Here's a totally rad podcast with a really weird MFA candidate from the University of Minnesota. Repping my most recent home state, and also thinking of Tara and other people working in ephemeral books.
Interesting multi video project.
Picture is converted in ASCII and sent via USB to the Arduino board. The board control the two stepper motor of the old printer. A pen (Pentel) draw on paper…
I'm finally on the blog and I thought I'd start by pointing out an awesome new tool for the Intermedia arsenal. It's called "Raspberry Pi" - A fully functioning computer the size of a credit card, capable of running linux. It's been designed with beginners in programming in mind, but it's no slouch. It can output full 1080i hd video from its hdmi port. It's also got a low def video output squeezed onto it. Something this powerful and this small would be awesome for any installation running interactive elements, or even just to loop video. It also uses very little power and doesn't heat up, so sure you could hide a laptop in the ceiling for most applications, but this thing could be very discrete if you're dealing with a gallery that doesn't want you drilling holes. Plus (if you can believe it) they cost less than 40 bucks, which means if you're planning an outdoor installation you could "hide" it outdoors and not worry about someone walking off with it like you would if you were using a mac mini or a laptop.
Here is a link to the video that I saw this morning-
And here is a link to the developer's website. There online store is down at the moment, my guess is a million other people saw that video this morning and crashed it...
Brion Gysin was a subversive. Gay, stateless, polyglot, he had no family, no clique, no fixed profession, and often, no fixed address. He claimed no religion, and no credo, save that humans were put on this earth with the ultimate goal of leaving it. Working simultaneously with painting, drawing, collage, sound, literature, performance, and something more ineffable that can be called perception, he created a body of artwork that was wildly uneven, radically interdisciplinary, and virally influential.
Gysin has been called an “idea machine,” and he made pioneering discoveries in painting, poetry, sound, performance, and kinetic art over a period of less than a decade at the beginning of the 1960s that continue to have significance today. He was generous, almost carelessly so, with his innovations, investigating some—like the disentanglement of the symbol from its received meanings—for his entire artistic life—and gifting others, like the Cut-Up Method, to his friend the writer William S. Burroughs, who used it with inspiration in his most famous literary and visual arts efforts. Although painting and drawing were his first, and throughout his life, preferred, means of expression, Gysin wrote both prose and poetry as well as at least one screenplay, and performed and composed song lyrics. To him, the disciplines of painting, drawing, writing, and performance were equal as means of expression, if not interchangeable.
Gysin’s visual art production from 1958 until his death in 1986 can be divided chronologically and formally into four bodies of work, which include his calligraphic paintings and drawings; Permutations of words in written form, sound, and performance, which developed simultaneously with the practice of the closely related Cut-Up Method that culminated in The Third Mind, a book-length collage collaboration with William S. Burroughs; the Dreamachine, a work of kinetic art meant to be apprehended with closed eyes; and photo-based collage and montage created in the last decade of his life. Most of his works, though, integrate elements of more than one of these individual periods: calligraphic paintings in 1961, painted in the hot oranges and yellows familiar to Dreamachine users, also might include permutated poems; performances of permutated poems might include the projection of slides hand-painted with Gysin’s personal calligraphic mark; and photo-collages from the late 1970s feature Gysin’s signature grid pattern, applied by a roller the artist modified in 1961. Gysin was born in London in 1916, and spent his childhood in Edmondton, Alberta. At the age of eighteen, after English boarding school, he moved to Paris, a city to which he would return to for extended periods throughout his life. Spending the 1940s in New York City, he crossed paths with Surrealist artist exiles like Roberto Matta and Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock. In 1950, Gysin moved to Tangier, Morocco, where he spent almost a decade, painting, writing, running a restaurant, and listening to the incantatory music of the pipe players from the village of Jajouka.
This exhibition starts in 1958, when, at age forty-two, Gysin relocated to Paris and began a sustained period of discovery and artistic production. It was also the year that he moved into a cheap residence hotel on the Left Bank, at 9 Rue Gît-le-Coeur, and became close friends with William S. Burroughs, who was living there along with other Beat generation literary lights like Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Gysin’s four years at the so-called “Beat Hotel” would be the most productive of his entire career. All of Gysin’s subsequent work until his death from cancer in 1986 has its roots in the innovations of these years in Paris.
This reassessment of Gysin’s all-but-forgotten body of artwork is an exercise not only of recuperation into art history, but equally importantly, of recontextualization into the discourse of contemporary art. Twenty years after his death, the depths of his discoveries, and the strangeness of the journey that led to them, have found new significance among contemporary artists who are seeking multidisciplinary models of inquiry, and roadmaps out of the merely everyday and into a more metaphysical realm. The Dreamachine, with its promise to make all who use it visionaries, and the Cut-Up, a perfect visualization of the remixing and re-presentation of information on the Web, are as provocative and relevant as they were when they were created fifty years ago.
This exhibition is curated by Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator.
Mark B.N. Hansen
Foreword by Timothy Lenoir
In New Philosophy for New Media, Mark Hansen defines the image in digital art in terms that go beyond the merely visual. Arguing that the "digital image" encompasses the entire process by which information is made perceivable, he places the body in a privileged position—as the agent that filters information in order to create images. By doing so, he counters prevailing notions of technological transcendence and argues for the indispensability of the human in the digital era.
Hansen examines new media art and theory in light of Henri Bergson's argument that affection and memory render perception impure—that we select only those images precisely relevant to our singular form of embodiment. Hansen updates this argument for the digital age, arguing that we filter the information we receive to create images rather than simply receiving images as preexisting technical forms. This framing function yields what Hansen calls the "digital image." He argues that this new "embodied" status of the frame corresponds directly to the digital revolution: a digitized image is not a fixed representation of reality, but is defined by its complete flexibility and accessibility. It is not just that the interactivity of new media turns viewers into users; the image itself has become the body's process of perceiving it.
To illustrate his account of how the body filters information in order to create images, Hansen focuses on new media artists who follow a "Bergsonist vocation"; through concrete engagement with the work of artists like Jeffrey Shaw, Douglas Gordon, and Bill Viola, Hansen explores the contemporary aesthetic investment in the affective, bodily basis of vision.
See more of the book: http://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Media-Mark-B-N-Hansen/dp/0262083213
Visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle.
When the data is the social graph of 500 million people, there are a lot of lenses through which you can view it. One that piqued my curiosity was the locality of friendship. I was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. I wanted a visualization that would show which cities had a lot of friendships between them.
I began by taking a sample of about ten million pairs of friends from Apache Hive, our data warehouse. I combined that data with each user's current city and summed the number of friends between each pair of cities. Then I merged the data with the longitude and latitude of each city.
At that point, I began exploring it in R, an open-source statistics environment. As a sanity check, I plotted points at some of the latitude and longitude coordinates. To my relief, what I saw was roughly an outline of the world. Next I erased the dots and plotted lines between the points. After a few minutes of rendering, a big white blob appeared in the center of the map. Some of the outer edges of the blob vaguely resembled the continents, but it was clear that I had too much data to get interesting results just by drawing lines. I thought that making the lines semi-transparent would do the trick, but I quickly realized that my graphing environment couldn't handle enough shades of color for it to work the way I wanted.
