[dance-tech] Re: post / choreographic

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 16 Feb 2008 18:34:38 -0000

hello list(s) and Matt:
your responses were provocative, and i start with your earlier post.......
taking up some suggestions i had thrown up regarding the possibility of 
discussing " interactive-intermedia performance as 'post

First you propose we look more closely  at the  "definition of dance and 
choreography" - and throughout your argument you are very close to formulating 
a particular conception of choreography which of course helps our discussion 
and understanding.

- 'dance' is movement presented within a performative context, where
the derived outcomes, are of equal or greater value than the movement

- 'choreography' is the making of structures in which dance occurs.

In some of your comments you are quite correct in noting that I am not always 
precise or logical.......

it seems important to include a definition of dance. although i am
aware of your past thoughts on 'not dance' they seem at odds with a
'post dance' (derived from your post choreographic).>>>

well,  i think my critique of "not dance" (Konzepttanz), or rather my relative 
melancholia and " teary-eyedness"  (with a smile at Richard Povall) about 
having watched enough Konzepttanz for a while, is not quite the same as my 
questions about an understanding of choreography not based on inherited notions 
of (well, many have said it, so did Forsythe, .."choreography as organisation 
of movement in time and space....") providing & authorizing what you call 
making of structures.   

You re right, and put me to shame, that my cursory take on common notions of 
choreography (as modern dancers  often do, when speaking of  "steps" , 
"phrases," or movement directions, and of course often such phrases or segments 
within the structure of a piece are given names to be remembered more easily 
and so on) was conceptually weak.   Much more elaboration would be necessary to 
distinguish various/differing understandings of choreographing.   

I was amazed, actually, when starting to read the interesting CORPUS pages 
collecting many artists' responses to the question "what is choreography", and 
I was most intrigued by those who think of choreo-graphy not in pure dance 
manner, or in the abstract manner that even is implied ion Forsythe's 
formulation but try to speak about what cannot be easily spoken.

[ Corpus survey on "choreography" in process. 52 artists, theoreticians, 
curators and critics declare themselves. [All texts in German and English]: 


you asked whether my key points were:
dynamic scripts, sensor interfaces, user learning (performing), no
steps/phrases. narrative, sensation, cinematic, interactional.

yes.  And then you engage me 

(post choreographic works create dynamic narratives / abstractions
through multi-media and sensor based interfaces. these
'dramaturgical' systems (and installations) are interactive and do
not require set movement phrases (choreography). the 'performers' are
users, sending and receiving 'performative' information)

in an extended argument which i found very fruitful, and I take it you think 

<<screendances are a different category of choreography. they are the post 
choreographic>>  and fall outside the live/physical structuring of the event?   
I'd have to agree of course,
although most likely the video dance makers think of 
choreography-for-the-camera as a way of composing (storyboarding, 
constructing/shooting structure for movement-imges) and directing.
It is interesting that Wim Vandekeybus thinks of himself as director, not a 
choreographer, by the way.   We can read choreography in most conventional 
videodances, and  in  fact many videodances that feature dancers (in site 
specific location shoots) look either strenuously rehearsed, awkwardly out of 
place [the stage],  or contact-improvised.  Choreography and improvisation, 
agreed, are not opposites or exclusive of one another. 

Your own positions are so interesting that we should read them again perhaps:
thinking of choreography as 'set steps' is conceptually weak. the
judson dance theater era demonstrated that choreography was about
structure, the content could be set or generative.

postmodern-dance also used physical structures (architecture,
sculpture etc.) to generate movement from the performers/audience. if
i set up tripwires in a corridor you will have to step over them (it
is the only exit route), your stepping is the dance, the wire is the
choreography. if the tripwires ring bells, we could consider this
 Now i would have never thought of putting up the tripwires as a choreography, 
as i assumed the writing of the body/inscriptions of moving (or still) physical 
bodies in a temporal flow of actions and expressions requires a dialog and a 
learning and thus a setting that is understood by the bodily intelligence of 
the performer as a motivated act (intent) and one that is motivated to be 
explored (through performer techniques) to be remembered, and i suppose (as in 
cases of musicians doing this) and perfected or virtuoso'ed.

I like your ironic definition of interactive......., and surely Richard Povall 
would appreciate it, although he has written (with Jools) very eloquently about 
the poetry of interactional performance.  Unlike Richard, I don;t necessarily 
always cry when i see interactive performances and atmospheric studies,  but i 
do look for the poetry. 

and I gather such poetry (surely the "virtuosity" part, if we remember Yvonne 
Rainer's dismissal although she probably was as polemical as I sometimes try to 
be not meaning exactly what i say as i hope we are not as literal as the 
Gunther von Hagens of the world) was not at stake in Judson Dance Theater ?  or 
was it?  How is content  " set or generative" in your example?

You argue:
-- we can think of interactive interfaces in the same way, they are
structures that generate movement. something must change to trigger a
sensor, the precursor to that change is usually movement.

-- the user might move in response to sound or visuals in a functional
(hear/see better) or interpretive manner. in all cases the arrangement
of hardware/software is the choreography. the composition and
improvisation of user/perfromer movement is emergent.

