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Event: XYZZY is a mind trip – December 2023

It is customary when the visiting the planetarium at Auckland’s Stardome Observatory to watch an entertaining show about the night’s sky delivered by a passionate astronomer. It’s something the Stardome has done for decades and it’s done very well.

This December however there is a unique and very different spectacle on offer – a virtual 3D art film that, while not astronomical, is certainly out of this world.

Lying in plush leather seats that recline we look up at the concave dome above as a series of animated visual tricks, creatures, buildings, and anatomically incorrect human dance, pivot, and spin before our eyes.

We travel through strange landscapes and towering buildings, through tunnels and strange underground realms. There are huge human like beings with strange contorted masks who seem to pick us up and transport us to different places. Strange worm like creatures with banded patterns on their skin wriggle into small holes and spaces.

It is all rather dazzling and exciting. We were warned pre-show that some people may get motion sickness but for me only one or two brief moments of disorientation occurred. For most of it I was simply transfixed by the unfolding of a very strange and enthralling set of images and beings. In many ways this felt like being on an animated roller coaster through someone’s vivid imagination. XYZZY is definitely worth the trip.

Details of the event: (text supplied)

Prepare to let your mind bend on a psychedelic musical odyssey through the highly imaginative world of artists Jess Johnson and Simon Ward at the Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, the coolest little observatory this side of Neptune.

Mark Sunday 17th of December in your diary for a special treat when the artists arrive at the Stardome for a live Q&A following the 6.30pm and 8.30pm screenings.

Designed specifically for planteriums XYZZY is an immersive, fulldome cinematic experience that offers up a rare chance to engage with music-driven, non-verbal, and experiential art that will tilt your world upside down. Following seasons in Melbourne and Dunedin, this season is XYZZY’s North Island premiere.

XYZZY allows audiences to enter the complex fictional world the artists have been evolving over a decade-long collaborative practice. Video director Simon Ward createdXYZZY by translating Jess’s hand-drawn compositions from her body of work over the last decade. The dynamic visual atmosphere is charged with 90s-inspired electronic synthesizer tracks from musicians Andrew Clarke, Luke Rowell, Stef Animal and Lachlan Anderson.

This 41-minute long immersive film is not planetary based but is most definitely out of this world. Artist Jess Johnson says “Creating an art-based planetarium experience will introduce our work to new audiences who may not habitually visit contemporary art galleries where our work typically exhibits. We’ve always liked reaching beyond the art-world, and making work accessible to diverse audiences interested in animation, technology, gaming, sci-fi, psychedelia, music and experimental film.”

Together, Jess Johnson and Simon Ward have created videos, virtual reality and large-scale immersive installations. Their work has been exhibited worldwide including at Jack Hanley Gallery, New York; Art Basel,Hong Kong; Nanzuka Gallery, Tokyo; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, UK; Centre Clark, Montreal; the National Gallery of Australia; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Designed to be enjoyed collectively, the newly refurbished Stardome Observatory and Planetarium provides both a social hub and state of the art technology to make XYZZY a unique and exciting experience.

XYZZY screens 
Saturday 2 December, Wednesday 6 December & Sunday 10 December at 7pm
Friday 8 December at 9.30pm
Sunday 17 Dec – 6.30pm + 8.30pm (followed by artist Q&A’s)

Tickets $18.50 – $20.00


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