A modern day Renaissance Man
Marco Barotti was standing beside his creation: The Emotion Maker; a giant inflatable rubber ring along the lines of a bouncy castle, except you go inside it like a tent, not bounce on it like a bed. It is one of the many installations and attractions which make up the Clerkenwell Design Week.
The Italian polymath (artist, designer, curator, musician) was easy to spot. He was dressed from head-to-toe in 1980s pop star chic, right up to the Nik Kershaw vertical hair-do.
He looked cool. Even his light blue retro glasses were working for him. Some men can just carry these things off and Marco Barotti is one of them.
His Emotion Maker has been promoted as an immersive music experience. A space into which you enter alone with only an "experiential" soundtrack to keep you company. It is designed to be a mood changer.
I've been in the market for this sort of thing ever since I submitted myself to James Turrell's Bindu Shards last year.
That was mood changer all right.
The American artist had created a no-holds-barred environment to mess with your head. It was a solo flight of fancy consisting of a fifteen-minute psychedelic audio-visual assault on your senses, while you're strapped down on a table, incarcerated in a fibreglass bubble.
Could Barotti beat that? He explained his concept to me: "The Emotion Maker was a public sphere to condense common prejudices concerning space and time."
This was the first occasion on which I had heard art-speak delivered in a thick Italian accent.
Marco responded to the internationally recognisable look of early-onset incredulity in my eyes by helpfully adding that the "compressed essence of an emotion-generating machine becomes tangible in this experience." I asked if I could have a go.
No I couldn't. Not before I had selected a track to be played to me inside the plastic white doughnut.
We went to the left-hand side of the ring where there was a zip-like line running up the eight-foot high construction.
Different musical instruments were listed along the line and Macro told me I could chose only five to create a bespoke soundtrack for my experience. I chose piano, flute, drums, vocals and double bass.
I did not choose the trumpet.
I went into the Emotion Maker. It was hot. And very bright. In fact it was too hot and too bright.
And then the music started and the trumpet blasted. I didn't ask for the trumpet. I specifically asked not to have the trumpet.
This was turning into a bad trip man. Marco had told me the Emotion Maker was about love and death, but I wasn't getting it. I was getting out of it.
Marco welcomed me back. I told him I hadn't felt the love. He suggested I tried the "special guest" selection.
This was an option I hadn't spotted earlier. It is the one where a pre-recorded track of someone singing lovingly is piped into The Emotion Maker. I went back in.
I tried sitting on the nice white cushions that were scattered about inside thinking it would help get me in the mood. But they didn't. Probably because they weren't cushions at all but sandbags to stop the contraption taking off.
I stood up and listened intently to the music. It was a dissonant, modern sound that I liked, but I couldn't detect anybody singing. And it was still too hot and too bright. My mood was definitively changing, but to mild irritation and not to adoration or morbidity. I exited once more.
Then The Emotion Maker had a downer.
Too many people had gone in and out of it and with them the air that maintained its shape. Now it was semi-flaccid, which is never a good look.
It took a while to get going again. By which time quite a crowd had gathered; fun-loving hispters up for some mind altering art.
I think Marco could tell I was a little disappointed. He took me aside and told me about another project he had on the go. He had recorded a single that Sony Columbia would be releasing later in the year. He offered me a copy.
The arts world is full of Marco Barottis: creative multi-taskers who do a bit of this and do a bit of that.
They work on projects and collaborations and pop up at events like Clerkenwell Design Week all over Europe. They are Contemporary Man, a distant relation to Renaissance Man: living by their wits and off their imaginations.