[dance-tech] Re: repertory worlds

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 00:26:08 -0000

[parallel discussion happening at 
http://dancetech.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=1462368%3ATopic%3A5961&page=3 ]


the back and forth debate here  on "repertory"  & transfers of (digital) 
choreographies  (while Matt refers to the "map" and the "traces" of the danc e 
and technology movement or genre) -- truly fascinates me, as i can't recall us 
ever having had such a discussion here, not even when a few years ago we looked 
at "our" history and the evolution of the practices that Nick so clearly and 
specifically explains as relying on a "language" (not yet a lingua franca],  
specific hardware or softtware, designs, and interactions between such designs 
and performers who know how to use them in a performance or choreographed work. 

I keep the previous dialogue (below), just add a few thoughts:

- for a history of these last decades that produced new works in dance and 
technology (or the parallel field of music and technology --  and that 
intersection, as an example, can be traced to the Cage "Variations V" (with 
Cunningham, Tudor, Paik, et al) in the mid 60s so often mentioned as a 
precursor piece.............,and perhaps even further back of course),  a 
reviewing of substantive pieces, in my opinion , is paramount.  it would be 

To see how such works stand the test of time and how they (as a particular 
category of artistic works using a form, such as real time synthesis or 
performance/projections or choreography/sound/video/robotics interaction) 
evolve and are re-adaptable -- this would be precisely of significant interest 
for our critical understanding of how such dance or such performance positions 
itself, how it involves, how it activates its audience receptions and 
challenges its own assumptions, how it is interpreted and critiqued, and 

- after all, Konzepttanz did much to challenge itself (its/dance's form, its 
conventions, modes and assumptions of capture & choreogaphy, the theatre as 
framework, the work-audience relationship, the notion of product/production, 
etc etc), as many disciplines have challenged themselves after postmodernism 
liked to think of the end of the masternarratives.

--  Marina Abramovich did a brilliant unexpected move [Easy Pieces, 2006] when 
she re-performed earlier performance pieces of the 70s (by Vito Accconci, valie 
Export, Joseph Beuys, etc) which we had assumed were written on the original 
creator bodies as unrepeatable signatures.....

-- you may recall Baryshnikov's attempt to restage the 60s Judson works in 
"Past Forward"......   It was criticized of course, but anyway.

I would love to do (reperform) Bruce Nauman's "Dance or Exercise on the 
Perimeter of a Square [Square Dance], 1967-68",  alongside with Trisha Brown's 
"Homemade" (1996), Nancy Holt's "Boomerang" (1974) and my own "North by South"  
(1998) or "migbot"  (1998) -- (many other works by other artists i admire i 
would invite to such a festival of repertories, alongside contemporary works 
that were mentioned, Kammer/Kammer, Ashley Friend;s new piece, Siegal's new 
piece, and the marvellous Margie Medlin QUARTET  (she showed the duet with 
robot on film when visiting us in Germany at the Interaktionslabor, i truly 
found this dance emotionally gripping, just as you say, Nick).  Did not Jerome 
Bel perform Susanne Linke as well?  

wouldn't we like to see which pieces hold up, can be bettered, can actually be 
performed?  "Ghostcatching" holds up just fine, but it is a digital 
installation.  Brown;'s collaboration with Kaiser, Eshkar and Downie on "how 
long does the subject linger on the egde....."  has been reperformed once, but 
probably is too cumbersome to be done more often as the whole gear (real time 
motion analysis/capture system) would have to be set up and calibrated each day 
and night of a run.

-- well, as far as transfers go,  our older stuff  with antique softwares (say, 
done in 1995 with BigEye) could probably be recreated (with newer software, 
like Isadora); older live dance/live projection work (in 1992 i used only 3/4 
U-matic tapes in an opera treatment of Orfeo & Eurydike) could be re-done using 
digital formats.

>>Perhaps a good yardstick 
for a dance/tech piece is: will this piece still work when the 
technology is sufficiently entrenched to not be at all interesting?>

exactly.  And it would be indeed significant to deliberate what works one would 
recreate and with what revised/updated or new (non-proprietory?) software.   
Nick's references to open source media platforms or adaptable programming is a 
vital issue for all of us, and so is "'archiving", I am afraid -- all of my 
3/4" and SVH S tapes will have to be digitized to survive, and of course older 
softwares don't run  in our current machines, so by necessity we'd be 
reprogramming the work. 

But such reprogramming is a compositional necessity that i find challenging in 
collaborative terms (same with working with sensors) as the performers need to 
retrain or reconceive as well, or re-learn (as all repertory performers would) 
what Forsythe;s company did in Kammer/Kammer.    This brings up questions of 
"scores" or scenarios for our works, and how we recompose, and how we make 
arrangements  (say, if Margie Medlin offered the robot to dance with you, and 
you'd be putting on the sensors..... and make a new piece, i suppose.
would it be a new piece?  or part of the Medlin "Quartet"?

