Lucky Dragons @ CTM14 reviewed

, 14 February 2014

An evolving performance that streams, shifts and channels itself in a way that the light of San Francisco artist and scientist Bob Miller’s ‘Light Walks’ refracts and reconfigures. The late Exploratorium affiliate introduced his ‘light walkers’ to the beauty, art and science of light through branches and beyond, distilled in his most famous ‘Sun Painting’, on display at the art-science museum.

Nearly four decades on from their genesis, Miller’s light walks have inspired a new generation of artists and explorers, namely Californian band Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara of Lucky Dragons. As a shared commission by CTM and transmediale, the ‘workshop-performance’ duo’s Actual Reality stems from a fortuitous Google search, later turning up the the SF educator’s work to  inform the raw data feeding into its latest incarnation.

Building on earlier forms of the project, as well as the band’s 15-year history devoted to encouraging non-hierarchical, inclusive multimedia performances, Lucky Dragons look at “how a fixed or pure sound and image stream can be re-experienced through re-presentation”. Recruiting three local musicians and performing at Haus der Kultur der Welt in Berlin, a seated audience is carried through a dreamy, hour-long audio-visual experience.

Drawing from documentation of Miller’s workshops, the event begins with a single image of the sun shining through pinholes, leading the viewer through these experiments with light, shadow and reflection. Not limited to visuals, text by Miller also appears, projected onto a smaller screen to the side; a kind of didactic panel animating, explaining and enlightening the audience on the imagery before them. Here, Miller posthumously points out some of the simplest things in the most ordinary imagery:

“It begins here, with a commonly observed and reported phenomenon: the light coming through the cracks between the leaves in the trees hits the ground or a piece of white cardboard and is round.”

Exposing the wonder behind the mundane, Miller’s words resonate as the intoxicating ambience of Fischbeck’s open-ended musical composition loops, spirals and throbs through and around its various instruments –acoustic, digital, ‘other’ –while sonically realising and reinforcing that sense of wonder at the simple beauty of the things that often go unnoticed. At one point, Fischbeck and Rara take control of this small didactic screen, making their own visuals in real time. There’s a reassembling of Rara’s A RAY ARRAY project, divided into sixteen chapters and using every day objects to create simple visual short stories. Her video work interacts with Miller’s imagery from the light walks, pointing out some ordinary but fascinating details, easily missed.

A collaboration between Bob Miller and Lucky Dragons, Actual Reality becomes a project transcending time and space. It’s here that Miller’s educational light walks travel from their beginnings in 1975 to this particular present, one of many, in 2014. **

 CTM and transmediale run concurrently across various venues in Berlin annually.