Field Notes: On The Making Of Lumisonica

Standing in a round sound stage in Vesna Petresin’s studio in the ID Lab, up several flights of stairs at the Academie voor Theater en Dans, (Theater and Dance Academy) a division of the University of the Arts (AHK), Amsterdam, I am literally in the middle of light and sound experiments for Lumisonica. It is dark; behind the round curtain the artist is performing a series of movements with a large shawl; her every gesture triggers sounds and images.

The images appear like watery ikat blurs on densely packed hanging threads that form the circular wall. Matthew Gingold, a leading creative technologist who has come from Berlin expressly to work with Vesna on several projects, stands outside the curtain a quarter of the way up the circle to her left, behind sound mixing equipment, and masterfully concocts a varied soundtrack to her movements, the range of which goes, to my ears, from Burundi drumming to Mozart’s Eine Kliene Nachtmusik. Vesna adds that one of the types of effects for Lumisonica soundscapes she will use will come from the piano recording samples created by her student (at the Music Conservatory), Vivianne Cheng, who astonishingly is from North Carolina and knows the steps of Mint Museum Uptown well!

Rushing out of the Academy just before closing time, the three of us make our way to North Amsterdam and VRBase Amsterdam, a co-working space and ecosystem where a network of VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality) content designers come together on projects that push the boundaries of immersive technologies. We meet up with Aron Fels, just out of graduate school yet already an accomplished animation and visual effects specialist who has worked on feature films and in the video game industry. We review work-in-progress on Lumisonica, prepared by Vesna and Ben Mason, Creative Project Design lead, based in North Carolina. The four of us discuss the nuances of the technical details critical to realize the desired aesthetics and immersive outcomes — visual, audial, and emotional.

Concept rendering for Mint Museum Uptown Grand Staircase installation titled Lumisonica, courtesy of Vesna Petresin.

“The piece for the Mint has been inspired by the idea that matter is information under constant transformation, bringing memory, human connection, wonder, and innovation.”
– Vesna Petresin

Vesna reminds us that at its core Lumisonica is about eliciting a sense of well-being. The experience should de-stress and delight visitors, and serve as a transformative passageway from the outside world to the Mint Museum Uptown.

About Lumisonica

Lumisonica is an interactive audio-visual installation for an outdoor environment on the Grand Staircase of Mint Museum Uptown, based on the concept of a smart, playable city. It encompasses disciplines from architecture, lighting design, sound design, choreography and set design, to interactive visual arts.

About Dr. Vesna Petresin

Dr. Vesna Petresin (b. Ljubljana, Slovenia) is a transdisciplinary artist and researcher working with performance and public art. Her practice integrates voice, movement, sound, visuals, light, and interaction. The work explores immersion, embodiment, transformation and time, alongside the questions of the intimate and the communal, the organic and the artificial, the body and the subconscious, art and science.  Vesna has exhibited and performed at Tate Modern, Royal Academy of Art, and the ICA, London, ArtBasel/Design Miami, Venice Biennale, Cannes International Film Festival, Sydney Opera House, World Architecture Festival, and Beijing Architecture Biennale.  Currently she is an artist in residence and Visiting Lecturer at the Netherlands Film Academy, as well as a Visiting Fellow at Goldsmiths (London University).