diana shpungin & nicole engelmann
rock opera, 2007
single channel version
continuous loop dvd projection

rock opera, 2007
still images from dual channel video installation
continuous loop dvd projection
dimensions variable


Rock opera explores a literal interpretation of the musical theatre genre of rock opera. Repetitive imagery and musical inflections resolve in an unlikely concert between two performers. Staged as a dual channel music video installation this composition is based on a series of opposites: blond /brunette, heaven/ hell, black /white, good /evil, rock / opera, ethereal /aggressive, masculine/feminine, angelic/demonic.

A rocker and an opera singer are the two staged performers A blonde sings in high-pitched vibrato tones countered by a brunette who radically head bangs to abrasive metal guitar riffs. The brunette provides the instrumental component of the work while the blonde contributes with vocals. The head banger performs in a black vacuous space, lit with a red glowing light and punctuated by a strobe. Her instrument is hidden, but the riffs insinuate an electric guitar performance. Her hair is wet with sweat and sticks to her forehead and cheeks, black mascara smudges her eyes and her shirt clings to her body. The rockers relentless head banging matched with wild expression exhibits an insane and determined energy. Quite opposite in form and performance the blonde embodies a saccharine aesthetic. Dressed in white she is set against a glowing white space with mist flowing through and filling the frame. Her long hair blows in the wind. The soprano sings determinedly with only her face marking expression. It is really the dramatic movements of her hair and the mist that creates the physical energy of her performance. So much so that the clouds at times envelop the singer and the she fades out of view.

The aesthetics of the piece are kitchy in rendition and play on the stereotypes of the opera singer and the metal head. The set up is campy and hyper staged with each performer highly anticipatory of its audience. The acts are humorous in their overly executed fashions.

Projected at monumental scale the two performers face one another on opposing walls. As the opera singer sings the rocker blanks out to white and as the rocker head bangs the opera singer blanks out to black. This back a forth switching of imagery and blank screens mimic a strobe light and concert as a lighting effect. It is intended that the viewer be fully transported out of the exhibition space and into the concert venue. The synchronized patterning of the back and forth projections and musical riffs initiate a dialogue of comparison. Aspects of the performance are left ambiguous. It is unclear whether the show is a battle of the bands or an unusual duet and whether the performers are actually aware of the others presence for each performs in their own private environment.

The musical component of rock opera is an arrangement of repetitive sound bites made up of electric guitar rifts and vibrato voice inflections. Neither component plays a complete melody but mechanized through repetitious mirroring and back and forth patterning create a complete composition. Anticipation for the works finale is teased with the steady build up of rhythm and vocal crescendo. For a moment the voice of the singer and the rift of the guitar overlap to suggest an ending but this is quickly followed by a continued performance. Relentless in fashion the rock opera never concludes as it plays on in a continuous loop...... a never ending encore.

all images © Diana Shpungin & Nicole Engelmann 2000-2007