Nona Hendryx Is Bringing AI, Virtual Reality, and Afrofuturism to Lincoln Center | Playbill

Classic Arts Features Nona Hendryx Is Bringing AI, Virtual Reality, and Afrofuturism to Lincoln Center

Her interactive The Dream Machine Experience premieres in June.

Cyboracle, Nona Hendryx’s avatar, in The Dream Machine EyeJack

It’s a whole new world as Lincoln Center’s first mixed-reality installation premieres as part of Summer for the City, on June 12. The Dream Machine Experience before the before and after the after is the brainchild of the pioneering multidisciplinary artist Nona Hendryx, who most recently performed at Lincoln Center in March unveiling her latest soundscape, Songs From the Nonaverse and Other Dream Machines, as part of American Songbook.

The Dream Machine Experience before the before and after the after comprises Afrofuturist art, music, and poetry, along with extensive use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). The site-specific installation—which takes place through June 30 in various indoor and outdoor spaces on the Lincoln Center campus, from the David Rubenstein Atrium and the Josie Robertson Plaza to David Geffen Hall—is co-executive produced by Dream Machine Experience Inc. and SOZO, and was commissioned by Lincoln Center.

According to Hendryx, The Dream Machine Experience—which she conceived and has been developing for more than four years—details the essential human connections that can exist between the arts and cutting-edge technologies. “I have always been interested in how transformative technologies can be used for the good of humanity, as I believe these tools can foster greater bonds between us, rather than disconnection,” Hendryx says. “These are conversations people of color have been left out of for far too long. Afrofuturists can be the drivers of this technology-forward moment and movement—let us lead.”

Nona Hendryx Sekou Luke

And lead Hendryx does. There are three distinct sections to the in-person installation, which invites its visitors to experience Afrofuturist art and music through the prism of current technological advances. “At its core, Afrofuturism explores intersections of Black culture, technology, imagination, and ultimately, liberation,” she says. “I am thrilled to be realizing this dream alongside such brilliant artists from so many creative spaces, offering new ways to embrace shared sounds and visions for the future."

Each section blends the physical and the virtual worlds into a unique visual and aural experience that can be enjoyed together or one at a time. At the Atrium, visiting Bina48’s Afro Future Garden (designed by Mickalene Thomas) allows one to interact with Bina48, who is powered by AI and is the first humanoid robot inspired by, created, and programmed with files from the mind of an African American woman. Also open to the public will be enlightening conversations between Bina48 and artists including visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, dancer and choreographer Francesca Harper, and playwright Lynn Nottage.

An AR experience, The Bridge, will extend from the exterior of the David H. Koch Theater, across the Josie Robertson Plaza and to the interior of David Geffen Hall through the help of a downloadable app that will overlay virtual content onto the actual campus surroundings. This journey will be led by music and visual artist Cyboracle, who is Hendryx’s own virtual avatar. Those who take the journey are Dreamers, and they become immersed in the history of those who once populated the very land the Dreamers walk on—from the original Indigenous people, the Lenape, to the diverse communities of the pre-Lincoln Center San Juan Hill neighborhood.

Lastly, there’s a VR experience awaiting the Dreamers inside David Geffen Hall: The Dream Machine features virtual avatars and VR performances by artists including Laurie Anderson, George Clinton, Vernon Reid, Skin of Skunk Anansie, Hendryx herself, and Bina48’s avatar. “Imagine a world where you can instantly project your feelings, your thoughts, and your ideas onto what is happening around you,” Hendryx says. “This is The Dream Machine, a world where audiences become dreamers of the past, dream in the present, and dream together of a future.”

For Hendryx, the entire project has a significance that’s greater than the sum of its parts. “The Dream Machine Experience is an imaginative world rooted in Afrofuturism where communities can gather, grow, and heal,” she says. “A crucial part of this project has been the participation of BIPOC technologists and the use of art as a vehicle to bridge the technology gap. Through this intergenerational endeavor, we are working to ensure a future that holds all our diverse and vibrant voices. Come dream with us.”

Kevin Filipski is Juilliard’s program editor.

For more information about The Dream Machine Experience, visit Dream Machine Experience—before the before and after the after is proudly supported by leading sponsors including MetLife, MetLife Foundation, Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women, and the Mellon Foundation.

Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!