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11 April 1998 - post-presentation edit (work in progress)

The following was given as a mulitmedia presentation on 4 April 1998 as part of the Art Crash Symposium which took place in Aarhus, Denmark from 2-4 April. The 'script' below doesn't really function on its own without the media, so I have attempted via description on the righthand side to give contexts for what was being said.

  1. The presentation included several video clips and websites, one cd-rom demo as well as a screening of two of Sue MacLennan's 'lifeforms' dances. The entire presentation lasted precisely 45 minutes.
  2. A fast Pentium PC and a Power Mac were used. Both had high-speed cd-rom drives and an ISDN connection to the Internet. There was a videoplayer set up between them. All output was projected via LCD to the screen behind me. All switching between sources as well as sound and light levels were controlled from the tech platform directly behind the audience. I wore a small radio microphone so my hands were free to hold the paper in one hand and manipulate media with the other. I stayed precisely on script most of the time... except as indicated in the margin notes below.
  3. This presentation requires at least 1 hour setup time with qualified technician present. The computers should have latest browser installed which can run, via plugins or other means, a range of websites using quicktime movies, java applets, etc.
  4. There are comments and notes in the margins which indicate another media running, citations, reflections relating to other events taking place during the weekend, anecdotes about the presentation, etc.
  5. This web version of the paper contains links to above mentioned and other relevant websites.
  6. The author/ presenter, Scott deLahunta, may be reached via email at: sdela@ahk.nl; tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736; fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558


Sampling... convergences between dance and technology


This presentation will be based upon the work of a number of artists (dance, sound, performance, media) working along the intersections between 'dance' and 'technology'. The presentation will be organised within a 'temporary' typology of practice and focus primarily on developments related to emerging digital technologies. There will be speculation on historical precedents for contemporary work as well as some theoretical reflection on the impact emerging technologies may be having on our approach to dance both as dancemakers as well as watchers.

THE SCRIPT (what was read out loud)... MEDIA, CITATIONS, COMMENTS, LINKS, NOTES...
Playing behind me now is a piece you may recognise titled "A Study in Choreography for Camera" one of the dance films made by Maya Deren in the 1940s and 50s. Though she made only seven films, Deren is credited as being the first dance filmmaker· in other words to make dance specifically for the space of the screen. In her own program notes she writes:

In this film through an exploitation of cinematic techniques, space is itself a dynamic participant in the choreography. This is, in a sense, a duet between space and a dancer÷a duet in which the camera is not merely an observant sensitive eye., but is itself creatively responsible for the performance.

Started with video 1: Maya Derenās "A Study in Choreography for Camera" 1945 - 2 min 30 sec

The point about Deren being the Īfirstā can be debated, others were certainly filming dance before Deren, but the distinction might be made between Derenās artistic explorations and what was documentation or entertainment.

I stood to the side watching the movie with the audience· and began speaking again just before it finished completely.

The script which was unstapled so that when I finished a page I could lay it down on the table in front of me. This seemed a more dynamic action than turning a stapled page back on itself. The pages were numbered and the font was 12 point Arial with spacing (approx. 6 pts) between lines.

Dance had begun its relationship with its own image captured by the eye of the camera back in the first days of photography in the 1840s. According to dance historian Walter Sorrell, this is when French and English photographers began taking pictures of dancers for publication in ballet souvenir programs· which the public apparently devoured. These photographic images of the ballet were soon joined by the paintings of Edgar Degas and "in the 1860s dance images were seen everywhere". Sorrell, Walter. "The Growing Awareness of Movement" pp. 287-293 from Dance in Its Time. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. 1986.

I made the comment that in one of the previous dayās presentations someone mentioned the "visual desire for the panoramic" of the same period.

Sorrell links this passion of the human eye for photographs of dancers to an increased hunger for media representations of movement during the latter part of the 19th century when Eadweard Muybridge made his famous consecutive-series of photographs of animals and humans in motion. Linked to http://www.linder.com/muybridge/muybridge_1.html (On-Line Muybridge Documentary)

Whenever something shows up on the screen I may look back at it, or gesture towards it. I prepared a plain HTML page with the links on it which I go back and forth from, returning to it when I want to Īneutralizeā the image on the screen behind me.

