Ars Electronica 2006
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Festival 1979-2007


Music – Dance – Space
The Visualization of Le Sacre du Printemps

'Klaus Obermaier Klaus Obermaier

The epoch prior to World War I, the time in which Stravinsky was composing Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), was characterized by an ecstatic desire to experience the intensity of life, an emotion that would later mutate into an equally euphoric enthusiasm for war. In tune with this time, Stravinsky conceived Le Sacre as an orgiastic mass ballet. The dissolution of social structures is reflected in his having taken leave of conventional compositional forms of development and structures; in their stead are fragmentary, batch-like serial arrangements of the individual movements; abrupt shifts; music in different keys and rhythms superimposed upon one another.

Now, nearly a hundred years later, the issue of the day is the authenticity of experience in the light of the ongoing virtualization of the spaces in which modern life is played out. It’s the dissolution of our sensory perception, of the space-time continuum, the blurred dividing line between real and virtual, fact and fake that takes us to the limits of our existence.

The discrepancy between subjective perception and seemingly objective perception produced by stereoscopic camera systems whose images are filtered and manipulated by computer constitutes the basis of my staging of Le Sacre du Printemps.

The immersion of the “chosen ones” in virtuality, their fusion with music and space, as an up-to-date “sacrifice” for uncertain Newness, as metaphor of redemption and anticipation of the eternal happiness that new technologies and old religions promise us. Or at least as a new dimension of perception.

In conventional productions of Le Sacre, choreographers and dancers work to the music. In this case, though, the dynamism and structure of the music interactively transform the virtual presence of the dancer and her avatars and thus produce a sort of “meta-choreography.”

Stereo cameras transfer dancer Julia Mach into a virtual three-dimensional space. Time-strata and unusual perspectives overlay one another and duplicate themselves, and give rise to completely novel insights into the human body and its sequences of movements. Musical motifs interactively influence and manipulate these 3-D projections. Music is no longer just the choreography’s point of departure; it’s the consummation of the choreography.

Stereo projection as virtual stage

There have been repeated attempts to combine projections of spatial images with real performers on a stage. The vision being pursued was a virtual stage setting in which the dramatis personae could move about as if they were in real spaces. But it is precisely in this point that we encounter a fundamental misunderstanding: the (subjective) perception of a real space differs fundamentally from the (seemingly objective) perception of a stereoscopically projected space. The viewer’s angle of observation of the performer and of the performer’s relation to the real space changes depending on the position of the viewer in the auditorium. In a stereoscopic projection, however, this angle of observation remains the same for all viewers, regardless of their location in the auditorium. Thus, a 3-D projected space and a real space are incompatible; accordingly, Le Sacre du Printemps physically separates the performance space and the 3-D projection.

Translated from German by Mel Greenwald

Le Sacre du Printemps is the opening concert of the Brucknerfest Linz 2006 and the Classic Klangwolke (Cloud of Sound). The concert as well as the accompanying 3-D visualizations will be broadcast live on big screens set up in Danube Park adjacent to the Brucknerhaus. Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Dennis Russell Davies / Karen Kamensek.

Le Sacre du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky. Staging by Ars Electronica and Brucknerhaus Linz; based on an idea by Wolfgang Winkler / Klaus Obermaier / Gerfried Stocker.
Artistic design of the visualization and choreography by Klaus Obermaier. Dancer: Julia Mach.
Interactive Design and technical development: Ars Electronica Futurelab: Matthias Bauer, Rainer Eilmsteiner, Horst Hörtner, Christopher Lindinger, Christine Sugrue
Production Management Brucknerhaus: Tiberius Binder.
A co-production of Brucknerhaus Linz and Ars Electronica.