Nona Hendryx's New Performance Piece at Lincoln Center Shows Emerging Tech in An Afro Futurist Context
June 27, 2024

From June 12-30, we will be presenting the world premiere of The Dream Machine Experience, a new Lincoln Center commission developed and conceived by the incomparable Nona Hendryx. It is Lincoln Center's first ever music-driven mixed reality experience, combining the physical and digital worlds through Afrofuturist art, music, and storytelling, and offering three distinct segments across multiple spaces across campus.

Can you tell us a bit about your new show at Lincoln Center?

THE DREAM MACHINE EXPERIENCE is a leap forward into the future of entertainment, art, and XR experiences. It combines multiple art forms, media, and disciplines to offer a world incorporating performances, sound design, music composition, filmmaking, choreography, graphic art, 3D modeling, game design, musical genealogy, Afro-futurism, coding, and virtual reality development.

Installation #1 // Bina48’s Garden
Bina48 is the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) humanoid robot based on the appearance and personality of an African American woman, Bina Rothblatt. The installation, designed by visual artist Mickalene Thomas is a vibrant, Afrofuturistic landscape in collaboration with botanical artist Lutfi Janania Zablah. In Bina48’s Garden, visitors will meet and converse with one of the most advanced social robots in the world, exploring topics such as race, gender, and aging through the lens of AI.
Located in the David Rubinstein Atrium, Bina48's Garden is home to curated programs, and includes guests from various fields such as music, dance, robotics, science, filmmaking, visual art, poetry, spoken word, theater, and multidisciplinary arts to ponder with Bina48, planting seeds for the future.

Installation #2 // The Bridge
Augmented Reality (AR) experience The Bridge leads from Bina48’s Garden to the Dream Machine in David Geffen Hall - The path between two worlds, one physical and one virtual. The Bridge across the Lincoln Center campus brings audiences on a journey led by music and visual artist Cyboracle—my virtual avatar. Audiences will use their phones to take part in the AR experience. The path will begin on the Columbus Ave entrance to Lincoln Center’s Plaza. Digital content will overlay onto real-world surroundings, bringing together imagery of Bina48’s Garden and Dream Machine. Audiences, or Dreamers, will discover the history of the communities that have populated the land—from the Lenape to the diverse communities of San Juan Hill. Dreamers will activate an AR gallery of Artists. Various AR pins along the way animate the path with wayfinding sprites.

Installation #3 // Dream Machine
Five 30 minute and one 10 minute immersive Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences.
Dream Machine is a journey and a music-driven experience you have in headset or on a desktop (Web3), in a fantastical 3D environment in VR. Thrilling virtual performances await in the Crown with avatars designed in partnership with some of my artists friends and electrifying collaborators including George Clinton, Laurie Anderson, Vernon Reid, and Skin (Lead Vocalist with the UK band Skunk Anansie). Before you get there, you explore parts of the Dream Machine as you traverse different bespoke chambers that lead you to the Crown, interacting with the artists' history, music and special objects, Tables are installed in the Sidewalk Studio with 48 seated virtual reality stations.

You are exploring the future of technology, art and society. What are you seeing in the coming years that you find hopeful?

Our ability to integrate human and machine, early cyborgism!  New body parts; vision aides, hearing impairment aides, heart, lungs, eyes, all kinds of transplants and extensions to replace our very fragile bodies, very exciting.

How do you continue to innovate your career?

Curiosity about music and art, the world, people, relationships.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by being alive, gratitude for all that I’ve been given.

Do you have one secret to your success?

A practice of no practice and being aware of living as much as possible in the now.

Who is a woman you admire?

There are too many to even name but of course I have and do admire Mickalene Thomas, the amazing woman and visual artist I’ve collaborated with to created Bina48’s Afro Future Garden.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

I can’t live without breathing, one of my favorite things to do, to hear, to feel, to watch others do and to follow my breath.

What is one big trend you’re excited about in 2024?

I’m excited about the attention and the respect humans are paying towards mycelium (mushrooms) recognizing the benefits of the natural world and interconnectedness of life reflected in the interconnectedness of all of nature.

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