[dance-tech] Action, Reaction, and Phenomenon

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2008 18:53:36 -0000

Sat 11/1/2008 6:12 PM
Sent on behalf of S Klaus                

When I first started reading this post I could not help but think of Maurice 
Merleau-Ponty's theory of perception. I love his writings but I started to 
wonder how perception has changed from his time to our time.

First of all, I have not seen any of the described works in person so I cannot 
give any judgement, feedback or comments on them. However, I want to share with 
you some thoughts I had.

Do interactive video works really give us an interactive (physical) experience? 
- Personally I like to question it because our society becomes more 
vision-based rather than learning through physical experience.

The American Professor of Philosophy Andy Clark, known for his hypothesis of 
the "Extended mind", writes in one of his books about studies on motor-learning 
of infants and how their physical perception to the world changes once they 
move from crawling stage to walking one. This usually involves a re-learning of 
previously encountered experiences and how to handle them. A theory that I find 
quite interesting: how our point of view changes our physical experience and 
hence our decision making...literally physically.

I like public transport and how it gives me space and time to do and to see 
things. However, I look around and see children playing with their mobile 
phones or DS with very bad physical experience and an ignorance to their 
surrounding environment. How will these children experience an interactive 
installation without having a first-hand experience of the experience that 
interactive installation is aiming to represent or re-create?

For example, Dinkla's and Leeker's book on Dance and Technology (which comes 
with a DVD: DINKLA, S. & LEEKER, M. (eds), 2002, Dance and Technology: Moving 
towards Media Productions. Berlin: Alexander Verlag) shows a workshop that 
creates interesting interactive installations. One of them is a swing with a 
projection underneath. When the person using the swing he/she will experience a 
strange sensation due to the changing size of the projection. How will someone 
relate to this without ever having used a swing?

Looking forward hearing your thoughts!

Sabine Klaus CreationEditor

Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 19:44:45 +0100
 From: Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx
 Subject: Re: Action, Reaction, and Phenomenon