Instead I found a way to simulate the effect I wanted. I defined weights for each pair of cities as a function of the Euclidean distance between them and the number of friends between them. Then I plotted lines between the pairs by weight, so that pairs of cities with the most friendships between them were drawn on top of the others. I used a color ramp from black to blue to white, with each line's color depending on its weight. I also transformed some of the lines to wrap around the image, rather than spanning more than halfway around the world.
After a few minutes of rendering, the new plot appeared, and I was a bit taken aback by what I saw. The blob had turned into a surprisingly detailed map of the world. Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.
Later I replaced the lines with great circle arcs, which are the shortest routes between two points on the Earth. Because the Earth is a sphere, these are often not straight lines on the projection.
When I shared the image with others within Facebook, it resonated with many people. It's not just a pretty picture, it's a reaffirmation of the impact we have in connecting people, even across oceans and borders.
Paul is an intern on Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team.
Keeping up with art is hard; trips to galleries, enormous books, and costly bi-annual magazines are just a few of the many expenses you will incur during the process of attempting to stay current with art. While the challenge and difficult of this proposition would seem to actually attract more white people than dissuade them, the amount of work required to become and remain an expert on art is simply too much for the majority of white people.
Of course there are exceptions such as the people who have invested both their money and their lives into the appreciation of art: people with Art History Degrees. But as you have probably noticed, they have very little value to both you and society. The latter is evidenced by their annual salary while the former is to be determined on a person by person basis.
Currently, the artist who is both cutting edge and easy to keep up with is Banksy, and white people love him. He is anonymous, British, easy to understand, and he works in the medium of graffiti! This last bit is very important since all white people consider graffiti to be art when it looks like something other than a bunch of squiggles. In every other instance, they consider it vandalism.
As with any conversation involving white people and taste you should be forewarned that you are walking into a potential minefield. However, art does not work the same way as Indie Music when it comes to the need to like the obscure.
Here’s how it works: if you say your favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, MC Escher or Monet, you will appear as though your taste in art is derived entirely from college posters. This is unacceptable. Conversely, if you list Jeff Koons, Laurie Anderson, Damien Hirst or Basquiat, you’ll look like you are trying too hard but don’t really know what you are talking about. Chances are that white people will assume your art education consists entirely of documentaries, bio pics, and looking up references from Gossip Girl on Wikipedia.
Finally, if you list your favorite artist as a current, bleeding edge visionary who white people have not heard of, they will immediately recognize you as a threat and dislike you. It is also a certainty that they will call you pretentious behind your back.
Needless to say, it’s complicated. But Banksy is just right. He’s just edgy enough to be outside of the mainstream, but popular enough to be available in coffee table book form at Urban Outfitters. Though if you spot this book on the coffee table of a white person it is strongly recommended that you imply they got the book at a Modern Art Museum gift shop and not at an Urban Outfitters. This will make the evening far more enjoyable for everyone concerned.
If you find all of this to simply be too much work and wish to ensure that white people will never speak to you about art again, there is an easy escape. Simply mention your favorite artist is Thomas Kinkade and that you are in negotiations to purchase an original from the store in the mall. This will effectively end any friendship you have with a white person.g
The essay focuses on the processes of intermedia in visual media. The author's analysis of the merging of still, moving and computed images reveals that, in intermedia, images tend toward a spatial, rather than temporal, organizing principle. This shift becomes evident in particular in the moving images in such electronic films as Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books. The limits of intermedia in the electronic medium are unfolded in the concept of the coherent image by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Another concept of compression and convergence is demonstrated by Clea T. Waite in her crossing two- and three-dimensionality in a video installation.
Taking as a starting point the contemporary debates of intermedia describing the phenomena of crossing the borders between traditional media (such as painting and photography) and contemporary media (such as cinema, television, video, computer and other hypermedia), my essay opens the question of how we may consider the shift in the arts that is caused by new technologies. What I am interested in is to show how the interrelationships between analog and digital media result in new forms of media arts. For instance, when different types of images are correlated and merged with each other on the borders of painting, photography, film, video and computer animation, the interrelationships of the distinct elements cause a shift in the notion of the whole image. In particular I discuss the processes of transformation effected through convergence of elements of different media. The characteristics of intermedia may be identified in certain forms of the image, when elements of the static and the moving image are interrelated to create a third form of the image. For example, in the domain of cinema an intermedia state of the image occurs when filmic processes of imaging based upon the interval are used in combination with digital tools (such as the graphic paint box) and elements of hypermedia (multi-dimensional and omni-directional, namely multiple layers). The resultant mixed form of the image may reveal the continuities and similarities and also the discontinuities and changes between analog and digital images, in particular when both are combined in the electronic collage.
Such a shift is made visible, for example, in Peter Greenaway's electronic film Prospero's Books (1991), which merges analog and digital media in a mixed form--the result is a category of media arts known as intermedia, in which elements of differing media images are combined and transformed to create a new form of image. Greenaway produces a new type of image through the simulation of movement when he electronically animates single frames of phase photography. The result is not the moving image generally known in film; rather the re-animation of the static images results in a paradox: the electronic moving image here presents a static and a moving image at the same time. The paradoxical structure means that the interval that separates and connects the different phases of the photography is made visible within a single frame unit--and that is the new quality--while at the same time the continuity of filmic movement is also represented. Mobile and immobile parts of the image are interrelated within one single frame that is digitally processed with the use of a graphic paint box. [End Page 55]
In Prospero's Books Greenaway uses the formal device of a frame-within-a-frame structure to visually express and unfold the contradictory dynamics and directions of a paradoxical image form. These paradoxes in the moving image can only be shown in the electronic simulation of photographic (still) and cinematic (dynamic) images. For example, when the image is divided into different frames, different types of movement are shown within these frames so that each single section has its own specific movement structure. On the surface of an electronically held simulation of freeze frame, the inter-frame movement of any figuration seems to run endlessly in the same location on the film frame without really moving. The video still unfolds the simulation of transfiguration, which can, but does not have to, correspond to natural types of motion. In contrast to the dissected segments in phase photography, the computer-animated images are speeded up to a high degree, whereby speed represents a variable dimension in the composition. The digital re-animation of a freeze frame from phase photography using the paint box cannot be compared to serial photography (e.g. Muybridge, Marey) (Color Plate A No. 1).
The two levels of the mixed image are divided by the use of immobile framing, where the frame-within-a-frame device functions as a digital collage: filmic figuration is represented in the outer frame, and computed simulation of figuration in the inner frame. While the outer frame shows the conventional cinematic moving image that expresses the linear narration of the fiction film, the embedded inner frame is reserved for processed, transformed images that result from the manipulation of previous forms of the image (such as photographic or filmic images). Within these immobile inner frames, the computer animations may produce the effect of continuously moving animals, each within its own image plane, or of a geometric drawing turning around its own axis, thereby engendering three dimensions. The key images of animals or human figures in motion seem to produce continuous movement, but insofar as these animated figures are keyed within a static form represented by the immobile inner frame, the structure of the inner movement collides with the movement represented by the outer framed section--that is to say, the entire frame unit. The effect that occurs is that each animal set in motion through electronic simulation seems to move on its own image plane within the inner frame. At the same time, the outer part of the image maintains the linear continuity of the film.
