A hint of the intense sensory experience to come is felt, quite literally, through the speakers strategically placed along the ram as ticket holders move to enter the purpose-built 1000m² Illuminate Pavilion on Rundle Road. The industrial beat and pulsing bass send through your feet and into your body, creating a sense of anticipation familiar to anyone who’s ever attended a DJ night in a club.
As we enter the pavilion, panels summarizing what to expect in each of the five “chapters” that make up this show are laid out along the short hallway leading to the main area.
The first chapter, Wisdom of AI Lighttakes as its starting point the work of Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists; Poetic AIthe second, deals with more than 20 million texts from scientific pioneers such as Galileo and Einstein; Data Monolith riffs of archaeological discoveries made at Göbekli Tepe, a Neolithic site in the Anatolian region of southeastern Turkey; dark machine is the result of Ouchhh Studio’s collaboration with machine learning scientists at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), taking data from the Hadron Collider’s exploration of subatomic particles, and the final chapter , Data portaluses observations of cosmic bodies made by the Kepler telescope during its three and a half year journey into space, and is the result of a collaboration with NASA.
Earplugs are offered to us on arrival in the vast central space with its 8 m high ceiling and its all-white floors and walls, reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The volume of the audio at the start of the projections is about to be overwhelming, though that’s also what makes the show so intense and immersive, as well as the visuals that are projected onto the huge walls, onto the floor and on the public.
The whole audio-visual sensory experience is a trippy, alternative experience of the world, as if the audience is embedded inside a monumental display of CGI.
The visuals are hypnotic and beautiful, sometimes menacing; white dots explode outwards, words and numbers flash and scroll at high speed; computer-generated grids and lines melt and morph into ancient granite walls and crumble and reassemble into metallic, alien shapes, all accompanied by a series of industrial and melodic soundscapes.
The projections sometimes fade out for brief moments, revealing the pristine walls and floor in a clash of blazing white, as if to remind the audience that this is just a temporary virtual world.
Ouchhh Studio fed the AI with millions of datasets, and the first chapter features an AI response to 20,000 paintings from over 300 artists, resulting in 15 billion “brush strokes”, better described as flowing and rippling CGI shapes over the original artwork.
Leonardo DeVinci vitruvian Man transforms into a mass of cogs and wheels flying away in a black void; the emblematic mona-lisaand other works by Da Vinci and other Renaissance artists coalesce into thousands of bubbles of color that swirl up the walls and floor like water before reforming into strings that undulate like fronds of grass seascapes, all accompanied by the lush music of Italian musician and composer Ludovico Einaudi piano melodies in a multi-sensory and textural feast.
This journey begins with the Renaissance, explores the texture of a prehistoric human settlement, enters the world of subatomic particles, and travels through space.
While the show is impressive and the technology is impressive with its fully-enclosed audio visual experience, it feels a bit like a Disneyland ride in Future World and there’s less emphasis on Renaissance art than pre-publicity doesn’t seem to suggest it. Wisdom of AI Light is nonetheless an enjoyable, memorable and impactful spectacle that is sure to be attended by thousands of people, and is a fitting climax to Adelaide’s brightest winter festival.
Wisdom of AI Light is presented as part of Illuminate Adelaide at the Illuminate Pavilion on Rundle Road until July 31. Read more Illuminate stories here.