Review: The new AR app that puts you in the room with Cate Blanchett

An image from Marco Brambilla's video "The Four Temperaments (Cate)."
An image from Marco Brambilla’s video “The Four Temperaments (Cate).”

(Marco Brambilla)

Cate Blanchett brings a storm of emotion to Marco Brambilla’s “The Four Temperaments (Cate),” the video and sound installation on view at Michael Fuchs Galerie in Berlin until Nov. 28. A significantly compromised version is also available as an augmented-reality experience in the Acute Art app.

The video, which I watched on a computer screen, features close-ups of Blanchett, her blond hair curled and voluminous like an Old Hollywood movie star. The screen is divided into quadrants, and the actress’ face appears in each, overlapping in a staccato rhythm as she says one of two lines: “I love you” or “I don’t love you.” Four different colors of light flicker alternately across her face as if she’s underwater. Imagine if Christian Marclay and Andy Warhol had a love child.

The four colors represent the “four temperaments,” or personality types laid out by Greek philosopher Galen. Yellow is outgoing and fun; red is about power and control; blue reflects perfection and order, and green represents calm and harmony. These “types” are early precursors to modern-day personality tests such as Myers-Briggs or DiSC.


Blanchett displays her remarkable interpretative range, infusing the work with just about every emotion one can name: ardor, desperation, anger, derision, joy. The confessional symphony starts slowly and crescendos in the middle. At 2 minutes and 40 seconds, it’s about the length of a pop song, a common vehicle for strong feelings.

An image from the augmented-reality app for Marco Brambilla's "The Four Temperaments (Cate)."
An image from the augmented-reality app for Marco Brambilla’s “The Four Temperaments (Cate).”
(Marco Brambilla)

Unfortunately, the augmented-reality app (available through Apple App Store or Google Play) is a pale echo. Superimposed on whatever subject you point a laptop, tablet or phone camera at, Blanchett’s performance appears in tinted bubbles that hover in front of you and then disappear after about a minute. The nuance and power of her performance is obscured by the bubbles’ surface sheen and small size.

Still, there’s a cold logic to this segmentation. Inserting Blanchett’s labile performance into a grid or a bubble amounts to a dissection of emotion, which is perhaps what personality types are all about. They attempt to impose a fixed system on fleeting feelings, which might be better left to float away.

As part of an alarming trend, a museum is selling a 1946 Jackson Pollock drip painting to raise money to diversify its collection. Good intention, bad plan.

Sept. 14, 2020