This paradox of a static and dynamic image results from computer animation insofar as the velocity of the images is varied within one single frame unit. Through the use of digital media, the correlation between static and dynamic images, between photographic and filmic images, can demonstrate how still images can be transformed. This transformation of different types of images, which causes a shift in the organization of the whole image, I will call "intermedia."
It is important to emphasize that intermedia is a formal category that defines an interrelationship between or among distinct media that merge with each other, such as a photographic still image reworked in a film or video. The concept of intermedia, however, differs from mixed media and multimedia (the synchronous occurrence of different art forms within the frame of one integral medium such as theater, opera, film performance), and it is historically linked to the context of intertextuality and intermedia that emerged in print and visual forms of early twentieth-century avant-garde art. In his research on the correlation of word and image in Russian modernism, Aage A. Hansen-Löve discusses the differences between the concepts of intertextuality and intermedia in relation to a system of different art forms, saying that the intertextual indicates a shift within a single art form . Intertextuality addresses a text-text or film-film relationship and should be distinguished from [End Page 56] intermedia, which relies on the interrelationship between two different art forms that have developed separately but through the correlation effects a type of transformation that involves the historically different development of media as well.
First, intermedia differs then from multimedia, which correlates different media that are presented together synchronously yet remain distinct. Second, intermedia goes beyond mixed media, which incorporates elements of one medium in another (e.g. photography in film, painting in photography.) What is essential to intermedia and intertextuality as well is the category of transformation. But where intertextuality
expresses a text-text relationship, intermedia means that the reference frame of the entire system of art forms that mediates the intermedial correlation is itself included in the processes of transformation. In relation to visual media, then, this definition of intermedia inherently implies that the processes of transformation are reflected in the form of the images, because it is through the modes of self-reflection that the structural shifts characteristic of new media images are mediated and made visible. The point is that the transformation of elements of at least two (historically) different media creates a new form of image that reveals these differences in a mixed form and mostly reveals the self-reflexivity of the medium in a paradoxical structure.
Film images that are reworked or manipulated with video and computer technologies indicate a visible shift in the cinematic image only insofar as the photographic and cinematic and their related technologies of image design are literally confronted with digitally processed types of moving images. Peter Greenaway has produced just such a striking example of intermedia aesthetics in Prospero's Books, by reworking the interval that relates to photography and film on the digital level to create an image cluster that relates the static and the moving images to each other. The aesthetic function of the interval is important for any comparison of different visual media, i.e. film, video and digital, insofar as it represents a shift within temporal categories. However, whereas the function of the interval has been used in the history of film to express a specific temporal feature of the cinematic image--that is, simultaneously to stress temporal difference and to mediate continuity between two juxtaposed elements--in electronic film the interval may be transformed into a different type of image that is no longer film. When the interval is reworked through electronic processing to create the simulation of a still image that effaces the gap, the resultant type of image is a cluster.
By the cluster, I mean a type of image that is widely used in electronic media through the multiple layerings of different images or image elements, resulting in a spatial density. A cluster, more precisely a visual cluster, implies a simultaneity of different layers within one single image unit; as a term, it can be applied to both film and video, but in particular to electronic images that tend toward the point of absolute density within a frame. What is crucial is the fact that a cluster does not take place as a series but as a spatialization of the moving image. With the cluster and the interval, I introduce two categories of intermedial relations. In this instance, the interval accounts for the temporal notion of the image, whereas the cluster relates to the spatial organization of the image. Thus, the structural elements that are specific to different media, such as the interval and the cluster, are correlated in Greenaway's Prospero's Books.
I introduce the term "electronic film" to describe artworks that basically rely on moving images but also integrate features of painting, photography (static image), film (dynamic image) and the computed simulation of the two (digital image). The correlation and the merging of images that take place in the electronic [End Page 57] simulation, where simulation means an aesthetic operation on the surface of the image, help to create an intermedia design visible on the surface of the image. This is different than in film, where the structure of film may be distorted by the interval such that the linear organization and the image velocity are manipulated. The electronically simulated image effects the cinematographic moving image such that particles of the image are accelerated or slowed down; the gradual succession of images will be stopped altogether in the electronic still image. Temporal features may collapse into spatial, and vice versa. Finally, the spatial features of the electronic film tend to become an element in the merging of film and computer in a new digital cinema where the linear structure of film is disrupted by multiple layers.
Through the dominant use of clusters in electronic film to replace the function of the interval, Greenaway in Prospero's Books aesthetically explains the shift from the temporal to the spatial organization of the image. Self-reflection is found in the visibility of the heterogeneous elements that are put together to build a cluster. Greenaway is more interested in showing the incoherence of the clusters than in producing coherence through the use of matte effects or further layers. Thus, self-reflection is a means to make the twofold function of visual clusters evident: on the one hand, the cluster produces spatial density through coherence and fusion; on the other hand, a cluster may stress and mediate the discontinuity between layers. Greenaway compares the constructing principles of the interval and the cluster at the level of intermedia, in that he simultaneously deals with forms of the static and dynamic image in relationship to the digital (computerized) image. The result of this correlation is a structural comparison of different media that is effected by the collision of different types of movement and velocity within the unit of one single image. This collision of different media images in the cluster I will call a "hyperdynamic image position."
The hyperdynamic image position represents a point of collision in which the structural differences between the two types of images, the static and dynamic as they have emerged in analog media, are confronted with digitally processed images at the level of electronic representation. The paradoxical structure of the collision becomes visible in the mixed form of the image that reinforces the processes of transformation. The temporal features of film as represented through the concept of the interval are thereby turned into image forms of spatial density and simultaneity. The hyperdynamic image position expresses an intermediate step between different visual media, where the moving and the still image collide in the (spatial) density of a cluster. Finally, it declares on the electronic level, which here is the intermedia level of comparison, that the distinction between the media is an essential issue in intermedia. Only that which is distinct and separate can merge.
However there are limitations to this as a conceptual definition of intermedia. In [End Page 58] his HDTV (high-density TV) videofilm Kafka (1992), Zbigniew Rybczynski develops the concept of a coherent image and exposes the shift from analog to digital when he performs processes of multiple layerings that reveal on the representational level that the distinction between media is not relevant. Rybczynksi uses the device of motion simulation to create the effect of a coherent image that encompasses up to 70 layers within one single unit. With the use of a camera motion control system that had been specially developed for this film, Rybczynski makes the possibilities for temporal and spatial camera movements infinite (Fig. 1). The motion control system navigates the simulation of the camera movements to create complex composite shots (Figs 2, 3):
A character in Kafka may appear in several places within the same shot, or may walk away from a character in one room only to encounter himself playing a different character in another room--all within the same takes. . . . Like pieces of a puzzle, the actors and the set's floors, ceilings and walls are photographed separately and then matted together, creating composite images made of up to 70 layers. . . . Because the actors are moving on rotating turntables, they are not bound to the physical limitations of the studio and can go anywhere. The same is true of the camera .