The scholarship questions, raised in our parallel discussion on the 
dancetech-ning forum, addresses precisely such dilemma, then, a fortuitous 
dilemma, since the work under discussion here is not only or always 
regulated/defined choreography but often a form of interactional performance 
dramaturgy  (and in theatre and music, probably coming with cues in the score) 
which in each instance of a new (say, networked, improvisational, interactive) 
performance would be created new, in real time.

how do reral time pieces hold up? networked performances?   can they at all 
hold?    Cage after all had a (beautiful) score, i saw it once in The New 

participatory installations?  if you saw the Corsino & Corsino "seule avec 
loup" in Monaco,  it was a magnificent, beautiful installation, and as such can 
travel perhaps more easily  even if here too, i would argue, its participatory 
form needs to be re-evaluated and reinvested each time.  I felt in Moncao that 
its interactive scenario was obscured and unclear. The digital animations were 
not,  so i remember it as a video, not an interactive dance installation.   How 
does Ashley Friend's piece recreate itself? ("Sunshine & Dirt" involving 
Internet/YouTube users, see also her Project for Awesome: Explanation and 
Humane Societies),  Jamie Hewett's "Melt"?  how do others think about showing 
their current work in conjunction with an older piece?

My point is:   dance and perforrmance works, if they were created with a 
particular content and aesthetic form, will be recreatable and could be seen 
again, tested again, and critiqued again in new or changing contexts.  The 
amount of equipment (as Nick implies in his references to Medlin and Forsythe's 
pieces) is not quite relevant, nor the precise number of lighting instruments. 
But if the work has a software platform that is necessary for the piece to 
exist, or if the piece has particular analog or digital video scenographies or 
needs a responsive environment, then the "transfer" is inevitable.  And such 
transfers ought to be possible, no? as it has happened in all artforms and 
theatre and music forms for hundreds of years. You could perform "Variations V" 
today.  If the transfer is not possible, then the particular piece will end up 
in the dustbin or it will need to be iconographically mythologized,  so "dance 
& technology" would strive to be body art and live art, happening once and once 

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.

> They perform the historical works of Jose 
> Limon, which are decades old,  along side contemporary works by 
> Limon alum or other nearly related young choreographers. I like 
> this concept. While it keeps the history of a founder in the 
> present, the company dancers can still grow and be challenged by 
> new work.

Absolutely. And of course, many choreographers make works for other 
companies, which then go into the companies' repertoires. This isn't 
(yet) possible for technology-reliant works until there is a lingua 
franca for the actual technology components (in terms both of 
transfer between practitioners and longevity). If/when there is, it 
will be interesting to see whether there is a desire for older 
technological works to be wheeled out and shown. I don't see any 
reason why not, if they have artistic merit. Perhaps a good yardstick 
for a dance/tech piece is: will this piece still work when the 
technology is sufficiently entrenched to not be at all interesting?

In a rather serendipitous turn, I'm just starting to work with Marc 
Downie's FIELD media software platform (more information at http://
www.openendedgroup.com/index.php/software/), and have just read his 
ACM paper describing it. I don't know whether the paper is publically 
available, but I'll take the liberty of lifting out a few sentences:

"Ultimately, for our purposes in this paper, we claim that both those 
that program and those
that make art with computers find themselves very much on the outside 
of many of the forces
that shape the bases of their craft. Digital new-media artists remain 
far away from the power
centers that develop the technology upon which their media is based 
in a way that is almost
unrecognizable in the history of other "new media". The development 
of photography, film, and
even video have all been marked by an integration of practicing 
artist and technical
development. But today, such digital artists remain largely parasitic 
on hardware developments
driven by computer games and software advances driven by the needs of 
either commercial
design or Hollywood production. This is at least echoed in digital 
artists' relationship to their
tools as well as in the kinds of relationships that these tools offer."

This seems to resonate with the point I made yesterday about artists' 
reliance on proprietary technology designed with other markets in 
mind - often, the business model works against efforts to open or 
share the technology in ways which are amenable to repertory.

> Exactament! And, while we are at it, can we get rid of Post-
> Modernism too!

Aw, no - I'm a bit of a fan.

> I did not go see Richard this weekend, even though I could have. I 
> am sorry that I missed it but I am taking a little time off from 
> seeing anything right now. But, hence the comment about Kammer/
> Kammer is exactly what I hope for all of us D&Ter's. Just make the 
> work using whatever methods you use and promote it's concept/
> content rather then it's gizmo's. Nuff said.

...except when publicity and marketing demand to use the technology 
to sell the work, because it's easier to talk about and photograph. 
This problem is as big an issue in music as well as dance 
performance: many of the times I've been interviewed about arts 
projects, it hasn't taken long for the line of questioning to get 
around to "so, tell me about the equipment you're using here".

But sometimes, I think, it's possible to get the balance just right 
and hit a sweet spot. In Margie Medlin's QUARTET project (http://
www.quartetproject.net) we had huge quantities of technology, but (in 
my opinion) the most successful vignette was a relatively simple, but 
very moving, duet between a dancer and a motion control robot. The 
technology is very apparent, but its anthropomorphism allows the 
piece to work on an emotional level. (Similar, I suppose, to the 
Compagnie Beau Geste performance with the mechanical digger: http://
www.danceumbrella.co.uk/festival_artists_BeauGeste.html . Is that a 
dance technology piece?)

> Was this the kind of wrap around score program that was kind of 
> like a musical score with different colors that represented 
> different phrase material...or something to that effect? I remember 
> talking with you and Michael about this years ago at Sadler's 
> Wells...software for dancers maybe?

Yep, that's the one. (I don't know whether this mailing list is 
archived, but Scott deLahunta posted a detailed interview in May 
2002.) We didn't get the support necessary to build any kind of 
generic platform, so the pieces we made at Ballett Frankfurt used 
bespoke software. Already (six years on) it would take a bit of 
effort to get them working again on current hardware.

        -- N.

Nick Rothwell / Cassiel.com Limited

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