The Art of Change Opera video documentation

Guests statements: Simon Crichtley Cinzia Arruzza Dmitri Nikulin Jamieson Webster

The Art of Change Opera is an experimental project which develops a radically new artistic form - open, participative, generative and interactive - addressing the question « what needs to be changed » in the world today.  

Originally conceived by composer and multimedia artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière, with a libretto by philosopher Chiara Bottici, it incorporates specially recorded interviews, and statements from intellectuals, thinkers and activists from all around the world. These video materials are mixed with actors interpreting fragments of texts about change. Speech materials proliferate in music, ‘orchestrated' (some pre-recorded in advance, some live in real-time) and performed, partly by instrumentalists and partly with the help of computer generative compositional processes. 

The Art of Change Opera was commissioned to Jean-Baptiste Barrière by the College of Performing Arts for the occasion of The New School University Centennial.

Professors and students from every part of The New School and beyond have been invited to participate to the development of The Art of Change Opera, either by contributing to its ongoing libretto on or through a course/workshop which took place in Fall 2019 and leading to a first series of presentations, with a stage direction of Ashley Tata, on 16 ,17, 18 & 21 of January 2020 as part of The New School Centennial celebrations.

For these presentations, were invited to participate three musical guests - Joan La Barbara, Rebekah Heller & Ross Karre, and four intellectual guests - Simon Critchley, Cinzia Arruzza, Dmitri Nikulin & Jamieson Webster -.

The video documentation is an editing of these presentations. Extracts of the musical guests who appeared on different performances have been edited into one single braid, in order to give both an idea of the structure of the work and of each guest musical contribution.

To preserve the integrity of their discourses, the full length statements of the intellectual guests are made available separately: Simon Critchley, Cinzia Arruzza, Dmitri Nikulin & Jamieson Webster.

The ongoing-libretto: A Public Seminar Endeavour directed by Chiara Bottici

In preparation for The Art of Change Opera, under the direction of Professor Bottici, a specific platform was built on devoted to preparing “an ongoing libretto.”

The plan was to create a draft of the libretto from a collection of texts on the philosophy of change and its application in the current predicament, and unite them through different possible narrative threads. 

This initial draft of the libretto was circulated inside and outside of The New School, inviting people to directly contribute to it. Regularly, the comments and suggested changes have been integrated into the on-going libretto, thus enacting a participative, collective writing process. This continued until first presentations in January 16, 17, 18 & 21 of 2020, and may possibly be developed further after that.

The platform worked as a way to rethink the question of change through the very specific resources that New School intellectuals have been building during the 100 years of its life, and thus also contributed to the ongoing centennial celebration.

This corresponds both to the animating spirit of The Art of Change opera and of Public Seminar, which is the living heredity of the legendary New School General Seminar.

The Art of Change Opera Prelude

The Prelude, a preview condensing the spirit of the whole project, consisted of a twenty minutes performance which took place on October 5, 2019, as part of the Night of Philosophy. The Night of Philosophy was part of the programming for the Festival of the New, designed for the Centennial of The New School

The Prelude included historical video footage, interviews of professors and students from different TNS departments and other materials from intellectuals, thinkers and activists from all around the world, delivering statements about change. Atop the historical materials, philosopher Chiara Bottici delivered live the initial fragments of the open libretto. Acoustic and electronic instrumentation extended the composition, as flautist Camilla Hoitenga and composer/multimedia artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière performed scores partly pre-composed and partly generated in real time from the speech — words unfolding and proliferating into music.

The technology behind The Art of Change Opera

The very special nature of this project required the design and realization of specific software to capture vocal performances of participants reading texts, transcribe them musically in real time, transforming them according to compositional rules, and display them in music notation, so that they can be sight-read and performed by musicians throughout the opera.

A Course/Workshop  and laboratorium

A course/workshop took place during the Fall 2019, meant as an experimental laboratorium to develop The Art of Change Opera, a radical new form of multimedia performance, conducting to a first series of presentations on January 16, 17, 18 & 21, 2020, as part of the TNS Centennial.

Participants were involved directly in the step by step practical preparation and realization for the performance of the opera.

It involved: the dramatic staging of historical and original texts; pre-composed instrumental and electronic music, as well as performing/improvising around computer generated and processed musical materials transcribed in real time from the texts; and prepared and live video transformations.

The various possibilities of interactions through real time software between speech/music/image will be specially investigated throughout the class.

All students – and professors - from all departments of The New School concerned by the subject matter of change, socially and in new artistic forms, were welcome to participate and contribute to the development of the project and/or the performances.

Credits for  The Art of Change Opera:

Jean-Baptiste Barrière, Concept, Composition & Video

Chiara Bottici, Libretto, Narration

Ashley Tata, Stage Direction

Camilla Hoitenga, Flutes & Musical Coaching

Levy Lorenzo, Percussion

Timo Rissanen, Costume Design

Abigail Hoke-Brady, Lighting Design

Thomas Goepfer, Sound Design

François Galard, Image Pre-processing

Isabelle Barrière, Video Documentation, Color Grading & Live Cameras

Guests Appearances of January 2020 performances:

16: Simon Critchley, Philosopher & Joan La Barbara, Vocalist

17: Cinzia Arruzza, Philosopher & Rebekah Heller, Bassoon

18: Dmitri Nikulin, Philosopher & Ross Karre, Percussion

21: Jamieson Webster, Psychoanalyst & Ross Karre Percussion

Actors, singers, instrumentalists, students of The New School’s College of Performing Arts:

Hayley Boggs, Soprano, William Desbiens, Baritone, Youngwoo Jeon, Clarinet, Kalun Leung, Trombone, Timmy Ong, Actor, Yeji Pyun, Violin, Samuel Rachmuth, Bass, Veronica Richer, Soprano,

Jane Skapek, Assistant Director, Zachary Sebek, Tenor, Alexander Theiss, Trombone, Jackie Traish, Flute,

Yunnan Xu, Actress

"Change the world, it needs it" & "On Suicide":

songs by Bertolt Brecht & Hanns Eisler, arrangements by Jean-Baptiste Barrière

Extracts of interviews of Chiara Bottici, Joel Towers, Mary Watson, Christen Clifford, Hugh Raffles, Robin Wagner Pacifici, Ann Storer, Janet Roitman, Mackenzie Wark, Richard Kessler,

Mariam Matar & Dora Suarez

realized by Jean-Baptiste Barrière for The Art of Change Project (2017-2020)

George Lewis: video posted on the website of 'The Art of Change' installation (2017)

Video documents found on the web (all rights reserved to the speakers and owners of these sites):

Hartmund Rosa

Maja Wiley

Angela Davis

Cornel West

Joseph Stieglitz

Rutger Bregman

Malala Yousafzai

Yanis Varoufakis

Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Naomi Klein

Kyle White

Greta Thunberg + filming by Ashley Tata

James Baldwin

Peter Sellars

Extracts of films:

‘Il Gattopardo', by Luchino Visconti

‘Escape from New York', by John Carpenter

‘The Great Dictator', by Charles Chaplin

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Special credits: extracts from documentaries (all rights reserved to the authors)

  1. -'This Changes Everything', by Avi Lewis, adapted of the book by Naomi Klein,

  2. -

  3. -‘On a Friday’ by Dominique Maury Lasmartres, on the Parisian edition of the students climate march, in September 2019.

Special thanks: Annabelle Avenier, Matthew Sullivan & Richard Kessler

Credits for the video documentation:

Jean-Baptiste Barrière, Directing & Audio Mixing

Isabelle Barrière, Filming, Editing, Color Grading


The Art of Change Opera

A Work in Progress Multimedia Performance