Interview with Sean Rogg of the ‘Waldorf Project’

The Waldorf Project, combining a variety of artistic expression to create a unique sensory world to be explored in a variety of ways. Following the success of its first chapter ‘Muskmelon’ in 2012, Sean Rogg has returned with an even more intriguing Chapter Two: ‘Colour’.

 1) As Artistic Director of the Waldorf Project, what was it that inspired you to create such a sensory form of art?

“My work over the last 20 years has dealt with one theme, manipulation; manipulation of the guest. Not in the negative senses, but in shifting of energy whilst engaging with my work, leaving you feeling different. This ranged from political opinion shifting in works like WOOD and WOLF Ram to abstract emotional manipulation in works like When Will It Hit Me? and Wake.

The atmosphere of the gallery and the holistic experience have always been important to me and led me to expand my creative ideas beyond film making to immersive performance. The biggest of these events, WATER first incarnation, was a 10 day long performance in which 1000 sealed bottles of different sparkling water, collected by me over 6 years from all over the world, were presented in a tasting setting. It was the first time I collaborated with a sound designer, set designer and most importantly a choreographer (Imogen Knight who was to choreograph Chapter One of the Waldorf project). It was during this performance that I realised I no longer wanted to make video art but rather to create more immersive performance. As I saw the water being consumed by the guests and interpreted, I saw a total art form, one which is taken in through all the senses.”

The project fully materialized 4 years ago in Madrid in a disappointing Michelin starred restaurant experience. The chef was no doubt an artist and the food no doubt art but I noticed two things: firstly no matter how beautiful the food, it had to be destroyed in order to be eaten. More importantly I saw the restriction the restaurant was under – the plate was the stage and the food the art. The smells, sounds and visuals were all being ignored. So I thought, what if you expanded the “stage” to fill the entire environment and considered all the senses? Building on my previous artistic ideas mentioned above, Waldorf was born.

2) Do you find that dividing the project into different instalments adds to its value of as it allows you to focus on each part individually?

Absolutely. I am planning on staging six Chapters, each time growing in scale and ambition. But also learning from previous Chapters. Chapter Two already is vastly different from what I had first imagined based on what I walked away with after staging Chapter One.

 3) How would you explain the evolution of the project from the first, Muskmelon in 2012 to Chapter Two, Colour?

Chapter One was well presented and received as a very experimental gastronomic experience, even getting voted top 10 most experimental restaurants in the world by USA Today. It was not until I was developing the ideas for Chapter Two and analysing how I felt about Chapter One that I realised the far greater potential of the project.

To actually create a new art form, one in which the guest literally consumes the artwork through all the senses, this meant removing any connection to a restaurant environment, instead creating an installation that the guests explore. It also meant working with a team of minds that were future thinking enough to bring my ideas to life, so involving (for example) a food designer rather than a chef and a sound designer rather than a musician. The ideas that will be explored in Chapter Two are so new in my mind that they have even affected the future of the project, allowing me to evolve these ideas into new visions of the performance in later Chapters.

4) To what extent do you find that colour can really be experienced through senses other than just the visual?

Visual will be only the beginning of how you experience colour. The soundscapes have been composed not only using the same frequencies of their respective colours but have the same emotions, the food objects will actually taste like colour rather than simply being made of coloured food. Sets will also extend the emotional response. But ultimately all these ideas will merge into one single experience where you will actually simply just “feel” the colour.

5) Working with so many different artists, each highly specialised in their area of expertise, do you ever find that you have differing artistic visions?

As a filmmaker I was used to working with a team of dept. heads. Prior to making visual art I was a more narrative filmmaker and worked regularly with cinematographers, editors, production designers etc. So it was an easy transition to bring other artists to create the various aspects of the performance I was not able to. But it was a lengthy and complex process to find artists that could deliver the ideas for Waldorf as nothing like this has been done before.

For example not only are the food objects revolutionary in as much as they actually taste like colour, but I was asking the food designer to pair the food with the environment. Similarly not only do the various soundscapes sound like their respective colours but also I was asking the sound designer to pair his soundscapes to wine. The costume designer had to create patterns that are inspired by and mimic the architectural landscapes they are worn in, etc. Every aspect had to merge together until my vision was realised.

6) How do you expect the participants to react to this experience, seeing as they won’t be told much about what they’re letting themselves in for?

The Project is about giving me your hand and letting me take you on a journey. Everyone will have their own experience and interpret the project in their own way but all should have an enlightening evening.

7) Where do you see the Waldorf Project going in the future?

Chapter One was a learning curve. I would not say that it fell within my vision of a new art form. Now that I fully see the potential of a consumable art experience it will evolve over the following Chapters. I plan to develop this new art form creating deeper and more intense synergies.

Look out for cheap tickets giving a sample of the experience to be released closed to the launch!

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2 thoughts on “Interview with Sean Rogg of the ‘Waldorf Project’

  1. Sean Rogg does it again, takes us to places we didn’t know existed in ways we couldn’t have previously conceived. Half of me wishes I was in London to experience it, the other half is shamefully pleased I will experience it vicariously through other people – but I know the ONLY way to experience this at all will be to suspend fear, take your hand and step through that door….
    Nothing about this will be beige.

  2. I’m a student doing art foundation. This is exactly what I was dreaming to create. Now I’m stuck not knowing what course to choose for BA. What should I choose to gain visual ability to create something like this? I considered sculpture, but tutors are saying my work should be in contemporary art context, which I’m not really interested. I’m into music, dance, drama, moving images, performance art, interactive art, installations art, and designs if further. I want to combine them all instead of analysing my works in the context of contemporary art. Should I take one of those course to develop my visual languages and try installation projects on my own?

    I’m glad that I found you were a filmmaker. Hmm…

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