The composite images are built into moving clusters that hide their layers and edit points in order to produce "a seamless, smooth movement into the next location" . Such means of creating layers results in high spatial density and deep focus of an image type that rather reassembles processes of digital images but performed at the analog level. On the edge of digital media, Rybczynski further develops the means of analog media in order to achieve similar effects. The coherent image does not reveal its construction principles. The notion of this image is not self-reflection; on the contrary, it represents the limits of the intermedia image because the differences between the different elements are no longer made visible.
Thus, the coherent image of Rybczynski and the hyperdynamic image position of Greenaway exemplify two different conceptualizations for relating elements of different media to each other. The coherent image makes invisible the techniques of merging and layering. In opposition, Greenaway's incoherent image is categorized as intermedial essentially based on the differences that can be recognized. The differences are expressed self-reflexively in the form and shape of the artwork. Transformation here has a twofold meaning: one concerns the dialogue between distinct elements that merge into each other; the other one is the collision of separate elements.
Collision results from elements of moving images and of static images that are contrasted to each other in the form of another medium, for example, in a computed image. In collision, the different media elements do not entirely lose their attachment to their old media: they are still recognizable as, for example, photography and film brought together. At the representational level, the collision is performed within a structure of exchange that makes clear the combined coherent and incoherent aspects of both elements. Exchange means another structural category, namely the entire setting of interrelationships where the visible interval in film can reveal its photographic quality, or where the concept of a series in painting may evidently relate to film, and vice versa. In exchange, the media-specific types of images would be reworked in other media at the level of form. The transformation is the new visible form that results from collision and exchange, for example the hyperdynamic image position itself. Transformation thus becomes a structural category that expresses the ways that those different elements are connected and merged into each other, thereby creating a new form.
The form of an intermedia artwork is thus defined then not only by collision but also by the exchange and transformation of elements that come from different media, such as painting, photography, film, video and other electronic media. Intermedia therefore is a formal category of exchange. It signifies an aesthetic encompassment of both form and content. In an intermedia work of art, content becomes a formal category that reveals the structure of combination and collision. The related meaning of content is to express such modes of transformation that are effected by the collision of painting and film, of film and electronic media, and so on. The contextual meaning of intermedia is to reveal the media forms themselves. The making visible of elements that are considered media specific can be performed by ways of comparing and transforming elements such as the interval.
Intermedia is a concept of merging based on historically separate developments. In the case of digital media, various types of media are integrated--that is, they merge with each other within the same technical structure. As German computer scientist Wolfgang Coy says, "All written, optical, and electric media with the use of microelectronics and [End Page 59] computer techniques finally will merge into one universal digital medium" . This universal medium is often named "hypermedia," thus signifying a multidimensional structure. The computer is a building block for creating new hypermedia. Hypermedia, the term introduced by Ted Nelson  to describe media that perform "multidimensional ways" of branching, allow one to move in a non-linear way through information. The point is how to access different media; the distinction between media is not the issue in hypermedia. Multidimensional connectivity and interactivity, which are associated with hypermedia, do not rely on the same transformation category that is essentially the concern in intermedia. The non-sequential structure in the first place indicates an option to connect each single digital medium to another one. Networking in hypermedia differs from that in intermedia, in which the connection of different media always involves a transformation.
As said, intermedia differs not only from hypermedia but also from multimedia and mixed media. Both multimedia and mixed media are comparable to hypermedia insofar as they describe the expansion of a single medium in terms of accumulation rather than of transformation. In his essay on intermedia, Dick Higgins describes the different concepts: "Intermedia differ from mixed media; an opera is a mixed medium, inasmuch as we know what is the music, what is the text, and what is the mise-en-scène. In an intermedium, on the other hand, there is a conceptual fusion" . For example, multimedia and mixed media art forms, in particular avant-garde art, can be identified within happenings, Fluxus performances, or related events that combine live art and film. All these connect and combine different art forms on a level that does not necessarily involve changing the structure of each single medium .
The consequence is that intermedia in visual culture is best established by modes of self-reflection. Self-reflection in this instance is a medium-specific strategy that is used to link formal aspects of different visual media, such as painting, film and electronic media. In particular, those forms of an image that have occurred in one single medium undergo a process of remodeling and reshaping when they are transferred into the context of another visual medium. Transferring results in transformation when the structural elements of both media are made evident and visible in a form that reveals their differences. Because self-reflection reveals simultaneously those elements of incoherence and those of coherence, it seems to be an appropriate device to expose the specific interrelationship of two different media. Thus, self-reflection is the most striking device to make clear the twofold structure of transformation, by revealing the ways that different media can be connected in one form. In visual culture, an intermediate state of art occurs when the forms of different media collide in another form effected by transformation.
In the 3D video-installation Kur (1997), Clea T. Waite disassembles the twofold structure of intermedia. The installation consists of four screens, each large enough to represent human movement on a life-size scale. The screens are spatially arranged to form a square. The viewer wears 3D glasses and enters into the middle of the square, where it is impossible to see all the moving images on the four projection screens simultaneously. This is crucial to the concept of the installation, since the four screens present four different versions of the same story about a Sumerian myth. Therefore, the viewer of the installation necessarily has to select which of the different versions he/she wants to see (Fig. 4).
Kur represents parallel time in a three-dimensional simulation of space that reveals the concept of time in space and simulates how different times may exist parallel to each other. The work simultaneously merges different moments in time into one single image and presents the presence of parallel time on four screens. The duality inherent in this concept is expressed by specific image devices: (1) the electronic flicker is used to represent simultaneously two different times; (2) digital feedback makes visible the time trail and produces an aesthetic effect that creates a spatial sculpture that makes visible different moments in time (Fig. 5); (3) particle effects result from the reworking of density and show the distortion and the re-creation of images (Fig. 6). By compressing and decompressing space in time, this process exemplifies a transformation between different forms of images. Kur shows time images that merge into space and spatial images that merge into time. What is important is that the differences and distortions are made visible within the image itself (Fig 4).
Waite's video installation uses digital video to show the emergence of forms of media self-reflection, where the possibilities of a two-dimensional image simulation are expanded onto the level of three-dimensionality. Waite's simulation [End Page 60] image and the one developed by Rybczynski both indicate an expansion in electronic features of the image. They are both concerned with the spatial and temporal dimensions of the image. In particular, they stress the concept of space. The hyperdynamic image position adopted by Greenaway acts as the turning point of time and space that is visible within the paradoxical structure of the image itself. These examples show how media-specific devices change their form and function in an intermedia form of the image so that the temporal concept of interval and the linear structure of montage are opposed by features with reversed functions. In these examples, it is mainly the devices of clusters and multiple layerings that effect a conceptual turn in linear montage when collage elements of spatial density are integrated.