Maya Deren may have been the first to make dance for the screen, but at this point fifty years later, Dance for the Screen, whether recorded on film or video and whether presented on TV or in the cinema, has become its own Īmedia artā genre. The exact origin of the moment the category came into being is unclear. In the August 1997 issue Tanz Aktuell/ Ballet International, an issue focussing on Īdance and technologyā, Elisa Vaccarino cautiously suggests that the name Īvideodanseā might have been coined in 1988 for a showcase at the Centre Pompidou. Dance made it on Television in Britain in the 1980s with Michael Kustowsā series Channel 4 ö these were initially adaptations of stage works. However, soon Kustows began to commission new works only for the screen.

Now there are video/ film archive sites like SK Stiftung Kultur (http://www.sk-kultur.de/) in Cologne with literally hundreds of titles available. There are competitions for Īvideo danceā such as the Grand Prix Video Danse in France and Springdance Cinema in Holland.

What happens now that digital technologies enter the frame? We know that the ways in which dance on the screen can be manipulated have increased dramatically with digital editing technologies. In addition, new ways of capturing the moving body known as Motion Capture are being developed. I assume most are familiar with this technology, but just in case I have a very short video clip to show. Showed video 2: a section from Motekās promo tape - 1 min 15 sec. (Motek, a commercial organisation, have a website at http://www.motek.org/)

The evening before there was a demonstration of a digital dance suit constructed by composer/ digital artist Wayne Siegel which, like some motion capture devices, had sensors positioned at the joints. These sensors generated a sound score via midi/ computer devices. I made the comment that the difference is that motion capture creates a 3-d image which can be manipulated· so itās much different at the computing end ö a lot more computing power is necessary for motion capture.

A recent addition to the technological developments in this area is the CyberSuit built by Virtual Technologies for NASA (http://www.virtex.com/prod_cybersuit.html) to use in analyzing and monitoring the biomechanics of astronauts in space in order to better understand human movement at zero gravity. This "lightweight ankle-to-neck Lycra CyberSuit" records the positions of the ankles, knees, hips, back, neck, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists and hands without the cumbersome tethers and line-of-sight limitations of the Ītraditionalā optical and magnetic capture systems.

Now that I want to show some recent work starting with this project which used the internet as a way of generating and gathering material for a live performance event. Linked to http://www.webbedfeats.org/ (Webbed Feats Website)
Webbed Feats was a site-specific performance event directed by Stephan Koplowitz which began as a World-Wide-Web site. The site provided opportunities for submissions of various bits of material including poetry, dramatic writing, imagery and dance sequences. After twelve weeks of being online, on September 17, 1997 a piece was created for and performed in Bryant Park in NYC out of this material. Let me show you how the submission for the dance phrase was made. Linked to http://www.webbedfeats.org/prod/promenades.html (Webbed Feats page for submitting dance material)

At this point the Pentiumās connection to the internet seemed to crash. There was no response within the browser window. The likely reason is that I had already loaded Richard Lordās website (see end of paper) into Internet Explorer in the background· which interfered in some way. I jumped ahead past the Charlip comments to the next section and asked the technician to please come restart the Pentium.

One of the things I noticed right away about this process of submitting dance information was how similar it was to the "Airmail Dances" of Remy Charlip created in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Charlip was a performer with Merce Cunningham company among others before an injury caused him to rethink his dancing career.

"Airmail Dances" were mailed to soloists and companies all over the world where the dancers worked with the drawings to devise transitions from position to position and thereby creating the choreography. The similarity with the Webbed Feats project is clear in terms of the choreographic process· but what is radically different is the Īmode of productionā employed in the process of sending and gathering the material.

