Originally this was going to be a review, but quite honestly this has been a month… not quite from hell, but so busy that I never quite got around to writing this. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this performance so much that I couldn’t let it slip past without writing something. The Fak’ugesi Festival has now drawn to a close, and although sadly I didn’t manage to attend much of it (including A MAZE, I was rather upset about that specifically), this opening performance, Lumiere II by Robert Henke at the Alexander Theatre in Braamfontein, was hands down, one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in years.
For those people who don’t know, my background is in 3D animation. I have a Masters in Digital Animation from Wits University, and one of the topics that interested me most while I was studying was that of experimental and abstract animation, specifically Norman McLaren who is most famous for his work in the 1950’s and 60’s.
The film below is probably one of my favourite of all time.
Begone Dull Care (1949) is produced by McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, and they scratched and worked directly on to the film itself, to create a visual representation of music by the Oscar Peterson Trio. Take a moment to watch this beautiful piece of animation that continues to inspire me years after I first watched it.
Now that you’ve seen (at least some of) Begone Dull Care, I’m going to step forward 66 years to 2015 and Robert Henke debuts Lumiere II. Granted the music is completely different and while the former retains the visceral experience of film, the latter is truly reflective of the contemporary, digital age. Nevertheless I had the same sense of awe and the same chills down my spine while watching Lumiere II as I did the first time I was introduced to Norman McLaren (thanks for both of these experiences go to Prof Christo Doherty).
Lumiere II quite simply, blew my mind.
Henke insists that there is no light present in the room in any sense, so filming of the experience isn’t permitted, not because he’s precious about copyright (he provides an opportunity for viewers to film after the initial performance), but because he doesn’t want the lights of the audiences phones to interfere with the lasers and the overall experience. This was absolutely the right call. The lasers piercing the blackness of the theatre provides a somewhat surreal, almost out of body experience that mesmerises from the instant the performance begins.
It’s beautiful. And it immediately left me inspired and wanting more.
Speaking of which, if you want to find out more, make your way to Robert Henke’s website.
WARNING: Many people don’t know that I’m technically epileptic (only one severe seizure as a child so I managed to avoid permanent classification as epileptic but on medication for 5 years) and in particular I’m photosensitive, so if you are a severely photosensitive epileptic this is unfortunately something I would avoid.