Speed of Light Show
The Speed of Light Show History
I started the Speed of Light Show while at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Our first show was on 2/13/78. It was as though a magical portal opened and me and my college colleagues stepped though it together.
Hampshire featured an amazing multimedia library, from which we could borrow equipment, slides and a world-class collection of classic experimental, art films...or, "expanded cinema," as it is sometimes called. My film teacher, Tom Joslin brought the greatest living expanded cinema filmmakers to our college...Stan Brakhage, Bruce Baille, Standish Lauder, (maybe even Jordan Belson), etc.
At one of our infamous Hampshire events, Merry Prankster Wavy Gravy ordained our crew into the Phurst Church of Phun. This influenced us to combine a wide variety of art/theatre/experiential art/spoken word into our immersive multimedia experiences…transforming The Speed of Light Show’s productions into something much more than just a Light Show.
This was the start of a 17 year-long run of visionary art experience productions. We specialized both public shows set to both live and recorded music - mostly psychedelic/jam band rock, but also new age/world music - and private, all-night long shamanic visionquests for groups of 25-75 participants.
For many years we produced seasonal, by-invitation-only, visionquest retreats that were focused on the Grateful Dead's legendary "Field Trip" concert that happened on 8/27/72 (the final "Acid Test with the Merry Pranksters).
Upon graduating, our collective started to do shows publicly.
What set The Speed of Light show apart from other light shows...especially the more modern electronic music-based Light Shows...was a) our incorporation of classic 16mm film footage spanning many styles of filmmaking, and b) my great effort spent collaborating with live bands before we performed with them...studying their songs, interviewing them, making sure our imagery synergized with their lyrics and musical intentions, d) being mentored by Joshua White, who was exceedingly generous with his time.
Our booking agent got us some high-profile gigs, including a series of high-paying college/university shows with Timothy Leary (we would perform to the classic rock music recordings, then Tim would lecture, then we would perform again).
The Speed of Light Show then became the house Light Show at the legendary NYC nightclub Wetlands Preserve.
In the mid 1990s, I cofounded a festival production company called Peak Experience Productions, and then moved out West to start producing large, multi-day music and performance art festivals, much like Burning Man (which I have participated in for 23 consecutive years).
The spirit of the Speed of Light Show now lives on through another immersive multimedia project I direct; The "L'HA!" laser harp - a futuristic, audience-participatory, immersive sound and light experience which appears at festivals and museums.
A short Speed of Light Show demo reel can be found here: https://vimeo.com/84076492
Johnny Dwork - November 22nd 2021