The shift from the temporal to the spatial thus occurs on the level of image design and does not indicate a change of paradigm. It signifies an aesthetic tendency that becomes evident at the structural level when the use of certain aesthetic devices, such as the cluster in electronic images, causes a shift in preference from the temporal to the spatial organization of the image. To avoid any misunderstanding at the level of discourse, I want to make it clear that the phenomena I have discussed as causing a shift from temporalization to spatialization in the organization of visual elements should be discussed and valued in aesthetic terms. The argument that new media images, in particular electronic and computed images, indicate a shift from the concern with temporal features to a preference for spatial features should not be mistaken as a statement claiming a change of paradigm. On the contrary, with regard to Niklas Luhmann's definition that what signifies a change of paradigm requires stating a change in media , we are not dealing with an essential difference in media, but with a categorical difference in aesthetics. What is different here is rather a shift in the notion of the image, mainly effected by the use of electronic devices.
In summary, intermedia is a conceptual term. It should be applied in the first place to a specific type of transformation between different media. Secondly, the term intermedia indicates the structure of a transformation that is effected by a collision of elements taken from different media, and it is an identifiable aesthetic device in the media arts. The term intermedia is useful then on three levels: as a transformation category, as a structural term, and as an aesthetic device.
The discourse on intermedia encompasses an aesthetic practice in media art, the structure of cultural and artistic processes, and a technological metaphor, whereas the distinction from multimedia or hypertext is not so clear. Conceptually the meanings of "inter," "multi" and "hyper" are not coherent, and the incoherence of their naming points to a larger problem that lies within the phenomenon itself. The descriptions of all these phenomena shift, depending on the discourse. Similar phenomena may be described with different terms; different aesthetic practices are subsumed under the rubric of intermedia. Within media studies, for example, intermedia is a conceptual term that stands for processes that integrate structural elements that are specific to different media. But it is important to remember that the meaning of the concept is twofold: on the one hand, it signifies a technical device and, on the other hand, it refers to the technological dimension of both cultural and media processes. What is most basic to the processes of intermedia involves an activity of transformation and not of accumulation, and what is at stake is a new notion of the image that results when analog and digital media are correlated in a mixed form.
I would like to thank Peter Greenaway, Clea T. Waite and Zbigniew Rybczynski for their kind permission to publish illustrations of their works.
Yvonne Spielmann is a teacher of Media Studies at Cornell University. She is the author of numerous books and essays on experimentation and the avant-garde; history and theory of visual media; aesthetic theory in the twentieth century; and media theories, intermedia and visual culture. She is currently writing a book on video.
Yvonne Spielmann (educator), Dept. of Media Studies, Cornell University, Society for the Humanities, 27 East Avenue, Ithaca, NY 14853-1101, U.S.A. E-mail: <email@example.com>.
An earlier version of the essay was published in the journal Iris, No. 25 (1998).
1. Aage A. Hansen-Löve, "Intermedialität und Intertextualität. Problem der korrelation von Wort- und Bildkunst--Am Beispiel der russischen Modern," in Dialog der Texte, W. Schmid and W.-D. Stempel, eds. (Vienna: Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, 1983), Vol. 11.
2. Marsha Moore, "Motion Control. Hi-Def Kafka: Metamorphosis via 'Motion Simulation,'" American Cinematographer 2 (1993) p. 65.
3. Moore .
4. Wolfgang Coy, "Die Turing-Galaxis Computer als Medien," in Weltbilder, Bildwelten, Interface 2, K.P. Dencker, ed. (Hamburg: Hans-Bredow-Institut, 1995) p. 53 (translated from the German).
5. Theodor H. Nelson, "Hypermedia," in Theodor H. Nelson, Computer Lib/Dream Machines (Redmond, WA: Tempus Books of Microsoft Press, 1987) p. 64: "Essentially, today's system for presenting pictures, texts and whatnot can bring you different things automatically depending on what you do. Selection of this type is generally called branching. (I have suggested the generic term hypermedia for presentational media which perform in this (and other) multidimensional ways.)"
6. Dick Higgins, Horizons, the Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia (Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1984) p. 16.
7. For example, regarding film as a medium, intermedia aspects can be traced in film's early phase, insofar as film brought together discrete elements from literature, music, dance and theater. But the medium of film is not per se intermedia.
8. Niklas Luhmann, "Paradigmawechsel in der Systemtheorie," in Epochenschwelle und Epochenbewußtsein (Poetik und Hermeneutik, Vol. 12), R. Herzog and R. Koselleck, eds. (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1987) pp. 305-322.
frame--the terms "frame" and "framing" are commonly used in cinema studies to encompass the point of view, the length of the take and the mobility or immobility of the camera. Therefore one can distinguish between immobile framing and mobile framing. For reference see David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art. An Introduction, 4th Ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1993).
interval--standard technical term in cinema studies defining the distance (temporal and spatial) between single frames: the interval has the function to connect and to separate spatially and temporally. Furthermore, interval is a feature of montage that interrelates different elements into a form that reveals their differences. The interval in the history of film is defined by Dziga Vertov in his theories of the interval montage. The most striking film to reveal the interval montage is Dziga Vertov's The Man with the Moving Camera (1929).
phase photography--to take photographs of single moments of a movement, thereby dividing a continuous movement of a figure into single frames, images, "shots."
self-reflection--term used to describe a phenomenon such as the reflection of a figure onto a surface.
serial photography--a series of photographs taken shortly one after the other and showing only minimal differences between the previous and the next image. Serial photography is a common feature in cartography, where it is used to map a landscape by taking pictures in series from the air.
The history of Western performance in the twentieth century, outside of the established traditions of theatre, ballet, opera and orchestral music, is indebted to the avant-garde movements in the visual arts. It is also intertwined with the evolution of technological media whose impact on our cultural environments has now entered the [End Page 361] digital stage at which the computer recodes all communications and art forms. In this global context, recent exhibitions such as Out of Actions: between performance and the object, 1949-1979 (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1998), along with many international theatre and dance festivals of the 1980s and 1990s, have prompted us to recognize the forgotten history of complex transcultural connections between Western avant-gardes and contemporaneous process-based art in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Performance is a cosmopolitan media art, so to speak, its ephemeral existence inevitably linked to a technological dimension since its gestural visuality has always tended toward capturing the fleeting moment in photography and film.
The photograph of the performance allows the performance to travel, and in some cases (for example, Ana Mendieta's "Silueta" series created in Mexico from 1973 to 1977), performances are staged exclusively for the camera. Choreographers discovered that dance-on-film or videodance is a composite medium in its own right: the choreography is created specifically for the camera. Making dances for the camera has become not only a cinematographic alternative to theatre-dance, but has motivated choreographers to re-conceive the aesthetics of dance for the theatre, the impact of which is evident in the cinematic quality of many contemporary dance works. Video has thus effected a transition in two directions, opening up a new screen space for movement images (concurrent with the evolution of music television), as well as bringing new modes of digital image processing and nonlinear editing to the practice of composition and scenography onstage. This essay addresses similar transitions and will examine new dance and its pioneering research on the interface between movement and computer.
