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Fractured Heart Moves the Body

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After a delicious breakfast at A. Baker in New Acton, I wandered over to the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) and had a fantastic time experiencing the interactive sound and light sculpture Fractured Heart.

The NFSA is located in what used to be the Building of Anatomy. The building’s history and architecture have always appealed; however the gallery displays haven’t changed seemingly in any major way for years. However, Fractured Heart breathes new life into the building and the exhibits on show.

Fractured Heart is a multi-media interactive sculpture that allows people to remix two Gotye songs ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ and ‘State of the Art’. The sculpture was first used as a backdrop for Gotye and Kimbra’s performance of ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ at the 2011 ARIA Awards.  It then became an independent experience for the Vivid Festival in Sydney 2012.  In December 2012 it was installed at the NFSA. The NFSA owns the physical structure of the sculpture but the intellectual property belongs to Illuminart, the team which designed and created it.

At the sculpture, I was directed by a helpful assistant to choose a side of the ‘fractured heart’. ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ was on the program, so one side is Gotye’s part and the other is the New Zealand singer Kimbra’s part of the song. I chose Kimbra’s side and stepped up to the marker, “Cactus!” the assistant said to me and I held up my arms to mimic a cactus while the computer registered my presence. Once my physical dimensions were found by the system, the assistant gave me the okay to explore the sounds spread across and in the crevices, of the sculpture. Apparently Goyte decided where each piece of the song would play on the sculpture, and by moving my hands and lowering or raising myself I was able to activate every sound individually and watch its corresponding colour appear and create a mesmerizing rainbow light show.

While I was making the most of my Gotye remixing, the assistant told me about her experiences working with the sculpture. The assistants are vital to the exhibit’s operation as they initially explain to the user how the various elements work. The assistants have come to know how to engage with different age groups so that all get the most out of the experience. This is especially handy when school groups come to visit. Primary school kids are often willing to jump in and try interacting, forcing the assistants to limit a “go” to 30 seconds at a time to accommodate every child. With high school kids, the “cool” kids usually step up first and the assistants will give them a bit longer in order to entice the less confident or more sceptical to participate.

My assistant’s favourite aspect of Fractured Heart is that the interactive sculpture reveals a lot about people’s hobbies and personalities. Tai Chi or Yoga regulars stick out like sore thumbs, it becomes quickly apparent whether one is an attention seeker or just likes to use and move their body, and attention spans of someone can be determined in seconds. Some people will spend a few minutes exploring the sculpture whereas others could spend hours, attempting to put the song together as perfectly as possible. It seems one man stood still except for moving his left hand up and down for several minutes, making the same part of the song repeat over and over. Hearing the songs repeatedly is one of the few downfalls of the job and also the topic of the number one question asked by visitors: ‘do you dream of this song when you go to bed?’

The Fractured Heart installation at the NFSA runs until June 2014 so I urge you to get to the NFSA and see what this fascinating multi-media interactive sculpture reveals about you. And while there, try to resist asking the assistants if they are sick of the songs, instead, ask about the ghost stories associated with the building; they all have one to share.

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