Levels of Nothingness

Performers 1

"Levels of Nothingness" is an interactive installation-performance where colours are derived from the human voice. A computerized microphone analyzes a live voice and controls a full rig of robotic lights to create a colour show using the language and clichés of spectacular Rock-and-Roll concert lighting. For the New York performances, Isabella Rossellini first activated the installation as she read seminal philosophical texts on skepticism, perception and color, including Francisco Sanches' treatise That Nothing Is Known (1581) and writings by Kandinsky, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Alexander Luria, among others. Following this performance, the general public was invited to test the colour-generating microphone. This project is inspired by but tangential to Kandinsky’s proposals for a performative synaesthesia that links the senses, most notably his opera "The Yellow Sound" (1912). In "Levels of Nothingness", skeptical philosophy and colour theory, read out loud, generates a quiet choreography of abstract light designs.

How it works: A computerized microphone analyzes a live voice in real time and extracts physical information (pitch, wavelength, period, amplitude, intensity and speed) and linguistic information (accent, intonation, speech recognition and pattern matches). This information then automatically triggers and modulates robotic lights to create effects like fly-aways, bump cues, colour chases, ballyhoos, builds and flash-throughs. The lights completely surround the public and their default state, if no one is participating, is still and off.

General info

Spanish name:
Niveles de la Nada
Year of creation:
Microphone, computers, robotic lights, projectors, custom software for voice recognition and analysis


  • Levels of Nothingness, Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York, United States, 2009.
    1. Commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum, celebrating its 25th anniversary together with the Museum's 50th anniversary. Funded by the Colección/Fundación Jumex, Deutsche Bank, German Consulate General and Mexican Cultural Institute.


  • Performer: Isabella Rossellini
  • Concept, Direction and Visuals: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
  • Libreto: Brian Massumi, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
  • Programming: Conroy Badger, Stephan Schulz and Gideon May
  • Curator: Charles Fabius