In light of current experiments in motion capture, computer animation, digital paint and sound programs, 3-D modeling, and interactive design, the history of motion studies and choreography in photography, film and video seems vital for a critical recognition of the shift that is taking place in performance technologies. Contemporary videodance and motion capture technology can be historically traced back to the photographic motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge at the end of the nineteenth century. Muybridge had invented a system of positioning numerous cameras in a line and snapping photographs in rapid succession to capture movement in ways never seen before. These momentary, frozen shots, when viewed in sequence, created a cinematic unfolding of movement in both human and animal subjects in a manner that revolutionized our ability to comprehend movement itself. Douglas Rosenberg, video artist and director of the American Dance Festival's Video Archival Program, has pointed out in numerous internet discussions that dance for the camera occupies a wholly different space than dance for the theatre. On the one hand, it is true that video dance, as the precursor of digital dancing and web-based dance, is a hybrid form, existing in a virtual space contextualized by the medium and method of recording. As Rosenberg emphasizes,it is not a substitute for, or in conflict with, the live theatrical performance of a dance, but rather a wholly separate yet equally powerful way of creating dance-works. From Eadweard Muybridge to Maya Deren and beyond, into the contemporary era, image makers have rigorously explored dance for the camera in all of its permutations. Since the earliest days of photography, artists working with optical mediums have been fascinated by the possibility of recording human movement, and in particular, dance. In doing so, they have [End Page 362] left us with not only an archive of the history of dance situated in the architectural space or site of film and video, but as well, are responsible for creating the genre we refer to as Dance for the Camera. 1
On the other hand, the impact of digital technology on the moving image (video, cinema) is quite paradoxical, if we recall that the history of fictional films as live action films is grounded in lens-based photographic recordings of reality--actions that took place in real physical space. If traditional narrative cinema evolved from manual animation--the little loop in the Zootrope--to the dynamic visual realism of Hollywood motion pictures, the new digital cinema with its 3-D computer animations and paint, morphing, and compositing technologies replaces film with painterly and graphic techniques. In the arena of digital animation and special effects, physical reality and shot footage are merely elements among many others that can be generated and manipulated through algorithmic image processing. 2 Similarly, when I work on CD-ROM design (using Director software) or QuickTime movies of my performance, I manually manipulate the digital files, retouching the images, compressing their size. My software merges the various file types and renders the images and sounds. I can write the files on a CD or post my QuickTime movie as a loop on the Web. In preparing my dance for a multimedia CD-ROM or the Web, I need to rethink the choreography and design it for these different platforms and their interactive structures. Some very large questions arise, however; for example, how to remain in "real time" or how to bring the digital performance back into "real space," if I want to use the digital images as projections in the theatre. For the performer working with a motion capture body suit (wired to the computer during the capture), there is the additional problem of severely limited motion-range and a general sense of diminished expression. Digital dancing on the Web faces similar limitations: small bandwidth, tiny size of the video clips, slow modems, delays and frame drop-outs. For dance, seemingly predicated on the visceral physicality, fluidity, and kinetic-emotional impact of the body in space, the implications of motion capture and digital editing are tantalizing: the dancing will be diminished or altered altogether. Choreography becomes drawing, movement is "rendered" in abstract animations; or my frame rate may be low and thus the QuickTime movie looks like a badly executed exercise from Meyerhold's biomechanics. Computer animation and performance on the Web are new media, their limitations will create new possibilities, and although I cannot predict the development of real time (streaming) web technologies, I expect that the new media will challenge the way we design the architectures of our digital performances. Oskar Schlemmer's fascination with the marionette and the perfected motion of dematerialized technical organisms (animated Kunstfiguren) comes to mind, as modernism seems caught in a strange loop. I would suggest that with Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar's Riverbed Design Company (now based at MassMOCA), which is on the cutting edge of these [End Page 363] design experiments and collaborates with Merce Cunningham and Bill T. Jones on the creation of computer-animated dance in virtual space, Schlemmer's Bauhaus aesthetic has come full circle.
As it is utilized in Riverbed's Hand-drawn Spaces project (Cunningham) and the virtual dance installation Ghostcatching (Jones), optical motion capture can be defined as the computer hardware and software which enable digital three-dimensional representation of recording moving bodies. Recording sessions involve the placement of markers or sensors in strategic positions on the performer's body; cameras surrounding the performer track these sensors in time and space, feeding the information to a central workstation for consolidation into a single data file. Motion capture files can subsequently drive the movement of simulated figures on the computer, where they can be merged, connected, resequenced and mapped onto other anatomies in an animation program called Character Studio. With this animation tool, the animator-choreographer is able to draw out and reconfigure the abstracted motions and trajectories of the dance, or the ghost of the dance. 3
These performance-design experiments, I suggest, are linked more intimately to the visual arts and filmic media than to theatre, and the absence of narrative content is symptomatic for the history of such experimentation in American postmodern dance. Robert Wilson, who recently created his first 3-D digital opera, Monsters of Grace, is a [End Page 364] fellow-traveler, and his preoccupation with design, light, and abstract movement composition follows the same formalist logic. All of the Wilson productions I have seen, including his collaborations with East German playwright Heiner Müller, were marked by a depersonalized formalist aesthetic of the painterly which, comparable to Cunningham's choreography, emphasized technical execution and precision, drawing lines in space and filtering out all psychological and emotional connotations. We might argue that the current experiments in dance/technology follow this aesthetic logic; there is only a small step from a preoccupation with pure movement research to motion capture and computer animation. But we will also discover contradictions, and Bill T. Jones's collaboration with Riverbed rather surprised me, given his deep involvement in complex narrative dance works that grappled with the political history of racism and homophobia and the body's mortality (such as The Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land; Still/Here). The disembodied, ghostly lines in Jones's virtual dance installation perhaps point to his willingness to explore the underlying, implicit fragility of the body's muscular movement, which is inevitably a movement--over time--towards disintegration or degeneration. In the language of video technology, the contours of Jones's figure, seen in the cubic box which resembles Laban's spatial concept of the "kinesphere" (the total volume of the body's potential movement), appear as a second or third generation of the source. The actual body is not, or no longer, here. The animated lines, in this digital theatre of disappearance, are slowly fading away, and the dance leaves behind the copies of traces.
