[dance-tech] Re: repertory worlds and remixing

  • From: "Johannes Birringer" <Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <dance-tech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008 21:26:05 -0000

hello all:

enjoyable discussion, here at the beginning of a new year.  Matt's points are 
very well taken,. along with his replies to Marlon and the notion of 
mixing/remixing and scratching that was introduced earlier (I liked that 
interpolation a lot, as it deploys a music and Dj / Vj terminology that is 
useful for our context here). 

I think, however, in the stage/era of post choreography that is implied here, 
the issues of re-creation are complex, and so are the issues of remixing. 

Matt wrote >>>>>
it is interesting to note the desire to return to 'dance' and drop the
focus on 'tech'. much of the discussion about 'dance-tech' rep has
centered on emulating, replicating, or updating the technological
tools. what has been missing are the requirements for re-staging

- do we have suitable documentation of the concept and process(es).
- are there choreographic notes?
- what improvisation methodologies / approaches were used?
- what physical skills did the performers require?

...(clip).... works that have
new / novel features and 'challenging' contexts (in that instance the
technique and the music) need properly documenting.

to leave our work as 'once and once only' is akin to cultural self
vandalism. we should be documenting works thoroughly. that also
extends to the process / concept / method we use to make work. ....

Matt's points, and what Josephine and other added, is very helpful here, and 
maybe requires us to slow down to parse out the critical 
references made here, to dance (as an aesthetic category, or form of work), to 
context  (e.g. technology, or postmodermism, or contemporary or historical), to 
scenography (as context and as concept).  If i understand this (and context 
does not mean "aura", in Benjamin's sense, yes?),  then technologies are 
contextualizing, which is a puzzling but interesting idea, and technologies of 
course are not essentially a stable thing in themselves but are always 
evolving, changing.   some have a longer lasting impact. 

Today I listened to a musician/composer  -- Aleksander Kolkowski -- who 
presented his work (re-mixing and live doubling of old and new recording and 
instrumemtal/vocal performance techniques) ---  with "wax cylinders phonographs 
in the age of digital reproduction"  [title of his presentation).   
It was quite beautiful, and memory of course helps to play tricks on our 
imagination and our nostalgia  (grainy crackling sound, clicks , hisses,  so 
often produced by the digital vanguard and the Ryoki Ikedas.  all there on the 
old carriers, coming back as shadows to haunt us).     Aleksander founded 
"Recording Angels" in 2002, a series of  concerts which combines these 
techniques,  instruments and machines from the pioneering era of sound 
recording / reproduction ( Stroh violins , wind-up Gramophones ,shellac discs 
and wax-cylinder Phonographs ) to - now  --  make live mechanical -acoustic 

is he a re-mixer?  but a very self-conscious one , surely. (he did warn against 
fetishizing the old, though). 

It is possible to argue that not only would one need to know more about "limb" 
theory from Forsythe's improvisation technologies vocabulary, or from the sound 
synthesis programs  used by the composers (Joel Ryan et al) in these works 
created by the Forsythe Company, but also about the technical practice of 
dancing, the timing, the cues, the attitudes, the understandings of the dancers 
in these works, the way they used mics, camera, or worked with one another,  
with what they wear,  with the ligthing or the iron curtain coming down, or the 
space shifts in "Kammer/Kammer."  

I copied "Improvisation Technologies" recently for a friend, and noted it runs 
on "Classic" (Mac), OS9,  could this mean it soon won't be readable?   I will 
pass on what i know and remember from memory, then. 

anyway.   Trisha Brown's company danced Trisha Brown's familiar style and 
vocabulary in "how long does the subject linger on the edge of the volume",  
even as the dancers wore reflective markers and were captured by Motion 
Analysis and their data "treated" by Downie, and Kaiser / Eshkar( in real time 
responsive space in which the AI generated "creatures" that entered the 
projected stage space to linger a bit, move along, become attracted to the 
dancers, etc). The creatures inter-acted with the live dancers in some manner 
(as perceiced by audience watching the dance and the projections.)  

(the dancers did not interact with the creatures, though). 

incidentally, we do have a history now, also, of such projections, an evolution 
of projective media on stage.  that is an archive i see revived all the time, 
resituated, sometimes recontextualized.  more or less badly. 

But the "how long....." interactions between dance and AI software are what 
Matt is addressing, i think, and here the "documentation" may never be 
sufficient, and also the conceptual differences in the composite production 
(and all its varous elements, also including Curtis Bahn's sound./music, and 
the work done by the engineering staff at ASU, and so on) may not be so 
evident, from photos and/or video, although discursive testimony can account 
for those.    "How long..." , then, might be an interesting case of a 
collaborative dance work where the conceptual (technological and technique) 
contexts were distinct, and to some extent unaccommodatable with one another.  

many multimedia works we see, and also the playful toying (the scratched and 
improvised mash up performances Marlon champions) with tools, old and new,  may 
actually also suffer from a malaise of internal conceptual dissonance (the 
sophisticated software needs to work with retro dance techniques or retro 
"choreography"  -- non postmodern choreography unaware of its own historical 
deflation.). Projective techniques are underdeveloped,  projective materials 
and surfaces (what digital stuff is projected on) often completely underevolved 
and unreflected,  the garments worn by dancers in interactive scenarios 
underevolved (Trisha's dancers wore blue and red unisex lycra with the mocap 
markers sewed on top like warts), and the "interaction" itself, with video or 
digital projections, with sound dispersion, often much less practically 
masteredd that one would imagine.  Much of the work of the old dance-tech 
movement   was approximations. 

on the level of performer technique  (and the example of the interactive duet 
with the sensor-activated robot in the Medlin "Quartet" was already mentioned), 
 the "mastery" of such a technique and also a firmer grounding in interactional 
concepts, robotics, physics, sensor programming and data transmission, 
calibration of sensor data, etc., would seem inevitable, and therefore such 
techniques would have to be taught, and passed on from generation to generation 
in order for such works to be seen again, and perhaps,  as they are taken on by 
new performers, and different groups, evolved further along their conceptual 
cores. Dissonances could be critically re-composed, evaluated, superceded, 
reflected upon. Integral/integrated works, such as "Ghostcatching",  perhaps 
the earlier "Biped", and some newer work that integrate film and dance, or hs 
created its own mix-aesthetic  (my question to Marlon would be if scratched 
dance, using a structure of mixing and interactivity and data use, is not 
repeatable as well and thus evolves a technique and style and a rhetoric, no? 
just like any bourgeois art form --  surely the re-mix, i take this from 
Skinner and DJ Spooky, are high art forms, --no?), would then form a spectrum 
of works or forms that could be cited?    

Would one not think, in music, film, fashion, art,  etc,  that citability 
(where such citation generates a meaningful semantic resonance, texture, clue) 
is essential for a form to grow and develop (new) traditions? do not certain 
films cite (extra diegetically) grainy crackling sound in particular moments?  
How does contemporary dance cite the old dance-tech? 

The fold,  Josephine,  could you elaborate on that? 

Johannes Birringer

DAP Lab, London

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