Field Notes ~ NOWISWHENWEARE(the stars)

An experience by Andrew Schneider

Field Notes ~ NOWISWHENWEARE(the stars)

I went to this with Julia Lu and Riven (Spencer) Ratanavanh for the afternoon show.

Andrew Schneider is, as per usual, a very careful curator of experience, from start to finish. Having taken a class with him before, I could tell in particular the care he took with inviting us into the space, and being a guide amongst us rather than completely separated from us.

The experience itself was fun, existential, and full of spectacle. Afterwards, I found myself looking back at it with a headspace that may not have been entirely invested.


  • Technologically, this was brilliant. A completely black room full of “stars”, each an LED at the end of a wire twined with others amongst its row. There were planes of stars, of lights, but the horizontal plane of lights varied a bit, giving a bit more of an organic texture. Each LED was individually addressable, and the creators choreographed the lights to whirl around us in almost living form.
  • I really appreciated the entry and exit to the experience. We were given a bit of a briefing from Andrew, who told asked us how we’d gotten here, asked us to introduce ourselves, and made it very clear that while we would be in the dark the entire time, there would be no scares, no frights, and that they would be there the entire time to help us if we needed. At the end, we were ushered through spaces where the lights had been dimmed or tinted, into a comfortable area with tea and books to decompress and process our experiences.
  • The combination of thudding sound and whirling lights really let me be present with my environment; get swept away in the spectacle, the delight. I’d walked in thinking pretty much solely about my thesis; I spent all of my time there focused on the lights and my presence in that room.
  • I felt a bit distant from parts of the narrative. Perhaps it is because of my recent research state of mind, or perhaps it was that sometimes I found myself paying more attention to the lights that the narration. One line written into the script went something like “There is a straight line between you and me, between your ancestors and yourself and your future.” As I am currently studying and pondering immigration and the twists and turns of history even in my own mixed-culture past, the idea of a “straight line” seems did not resonate for me.
  • Given our introduction to the people around us at the beginning, I was a bit disappointed to find myself having never really interacted with the people around me. That is not to say no audience members ever interact; in fact, it might be that it’s due to my own inclination that no one become central to my experience. But I found myself avoiding others, and was especially inclined to stand alone because the collision of two people in the dark seemed detrimental to everyone’s experience.
  • The parts of the experience that clearly responded to your presence (that is, the opening and closing “acts”) felt extremely precious, extremely gratifying. To first see both yourself and others, trailing lights and creating light by the simple act of being in the space, generated an awe in me that I haven’t felt much of recently. In the end, being able to “visit” with certain people, certain lights, also felt extremely precious; personal and wholesome and full of mystery.
  • In the end after everyone else had left, I ran up and down the lights, sweeping them in my wake.

Overall, I did have a splendid time. I felt giddy much of the time, charmed by the lights and the movement and being swallowed by the dark. Andrew’s voice feels kind and understanding, and the space (designed specifically to think both big and small, infinitely in any direction) was a delight to be in.


December 03, 2022