Saturday, May 08, 1999

Cooper Union benefit for ASCI / ACSI's annual Cyberart '99 symposium

Continuing in the creative, virtual vein on Saturday, May 8th, I went
 to see and hear Jaron Lanier, scholar, virtuoso musician, writer,
 scientist and father of virtual reality, perform at the Cooper Union
 school as a benefit for Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI). The
 event launched ASCI's annual Cyberart '99 symposium. Lanier is
 commanding. Dressed all in black, with Birkenstocks, the longest
 blond dreadlocks I've ever seen and all the love of a big cuddly polar
 bear, Jaron thrilled the audience with his masterful playing of any
 number of instruments, including the Ba Wu, Seljeflote, Gu Zheng,
 Khaen, and Disklavier piano. These instruments had sensors
 connected to Silicon Graphics-based 3-D images that were projected
 real-time on a large-screen video display.

 He started us off with a piano number. Then he stopped and asked if
 the images animated were based on his playing, or if he was following
 the cue of the graphics. We had to believe in the illusion -- which is
 what the web offers us daily -- the challenge to believe the reality and
 interactivity of what's virtual. "Echoes of Chromatophoria" was the
 title of this night's program, which is taken from Jaron's love of the
 Giant Cuttlefish. These amazing little creatures communicate by
 displaying luminous, quickly changing colorful images all over their
 bodies through chromatophores--color-changing cells found in the
 Cuttlefish's skin. I wish I were a cuttlefish! We got to witness more
 stunning 3D graphics as he jammed with a violinist, cellist, and in a
 separate number with a Mexican guitar player. Another stunning
 performance came from Sussan Deyhim, an Iranian singer. Matilda, a
 dragonfly, newt-like monster, was controlled on the screen by
 Sussan's soaring voice, which reached new heights and then clucked
 like a chicken. Jaron cut a wood lathe that in turn struck piano and
 hammer-like images as he played a flute.

 Mr. Lanier pioneered the development of virtual reality, and his
 current research work at Advanced Network & Services has been
 bringing together recognized experts in virtual reality and networking
 to identify issues and to develop plans to build a national
 tele-immersive research infrastructure. Jaron on the web. The event
 was produced by the additional support of: YAMAHA, Theatrical
 Services & Supplies/PROXIMA, Silicon Graphics, and A's Wave.