Sun & Sea: Operatic artwork is ‘strangest thing I’ve ever seen’

It’s meant to astonish those who are lucky enough to witness it, yet what’s going on in this picture is creeping some people out.

Bikini-clad women lie sprawled on beach towels as they sun themselves, while men dressed in shorts relax and children build sandcastles.

But there’s a twist; these people are not at the beach. Instead, they’re inside a building, and there are fully dressed spectators watching from above and scrutinizing their every move.

The picture has some social media users puzzled, with comments that it looks like a scene from a bizarre prison movie.

“You’ve got people packed in, and some people watching them like they’re at the beach but they’re not at the beach, they’re in a building with sand in it,” one social media commenter said.

“Without a doubt this has to be the strangest footage I’ve seen in my whole life… It’s pretty crazy, pretty wild, pretty out there.”

Another commented it could be like a “prison for the super rich”, while a third said it looks like a “prison floor”.

It turns out that it’s actually the artwork/opera Sun & Seawhich has traveled to different art galleries around the world, each time looking a little different.

The “beachgoers” are opera singers, and they sing as nature around them crumbles.

Many who have seen the display have raved about it, calling it “extraordinary”.

“There is less a feeling of doom than an elegy of beautiful sadness,” one audience member wrote.

In 2019, the opera won the coveted Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, while representing Lithuania.

At the time, The Guardian reported that visitors looked down at the display from a minstrel’s gallery inside an old naval warehouse in the Venice Arsenale.

More recently, the piece was featured at Iceland’s Reykjavik Art Museum in June this year for the city’s arts festival, featuring black sand from the volcanic country’s coastline.

Sun & Sea project curator Lucia Pietroiusti has an intriguing description of the display. “Imagine a beach. The burning sun, sunscreen and bright bathing suits and sweaty palms and legs,” she said.

“Tired limbs sprawled lazily across a mosaic of towels. Imagine the occasional squeal of children, laughter, the sound of an ice cream van in the distance.

“The musical rhythm of waves on the surf, a soothing sound. The crinkling of plastic bags whirling in the air, their silent floating, jellyfish-like, below the waterline. The rumble of a volcano, or of an airplane, or a speedboat.

“Then a chorus of songs – everyday songs, songs of worry and of boredom, songs of almost nothing. And below them, the slow creaking of an exhausted Earth, a gasp.”

The performance loops continuously, for four hours each day and the audience can come and go as they please.

Upcoming tour locations include Helsinki, Barcelona and Lisbon.


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