Scharff Weisberg helped the iconic Guggenheim Museum celebrate its 50th anniversary by providing support for several key events, including artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Levels of Nothingness.”
Part of the museum’s Works & Process series, the commissioned performance installation was inspired by Kandinsky’s opera, The Yellow Sound. In “Levels of Nothingness,” the pitch, rhythm and content of the spoken word provides the control mechanism for an interactive light performance using moving light fixtures normally found on a rock concert stage. Scharff Weisberg supplied 40 VARI*LITE VL3000 spots for the 35-minute show which enjoyed a limited run in the Peter B. Lewis Theater.
During “Levels of Nothingness” actress Isabella Rossellini, spot lit on a bare stage, read texts about skepticism, color and perception into a microphone while her voice was analyzed by computers running specialized code developed by the artist.
The 40 VARI*LITEs were placed on the floor in the circular aisle pointing towards the walls and ceiling. A Martin Mac700 trained on Rossellini also reacted to her voice.
“For this piece we developed a DMX controller which can automatically map any robotic fixture control (iris, intensity, zoom, colour-mixing, pan/tilt, etc) to any parameter derived from our voice analysis and recognition engine. This meant the show was different every time it was performed. At the end of each performance the public would have a chance to try out the system so they could see that the effects were not rehearsed but generated in real-time”, explained Lozano-Hemmer.
Scharff Weisberg had previously teamed with Lozano-Hemmer last fall on his Pulse Park installation in Madison Square Park, where the heartbeat of participants, detected by a sensor, controlled 200 source four spotlights. “Rafael is fantastic; it’s always a pleasure to work with him on these unique projects,” says Terry Jackson. “His work definitely keeps us on our toes – and I think he likes it that way!”
On September 16 Scharff Weisberg supported the 2009 Guggenheim International Gala, the museum’s annual fundraiser. The gala marked the premiere of “Levels of Nothingness” and showcased the major Kandinsky exhibition on the spiraling ramps of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building.
Scharff Weisberg was specifically tasked with facilitating lighting, sound and video for Gabellini Sheppard Associates’ design for the Kandinsky show. The company lit Swarovski crystals strewn across the rotunda, which provided a backdrop for the bright spectrum of the artist’s canvases. Scharff Weisberg also lit a reception on the third floor as well as the museum’s main entrance on Fifth Avenue.
In addition, Scharff Weisberg has provided small lighting and sound systems for each of the ongoing “It Came From Brooklyn” events in the rotunda. The series showcases the borough’s emerging and established talents in music and literature. Finally, in the last bit of Kandinsky-related news, Scharff Weisberg provided a projection system to support Sven Ortel’s projection design for the avant-garde production “The Blue rider” at the Miller Theater.
Stated Scharff Weisberg President, Josh Weisberg “After all these Kandinsky-related installations, we are looking forward to next year and the 50th anniversary of the birth of Jean-Michel Basquiat and hopefully moving from abstract expressionism to neo-expressionism”.
Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications, firms with extensive histories in the presentation and staging markets, recently announced a co-ownership agreement. While continuing to operate independently the two companies work together strategically to provide clients with state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting equipment and services. With a strong presence on both coasts Scharff Weisberg and Video Applications are able to deliver a large array of cost-effective services on a national level. For more information, call 212-582-2345 or visit our website at
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