[dance-tech] Re: history of dance & technology

  • From: Simon Biggs <simon@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 11:58:24 +0000

Trying to remember early histories is difficult. I can remember performances
in the late 70's and early 80's in Australia where choreographers and
directors were incorporating computers into the work, but cannot remember
the names of the creators. It was obscure and experimental work, rarely
resolved artistically.

I do have documentation of experiments in digitally augmented dance and
performance from the 1960's and 1970's, with people such as John Lansdown
working with choreographers. Of course Cunningham has always engaged in this
area (long before Life Forms came along). Here I think of the Nine Evenings
events in NYC in the late 1960's.

The first work I did that employed vision recognition systems and the human
body (not performance though, in the sense that the body was that of the
audience/viewer) was 1984. This was rough work and more proof of concept as
the technology involved was so exotic and "big" (it involved three
computers, one of which was a room-sized mainframe, to crunch the numbers)
and it was not until the end of the 1980's and start of the 1990's that I
was able to routinely impliment these techniques in installations.

At this time (before Bigeye) there were other softwares around, some not
especially available at the time and very much tied up with the developers
own objectives (David Rokeby's VNS for example) and others designed to be
open, available and cheap to use (Mandala from Canada). Noteably these
systems, and others like them, were mostly developed by lone
artist-developers. Bigeye was a little different in that it was developed by
an institute (Steim, a small place, but very focused and thus able to
undertake larger R+D projects than any individual artist could contemplate)
in collaboration with "client" artists whose main contribution was the
specification of capabilities (although some also contributed actual code or
z-specifications - something between code and a description of what the code
will do).

What I find most surpising in this is that 12 years later things have not
really moved on much. Yes, there is Jitter/Max MSP which is a significant
piece of academically (IRCAM) and industrially developed software with a
large developer community, but it is not dedicated to interactive systems
and performance. There is Isadora, which is dedicated in this way, and it is
a wonderful system so far as I can see, but in many ways it is another
example of individual artistic labour rather than a fully blown industrial
strength authoring environment (I can imagine Mark wouldn't want it to
become that anyway).

I have long wished for a study to be undertaken that would mount an in depth
analysis, both technical and artistic, of all such tools and systems that
have been developed over the past 40 or 50 years (yes, this area of practice
does go that far back) and have even got as far as writing such objectives
into PhD guidelines (although, as always with PhD's, the students have minds
of their own and go of and do their own literature reviews). The outcome of
such a study would be published, the objective being to facilitate the
sharing of knowledge with the longer term desired outcome being the
establishment of a research community in the field who are able to support
all participants through the open and transparent sharing of data, knowledge
and technologies. This would mean that rather than re-inventing the wheel
everytime somebody seeks to develop a new system the knowledge would be
there, in a navigable and useable form, to ensure that the next generation
of systems are an effective iteration of those that have gone before and
offer really new possibilities and capabilities.

One can dream...



On 19.01.06 09:49, "Birringer, Johannes" <johannes.birringer@xxxxxxxxx>

> thanks to Richard Povall for adding a bit of clarification on the history of
> dance technology workshops/conferences and IDATs, it illuminates further the
> various trajectories of such
> dance-technology gatherings  in North America and Europe, and the impact they
> must have had. 
> I do find it helpful to know a bit about the history of how the field, or the
> communities  (now we have such cross-overs, it is hard to keep thinking of it
> as a monolithic or defineable "d & t" affair) constructed itself/themselves,
> how the practices and the research evolved, and it would be good to have
> additional information (when did the workshops at ASU start up, how long has
> OSU been involved and in what areas of this research, since initially I think
> the interest focused to some extent on notation and on videodance; how did the
> dance on film and videodance festivals link up with the other prarctices, or
> did they/in what manner? when did Boston Cyberarts and other digital/computer
> arts festivals like CYNET (Dresden), or even the larger events such as ars
> electronica or ISEA or SIGGRAPH involve dance and technology,  how did MDF
> (Moncao) enter the picture after 1999,   what are the trajectories in other
> geographical areas and continents, are these trajectories of interest to us,
> and to our colleagues in education?
> For example, i recently tried to remember when I first encountered a workshop
> that explicitly introduced digital dance or dance-making with software and
> computer tools (beyond multimedia work with cameras, monitors, film
> projections)?  In my case it was around 1994 or 1995, which is only just about
> 10 years ago. When did LifeForms come out (1989?), when did we first work with
> BigEye (I can't remember, I think it was 1995) - and mind you, these are some
> interactive softwares we now consider ancient and perhaps, to a certain
> extent, obsolete.  What were the artistic milestones, dance works, films,
> installations, etc, which we remember along these trajectories.......
> and , now that we are talking about history (and we need to compose a better,
> up to date bibliography --  and thank you, Scott deLahunta, for sharing your
> writings with us, the many articles and reports on projects you have wrtitten
> form a considerable assett),  one could add more questions to see how these
> trajectories we are discussing have entered pedagogy and dance / performance
> training (or not)  --- for example, after 10 years of such history, how many
> dance schools do you know that include teaching Max/Msp/Jitter and Isadora in
> their composition classes?  Or when dance students study the old tapes
> (perhaps most schools still use VHS tapes, no?) to analyse choreography --
> are they given opportunities to study new dance works that were composed with
> computer tools, augmented reality, VR or motion capture data,
> networked/telematic works? are there even any criteria with which to study
> choreography generated through new software tools?  (no mention, almost no
> mention of such dance works, for example, is made in the fabulous book by Judy
> Mitoma (with Elizabeth Zimmer, Dale Ann Stieber, eds),  Envisioning Dance on
> Film and Video (New York: Routledge, 2002). But a lot of emphasis on such new
> work is given in the Anomalie digital_arts  series published in France,  and
> perhaps you know of other examples of an emerging literature on these
> subjects.   Finally, as we mentioned dance and science, and the recent
> cross-disciplinary experiments in dance and neuroscience, how have these
> trajectories entered education and our schools and research centers?  What is
> happening in such exciting, innovative research "combines" (i like this term,
> i think Rauschenberg first used it) such as the Hexagram in Montréal?  Talking
> about trajectories, i wonder how the lines and threads were running between
> Vancouver, Banff, Montréal ?
> Surely the golden globe award for the most evocative title of a research
> program goes to Bahia, where Ivani Santanta works:
> Research Group for Technological Poetics in Dance
> Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Human Body
> Dance School
> University of Bahia, Salvador, Bahia,  Brazil
> regards
> Johannes Birringer
> Houston, TX
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Simon Biggs

Professor, Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

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