Rock Me Amadeus

Australian artist Lynette Wallworth is bringing a high tech touch to this year's Mostly Mozart festival at New York's venerable Lincoln Center. At first glance, the pairing of a new media installation artist with a celebration of an old dead white guy's music may seem formulaically nouveau, but Wallworth's interactive works bring a nice visual meditation on this year's festival theme: mortality and transcendence. If anyone could speak from the grave about this topic, it's Mozart, the legend of whose death surrounds the mythologizing of his oeuvre and who has been the subject of remixes (or variations, as the ancients call them) by a number of significant classical composers. Wallworth's video installations Hold Vessel 1 and 2 and Invisible by Night create a truly immersive space, one which relies on the viewer to proactively enter and activate these areas. In Hold Vessel 1 and 2, viewers carry a bowl-shaped screen into the room, to capture "projected images of microscopic marine life and telescopic astronomical imagery." The physical analogy here seems equal parts panning for gold and holding the whole world in your hands, with the artist's expressed intention being that of revealing "the hidden intricacies of human immersion in the wide, complex world." Invisible by Night uniquely engages the context of the Lincoln Center complex, which is not only a family of concert halls but also a shopping center, luxury apartment building, and corporate headquarters. Wallworth encourages visitors to slow down, ponder the emotional history of the site, and practice empathy in engaging with video footage of a grieving woman whose gestures will mirror those of viewers who elect to touch the projection surface. The piece is meant to speak to "the transient nature of compassion," and the interactive installation format's engagement with time and space lends itself well to such work. True Mozart die hards might here insert an analogy to the mysterious Mozart Effect, in which the spatio-temporal reasoning of listeners is said to be enhanced by the maestro's music. - Marisa Olson

Image: Lynette Wallworth, "Hold Vessel 1 and 2" and "Invisible by Night", 2008

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