It’s not every day a man blindfolds you and says he’s going to do stuff on your face. When you are presented with that scenario, I’m pretty sure you opt out. Unless, of course, you’re either into that (I’m not here to judge), or that scenario involves immersive color and electronic music somewhere in — you guessed it — Brooklyn.
When a friend asks you to go to Brooklyn on a Wednesday night in February to see a new experimental artist, I am pretty positive the only response to that is “unavailable” or “I’m sick.” I don’t blame you. February is freaking cold. Also, if you’re anything like me, experimental art makes you wildly uncomfortable. You aren’t sure if you’re supposed to love it or hate it or love it because you hate it. But if the art includes sensory deprivation combined with immersive color and electronic music, these are things that will have me considering putting on a second sweater…or at least tracking down a copy of Fantasia and a joint.
So it was off to downtown Brooklyn to Roulette, a newly renovated venue for “adventurous work.” Once a 74-seat loft in Manhattan, Roulette relocated after 30 years to a preserved concert hall off the Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn, where it has lived for the past four years.
Roulette was set to kick off its 2015 Mixology series, a three-day showcase bringing to the forefront aspects of electronic music that often play supporting roles: movement, lighting and video. The man of the hour was Doron Sadja, a traveling salesman of an artist/musician, toting his satchel of immersive color, sound, and light. Sadja bases his Color Field Immersion art loosely on the Ganzfeld experiments, which were used in parapsychology in the 1970s as a way of triggering telepathy. His purpose is to blindfold his audience members in a form of sensory deprivation and project colors and lines against the blindfolds so that the experience becomes internalized and the individual becomes the location for the performance. OK, so not exactly Fantasia, but where did we land on that joint?
I placed a gauzy blindfold over my eyes, washing my field of vision in opaque white. The lights dimmed and a transient, ethereal, trance-like track began to course out of the speakers. The white canvas in front of me switched to blue as Sadja started cueing up the projections. The space vibrated with electric sound, washing me in what felt like a misty, confused blur. At first I was overwhelmed with haughty arrogance. “I respect the attempt,” I heard my mind say. But still, I wasn’t sure what the point of the exercise was. Obscured flashing lights and electronic music. That’s what I call the weekend.
But that’s where the whole blindfold thing starts to kick in. The blue light started to blend into a warm orange and then began to flash white, green, blue, black in rapid succession. Because I couldn’t actually see what was going on, my mind had to start to compensate for what was lost; enter extreme imagination. I started to have visions of intense weather patterns: a chirp of electronic crickets, the rush of a rainstorm, robotic animals hidden in jungle trees — all dreamed up in my mind’s eye behind that seemingly innocent semi-transparent blindfold.
The flashing and freaking out of the lights draws the audience inward as their senses are deprived from actually seeing what is going on in front of them. It’s merely a silhouette of an experience before the individual starts to take control. The music engulfs you in an electronic shroud and all you can do is let your mind conjure what it wishes to see. For 35 minutes I ran through the rainy jungle as the music pinged and chirped, whooshed and swirled, lightning flashed and cracked, creating the perfect cacophony of color and sound. As the performance ended, I tore my blindfold off and started chattering excitedly to my friend about the electronic, torrential jungle downpour we were just lost in. He looked at me with a blank stare. “Huh?” he said. For him, this was far from the case. His experience took him to a long stretch of train track. In his mind he was laying on the ground beside them as a train went racing past, clicking and gliding over the steel rails. He heard no rain. There were no crickets. And there definitely was not a jungle.
A Rorschach test for Brooklyn ravers. I see your game, Sadja. Well played, my friend.