Friday, June 21, 2024
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Connecting with Nona Hendryx this June

Nona Hendryx is known for her work as a solo artist and as one-third of the trio Labelle, who you will remember from their hit “Lady Marmalade.” But Nona has a lot going on in the month of June — which is, of course, Pride, and Black Music Month.

Nona Hendryx was a big part of The Gathering — a major production at the Kennedy Center in D.C., produced by the National Black Theatre and The Apollo. The program kicked off Black Music Month, and Nona described the event as “a ring shout. It’s a way of bringing people together — like a call and response. To say, ‘I’m here and you’re here’ and respond to each other. It’s a musical way of gathering again to say “we’re here.” To be joyful. [There’s] a healing part of it. When people had that opportunity to come together in a musical context, it is always either bringing uplifting, joyful music but also a healing process as well. The music does that — whether it’s uptempo or something that is more… That’s what a ring shout is.”

Nona Hendryx performing at The Gathering

And if you missed the event you can take Nona’s word for it that it was major. “The Gathering [was] really large! I think it was more than 60 instruments in the orchestra and 60 voices in the choir. The fact that we were actually able to get that into the Apollo Theater — along with all the other artists, from Toshi Reagon and her band [to] Jason Michael Webb.”

Nona was especially pleased to perform with Toshi Reagon, who she has known since she was a teenager. “I’d known Sweet Honey in the Rock, of course, and Bernice [Johnson Reagon]. And her daughter seeking me out as a mentor — I’ve sort of been in Toshi’s life, performing with her, working with her, writing with her, her extended group of artists that she’s brought along over the years. It’s wonderful. It’s, in a sense, a part of my legacy.

“The different artists that came together to bring these different flavors of music and response to each other was amazing. And it had great relevance with the reopening of the Apollo. It was very powerful.”

But there’s another very different though also powerful event around the corner: Titled The Dream Machine Experience, this is a techno, music-meets-art immersive experience — one that pushes the boundaries of art and technology. A Lincoln Center commission and part of Summer for the City, The Dream Machine Experience offers distinct segments in multiple spaces across campus, combining the physical and digital worlds through art, music, and storytelling. Discover the past, engage with the present, and imagine the future!

“Having had to shut down and distance from each other, it [is] good to have these elements come together and reconnect with each other,” Nona told Queer Forty about coming back from the pandemic and returning to New York City’s performance venues.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts proudly announced the world premiere of The Dream Machine Experience, before the before and after the after, June 12 – June 30. Find out more about the events here.

From the visionary and fearless Nona Hendryx, the Lincoln Center commission is a series of experiences that push the boundaries of art and technology—combining Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence with Afrofuturist music and art to vibrantly unite our communities.  

“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. 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,” said artist Nona Hendryx. 

Hendryx continued, “The Dream Machine Experience invites people from all walks of life to engage with technologies of our time through Afrofuturist art and music. At its core, Afrofuturism explores intersections of Black culture, technology, imagination, and ultimately, liberation. 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.” 

This first-ever mixed reality experience at Lincoln Center combines the physical and digital worlds in three distinct segments:

  • Visit Bina48’s Afro Future Garden at the David Rubenstein Atriumand meet Bina48, a humanoid robot powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the only social robot inspired, created, and programmed with mind files from an African American woman.
  • Follow The Bridge on an Augmented Reality (AR) journey through time led by Hendryx’s virtual avatar, Cyboracle.
  • Visit The Dream Machine for a full-scale Virtual Reality (VR) experience, collect tokens, and attend virtual performances with some of Hendryx’s most electrifying collaborators.

Members of the public can enjoy all three together, or one at a time.

Developed and conceived by Nona Hendryx—an original progenitor and visionary of Afrofuturism—in partnership with BIPOC creatives and technologists, The Dream Machine Experience offers creative ways for communities to participate and engage with AR, VR, and AI through art, inviting them to explore the past, engage with the present, and imagine our collective futures. 

With this ambitious project, Hendryx aims to demystify these technologies, showcase the use of art as a vehicle to bridge the technology gap, and expand the overarching humanity of these experiences. 

The stellar lineup of collaborators includes renowned multimedia artist Mickalene Thomas, designing an Afrofuturistic garden in The Atrium for Bina48, (the only African American female inspired social robot, powered by AI) with interior and set design by botanical sculptor Lutfi Janania; AR and VR experiences designed by Sutu and EyeJack; a series of special In-Conversation events with Bina48 and luminaries including Carrie Mae Weems, Stephanie Dinkins, Francesca Harper, Jonathan McCrory and Sade Lythcott (National Black Theatre), Jihae, Liza Jessie Peterson, Lynn Nottage, Carl Hancock Rux, and Niegel Smith (The Flea Theater); and virtual performances with Hendryx and some of her most electrifying collaborators, George Clinton, Laurie Anderson, Vernon Reid, and Skin.

