Sphere of Light

With digital technology designed by Japanese company Rhizomatiks, Phosphere – their latest spell-binding performance – captivated audiences at its world premiere in Barcelona.

Rhizomatiks are engineers  who focus on three divisions in their work : research, architecture and design. This June, the company went to Sónar+D Music, Creativity and Technology conference in Barcelona, where they hosted a talk, as well as showcasing one of their VR productions and the world premiere of Phosphere in SonarPLANTA. This particular piece is inspired by the crystallisation of particular minerals and the magnetic fields that surround the earth, with light beams being artistically programmed to create architectural fractals that morph within the dark space in time with the electronic music.

Three female dancers from the Japanese collective ELEVENPLAY take to the spotlight — or rather the multiple spotlights. With 24 motion-capture cameras and spotlights encircling the performance area, the cleverly choreographed dance becomes a collaborative installation of technology and art, of light and sound. The dancers have tiny markers on their wrists, which the spotlights follow as they move gracefully through the space, keeping in perfect rhythm with the steady drum of the electronic beats.

The performance consists of three parts, with the opening introducing the immersive environment to the audience. One dancer dressed in black begins moving slowly in a hollow cube, with the spotlights focussed on the corners of the cube as the dancer rotates it. As the other two dancers join in, all three begin a synchronised routine, which the light beams follow, creating a beautiful scene. Compliant with the vogue-esque routine of the dancers, the transitions of the light beams are crisp, clean cut, and accentuate the trio’s sharp movements further.

During the middle section, an outfit change from the dancers’ black camouflage to a loose-fitting, long sleeved white polo-neck and flowing kilt marks a change in the behaviour of the light beams, music and routine. As the women begin a dance of a different mood, the movements of their hands over the contours of their figures leaves trails of light across their bodies. Assumedly, their white-painted fingernails act as markers for the projection-mapping. Their feet in turn, also leave light trails across the ground, which fade as quickly as shooting stars.

As if the audience are not wowed enough, the final chapter of the three-part performance brings the audience to a climatic peak of pure amazement. Two dancers gradually leave the space and with just one dancer left, all the spotlights follow her every move, creating multiple but uniquely distinguishable shadows on the ground. The final dancer, after completing a few loops of her final routine, slowly walks off into the darkness. Almost as if by some kind of futuristic magic, the lights — that the audience thinks are following her movements — continue repeating the same routine, with her “shadows” also still dancing on the ground and her inverted silhouette dancing visibly in a ghostly light. Of course, it is innovative projection-mapping and pre-programmed, coordinated lights, not anything science fiction that causes this effect, nevertheless, the scene is a real jaw-dropping, other-worldly moment.

Finishing on this note, I was in complete awe of what Rhizomatiks have achieved, using their technology to enhance art and performance in such a way. The entire experience is utterly compelling and it is exciting to see what this ingenious company come up with in the future.

To watch a trailer of Phosphere, click here.

I will be publishing an additional post on another technological performance and VR production by Rhizomatiks, so watch this space!

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