From 1000 years to 10 seconds: A collaboration between composer Jem Finer painter Ansel Krut

By Greg Rook

Following his celebrated 1000 year composition, Longplayer, English musician Jem Finer has composed a 10 second piece of music for British painter Ansel Krut’s new animation, Profile with Pipe. The collaborative piece heads to auction for six days starting 6PM on October 7th. Finer’s disappointed trumpets and cartoon whistle add to the absurdity of Krut’s comic pillory of inflated self-esteem. And the necessity of composing for 10 seconds rather than a thousand years accentuates the absurdity of  our relationship to time. 

Profile With Pipe by Ansel Krut (music by Jem Finer) 
(animation by Guy Holbrow)

With NFTs reaching the headlines in early 2021, contemporary artists have begun to think about  reframing their work in this new context – traditionally the domain of digital artists. Many are finding that, more than just offering digital versions of previous work, they’re able to completely reimagine their practice. NFTs have become a forum for experimentation.  

The painter Ansel Krut began to animate his compositions and found that bringing these characters to life not only democratized their understanding, but also gave them an alternative life. As he explored the possibilities of 10 second animations, he began to consider the possibilities of sound and  collaborating with a musician. The constraints of the file size were fascinating – it was a little like  being in at the start of vinyl and the 3-minute pop song. Following conversations with Jem Finer, ‘Profile with Pipe’ was born. 

Ansel Krut and Jem Finer (photo by Rich Nielsen) 

“The image is of a military man,” Krut said, “we know because of the cap and the beard and the pipe. But also because of his fixed stare and rigid attitude; his profile is emblematic not just of him but of everything he stands for.”

Krut’s military man is taken from a drawing made by Italian futurist Filipo Marinetti in 1918. 

“Marinetti intended him as ridiculous even then but here he is made doubly so with the addition of a red nose that pulls itself forward and snaps back onto his face, over and over  again as the animation loops on itself,” Krut said. “His conflicted dignity and abjection, his comic militarism, is played out in the music.”

Well known as a founding member of The Pogues, Finer’s millennium project, Longplayer (realized with Artangel) represented a convergence of many of his concerns, particularly those relating to systems, long-durational processes and extremes of scale in both time and space. 

While Longplayer is most often described as a 1000 year long musical composition, the preoccupations that led to its conception were not of a musical nature; they concerned time, as it is experienced and as it is understood from the perspectives of philosophy, physics and cosmology. At extremes of scale, time has always appeared to Finer as baffling, both in the transience of its passing on quantum mechanical levels and in the unfathomable expanses of geological and cosmological time, in which a human lifetime is reduced to no more than a blip. In ‘Profile with Pipe’ the blip is of particular poignancy as it talks to our self-importance and short-sighted preoccupation with only what is under our noses. 

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