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To mark the launch of its latest skincare collection, the Platinum Rare Haute-Rejuvenation Protocol, La Prairie facilitated an artistic encounter between Max Richter and Nobuhiro Nakanishi. The Swiss luxury skincare brand invited the British composer and Japanese visual artist to consider the notion of eternity.
The project began when Nobuhiro traveled to Switzerland to capture its majestic mountains. His photographs of the Swiss Alps at twilight, along with the notion of time suspended, then served as inspiration for a soaring score by Richter, entitled Platinum.
The collaboration resulted in the immersive installation, Echo of Time, which debuted at West Bund Art & Design Shanghai in 2020, and recently as a drawing-based video work entitled Eternal Circle—both set to Richter’s original composition.
Whitewall spoke with both artists about art’s ability to alter our perception of time.
WHITEWALL: How were you approached for this commission by La Prairie? What was the brief?
NOBUHIRO NAKANISHI: For this commission, La Prairie took me to Switzerland to be immersed in nature and to be inspired by its beauty. It is in this context that I explored the notion of time and eternity, which are intrinsic to platinum—a rare, pure, and precious element.
MAX RICHTER: Time and eternity were the big themes, and then Nobuhiro’s work—the connection between human beings and nature—that’s the framework for the whole piece. Music is a language which is a time machine. Music can transport us through the moment quicky or slowly. It’s very subjective and it’s very emotional. The musical work I wrote was a response to those ideas, which are ideas of science and nature, and translated into an emotional language of music.
WW: Nobuhiro, for the project, you said you climbed several Swiss mountains. Can you tell us about that experience?
NN: Unlike the nature in Japan that I was very familiar with, in Switzerland I experienced the minerality lying beneath the rocky mountains. It was an incredible experience: as if I touched a part of the earth and the universe that formed long before the birth of mankind. The speed and complexity of air flow around me, the movement of the wind, fog and clouds constantly changing. This natural setting that inspired my work, translates perfectly the notion of time over which we have no control but are merely admirers. I think this will lead me to rethink my concept of time on a larger scale for my future productions.
WW: From that experience, what did you want to convey in terms of feelings for viewers Echo of Time and Eternal Circle?
NN: Eternal Circle depicts something exceptional and intangible—an experience. I created this piece in symbiosis with the sensorial experience I felt in Switzerland. The goal of my work is to translate my escapade where contours, spatial distances and physical boundaries dissolve, leaving a sense of a faraway universe immune to the physical touch. It is a bonding moment between the viewer and nature, where time flows.
WW: Max, in relationship to the work of Nobuhiro, do you think of music in relationship to landscape when composing?
MR: Yes. I actually always think of a piece of music as a kind of landscape. A piece of music is a place for me. Every piece of music, every song that we love, it represents a territory, a landscape for us, an emotional space. And so it’s very natural for me to think in these terms and certainly Nobuhiro’s photographic works, his drawings, were very easy for me to connect to in that way.
WW: Nobuhiro, what is it like for you as an artist to have your work scored by Max?
NN: I am very honored to have my work scored by Max Richter. Although we both followed the same starting point—the fleeting quality of time and Platinum itself—it is interesting how we bring our unique artistic perspective to create a multi-sensorial artwork.
Both of my works rely on the same idea and notion, that of the passage of time, where one moment overlaps with another creating a continuous image and where gaps highlight the depth of time itself. What unites both works is my hope to transport the viewers to a different space beyond time, with no space restrictions enhancing the relationship between the movement of the body and mind. The power of the music that accompanies my work, has a direct effect on the body in the same space. I think such point is what unifies my work to Max Richter’s.
WW: Max, when composing, how are you thinking of time, with this project or any other? What kind of feelings do you want to evoke?
MR: One of the real tasks for any project is to try and find the music that feels innate to it, that feels like it could only be that way. In this case, I focused on my sense of the physical properties of platinum itself—it’s very precious, it’s very rare, it was made in this very brief moment later on in the beginning of the universe. And these sorts of ideas were the ones I spent time with and tried to represent and respond to in the musical work.
The music has two layers. There is a background layer, which is this pulsating vocal sound—a hybrid language between human beings, the singers, and the electronics. I see that as the background, the landscape. And the orchestral music—the cellos and the rest of the orchestra—that’s in a way the figure in that landscape, it's a foreground event. It’s us in that landscape. It’s this connection between the singular subjective human and the bigger picture.
WW: Nobuhiro, how do you work with light, time, and space in your artistic practice?
NN: As an artist, I draw inspiration from the relationship between body and space when placed in nature. Light illuminating the mountains, the color of the sky and the shapes created by nature are intrinsic to my work. I like to create spaces where one can feel something intangible and invisible but that is real and exists.
For the artworks created for La Prairie, I was inspired by my own memories encompassing the full sensorial appreciation of Switzerland. It feels like a simulated experience of meditation about eternal time. The time that flows as a continuation of moments. Light, time and space all come together to make the viewer travel across different notion of time.
WW: Max, is there an aspect of this project you’re bringing with you into the future?
MR: Yes, I think every project is a step on the road. Individual projects, in a way it's a mistake to think of them as separate. They are all connected, they are all part of that process of writing and living and trying to think and live musically. It’s been a wonderful experience and wonderful to have an opportunity to reflect on the themes, which are actually big themes, big questions, to spend time with those and reflect on them musically.