J-Walt brings his multi-media show to DAI
Imagine an animator, a surrealist, a musician and a plate-spinner got together to create a live performance that would bring to life before your very eyes a world that only existed in your most cough syrup-induced dreams. J-Walt, who is an Academy Award winner, filmmaker, graphic artist and composer, brings his frontier-conquering interactive art to the Dayton Art Institute and with it, a way to explore the most colorful depths of your mind.
Whilst touring the world, J-Walt took the time to answer some of DCP’s most burning questions.
Can you pull a kind of “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” while you wander around the physical world? Turn an escalator in a mall into a Dali-esque landscape filled with adventure?
Wow, that would be something! But no, when I’m out and about, I absorb ideas. I’m fascinated by the forms and details I find in everyday life. I’d like to make my worlds as detailed as the world we share and I’m far from that. The forms in nature are amazing, too. Succulent plants and fruits contain fantastic geometries that continue to surprise me, as do vines and the branches of trees. I also look at the way that people and animals move, and how that movement adds to their character. I often ponder the ways that intersecting communities go about their business. I usually consider myself to be an invisible observer amidst all of this, but of course I’m not. – J-Walt
I’m uber right-handed; I can barely apply lipstick with my left. Are you ambidextrous? Or is your art like playing an instrument? How do you physically do what you do?
It takes a lot of practice! I’m left-handed, but there are certain daily activities that I do with my right hand or with both hands, too. The interfaces I’ve invented for my performances require both hands, or a two-handed combination. My inspiration is from musical instruments, which usually require two hands, and possibly other parts of the body as well. Even something as modest as a flute requires a person’s breath, as well as both hands. A pipe organ allows players to use feet on pedals. Our bodies are capable of controlling very complex machinery and to treat machines as extensions of our body. I think historically we’ve been limited by the machines we can make, though we have the physiological potential to do more. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to create new machines and interfaces, so we can push further with what a single person can perform. That’s one of the avenues I’m exploring with my performances – being able to do more than ever as a solo performer. – J-Walt
Have you found any drawbacks to being a pioneer?
One of the drawbacks I have with creating a new art form is explaining it to people. When people witness my show, they understand it – but before that, I have a hard time explaining it in words. Maybe I’m ahead of my time, but I honestly hope not. Well, I like to push ahead of the curve, but being ahead of one’s time is a curse. It never helped anybody. More often, far-reaching visionaries were ignored and they didn’t get to achieve what they might have done with better funding and support. […] My mode of performance touches on so many subjects of art and technology, and each subject offers different directions to develop. I have only vague ideas of where these paths might lead; the possibilities only become apparent if the journey itself is taken. I can only travel a couple of these paths of discovery, so I have to prioritize based on where I see the most potential. – J-Walt
Where do you keep your Academy Award?
I received a Sci-Tech Academy Award certificate in 2006 for co-developing a real-time pre-visualization system. It’s around here somewhere. I almost didn’t go to the ceremony, because I didn’t think it was a big deal. But I did go, and I had a good time. While there, I astounded a journalist by telling him that the event marked the end of my career in movies. He thought I was too young to proclaim that. But the fact was I had moved on. I was already engrossed in my performance work, which I find a lot more exciting than movies. There are no awards for my new career, though. That’s another drawback to being a pioneer, I suppose! – J-Walt
What do you see in your future? In the future of the technology you’ve developed?
If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to perform bigger and more ambitious shows for decades to come. Personally, I hope to entertain and inspire my audiences, but I think this mode of performance implies more than that. Creating a world while being immersed within it is a model for creation of all things. There’s a human desire for this power. It’s what I call “The God Dream,” the eternal ultimate dream of creation, where someone can create his or her own world to live in, experience and be amazed at all at once. I hope to remind people of this dream, and also to take the dream one more step toward reality. – J-Walt
Fifth Third Bank Arts Night Out presents Spontaneous Fantasia Thursday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in the NCR Renaissance Auditorium at the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park North. To learn more about J-Walt and Spontaneous Fantasia, please visit spontaneousfantasia.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.