Linked to http://www.art.net/~dtz/charlip.jpg (data rich image of cover of Remy Charlipās booklet -- long download) I made a comment about the importance of distinguishing between something which is Īnewā and something which is Īoldā· especially in relation to the insistent hype of the Īnewā media. Another artist working with dance and the internet in a different way is the Norwegian choreographer, Amanda Steggell. Along with her partner, Per Platou, Amanda has created several internet based performance projects (http://www.notam.uio.no/motherboard/in.html) including "Maggieās Love-Bytes" (http://www.notam.uio.no/~amandajs/). This work utilized Cu-Seeme (http://cu-seeme.cornell.edu/), which is video conferencing software available for free over the internet.
When my colleague, Mark Coniglio who works in New York City and I decided to create a sort of reference website for dance and technology a little over a year ago, we were under the impression that together we knew of many of the artists and groups who were engaged in this work. Now, I feel that this was not true then and it is certainly not true now. More and more dance artists are getting involved in exploring the possibilities of Īnewā technologies in their work via the internet and otherwise. Linked to http://art.net/~dtz/ (Dance and Technology Zone)

The Pentium was still down so I never managed to actually show the top page of the Dance and Technology Zone.

I took a moment to point out that there were two workshops scheduled the day before, Tony Brookās ĪSoundscapesā and Wayne Siegelās DEIM digital dance system· both Denmark based projects which are pushing forward the possibilities in this area.

But while there are more projects happening and the technology IS becoming more available· it is still true that access to the latest technology continues to be difficult because of the costs and the need for expertise to work with it. This is why events such as Digital Dancing in the United Kingdom are important for the opportunities they give dance artists to work in collaboration with digital artists on new ideas. At some point in here, the Pentium was back on-line and I was able to return to and complete the Webbed Feats demonstration.
Terry Braun is the initiator and organiser of Digital Dancing which will take place in the Fall 1998 for the fourth year in a row. Linked to http://www.illumin.co.uk/umbrella97/ (Digital Dancing Website)

Terry was involved in the early days of the BBCās ĪDance for Cameraā series. When I visited the Digital Dance project in October 1997, he told me over breakfast that Dance for Camera had always struck him as creating a separate product from dance· because the end result was something which ended up on the box ö screen or television. With the possibilities of such digital things as interactive, multimedia· Terry feels that dance will be able to function on a more equal footing with the media.

Digital Dancing is unique in that it focusses on artists making work ö rather than on conferences and discussions which have been the defining characteristic of another series of Īdance and technologyā conferences held in the USA. The International Dance and Technology 99 conference will take place in February 1999 and is the fourth in a series of conferences previously hosted by: The University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1992; Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada, 1993; York University, Toronto, Canada, 1995. You can find a call for proposals on their website -- http://researchnet.vprc.asu.edu/isa/idat/english.html
Some of the artists involved with Digital Dancing have been able to work for two years in a row on the same project. One example is the work of dancer/ choreographer Mark Baldwin and graphics/ digital artist Carole Murcia. The CD-ROM they collaborated on utilizes dance images including still, animated and lifeforms characters. The CD is designed as an interactive, multimedia game, one in which you must spend some time getting to know the environment, its signs and narrative structures, in order to solve its Īriddlesā sufficiently enough to be able to complete the Ījig-sawā puzzle which is one part of its interface.
I would like to show you a beta version of the CD-ROM. The name of the rom is "Who Killed Me"· it is designed around the idea of a "murder mystery". Unfortunately, I have not taken the time to complete the whole game ö which I am afraid is necessary in order to exit it. So, we may have to turn the Macintosh off when Iāve completed the demonstration in order to get out. Demonstrated the cd-rom by Mark Baldwin and Carole Murcia. Unfortunately, the program crashed the Macintosh after less than 2 minutes but I had shown enough to illustrate how well constructed the cd-rom is. I turned the Mac off· and turned it back on again at some point later.

In autumn 1997, The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) announced a new award category for "interactive entertainment".

