Rooting for the optimists and pessimists: Brian Eno’s Empty Formalism opens Berlin’s ISM Hexadome

Photos by Mollie Cashwell


Composer and visual artist Brian Eno returned to Berlin this week for the opening of his audio-visual installation, “Empty Formalism,” at the Martin Gropius Bau. The work is the first in a series of performances and installations created by artists for the newly created ISM Hexadome, a hexagonal structure featuring six large screens and over 50 speakers in a 3D sound stage, creating a spatial sensation coupling music with shifting visuals. 

“One of the reasons for using music in a place like this is to say: treat your sense of sight in the same way as you treat your sense of hearing,'” says Eno. He describes his piece as featuring “color combinations that are so seductively beautiful that you can’t resist them, and then the idea of them disappearing and you knowing that you will never see them again.”

The piece was specifically composed for the new sound technology utilized by the ISM Hexadome and developed by The Institute of Sound and Music in partnership with Pfadfinderei and ZKM | Center for Art and Media with support from the Kultur Bundesstiftung. Over the coming month at Martin-Gropius-Bau, the ISM Hexadome will host an impressive range of established and emerging artists including CAO and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.