[dance-tech] Re: Glow / dance projection

  • From: Kate Sicchio <kate@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2008 17:24:48 +0000

Hi All.

I have not seen Glow 'in real time', or even the entire piece via documentation, but I know a little about it through working with Frieder Weiss and my own work with his Kalypso software.

I do have some question for those who have seen it... Johannes described feeling uninvolved choreographically. Are you loosing the dancer in the performance because of the consistantly changing responsive projection? I wonder what would happen if there was one constant responsive environment for the entire piece? What would the differences be as viewers?

The floor projections to me represent an exploration of how we are trying to remove the divide we have commonly come to know in dance performance that utilizes video projection - and that is the space between the dancer(s) and the screen. As Johannes points out, we are looking to explore a fusion here and we should question whether or not we have bridged that gap any.

Also I find the birds eye view becoming more a part of my world (or maybe I am just more aware?). Just this morning I was looking up on google maps a satelite image of the journey I was about to undertake...

I think in response to Matt's statement that 'real time tracking is to free the dancers...' may not relate to Kalypso as much as other softwares or perhaps there is less being fixed in Kalypso. Yes, this material is confined to what happens in the camera lens, but it is not confined to pre recorded material. Kalypso is almost solely based on the changing of pixels in a live feed scenerio. I've found a big difference in approaching this as a maker of work. I feel myself moving from a more narrative filmic approach and into what I would describe as expressive. I am concerned less about cinematic conventions which can be triggered and have moved into a more painterly frame of mind. So maybe we are freeing something, even if it is not the dancer from the camera...

Kind Regards

Johannes Birringer wrote:
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 

"[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 here.

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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