4D Art is a team of Montreal based multimedia artists and designers including Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. These two artists teamed up with choreographers-dancers Pierre-Paul Savoie and Jeff Hall of PPS dance to create Pôles ö a dance performance in which performers, projections and holograms (I quote) "create fascinating virtual images that blur perceptions". Linked to http://www.4dart.com/EN/index.html ö click on center (4D Artās Website)
I have never seen the piece, but am told that everything you will see on the videotape I have is as it is seen on the stage. The audience often cannot tell the difference between projection and live performer. Reviewers have hailed the work as groundbreaking and magical, a (again I quote) "rare place where technology and humanity have merged on equal terms", and of opening a "floodgate of possibility for future dance pieces". Showed video 3: a promotional tape for "Pôles" - 2 minutes at the beginning of the tape.
I met with one of the members of PPS dance and the scenographic designer for Pôles, Bernard Legacé, in Amsterdam last week to pick up this tape and discuss the performance. Unfortunately, we could not discuss the Ītechnologyā because the design team is keeping it a secret. Michel Lemieux has been offered large sums of money to disclose this secret by corporations interested in using it for video conferencing, but so far he has refused to Īsell outā. However, apparently the technology is simply film projection ö nothing digital about it, itās all analog cinema. Linked to http://www.odyssee.net/~pps/poles.franc.html (PPS Danse Website)

The projections in the performance may be analog but they did use digital technology when making the films and developing the piece at Banff, a Canadian University well known for supporting new developments in media.

I am reminded by this work of pictures I have seen of "Phantasmagoria"· the name used for a "specific type of magic-lantern performance of the 1790s and early 1800s, one that used back projection to keep an audience unaware of the lanterns" thereby creating ghostly apparitions in space. Iām quoting here from the book by Jonathan Crary entitled "Techniques of the Observer: on vision and modernity in the 19th century". Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: on vision and modernity in the 19th century. Cambridge, London: MIT Press. 1990

Crary writes that the "mystification of a machineās operation" was something which later technologies sought to overcome by exposing the mechanisms of image making. In particular, Crary mentions David Brewster who invented the Brewster stereoscope and kaleidoscope in the late 1840s (the same time photographs of ballet dancers are beginning to appear). According to Crary, Brewster had the political and ideological intention of undermining the power of certain religious elements by using Īscienceā to reveal the secrets of illusion making.

Other artists find that technology transforms the way they see the dance· and they allow this to influence how they make work. Merce Cunningham is sort of the Īfatherā of Dance and Technology. His early work with dance and video was groundbreaking both for the new forms it took via his collaborations with Charles Atlas and Elliot Caplan as well as for his often quoted statements about the impact the technology has had on his way of seeing dance. First photography, then video, and finally the computer program Lifeforms have all presented him with possibilities for movement, shape and time which he had not been able to see previously. However, I had not heard him make the comment which is captured here on a documentary called "Dans en Camera" made in 1985 by Stefaan Decostere and Chris Dercon. Showed video 4: a short section from "Dans en Camera", Stefaan Decostere en Chris Dercon, 1985 - approx. 1 min. 30 sec.

I made the comment that Decostere had also made the video we had seen the day before during Alex Adriaansenās presentation which featured Paul Virilio.

Incidentally, Cunningham is working on a new project with digital artist Paul Kaiser entitled Īhand drawn spacesā and here is a peek at the website. There are other projects on the Riverbed Site including one with Bill T. Jones and theater maker Robert Wilson. Linked to http://www.riverbed.com/ (Website with link to the Cunningham/ Kaiser project)
Many of you may be familiar with the next project, but some of you not. In 1994, ZKM, the Center for Art and Media at Karlsruhe, undertook to develop a multimedia and interactive project with William Forsythe, choreographer of the Frankfurt Ballet. This project aimed to show how digital technology might be used in analysing and documenting dance by (I quote from the written material about the project and you will get the joke later) "making transparent" Forsytheās many years of choreographical research, in particular his specific vocabulary and mode of working. I have a short video clip here showing the project results. Showed video 5: "Improvisation Technologies" documentation of the installation ö used a 3 minute section

I am grateful to Astrid Sommer at ZKM from whom I obtained the videotape. There is also a crushed version of the project on a CD, which can be rented from ZKM on a temporary basis. They are hoping to be able to published a developed version soon.