While choreographing Still/Here (1995), Jones in fact had begun to incorporate video projections as testimonies in his stage dance, following earlier precedents of performance art and dance that used video and 16mm film projections. Performers used cameras as soon as the technology became more widely accessible. For example, the Australia-based artist Stelarc already showed microfilms of the inside of his stomach and lungs at an exhibition in Tokyo in 1973. I always considered Stelarc a choreographer of movement and the body's extensions, and I knew the photographs of his suspension performances long before I saw him enact his current experiments with prosthetic devices and "fractal flesh," plugging himself into the World Wide Web via electrodes connected to his body. Stelarc quite literally "animates" his own body, testing the human-machine interfaces of our so-called cyberspatial future. On the other hand, the charcoal drawings of South African artist William Kentridge, which were among the most provocative works shown at the 1997 "documenta" (the international visual arts exhibition shown every five years in Kassel, Germany), present a different form of digital storytelling at the end of the century. He transformed the drawings into animated films (Felix in Exile, 1994 and History of the Main Complaint, 1996) that appeared like dark expressionist landscapes, CT 4 scans of a history of violent repression and memory, guilt and forgetting. Closely linked to this technology of animation, Kentridge's theatrical work with puppets betrays a pervasive historical sensitivity towards the confluences of painting, sculpture, theatre, literature and philosophy. His Ubu and the Truth Commission (1997) is highly self-conscious of the political implications of the erasures and permutations in his "drawings for projection," and of the agents behind his manipulated wooden puppets. [End Page 365]
His choreography of the puppets and the puppeteers emphasizes the ironic distancing effect of the puppeteer (who is conventionally "invisible" and gives movement and voice to the puppet) whose ambiguous, neutral role is here accentuated. In one scene Pa Ubu, played by a live actor, lulls the dog puppet to sleep, then opens it up and steals some of the evidence it carries in its body, while the puppeteers stand upstage and watch carefully. The human puppets and the animal puppets give testimony to the Truth Commission; they are memory images. They become the medium of history. But the animators, who stand by silently or manipulate the puppets, are also always perceived as interpreters and translators, giving voice to the accounts of the victims. Kentridge's multimedia production, partly adapted from Jarry's Ubu Roi, animates characters and roles, narrative and epic conventions, and shifts brilliantly between documentary drama and burlesque, cartoonish gestures, extending the languages of performance while grappling with haunting moral issues. 5 Finally, his work does not foreground a particular technological aesthetic but integrates the media into a metaphysical performance that seeks to navigate the complex nature of memory.
It became a common strategy among historians to look at the relations between the live arts (performances, actions) and the visual arts through the lens of modern and postmodern avant-gardes that challenged the representational mechanisms and boundaries of the visual and plastic art disciplines. Performance art, as Live Art was called in the U.S. after the radical transformations effected by the 1960s counterculture, thus inherited the name and legacy of the modernist (visual) arts--for example the stylistic and conceptual dimensions of futurism, constructivism, cubism, surrealism, dada, and abstraction--while being understood as time-based and closer to the theatrical character of the concert. Since most "concerts," whether visual, musical or theatrical, were centered in the actions of the performer, there was always a strong emphasis on the role of body in performance, even if it involved the displacement of the physical body as such, as it was conceived in the elaborate designs and constructed architectures of the Bauhaus performances. When women performers began to focus on their physical, spiritual and sexual bodies and autobiographies, body art was still understood primarily as a modernist art form. As Carolee Schneemann pointed out in the early 1960s, she treated her body as an "extension" of the canvas and the visual medium in which she worked. Today, when we speak of extensions of the body, we generally refer to technologies and computer-assisted interactive designs in which the body moves or functions as a MIDI 6 device.
Since the 1960s movements in happening, body art, Fluxus, conceptual art and pop art, the entire paradigm of high art has shifted, and the blurring of boundaries and the confluences between art, technology, and popular media have widened the spectrum of "performance art" to a point where actions, events, concerts and installations could include any combination of media or (in)formal means of presentation. This blurring of the notion of performance makes it difficult to reinvent particular aesthetic criteria [End Page 366] that delimit our understanding of art process. Since the legendary collaborations between John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham (which preceded the influential work of Robert Wilson) or between the choreographers of the Judson Church, the method of composition (process) in dance and visual performance media has been of primary interest, especially since most performance events are ephemeral and cannot be collected into permanent museum exhibitions. Most of the actions and happenings of the 1960s in fact sought to blur the distinctions between art and life and thus programmatically undermined the institutional conditions of the art-object and its value in the market. According to Allan Kaprow, who coined the term "happening," such events were structured so that there was no difference between performers and audience. 7 The work existed as long as the happening lasted. In today's internet terms, the work exists for as long as you are logged on.
Ironically, we now have seen retrospective exhibitions of Fluxus art, body art, and site-specific art actions, and the myth of performance as subversion and transgression (and as anti-commodity) has to be relativized, especially in light of the expanded spectrum I noted above. Over the past fifteen years, it became apparent that many artistic strategies in performance art also became functionally useful for a whole range of cultural expressions ranging from public art, video art, graphic art and political or grass-roots activism to commercial media (music, television, advertising) and to processes in ethnography, social psychology and therapy. At the same time, the notion of "composition" has undergone significant changes since current generations of young artists grow up with video and electronic media that imply and facilitate the convenient sampling, mixing and remaking of the products of consumer culture. Most of the reference points of contemporary media art are indeed the experiences and lifestyles of media culture itself. As in ambient music, such media art may approximate abstraction and minimalism, but its materials are mainly constructed from consumer culture and the vast storage of recorded data in music, film and television. The model of the contemporary artist-mixer is the DJ.
More important, however, is the new paradigm change we are experiencing near the end of the century, namely the shift from the analog spectrum to the digital era of recording, transmission and global communications (computer, ISDN 8 and Internet networks). The history of performance in this century is marked by the advent of new technologies of representation (photography, film, video, synthesizer, MIDI, computer, etc), and it is particularly interesting to reconsider the radical challenges of the 1960s anti-aesthetic movement in light of the 1990s "happenings"--for example internet-based or online event-improvisations that also claim to subvert the differences [End Page 367] between performers/users and audiences. In the 1990s, working digitally and being digital evoke a new futurism of virtual performance possibilities; its new technological catchword is "interactivity," yet its compositional method is still based on design and on the instant feedback that we have known since the rise of closed-circuit video.
In a recent teleperformance created during "International Dance and Technology 1999" (IDAT) in Arizona, the Australian Company in Space staged Escape Velocity as a duet between two dancers, two cameras, and two projectors linked by a direct online connection between the Web Cafe at Arizona State University and a performance space in Melbourne. The live mix effectively merged the two dancers, layering the choreography and the bodies in a spellbinding, transparent symmetry across a vast spatial and temporal gap. It was transparent insofar as we knew that the teleconference had been set up between Arizona and Australia, we could see the audience "Down Under," and when Hellen Sky started her dance in front of our eyes, we could see the projected image of her sister dancing the same choreography in Melbourne, and the two camera artists on either end of the performance began to interact with the performers and send their video signals through the line. At various points during the performance we could imagine the dancers being at-one, the sisters becoming a composite dancer floating in a third space created by the overlaid projections which included film footage of several outdoor locations (a forest, a desert). Even more hauntingly, the apparent symmetry of the dance of course was not precise; tiny delays in the transmission became part of the choreography and entered into the dialogue between present physical body and technologically mediated body. Ironically, of [End Page 368] course, both dancers were simultaneously mediated and transprojected. At the moment when these dispersions become possible, all safe parameters of the body's relationship to space, time and place have shifted. We witnessed a dialogue between ghosts mixed onto the pixilated, filtered and manipulated surface of the filmic space created by the projectors, the dance a traveling across time, the body morphing and aging right in front of us. 9
In the following, I want to track some of the virtual implications of interactivity, and draw attention to cross-over experiments in dance and other performance processes. My main conceptual metaphor is not dependent on the technological aesthetic that marks our digital era. Rather, I trust my own artistic evolution from theatre and music into dance and technology, and I am particularly indebted to the experience of collaboration I have had, on both sides of the Atlantic and in Latin America, as I traveled with members of my company AlienNation Co. and participated in many workshops and site-specific performance actions with others. The main trajectory of my understanding the evolution of performance media, therefore, is movement, and my historical understanding of technology derives from improvisation and composition through physical, body-centered research.