> hello all:
> not sure whether this review (below) was forwarded by Simon for us to 
> discuss, but i now have had time to read it, and am very grateful to find out 
> about this exhibition and the way (the writer says) it introduces or stages 
> participatory experiences of embodiment,  action/reaction patterns, sensorial 
> experience of ourselves/the space or environment, etc . 
> Embodiment, here applied to the interactional setting of the show, is a 
> category of phemenological assumption now used so frequently and relentlessly 
> that one must tell oneself that one ought to know what it is, and i am not 
> always sure.  Same goes for affect(s).
> i wonder whether others felt like commenting on what is written here, and how 
> you read it or sense it ?
> regards
> Johannes Birringer
> Dap Lab
> ************************
> Action, Reaction, and Phenomenon
> By Nathaniel Stern    on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008        at 11:55 am.
> In his book, Parables for the Virtual, Brian Massumi calls for "movement, 
> sensation, and qualities of experience" to be put back into our 
> understandings of embodiment. He says that contemporary society comprehends 
> bodies, and by extension the world, almost exclusively through linguistic and 
> visual apprehension. They are defined by their images, their symbols, what 
> they look like and how we write and talk about them. Massumi wants to instead 
> "engage with continuity," to encourage a processual and active approach to 
> embodied experience. In essence, Massumi proposes that our theories "feel" 
> again. "Act/React," curator George Fifield's "dream exhibition" that opened 
> at the Milwaukee Art Museum on October 4th, picks up on these phenomenologist 
> principles. He and his selected artists invite viewer-participants to 
> physically explore their embodied and continuous relationships to each other, 
> the screen, space, biology, art history and perhaps more.
> Fifield is quick to point out that all the works on show are unhindered by 
> traditional interface objects such as the mouse and keyboard. Most of them 
> instead employ computer vision technologies, more commonly known as 
> interactive video. Here, the combined use of digital video cameras and custom 
> computer software allows each artwork to "see," and respond to, bodies, 
> colors and/or motion in the space of the museum. The few works not using 
> cameras in this fashion employ similar technologies towards the same end. 
> While this homogeneity means that the works might at first seem too similar 
> in their interactions, their one-to-one responsiveness, and their lack of 
> other new media-specific explorations -- such as networked art or dynamic 
> appropriation and re-mixing systems -- it also accomplishes something most 
> museum-based "state of the digital art" shows don't. It uses just one avenue 
> of interest by contemporary media artists in order to dig much deeper into 
> what their practice means, and why it's important. "Act/React" encourages an 
> extremely varied and nuanced investigation of our embodied experiences in our 
> own surroundings. As the curator himself notes in the Museum's press release, 
> "If in the last century the crisis of representation was resolved by new ways 
> of seeing, then in the twenty-first century the challenge is for artists to 
> suggest new ways of experiencing...This is contemporary art about 
> contemporary existence." This exhibition, in other words, implores us to look 
> at action and reaction, at our embodied relationships, as critical 
> experience. It is a contemporary investigation of phenomenology.
> Near the entrance of the show, Scott Snibbe's Boundary Functions (1998) 
> begins by literalizing the fine line between publicly constructed and 
> personally constituted space, between "you (plural)" and "me." As his 
> audience members cross the threshold onto the interactive platform, the work 
> draws and projects a real-time Voronoi diagram around them. No matter how 
> many people are present (and moving) in the installation, each gets a 
> continual partitioning of exactly the same size: lines that separate them. 
> Snibbe says his initial inspiration for the work came out of a desire to 
> reveal how we relate to one another, how we define ourselves and the physical 
> space of our bodies through, and with, those around us. When he turned it on, 
> however, his revelation wound up changing that relationship itself: we 
> immediately want to use our bodies to trap or destroy or trick the piece and 
> what it re-presents. It was after seeing his own creation in action that 
> Snibbe began referring to himself as a "social artist" -- given that he 
> doesn't just reveal, but actually affects, social behavior.
> Further into the exhibition space, this is followed by Snibbe's Deep 
> Walls(2003), where viewers' shadows are recorded and played back in a grid of 
> sixteen cinematic squares. Participants dance and shake and explore with 
> their shadows between the projection and screen, and every active performance 
> snippet is stored as a silhouetted animation in one of its comic book-like 
> boxes. Each video sequence replaces one that was there before. Here, we are 
> creating embodied and dynamic signs within a greater, collaborative 
> structure; we continuously find and make our own language and meaning with 
> and through our bodies. We tell and re-tell and co-tell embodied stories, 
> through movement.
> Echo Evolution (1999) is the next work on show, produced by Liz Phillips, an 
> artist effectively working with interactivity for 40 some-odd years. It asks 
> for viewers to navigate through a large dark room, and responds with 
> real-time noise and neon lights. Where you move, how quickly you do so, and 
> where others are in relation to you and the space, all direct the piece's 
> output. Although potentially the richest piece in its complexity, the 
> non-transparency of the interaction and its rules unfortunately made this 
> work the weakest on the exhibition. Most viewers were trying to understand 
> how it worked, rather than exploring their bodies in relation to that 
> interaction. I've seen far better installations by Phillips, and think this 
> one was an ineffectual choice in the context of the greater show.
> Brian Knep's premiering Healing Pool (2008) continues his explorations of 
> biologically inspired generative algorithms. This room-sized petri dish 
> features a floor that is covered in projected "cells" that active 
> participants walk through/over, leaving tears and empty space in their wake. 
> The installation then "heals" itself by growing new cells as seams and scars, 
> never again to repeat any of its previous patterns. Knep's work pushes at the 
> conceptual boundaries of how we understand growth, healing, organic 
> structures and temporal inter-activity. It's a work that is mostly playful on 
> its surface, and extremely subtle in its visual difference over time. So 
> subtle, in fact, that it's very easy to miss its doubled gesture towards 
> emergence theory: both how simple systems can create complexity, and how our 
> embodied interactions, which seemingly change little, have lasting and 
> forever-changing effects.

> Simon Fildes

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