-1983) can be compared to the effect one aims to create with Virtual Reality: power, total immersion, clarity, impact.


One characteristic of Miró is his biomorphic paintwork; objects are divorced from their actual function, only to be incorporated into an organic world. Striking features include his bright use of colour, and the frequent depiction of objects from space. This organic and imaginative world is dominated by nature, the moon, the stars, and women. Spontaneously erupting poetry is the principle tone. This predominantly ideogrammatic world of shapes and forms is strongly inspired by contemporary multimedia, using the newest visual technology.


Miró visited the Netherlands in 1928, and in awe of the old masters, especially Vermeer, decided to re-paint his own idiosyncratic, abstract versions of these works. In particular:

Dutch Interior 1, based on ‘The Lute Player’ by Hendrik Martenszoon Sorgh

Dutch Interior 2, inspired by ‘The Dance Lesson’ by Jan Steen and

Dutch Interior 3, inspired by ‘Woman at her Toilette’, also by Jan Steen.


These three ‘Dutch Interior’ paintings form the theme of this production. 


The visuals of the VR-production Interior 123 are presented in 360-degrees, in three virtual spaces. These virtual spaces are filled with a range of living asymmetrical forms. Details of the three works of Miró come to life in a vivid virtual environment. Colour palettes and depths of contrast are borrowed from works of the old masters such as ‘The Lute Player’ by Martensz Sorgh and ‘The Dance Lesson’ by Jan Steen. Images of the musicians from Black Pencil have been shot in a green screen studio, and can thus be digitally placed into these virtual spaces. A combination of pixel smearing techniques and 3D transformations transform the musicians into abstract shapes. The visitor experiences an arresting and surreal world where nothing is as it seems. A short yet powerful story that leaves room for one’s own associations.


Interior 123 is a Virtual Reality production lasting six minutes, running on a continuous loop. Depending upon the location it can be played for two to four hours, with appropriate breaks (for example, for audience changeover or breaks for the musicians).


The capacity of the installation is ten audience members per performance. The placement of the installation is according to a square truss construction, with dimensions measuring 400 x 250 x 250cm (LxWxH). LED lamps (Par 64) hang on the truss to create the appropriate atmosphere, as well as powerful ventilators (wind generators) for sensory effect. The ten chairs for the audience are screwed into a wooden floor; five chairs in front and five behind. Four ‘Buttkickers’ are also attached to the wooden floor, and produce in effect no sound. Their function is to create vibrations that correspond to the lowest frequencies of the music, creating the impression of a powerful sound system at considerable volume – very effective! All effects used - wind, vibration, live music and electronic sound processing - are controlled by a central synchronising system, and thus form an integrated and coordinated part of the Virtual Reality video projected. 


The installation is operated by our own technician and assistant. The technician is responsible for all connections and for the seamless operation of the equipment. The assistant takes care of welcoming the audience and gives a short explanation of the performance. He or she leads the visitors to their places, gives out the VR-glasses and wishes them an enjoyable experience.


The performance can be given in two variations:

  1. The live musicians surrounding the audience. This is only possible in spaces with sound isolation. For example, a small concert hall or studio space, easily accessible within the building where other activities are taking place. Sound will be played through a 5.1 audio surround system.

  2. The musicians performing live from the Black Pencil studio in Amsterdam (Studio Ladon). Only the technician and PR assistant are present at the performance location. Audio is live streamed, and the visitor listens through high quality headphones. This variant is particularly suited to foyers of theatres/concert halls, or entrances of busy events where there is a large public but live music may not be played due to noise disturbance. The visitors can see the musicians after the performance via a flat screen monitor.


Audience members waiting their turn outside can observe the faces of those within the installation, piquing their curiosity and encouraging them to go inside too. This installation is a concept that appeals to a broad range of people (including children from 8 years of age).