[dance-tech] Re: Glow / dance projection

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2008 00:15:58 -0000

hello all:

we recently started a brief discussion of Chunky Move's GLOW, after Marlon 
Barrios Solano's  posting of the interview videos with Gideon Obarzanek , and 
Matt Gough wrote his critical feedback regarding the notion of a "digital 
expressionism" put forward by Marlon after the interview. 

Marlon was impressed by the "choreographic essay", and his interview was indeed 
very helpful, providing us with nore inside  information on the composition and 
the completion of the work, and a view from Frieder Weiss (the 
programmer/engineer who created the interactive Kalypso software architecture), 
once made available, will also be very welcome indeed. 

Matt did however raise some challenges to the "digital expressionism,"  and i 
hoped there would be more debate..  (thanks, Matt, to your replies to 
the~POST-CHOREOGRAPHY  forum,  it is really heart-warming that one can get such 
detailed and critical response to the writing here --)
I want to cite Matt first, then add some obervations:

Matt wrote:
"i chose elements that i felt were meaningful, that i could create
some element of expression [with,] beyond just the visual effect"

the use of real-time tracking and graphics is to «free the dancer in
time and space». this is not a «no fixed points in time and space»
freedom (einstein / cunningham), the freedom lies only within the
projected frame:

"the dancer is mostly lying down so she kinda floats in the frame
rather than having a bottom and a top [.]"
"[i wanted] to free the body in the frame, it was an easy thing to lay
the frame on the floor so that the body is free to move around."

«glow» indicates a return to the renaissance perspective. works that
use single camera tracking and projection often exhibit this classical
presentation. the result is that space and time have a fixed point.
symbolic and figurative expressionism, authoring meaning via
metaphors, a fixed front . these principles / features are not reliant
on technology. they are contexualised and implemented by technology.

"[I] wanted to work with video projection mostly as a form of lighting
and actually using it from the top looking down"

«glow» uses performance technologies to contextualise (post)modernist
concerns. it is not the use of technologies as concept or for their
own sake.

the projection allows gideon to «keep [the] human form» but also show
the «otherness of ones self». this is not a tension between body and
technology, the tech is simply a tool for representation.

"i chose elements that i felt were meaningful, that i could create
some element of expression [with,] beyond just the visual effect"

How would one analyze GLOW except within a tradition//context of "visual 
effects, since the performance,  as has been pointed out,
was entirely overdetermined by the grid projection on the floor.

Interestingly, and this will only resonate with visitors to the CYNETart 
festival at Hellerau/Dresden,  there were quite a number of performance this 
last November -- all using top-down floor projection,  one of these works 
actually using a an enormous floor fieldprojection (large rectangle) dwarfing 
the solo dancer in an amazing way while also submerging her, finally swallowing 
her.  The floor interactive "plateau" was also used throughout the festival as 
an experiment for audience interaction with remote sites (using the same 
top-down projection and the same Kalypso  software interface), creating the 
test site for "tele plateaus."

A heavy emphasis on floor projection and use of video/digital graphics as only 
light source creates distinct parameters for dance and the perception of 
movement inside the lit area/motion kinetic area.  It creates a set of 
constraints  (mentioned by the choreographer himself :  " the dancer is mostly 
lying down so she kinda floats in the frame") that is produced by her having to 
lie/slide and move laterally on the floor a lot, and by being flattened, and 
not lit fully/roundly, but if lit then only through white light from the video. 
Since the digital video/animation graphics  are mostly black and white,  and 
heavily using geometric swirling lines, curves, blotches,,  the human dancer is 
silhouetted or a shadow figure almost, flailing across the nervous imagesystem 
which appears to respond/analyse her motion.   The questions that came to me 
(not about any subject, or expressionism, or self) generally remained on the 
surface agitation of the floor. the graphics move in response, very quickly, 
almost instantaneously, and so our eyes perhaps get drawn to that effect , 
these visual "effects" of what the dance seems able to generate.

