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Gotye's sculpture helps put the pop into art

It is a song that has affected millions of people around the world in one way or another - a surprise hit by an oddly named one-man project from Melbourne.

Somebody That I Used to Know, by Gotye, has sold 10 million copies worldwide since it was released in 2011 and now Canberra has a piece of the action.

Fractured Heart is a song, a piece of art and an interactive light show all in one, which uses the ubiquitous song as its base and is on display at the National Film and Sound Archive.

Archive chief executive Michael Loebenstein said he had been intrigued by Gotye's work since hearing about the artist's sweeping, multimedia shows at the Sydney Opera House.

The Austrian native, who moved to Canberra to take on the archive's top job two years ago, was already a fan of Gotye's alter ego, the indie musician Wally De Backer, who had once been part of Melbourne band the Basics.

''I was impressed particularly with how Wally transcends the boundaries of just doing pop music and doing kind of something that is electronic music but then using acoustic instruments, resampling and reusing, which very much appeals when you're in archiving - taking the history and recycling it and creating something new,'' he said.


Mr Loebenstein was one of the millions of people who saw the distinctive video clip of Somebody That I Used to Know on YouTube.

But it was when he saw Gotye's follow-up YouTube project, a mash-up of all the parodies and cover versions of the song to create a ''YouTube symphony'', that he realised he had found a kindred spirit.

''I still believe if you wiped YouTube tomorrow, if they decided to basically turn the key and switch it off, please preserve this one, because this tells the story of what YouTube really is about,'' he said.

''I really admire him as an artist because he really understands what making music or creating something in this digital environment really means and I contacted him.''

He had heard that De Backer had been working with a group of avant-garde interactive artists, Illuminart, to create a sculpture and was delighted when the artist agreed to lend it to the archive.

Fractured Heart is an interactive sculpture that allows visitors to ''remix'' Somebody That I Used to Know in real time, using their bodies to trigger sounds and light animations.

It was first presented as the backdrop to his live performance of the song with Kimbra, his collaborator on the song, at the 2011 ARIA Awards, using mapped animated projections based on the music video that changed in time with Gotye's performance.

It has been on display at the archive since late last year and has produced some interesting reactions from visitors.

''We had an uptake of about 80 per cent of the people who actually walked through the door who ended up using it, which is pretty good,'' Mr Loebenstein said.

''The youngest was three, up to elderly people, people in wheelchairs, school groups, tourists, office workers who come down here. We've had people basically do their yoga in front of it. We have staffers who say they come to wind down in front of it. It is something that does something to people and creates a sense of community that I just find admirable.''

De Backer was touring overseas and set to attend the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday, Canberra time, but will be in Canberra on Friday to officially launch the exhibit and present a curated series of animations and videos and talk about his collaborations.

''He might have sold, I don't know, millions of singles and is touring the world but this is a DIY project of love between him and a group of people who do things nobody else does,'' Mr Loebenstein said.

''Thursday is Valentine's Day, but Friday will be Wally day at the archive."

Gotye will launch Fractured Heart at the National Film and Sound Archive at 6pm. Entry is free but seats are limited.

Correction: This story initially said Archive chief executive Michael Loebenstein was from Belgium. He is from Austria. A sub-editor made the error.

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