At the end of the 3 minute clip I showed, the Ījokeā I mention unfolds· but I would spoil it by describing it here.

The Forsythe project clearly has an educational goal. If you are involved in dance education you may be interested to know that there are people working on digitizing the Labanotation and Benesh Notation systems so that they will be more flexible and useful for dancer artists. Linked to http://members.tor.shaw.wave.ca/~ryman/DanceWrite.html (Website for computerized Benesh Notation)
This work potentially makes the preservation and subsequent reconstruction of dances in performance, which is the main objective of choreology, much easier· an interesting area to go into, but there isnāt enough time today. I had planned to show a CD-ROM created by Ohio State University (http://ftp.dance.ohio-state.edu/), but opted not to due to time. OSU has been working for some time now with multimedia and dance ö and I was going to show their Multimedia Dance Prototype which is a template which they have made available to anyone who would like to work with it.
Troika Ranch in New York is a collaboration between a composer/ digital artist Mark Coniglio and dancer/ choreographer Dawn Stoppiello. Together they have constructed a Īmidiā suit which is worn by the dancer and creates the possibility of performer control of video, sound, lights or robotic instruments on stage. One difficulty with this work ö which Troika Ranch is certainly aware of ö is how to move beyond the Īcontrolā aspect of the technology which links a movement to an effect in a one-to-one correspondence. Linked to http://www.troikaranch.org/troikahome.html (Troika Ranch Website)

I made the comment that we had seen something very similar in the previous eveningās presentation of Wayne Siegelās Digital Dancing suit ö in a short piece entitled "Movement Study II".

I went on from that comment to make the following observation:

"Three things came up last night which tend to do so when work like this (performer controlled environment) is shown.

  1. The dancer is seen Īasā an instrument or as Ībecomingā the music ö which was a comment made by the dancer, Pernille Fynne
  2. The question came up from the audience whether or not the dancer feels more empowered on stage being in Īcontrolā of the sound
  3. The audience became interactive themselves by asking the dancer just to move around, not to perform the choreography ö what the audience really want is to try on the suit themselves."
There is one group in the theater that will always appreciate being able to interact with a digital triggering system and thatās the audience. This is a short clip of a showing by Palindrome Dance Company in Germany another group working with interactive on-stage devices· where they are encouraging the audience to play with the technology. Showed video 5: from Press ESC!, excerpt tape from Palindrome Dance Company - about 30 sec. section (Palindromeās Website is http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/palindrome)
At Digital Dancing 1997, one of the projects involved the choreographer Sarah Rubidge working in collaboration with digital visual artist Simon Biggs and sound artist Stuart Jones with Big Eye which is a piece of interactive software written by Tom Demeyer from STEIM, the Studio for Electro Instrumental Music in Amsterdam. Big Eye uses a video field within which "hot spots" are programmed to respond to a particular color. So, if you wear a red shirt and move from one "hot spot" to another you will be able to trigger midi related events, like sound or video, to happen in the space. This is a very tricky bit of software, largely because it requires a highly controlled lighting environment. This is a short video clip from a rehearsal. Showed video 6: - excerpt footage from rehearsals of 3 over 9 by Sarah Rubidge and Simon Biggs - 1 min section (videotape courtesy of Sarah Rubidge)

I made the comment that in this piece projected video imagery as well as sound is triggered (which you can see from the rehearsal tape). In addition, the video images were programmed to react not only to the performers, but also to each other· which gives an option to the one-to-one correspondence mentioned earlier.