-- the use of post-choreographic might be an implication that the dance
is secondary. but that is already covered, « [...] the derived
outcomes, are of equal or greater value than the movement itself ».


i would also suggest that interactive intermedia work is not a
cinematic aesthetic, but a video art aesthetic.
>>[end citation]

In your last point, You may be right here, but I come across it occasionally, 
in such works as Toni Dove's interactice cinema:  the quality of her work is 
cinematic and also the compositional and genre aesthetics are cinematic.  So is 
Kinodance's work  (Boston), and Compagnie Nasser Martin-Gousset's (France).  
This actually raises a point one would like to see addressed by screen dance 
makers/critics, namely how much today's videodance and projection (interactive 
works on stage) pieces use video aesthetic........ or even a "trash aesthetic" 
(Blair Witch, etc, shaky-handheld camera, YouTube, Reality TV), as it's called 
in Germany and redeployed on stage in productions, for example, at Volksbühne 
Berlin,  ¨........especilly if one thinks of the randomized algorihtmic VJ 
emergences and blur factors that are favored by some artists. 

In my work with sensors, we somehow never think of triggering, never have.   
performing with sensors is continuous flow work, unless one is adamant about 
cause and effect relations, the causal, and wants to hit certain "notes", 
pitches, timbres (in sound of image-movement/anims) and thus continuous real 
time change.  Since the sensorial flow is emergent,  following your logic of 
of hardware/software as the choreography", the performance would not be 
choreographic.  But "after" the choreography.  (in the sense of After 
Shakespeare or After Hitchcock?). 

In the following, you go further ( but now suggest that screendance is not 
post-choreographic?, you had said the opposite earlier)

i think that screendance and interactive intermedia take different
choreographic approaches. neither practice is post choreographic and
both can be (partially) assessed with existing choreological tools.

the structural (but extensible & repeatable) nature of the interfaces
with the emergent (& dramaturlogical) content points towards
neo-structuralism. these practices are not an 'after', they are a
revisionist return to existing conceptual frameworks.
p.s. when reconstructing performances we must remember that stage
performance skills/techniques are very different from those required
for screen based work.
p.p.s. it seems good to be clear in our writing and thinking about new
concepts. not only should it make the work more accessible, but also
facilitate more effective/rich theory and artistic practice.
>>> [clip]

I do of course agree with your postscripts, and before you reach them, you 
again are probably quite right ---- you could assess any interactive dance or 
dance installation with existing choreological tools and also with a range of 
definitional understandings of choreography and composition.

I think my concerns in my posting came from some thought processes that had 
gone into the debate on re-creation and re-creatability of interactive systems 
performance [amongst dance-technological works]  --versus of remembered and 
rehearsed expressional content reliant on particular execution of a work's 
movement structure and gestures and energies and all the many aspects that flow 
into the entirety of what is going to be perceived, and also 
received-remembered by the audiences).  my concern then turned to newer works 
created in real time in interactional programming environments, asking whether 
we can speak of choreography in these cases.

And here i can only speak from practical experiences, recently, namely that it 
is not common now, in my opinion, to address the re-staging of interactive 
works "through choreography" in the inherited sense i had introduced above.  
(We shall be creating "Suna no Onna" again in March, here in London,  but we 
are calling it an exhibition, and don't have much time to "rehearse" with the 
interactional systems at the moment, so we plan to create a new exhibition that 
has the same name.). This is most unsatisfactory to some extent. More about 
that at another occasion. 

You talk of the neo-structural -- i need to see whether i can grasp the meaning 
of that term (and what you mean by emergent (& dramaturlogical) content  --- 
I'd have thought that "emergent" cannot be dramaturgically intended/rehearsed 
unless your dramaturgy is based on such an understanding of nervous systems, 
self-organising, intelligent and automomous systems in relationship to 
physical, moving and enacting intelligence (human agents) .....  (is content 
not intended and incipient on choices made?  or does it also emerge by 
happenstance? an accident of the reading/writing audience?) -- such that 
specific patterns are predictable and determined to happen, as well as others 
(the unpredictable ones) and that human behavior is always limited in these 
scenarios, and maybe virtuosity a contradiction in  terms when we address user 
-oriented installations where patterns and behaviors need be to learnt first.  

Limitations are a form of choreography, perhaps, and in the work i have done 
with sensors,  movement and movement expression - on one hand -  are quite 
limited/constrained.  On the other hand, the emphasis shifts from the 
choreographic to the experiential/tactile, the sensorial, and the affective,  
and affect in relation to digital environments manipulated, controlled, 
activated, effected, etc, is in my opinion a different matter from organising 
bodily movement in time and space, or putting up wires that one trips over.   
The inter-action with audio-visual environments that breathe, in an animate 
manner of speaking, in my opinion falls under the post choreographic in so far 
as the environment (presumably) is not "choreographable" in the same way.   
here is now an opening towards architectural theory, spatial theory, and also 
one would need to address action in relation to 3D worlds/environments 
containing anims, recorded motion fragments, ambling avatars, and all kinds of 
digital creatures whose behaviors may also derive from strange new 
"choreographies of 3D characters.".........

My point was precisely that "interactional"  performance skills/techniques  
[within such systems environments and programming environments ......--they are 
not necessarily structurally "set" - are they?......) are very different  and 
need to adapt to emergencies, data streams, transmission systems (in wearable 
sensors scenarios), 3D words, game engines, algorithmic languages and live 
coding,  so imagine performing in duet with live coding, how do you assess this 
choreologically, and would that be very meaningful?

with regards
Johannes Birringer

March 14, London

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