[dance-tech] Re: post / choreographic

  • From: "nathaniel stern" <nathaniel.stern@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: ginslov@xxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2008 11:42:34 +0100

Hey Everyone.

Nathaniel Stern here; Jeanette Ginslov emailed and asked me to join
the discussion re: our collaboration circa 2001. I'm currently an
artist and PhD student at Trinity College, Dublin, writing on
interactive art and embodiment for my dissertation - more on me and my
art work is online at http://nathanielstern.com
I'll also be taking up a digital studio art post at the University of
Wisconsin - Milwaukee in the Fall.

Jeannette sent me the below email about elaborating on the term
"enfleshed machine" I used for our performance. Admittedly, at the
time, it was a bit idiosyncratic and I thought it sounded "cool"
(there must be others who have used the expression; I don't know
them), but the basic premise of my thinking stands, and so I thought I
might elaborate on what I'm up to right now in order to highlight what
we were doing then.

I'm sorry to come into the conversation late, and not as a dancer, and
with a few deadlines looming (who doesn't have that?), but glad to
take part. My only interaction with dance-tech thus far has been a
lively argument with Matthew Gough off-list at some point, where he
was making a similar critique around pinning down structure with
regards to a presentation I had given in the Real World. I think his
point around defining interactivity and incorporating long-standing
dance practices into our more recent technologies is an extremely
strong one, and worth investigating broadly for dancers and
technologists alike - although it's not where my own interests lie,
nor where my field of research has lead me.

I'm interested in putting every day gallery-goers in situations where
they explore embodiment, movement, interaction, relationality (etc...
I'll add the disclaimer, "even if that means repeating what dance
practitioners may already 'know'"). My research sits between
performance and cultural studies, and my art centers around – more
recently than this piece with Jeanette – ludic interfaces that ask
participants to frantically chase or bend or stretch after signs,
carefully stutter or quiver between texts. I'm interested in the
per-formed (rather than pre-formed) relationships between embodiment
and other emergent categories (signification, looking, the production
of space, to name a few). I mean this literally, and one fine example
is here (check out the video):

The term "enfleshed machine" was used in 2001 for several reasons.
First, I wanted it to be thought of as more than a simple "reactive
software" -- it drove Jeanette's performance just as much as she drove
the projection. I'll paraphrase Brian Massumi in saying that a soccer
ball moves the players even more so than the players kick the ball...
Second, it had a skin (the screen), a moving body-image (animated
signs and projected shadows), a body-schema (in the shared space of
inter-action), a flux of significations (the text), etc. (I'm being
reductive in some of this, but I think you get the idea). In other
words, even tho it did not have a "body" on its own, it had flesh that
might be part of an embodying process (and, I would argue along with
Jean-Luc Nancy, that there is no "body" without "bodies," no "being"
unless it is a "being-with" - and so the same would be true of me,
Jeannette, you...). Third, and probably most important, I did not want
the computer/code/hardware/software/package/thing to be thought of as
a prosthetic. That assumes a dominance that, while relevant in the
preceding coding, is much more dynamic in the moment of interaction
and unpredictability.

That's all I have time for today, but looking forward to responses and
more. Warmly,


On Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 8:20 AM, Jeannette Ginslov <ginslov@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> hi there
> i am on the dance tech list and described the 'en/traced' performance to the
> list using a quote from your web page where you say that the trialogue
> included an enfleshed machine that was referring to the camera picking up my
> movements, the highly trained and skilled dancer and the programmer. the
> list especially Johannes Birringer (Brunel university) is very excited about
> the notion of the "enfleshed machine". where did you get this from and if it
> is an idiosyncratic terminology how did you arrive at this? May I relay your
> responses to the list or would you like to join? I am sure they would
> appreciate your input.
> Their welcome note and address:
> dance-tech.net
> A dance and technology social network that aggregates and facilitates the
> flow of information and the distributed intelligence among movement, new
> media artist and theorists working in the confluence of embodied performance
> practices and new media.
> dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> You can sign in using your email address here:
> http://dancetech.ning.com/?xgsi=1
> Hope you have time to elaborate
> best wishes
> jeannette
> Jeannette Ginslov
> Director
> Walking Gusto Productions
> multimedia dance theatre
>  www.wgp.co.za



On Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 10:29 AM, Jeannette Ginslov <ginslov@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> dear matt, johannes and list
>  at the risk of repeating what other dance practitioners may have already
> said and whether anyone is interested or not, i wish to share the following
> after matt's encouragement - "if the dancer(s) are co-authors at the moment
> of performance we need to hear from them ... directly." and "the 'freedom'
> is in perception (of the performer) not the
>  underlying code or content." and "the tendency is to use technology to
> 're-mediate' the space. this leaves the performers with casual and patterned
> responses.  this conditioning remains even when the code/content/outcomes
> change."
>  in my experience during performance with interactive sites, a heightened &
> amplified sense of focus, perception and seeing, is perhaps what occurs for
> me at the moment, the gap, or place of interaction.
>  the irony is that the more one narrows and quietens the focus on that locus
> of interaction, the more it amplifies the sense of awareness of perception -
> the five senses and awareness of self, become heightened and allows for a
> discursive interaction within the self, between the many selves, feelings
> and ideas, that come alive during performance. it gets a bit 'noisy' at
> times if you do not concentrate, as they tend to happen simultaneously.
>  for this to come alive during such performances, a sense of quietness is
> necessary for intense focus and listening to occur at these loci of
> interactivity. it is as if you have to walk through a door, squeeze and
> squash the mind/body binary together, so they merge, and then you are
> through the door into another sense of perceiving the present, real-time,
> perceiving and acknowledging it, all at the same time, in your entire body
> and being.
>  then during performance i am amazed at how my senses are awakened and how
> my body memory, that includes habit and the questioning of it, comes forward
> in my consciousness for the moment of negotiation or choice, to respond. as
> part author, should i use this or that? milliseconds float by.
>  an added advantage of being the performer/"enfleshed machine" immersed in
> the constellation of possible interactions, whether they are causal or not,
> is that we have an added awareness of audience. the real 'electronic'
> machine does not.
>  the "enfleshed machine" is aware of mind and perceptual flow, seeing in
> real-time but also seeing shifts in perceptual flow and shifts in
> perspective, as if there is a constant dialogue within the performer between
> the different 'performative selves' - one is aware of the structure and
> responds accordingly, one is aware of the shifts and slight differences that
> occur at each performance, so cause and effect vary slightly at each
> performance, one is aware of mistakes and therefore new ideas and
> possibilities, one that is aware of audience and the desire to evoke an
> empathetic response in them, (if only they were you) making them as
> kinetically or emotionally engaged and in an excited/aware state, in that
> moment of connection, one that is always judging the performance as a whole
> within a cultural context aware of place in time and history, one that is
> the personal - body aches, pains, tiredness, energy levels etc, one that is
> aware of other interferences - extraneous noises etc
>  it begs the question - for whom and what is this work for? at the moment of
> co-authorship, it seems to be intensely personal, not for the consumption of
> an audience, that seems extraneous, outside of 'the moment of choice',
> unless the result is for the more spectacular. specularity then comes into
> play and alters the performer's choices.
>  the need to share what has actually happened at the interface between the
> highly skilled dancer and the machine, the myriad of different narratives
> that the "enfleshed machine" can elicit is what interests me...perhaps (dare
> i say it), at this synaptic space, no longer an empty space but a place of
> transition. an-other place. it is not an empty gap that must be leapt over,
> as in the underground from train to platform, but a substantial place filled
> and alive with history, memory, energy, electricity, spontaneity and a new
> life form. the space between is no longer 'between' but a place, an
> environment to be.
>  can we make these places unique? are these places the result of call and
> response? can there be innovation and origination in these places? how can
> the dancer give another response to alter an encoded response? can it
> challenge the machine with unexpected input, rather than "casual and
> patterned" responses?
>  the "enfleshed machine" has more to offer from its embodied data base, i
> think, than the metallic - how do we access that and what will the
> choreographic structures and outcomes be and will there be more freedom of
> choice, or will it just be the same but more complex?
>  ----- Original Message ----- From: "Matt Gough" <mpgough@xxxxxxxxx>
>  To: <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
>  Cc: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>  Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 2:10 AM
>  Subject: [dance-tech] Re: post / choreographic
> > why do i keep returning to this issue of choreography and structure?
> >
> > because if we want to talk about the experience of interacting we need
> > to know what the interactions and their phenomena are. without
> > structure, there is nothing to interact with.
> >
> > if real-time composition is our new focus are there 'trends'
> > (patterns) we can observe in the outcomes, or is it all 'unique'.
> >
> > if the dancer(s) are co-authors at the moment of performance we need
> > to hear from them ... directly.
> >
> > we also need to know what technologies they are interacting with, and
> > how they operate / communicate. not for the sake of the 'new' but to
> > read alongside the dancer(s) reports.
> >
> > jeanette also identifies a potential issue. if 'professionals' find it
> > hard to report their 'decisions' within interactive settings, the
> > public/audience will (possibly) find it harder.
> >
> > "no time for reflection and thought" ... perhaps there is a
> > subconscious following of 'choreographic habit'. following 'first'
> > impulse / memories is also considered a choreographic structure by
> > many improvisation practitioners.
> >
> > we also need to discuss how effect/affect is experienced. the
> > 'interfaces' (themselves structures) offer a limited number of
> > options. the 'freedom' is in perception (of the performer) not the
> > underlying code or content.
> >
> > we have yet to see a discussion of how to help dance-tech performers
> > 'see/experience' differently. the tendency is to use technology to
> > 're-mediate' the space. this leaves the performers with casual and
> > patterned responses.  this conditioning remains even when the
> > code/content/outcomes change.
> >
> > ...
> >
> > the concept of 'interaction' is regularly brought up on this list. and
> > always without a 'reasonable' definition. new-media theory is often
> > used to point at definitions, but (never?) improvisation practice.
> >
> > i'm wondering why we choose to exclude the extensive experiential, and
> > conceptual knowledge this practice offers. interaction and perception
> > are at the heart of improv & real-time composition.
> >
> > if we took more time to understand, and model some of its findings,
> > our interactive 'technologies' would be richer.
> >
> >
> > On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 11:04 PM, Johannes Birringer
> > <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> >
> > dear Jeanette, list:
> >
> > thanks for taking the time to elaborate your experience and your
> > thinking on "en/traced", it was very helpful,  I feel I understand
> > what you are saying quite well, and you are using a manner of
> > describing the interaction and connectedness (in this real time
> > performance) that is very evocative (and probably coming from the
> > thinking you have done about embodiment and the
> > physical/phenomenological, but also the sense of the "machinic" in the
> > physical interaction with the machine (technical,  virtual, computer
> > generated) environment  [...]
> >
> >
> >



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