Tom Demeyer at STEIM has recently created another piece of interactive software, this one is called Image/ine and it allows you to edit video in real-time. You can download trial versions of all of this software from their website. Linked to http://www.xs4all.nl/~steim/ (STEIMās Website)
STEIMās software is not the only available software on the net, Lifeforms, dance notation, cuseeme· soon via a faster web dance videos, lifeforms choreographies and distance learning courses for choreographers will all start to travel. But still, nothing will replace the studio with a wood floor for the training of the moving body.
I mentioned earlier the change in "mode of production". While there is a shift in thinking about art in the networked digital age as a more transient, process orientated phenomenon, production ö not product ö but production remains a primary component of art making and digital art making tends to take a lot of new kinds of production. For example, in terms of money and personnel, the production of a quality CD-ROM as compared to a video requires far more people -- programmers, interface designers, testers, etc. We may be able to discuss the potential impact of a technology on our approach to dance from the point of view of changing perceptions, aesthetics, etc. ö but it is very hard to put a finger on the impact of these underlying patterns of activity ö these Īmodes of productionā. I made a reference to comments by Alex Adriaansenās (director of V2 in Rotterdam) notions about "machinic processes" which he had elaborated on some the day before in his presentation.
On the screen is playing now is an Internet dance by Richard Lord from the UK. While obviously this work exists because of digital technology which is making it possible right now for me to show it to you ö the only thing which makes it any different from a video installation which could be constructed to allow for the chance interaction of the mediatized performer (besides the physical setup) ö is, once again, its Īmode of productionā· not the process of dancing nor videotaping the dance, but the elements which are necessary to digitize it and place it in the internet medium. Linked to http://www.bigroom.co.uk/edances/pro2.html (Richard Lordās Internet Dance Progressive)

Earlier, I had started Richard Lordās Internet dance so that all the necessary Quicktime movies would be downloaded and running in the background in a different browser window when it came time to show this screen.

Essentially the process of the dancer dancing and the camera filming is the same as it was in 1940 when Maya Deren made her film.

Now here is a dance which is distinctly different along all parameters, except that it is playing on the screen. There was no live dancer, nor video recorder involved. This is a short Lifeforms dance which a friend of mine in the UK, Sue MacLennan, gave to me on a disk several months ago. For those who donāt know, Lifeforms is used by some choreographers in their dance making process· the most well known being Merce Cunningham. Started Lifeforms and loaded one of Sue MacLennanās dances. I downloaded and used the Lifeforms demo version which allows you to play, but not to save work that you might make. It is available on the Lifeformās website at http://fas.sfu.ca/css/lifeforms/

The interesting thing about some of Sueās Lifeforms choreography is she chooses to work with the Īsuperhumanā abilities of the Lifeforms figures· for example, she in one piece she has some starting the dance from the air and others from the stage, etc.

At the beginning of this presentation I asked the question, what happens now that digital technologies have entered the scene?
We began with a film clip of dance on the screen where the choreography fits within the frame as determined by the maker ö we end with a clip of dance on the screen where the way the choreography fits within the frame can be altered by the viewer who can now get inside the image· I slowly revolve the Lifeforms stage to the left so we can see the dance from the side. I then tip the stage on its side so we see the dance from directly above.
As Frank Popper writes in ĪArt of the Electronic Ageā ö "Image has become architecture, a space to visit, to explore in various ways." Popper, Frank. Art of the Electronic Age. London: Thames and Hudson. 1993.

My quote here was a little redundant as we had been shown some of the Īvirtual realityā installations they have installed at Ars Electronica in Linz and ZKM the day before.

· and also a place to participate in running gun battles and duels to the death as in the extremely popular computer game Quake. If one is looking for ideological reasons that dance and technology should be working together itās that if all the arts donāt get inside that box somehow ö then violence and aggression may take over. But it will always be an alternative space for dance, because no one is going to learn to turn a triple pirouette in there. I start Sueās Īwhite stageā dance which has an elegantly simple choreographic structure using accumulation· and itās long enough to run until the end.
But getting inside the box is not the only possibility for digital dancing as weāve seen with the internet projects, interactive stage technologies, etc. ö so in future dance and technology needs the following to develop:
  1. artistic expertise, from both the dance as well as the digital side
  2. theoretical expertise, so that a critical awareness can be fostered
  3. exchange of information with others doing similar work
  4. a place, where experimentation can happen without having to produce a product
  5. vision for where dance and technology will be in 5 years
Thank you.

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