"[I] wanted to work with video projection mostly as a form of lighting
and actually using it from the top looking down"

we look down on this sliding, moving,  curling, zigzagging, streaming graphic 
liquid response --- we are watching animated graphics of quite lovely, 
exquisite power, sometimes beauty, eloquence, and then, in the second half of 
the half hour performance, even a conceptual density emerges insofar as the 
shadows or light echoes of this narcissistic dream become haunting,   a bit 
uncanny even, as the lively graphic blotches & shapes (to stressful static loud 
electronic sound) are now ghosts that come back to the figure, or amass around 
her, break part and flee,  some sort of meta-physical hide and seek, not sure.  
The dancer, whom i had almost neglected, makes her presence felt again, if in 
an awkward manner  (with gurgling voice and difficult breath, as if she was 
frightened by something, then speaking gibberish, then falling silent again, 
the use of the voice made little sense to me, but i saw/heard  it as a kind of 
desperate plea,  not be to looked top down upon, as a silhouette trying to 
catch or drive away the digital animations. 

The history of projection (light) in the theatre  --  a much neglected area, 
and worth going back,  i also had to think of how such current work 
(interactive digital graphic anims) harks back to the beginning of photography 
(Muybridge, Méliès)´and film s (early) technical advances, apparatuses of 
projection, cinematographic machines.  Later,  Judson, and other contexts,  
performance art and dance casually or carefully includes 16mm or super 8 
projections, then video appears, now digital video, graphics, motion graphics.  
--- all of this relying on projection and sometimes the use of projection as 
only source of light.  Light sculptures, kinetic art (from Moholy-Nagy to the 
more recent video artists like Tony Oursler or Mona Hatoum experimenting with 
video presences and video characters).  Light patterns, graphic applications.   

How does one dance with projection as a form of lighting?  or light as drawing? 

it is rather interesting that the technical dimension, in Frieder's programming 
and composition with Kalypso, is slowly leaving the clunky feedback response 
cybernetics of Eyecon  (trigger lines and trigger dynmic fields) or any  VNS 
and BigEye follow up motion sensing software - and poses some compositional 
questions to us, whether we still see the answers as structured /choreographic 
(Gideon's work surely is choreographic in the sense in which Matt has carefully 
elaborated) or in a framework of real time telepresence / improvisations with 
"informe".(the informal/the unformed). The tele-plateau is thowing down a 
constantly evolving, responding , behaving, curling folding slipping 
image-movement, mostly completely abstract. 
The perceptional effort is enormous, and perhaps it is  synaesthetic confusion 
that begins to grab our attention, bother us, trouble us.   The motion kinetics 
challenge particular sensory perceptional rhythms in our brain and body, and 
they have an electric affect on us, no doubt.  The proximity to frames 
(strobes), increase / decrease of speed (frame rates) is worth pondering, there 
are also algorithmic questions (why did Frieder program the piece in this way?, 
what image palette does he, and others work, from?) that begin to interest me 

I felt uninvolved with the dance/r for most of the piece, emotionally left 
cold, choreographically -  i have forgotten most of the turns and turn-overs on 
the floor immediately, the apparatus (male machinery and on the floor a woman 
slithering in the maelstrom of powerful machining) predictable,   
"expressionistically" Glow is underwhelming,  and "freedom" is not quite what i 
associated......but yet, it has a certain atavistic power. I think it is 
entirely owed to the light projection, the electrical prison house that is 
drawn here on the floor beneath us.  Interactivity, naturally, begins to look 
ever more the aesthetic red herring or, to stay within grid of metaphors, the 
cul-de-sac,  it is.  The motion graphics on their own can be quite riveting, no 
doubt. As projection on top / over  a dancer,  one begins to have questions 
about the point that is made here, the synthesis, the fusion that is hinted at 
(female figure becoming light?, becoming-electrified)? 

Johannes Birringer

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