In Ninth Heaven

Or The Far End of Europe

 


I consider it a singular plan of the fates that human cultivation and refinement should today be concentrated, as it were, in the two extremes of our continent, in Europe and in Tschina (as they call it), which adorns the Orient as Europe does the opposite edge of the earth. Perhaps Supreme Providence has ordained such an arrangement, so that as the most cultivated and distant peoples stretch out their arms to each other.

–Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz,
Foreword to the Novissima Sinica, 1697/1699

 

In Ninth Heaven invites the visitors on a journey through the early European Baroque and late Chinese Ming/early Qing eras. Time, space, and gravity dissolve in an immersive experience in which vestiges of the past open onto a timeless horizon of cultural exchange. The audience experiences a virtual world that reflects (on) issues of identity, conformity, and transition, thus encouraging to question the notions of center and periphery, the familiar, and the unfamiliar, cultural exclusion and integration. Enclosed by the media body as if it were a third skin, the users/visitors explore an imaginary world based on historic facts by performatively creating their own audio-visual avenues into the narrative space.

In Ninth Heaven revolves around the life of Andreas Koffler, an early 17th-century missionary born in the Austrian dual city of Krems/Stein, who became a member of the last Ming emperor’s court. Koffler was one of a small group of explorative and erudite Jesuits who left behind the European Counter Reformation and established a multi-faceted period of enlightened dialogue between China and Europe. This brief historical episode came to a sudden end shortly after Leibniz’ emphatic advocacy of this mutual cultural and scientific exchange. The dialogue that unfolded between the Jesuits of the China mission and Chinese scholars and statesmen, however, inspired both civilizations and had a lasting effect on their arts, sciences and world views.

 

 





In Ninth Heaven, 2008, installation view and image stills


In Ninth Heaven is based on a 3D real-time display system integrated in a specially designed architecture. Curated by Dieter Buchhart for Museum Stein, Krems/Stein, AT, 2008-09.


CREDITS: Gerald Nestler: co-author, conception, artistic research, text. Szely:  spatial acoustics. Doron Goldfarb: programming. Josef Wienerroither: additional 3D-objects. Eduard Wildner, Frederic Lion: voiceover.