Known for her work as a solo artist and a founding member of the revolutionary trio Labelle, Nona Hendryx has relentlessly innovated throughout her career, including creative collaborations with new technologies. The Dream Machine Experience is Co-Executive produced by Dream Machine Experience Inc. and SOZO.  

In addition to the free and Choose-What-You-Pay, in-person activations for members of the public, The Dream Machine Experience is also collaborating with several educational institutions—including Willie Mae Rock Camp, Hendryx’s own SISTERSMATR, and Lincoln Center Education—to build a cyclical pipeline of engagement for BIPOC female identifying and gender non-conforming youth, and create a blueprint for a future that ensures technology is more equitable.

The in-person activations will be open at various times of day across multiple spaces at Lincoln Center from June 12 – June 30:

Bina48’s Afro Future Garden

Open the door to a world where humans and AI learn from each other. Meet Bina48, a humanoid robot powered by AI, in her Afrofuturist garden designed by Mickalene Thomas with interior and set design by Lutfi Janania. A project of the Terasem Movement Foundation, Bina48 is the only social robot inspired, created, and programmed with mind files from an African American woman, Bina Rothblatt.

Spend time in the space-age garden June 12-30, completely immersed in a futuristic world where you may find yourself chatting with Bina48. Select evenings include performances and Bina48 in conversation with artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Stephanie Dinkins, and Francesca Harper, among others. Come for an encounter unlike anything you’ve ever experienced! 

The Bridge

Time travel through an AR experience across Lincoln Center’s outdoor spaces starting with a welcome at the entrance to the iconic plaza from Cyboracle—the larger-than-life virtual avatar portrayed by Nona Hendryx. Discover the history of the communities that have populated the land—from the original Indigenous people: the Lenape, to the diverse communities of San Juan Hill—and discover significant moments in Lincoln Center’s history.

Designed by XR artist Sutu in collaboration with art and technology company EyeJack, Dreamers will travel through time across The Bridge via a downloadable app, pointing their smartphones at ‘Pins’ to launch touchpoints along the way and discover more. 

The Dream Machine

Dive headfirst into the future with full-scale virtual reality experiences, conceived by Nona Hendryx with designs by XR artist Sutu, in collaboration with art and technology company EyeJack. Join fellow Dreamers and immerse yourself in the interactive universe of The Dream Machine with VR headsets.

There are five distinct experiences featuring game like interactive play and virtual performances with avatars of legendary artists: the psychedelic funktastic cosmos of George Clinton ‘The Funkmasta’; an avant-garde playground with Laurie Anderson ‘LAAN’ Light Angel Announcer of News; the big, bold world of Black rock with Vernon Reid ‘Loopmasta’; an alt-metal encounter with Skin ‘Spikemasta’ the First Lady of the Black British rock movement and lead vocalist of the Skunk Anansie Band; and the immersive Nonaverse with the visionary Nona Hendryx’s ‘Cyboracle’. Bina48’s avatar ‘The Beautifier’ performs in a special bonus concert, Symphony of the Soul—the first-ever virtual performance by an avatar of a African American female robot.

You can experience one or more of these choose-your-own virtual adventures.

Learn more at LincolnCenter.org/DreamMachine

About Nona Hendryx

Nona Hendryx is an African American multidisciplinary artist, notably known for being one-third of the music trio Labelle. Hendryx is an Ambassador for Artistry in Music for Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory creating and developing multiple music and technology performances at Berklee, MOOGFEST, MOCA and Berklee in Valencia, Spain. Hendryx has created, developed, curated and performed in a production of Refrigerated Dreams at Joe’s Pub, Theaster Gates’ 3-day Black Artists Retreat, mounting a celebration of the iconic singer and artist Grace Jones at the Park Avenue Armory and a mind-expanding Afrofuturism theatrical performance for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nona Hendryx and Disciples of Sun Ra in the Temple of Dendur. Hendryx is passionate about music, visual art, and technology, and continues to be a prolific artist.

About Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (LCPA) is a cultural and civic cornerstone of New York City. The primary advocate for the entire Lincoln Center campus, our strategic priorities include: fostering collaboration and deepening impact across the Lincoln Center resident organizations; championing inclusion and increasing the accessibility and reach of Lincoln Center’s work; and nurturing innovation on stage and off to help ensure the arts are at the center of civic life for all. LCPA presents hundreds of programs each year, offered primarily for free and choose-what-you-pay, including many specially designed for young audiences, families, and those with disabilities.

About SOZO

Founded by first generation immigrant Rika Iino and led by BIPOC women, SOZO is a contemporary arts agency and incubator working at the intersection of social impact, innovation and the arts, with a global portfolio of projects spanning live and digital artistic projects, artist coaching, and allyship training for organizations. SOZO’s dynamic suite of offerings as creative producers and cultural strategists aims to elevate the role of artists as leaders in society and drive systemic change.  Visit www.sozomedia.com

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