SonicVision is a 3-D dreamscape of sight and sound

Posted by Lia Chang

The American Museum of Natural History's spectacular phantasmagorical rollercoaster-like 38-minute dreamscape of three dimensional video imagery set to the tracks of some contemporary music's hottest artists mixed by Electronica wiz Moby at the Hayden Planetarium is where AsianConnections Arts and Entertainment editor Lia Chang just had to spend her birthday.

Expanding my horizons is my ticket to a first rate birthday celebration. Several years ago, I sailed along the Seine photographing the striking architecture of Paris. In 2001, I explored digital video and audio technology at the Poynter Institute in Florida creating multi-media stories for the Internet. Last year, I was in San Francisco at the Chinese Historical Society of America, debuting my portraits of New York Chinatown post 9/11 exhibition with my family in my hometown.

This year, the American Museum of Natural History premiered SonicVision , their new cutting edge digitally animated alternative-rock music show on my birthday in the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, and my sister Tami and I got our e-tickets.

Over 2000 people came out to play at the launch party of SonicVision, a spectacular 38-minute phantasmagorical rollercoaster ride of three-dimensional digital video imagery set to excerpts of some contemporary musics hottest artists on September 29th, 2003.

Presented in association with MTV2 and Sun Microsystems, techno recording artist Moby expertly mixed selected tracks of his own with his favorites by Radiohead, David Bowie, Coldplay, Queens of the Stone Age, Prodigy, The Flaming Lips, Fischerspooner, Spiritualized, Audioslave, Stereolab, Boards of Canada, David Byrne and Brian Eno, Goldfrapp, and White Zombie. A team of animators, visual artists and video jockeys (VJs) collaborated and created the seamless display of digital video art projected onto the 6,550 square-foot dome of the Space Theater.

As a multi-media artist, I am fascinated by the creative potential of tapping unique venues to showcase innovative art forms. The Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, one of the worlds largest and most powerful virtual reality simulators is top notch for SonicVisions sight and sound extravaganza of color. Immersed in a 360-degree panorama vortex, the state of the art atmospheric sound system of the dome, 500 low-frequency shakers in the seats and on the floor of the theater, and 23 speakers gave me the sense of virtual three-dimensionality.

SonicVision is the first music show to be presented in the Rose Center since it opened in February 2000. While the 1970s and 80s laser light shows featuring Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin used single laser light beams to create a variety of slender geometric images, broken up by small stick figures that stretched, twisted, and spun among the stars, the use of immersive digital technology to intertwine kaleidoscopic sights set to a hip soundtrack leaves the laser light shows of old in the dust.

SonicVision's creative director, Chris Harvey, a former MTV Art Director joined the Rose Center production team, collaborating with 19 artists and animators, including the commercial production company Curious Pictures-producer of television shows for the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and HBO-and artists Alex Grey, Perry Hall, and Darrel Anderson. In addition, a wealth of talent in the growing video art movement from the underground club scene was tapped ---including New York video jockeys (VJs) Bionic Dots, Benton C., Madame Chao, Atmospherex, and Vishwanath Bush, who use moving images and audio data to create their art, manipulating video and animations to music in the same way DJs mix records. The creative efforts of these artists and animators, transformed the Hayden dome into a digital art gallery, pulsating with hypnotic cutting-edge VJ art.

I was spun into Heaven: Temple of the Eyes, the digitally animated transformation of Alex Greys painting Collective vision while listening to the soothing sounds of Zwans Honestly . Radiohead's Everything in Its Right Place launched me into a fantasy space, aliens raved at a dance party in their Alien Jungle Gym to the pulsating beats of Prodigys Firestarter , before floating off into space as fireworks exploded across the entire dome during the wild spin of U2s Elevation. Delicate hands painted the sky as White Zombies Blood Milk and Sky played on. I traveled on a journey through space during Audioslaves Cochise and Mobys We Are All Made of Stars , the inspiration for animators to create The Shell .

Moby was in the house and there was an electric buzz in the air while the crowd juggled their blue Sonic tonic cocktails. The club kids that I chatted with who were partying in the Hall of the Universe on the ground floor of the Rose Center after the screening were raving about the show. Scenes from SonicVision flashed on a screen behind the DJ spinning electronica mixes.

I walked out into the starry, starry night and there was still a line around the block for the final screening of the evening. Catch SonicVision at The Hayden Planetarium's Rose Center on Friday and Saturday nights, with shows at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 for the general public, $12.00 for Museum Members. Call 212-769-5200 or visit www.amnh.org for more information. The museum is located in Manhattan, at Central Park West and 81st street.