5:30pm • Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 • Planetarium and Dome Theater
Settling into the Museum of Natural History’s Planetarium and Dome Theater to experience Mesmerica was like stepping through a portal. The show, imagined by James Hood, offered an immersive sensory experience that merged mesmerizing animations with Hood’s ethereal musical compositions. Mesmerica promised to transport viewers to a realm where we could let go of our worries and find a sense of joy in the present moment, and in many ways, it succeeded.
Designed for the unique physical allowances of a dome theater, Mesmerica enveloped the audience in a hallucinatory cocoon of visual and auditory art. The show was an hour-long journey filled with kaleidoscopic, abstract animations that danced across the dome overhead, perfectly synchronized with Hood’s ambient, new-agey music.
The visuals were a symphony of colors and shapes, constantly shifting and evolving, like a dreamscape brought to life. Each animation seemed to tell its own story, inviting viewers to lose themselves in its intricate details. In my favorite animation, a sprite-like blue star led viewers out of a dark nebula until we overlooked a great mandala wrought in bronze wires. We trailed behind as the star zoomed in and out of the wires, tracing lines of glittering dust that “activated” the mandala, which turned gold and pulsed with what looked like magic. It reminded me of attending fireworks shows with my cousins when we were little, where we imagined fairies being born out of every sparkling explosion.
Mesmerica wasn’t without its quirks. In my personal opinion, there were some places where it took itself a tad too seriously. This feeling was particularly strong during Hood’s vocal interludes, which made the presentation feel like an overworked guided meditation. While the intention of promoting relaxation and mindfulness was clear, for me, it came across as a bit heavy-handed.
Despite this minor caveat, Mesmerica definitely delivered on its promise of providing a brief vacation from the tedium of everyday life. The show served as an invigorating escape from my current, relentless world of midterms and deadlines.
In conclusion, Mesmerica was a uniquely immersive journey into the realms of art, music, and mindfulness. James Hood’s vision, combined with the collective creativity of artists from around the world, resulted in an imaginative and inspiring experience. While it may have risked taking the mindfulness concept to the level of tackiness at some points, the beauty of the animations and the soundscape created an enchanting atmosphere that was well worth the visit.