Happily lost in space

Glendale News Press

I've never tried soaking in a sensory deprivation tank, but from what I understand, it transports your mind to a place free of the daily stresses of life. The lightless, soundproof isolation chamber in which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature puts the body in a deeply relaxed state. Researchers have found isolation tanks ideal for treating health problems like anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia and jet lag.

That kind of experience is the closest thing I can think of to describe what I felt while watching J-Walt's new show, "The Omnicentric Universe: A Spontaneous Fantasia." Taking place the last Saturday of every month this summer at GCC's Planetarium, it's a mind-bending artistic invention that raises you to a higher consciousness without using expensive tanks or psychoactive drugs. You simply wait for the seats in the theater to recline, and the images do the rest.

Created in real time by the one-man orchestra that is J-Walt, "Spontaneous Fantasia" is the term he uses to describe his live 3-D computer animation performances. J-Walt draws with his left hand while manipulating myriad wireless joystick controls to "fly through space" with his right hand. The objects, scenes and figures are created on the spot and then manipulated in a slightly different way every single time through each song.

J-Walt writes the software, composes all the music and invents complex techniques to render breathtaking virtual vistas right before your eyes.

His new show starts with a cute number called "Rain Dance" and ends with a freestyle finale, but the bulk of the night is taken up by "The Omnicentric Universe." It's an endlessly swirling fantasy that moves with beauty and wonder from the universal to the specific.

The hypnotic images start with vast expanses of outer space populated with billions of stars and whatever is orbiting nearby. A group of ever-evolving organisms travel through the universe in search of the ideal home to create a new world from scratch. What begins as an incredibly expansive journey ends on a close-up of a single life form newly planted and swaying in the breeze on some distant magical planet.

What feels like your entire existence flashing before your eyes is actually around 30 minutes, but when you come out of it, all your brain can handle is the less impressive glowing rings bouncing around in a quick little closing number by J-Walt called "Finale." But the important work has already been finished, your brain transported to the ends of the known universe and back all in a short trip to the planetarium.

The only thing stopping J-Walt from achieving a higher plane of catharsis within his completely unique performance pieces is his new-agey, albeit effective music.

I'd love to see him create his virtual reality landscapes while listening to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." Or better yet, a live band, where the give and take between musician and artist would be more spontaneous.

The resulting images rendered from scratch would evolve more naturally, instead of just improvised chaos within a highly organized structure.

J-Walt takes questions at the end of every performance, but do you really want to see the man behind the curtain? Like the end of the TV show "Lost," the more you concern yourself with answers, the less you enjoy the journey.

Infobox What: "The Omnicentric Universe: A Spontaneous Fantasia" by J-WaltWhere: The Glendale Community College Planetarium, 1500 N. Verdugo RoadWhen: June 26, July 31 and Aug. 28 (evening start times vary)Tickets: $6 to $15Contact: www.spontaneousfantasia.com

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