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Shapes: A Composition by Marike van Dijk

Marike van Dijk was Artist in Residence at MoB December 2020 to March 2021. During her residency, Marike composed Shapes, a series of seven movements, featuring a six-piece ensemble, based on geometric and organic shapes inspired by the Bauhaus Now exhibition.

Marike describes this process below:

The Shapes suite initially started out as a small-scale exploration, translating graphic shapes into music. This exploration was part of my preparation for the development of a larger-scale work: a collaborative work with a visual/light artist, based on a graphic score. A graphic score is a composition that uses non-traditional music notation.

As I proposed this larger work to Museum of Brisbane, they saw an opportunity for a residency engaging with their Bauhaus Now exhibition, and specifically the Farbenlichtspiele (a colour light apparatus) by Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to create a smaller version of my initial idea.

When I started my composition process at Museum of Brisbane, I had already translated the concept of a Square, Circle and Triangle into music.

I conceptualised writing three more movements, based on organic shapes and a seventh one based on a shape that is both geometric and organic: the trigeod. Coincidentally, the Farbenlichtspiele has both geometric and organic shapes, so I decided to write music for the remaining shapes in the machine. There was a shape that looked like a wing and something that looked like a wave. The original machine had a shape that looked like scribble to me and I decided to use that idea as well.

Eventually, the Shapes suite became a 30-minute work for a string quartet, piano, saxophone and visuals by the Farbenlichtspiele.

The suite consists of seven movements: Circle, Wavy, Square, Aileron, Trigeod, Scribbly and Triangle.

Shapes by Marike van Dijk, performed at Museum of Brisbane. Musicians: Marike Van Dijk, Camille Barry, Charlotte Burbrook, Dan Curro, Mike Patterson and Steve Newcomb. Videographer: Vanessa van Dalsen. Courtesy Chris Bell.


The composition was performed by Marike and her ensemble on Friday 19 March at Museum of Brisbane. The performance was accompanied by a digital recording of the artwork which inspired the piece, the Farbenlichtspiele (Colour Light Plays) originally created by Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack in 1923. Special thanks to Professor Andrew McNamara, curator of Bauhaus Now, Michael Candy, creator of the contemporary reconstruction of the Farbenlichtspiele apparatus, and Chau Chak Wing Museum (The University of Sydney), lender of the artwork.

Find out more about Marike van Dijk’s Museum of Brisbane residency here.

Shapes was developed and presented as part of Museum of Brisbane’s Artist in Residence program, supported by Tim Fairfax AC.

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