Techniques and technologies of artmaking have existed for many centuries, and modern processes of composition, choreography and scenography have been completely accustomed to using and manipulating media within the specific production [End Page 369] apparatus of a given work process. The hierarchical and gender relations within production have undergone considerable changes, although the body-based time arts and their training systems, often connected to schools and theatre institutions, have maintained some old-fashioned or reactionary habits of specialization that need to change in the era of "shareware." Modes of production in the arts may differ, as do the assumptions and choices made and the principles with which training and creative process are conducted. What may be qualitatively new today is the impact of increasingly complex computer technologies upon the human side of the production relation, that is on the psychology and perception of the performers themselves, on our physical experience and cognitive accommodation of multiple environments of work.
Again, these impacts may play out differently in different social, cultural and gendered contexts. If some of these environments now are virtual, I want to ask how we incorporate digital tools of composition in our creative process, and how immersive and projective computer-generated temporality and space (digitized form, content, movement, image, sound) affect the kinesthetic and psychological experience in our lived body. In a very pragmatic sense, then, I'd like to ask whether our working habits are fundamentally altered. And although I'm sure many of us will not necessarily ever have access to high-tech science or computer laboratories in the way William Forsythe did during his CD-ROM project for the Frankfurt Ballet (Improvisation Technologies), I am confident that we can test technological improvisations in any space that we ordinarily use to rehearse and work together. The main impetus for the exploration, in a basic political sense, is to work against the grain of the privatizing tendency of our era of PCs and to publicize collaborative creative work by extending our diverse knowledge of low-end or high-end equipment, raising the stakes for our own interaction with technical systems.
I do not know where the work with digital media will take us, although I have been interested in mixed media art for quite some time, at least since the mid-1980s when I decided to abandon text-based theatre and begin a series of collaborative projects focused on the exploration of "social movement" (performance, travel, immigration, urban living) and the mediation of image/sound movements. The most constructive dimension of this shift in my work was learning to dance and to understand choreographies and scenographies of movement in an expanded sense of their relationships to the images, projections, and imaginations of the subjective physical body. At the same time I became increasingly interested in video/film, photography, music and the visual arts, and I can trace almost all of my work back to the conceptual influence of these media on my experience of physical movement and the rhythms and motions of the stories we tell with our bodies in specific environments or constructed spaces. Although the visual sensibility may appear to be dominant in such multimedia performance work, it is also important to remember that physical rehearsal involves all our kinesthetic and synesthetic senses, and the experience of space, time, energy, balance/imbalance, weight, scale, texture, color, sound and touch gain a crucial significance if we construct fully mediated environments. I have also come to value "touch" in a very concrete way, insofar as much of my work involves cross-cultural collaboration with people I get to know intimately during the process of creation. Touching in rehearsal is a fundamental basis of performing together and of getting to [End Page 370] know the distance or proximity of space between our bodies, the weight of our bodies, and the boundaries of our imagination.
In recent years, artists in the dance communities have wanted to respond to the increasing presence of imaging/recording and electronic technologies in the culture and the exhibition contexts in which we work. A range of responses or negotiations can be observed at this point. When I was invited to the School of New Dance Development Amsterdam (SNDO) in 1996, we gathered for a workshop entitled "Connecting Bodies" which foregrounded the use of technology in dance. The technological workshop was ensconced inside a two-week international forum ("Bodies of Influence") for professional experimental dance artists working in a wide variety of movement, sound, improvisation, meditation, body-awareness and release techniques, to come together and exchange ideas about making and presenting work in today's climate. The actual technological workshop thus inserted itself into the nodes of a wider space of practices, including SNDO's hosting of specific dance-related "networking activities," such as a video collection project, an audio installation, an internet access room, a special project on cooperative networking, the development of an "improvisation performance" event, and the temporary opening of the Stamina Choreographic Computer Atelier, exhibited for hands-on training by its founders Bianca van Dillen and Mari-Jan Boer. 10 Participating in "Connecting Bodies" thus meant shifting the focus to another side of bodily praxis, namely the sharing of bodies of information that originate in what the Canadian installation artist David Rokeby calls the "very nervous system" of technological interfaces. I want to summarize some of these interfaces in the following.
We looked at Thecla Schiphorst's "LifeForms" program she wrote for Cunningham; this software is now widely used in the design of movement sequences for human and other articulated figures. We also saw her Bodymaps, an interactive installation activated by the viewer's touch, and other digital animation software installed in the terminals at the Choreographic Computer Atelier. We watched a performance with STEIM's "Big Eye" computer program, involving video cameras that convert a live dancer's movement to MIDI messages controlling lights, image projection, and sound onstage. STEIM is Amsterdam's well-known Foundation of Electro-Instrumental [End Page 371] Music, and electronic composer Joel Ryan came to our workshop to demonstrate his current live sound processing for choreographer William Forsythe. Amanda Steggell and Pier Platou gave a very funny video lecture on their recent M@aggie's Love Bytes concert, which combines media dance performances and music in real and virtual spaces, allowing dancers in actual space to interact with multi-layered sound, text and realtime videoimages beamed through online Internet facilities. Motion capture technology and character animation were introduced as an "extension" or simulation of human body motion when virtual-studio producer Peter Mulder patiently explained the most arcane new features of his NOB-Interactive Laboratory--for example, the operations of "Kinemation" (motion capture integrating forward and inverse kinematics), "Digital Doll" (animated skeletons that can be connected to each other in any configuration), and "Smart Skin" (character animation that can be taught to behave according to skeletal position or time).
Heidi Gilpin demonstrated segments from Forsythe's CD-ROM-formatted Improvisation Technologies. 11 Andrea Zapp introduced new theories of the interactive viewer and the confusion of the senses in the Telematic Dreaming project by Paul Sermon; and Kitsou Dubois, a researcher at the National Center of French Spatial Studies, demonstrated new dance ideas derived from experiments in microgravity and weightlessness. The symposium began with a theoretical exposition on "Choreography, Women, and the Gift of Dance" by André Lepecki, and ended with Diana Theodores's comprehensive inventory of new perspectives on "technography." Indeed, women choreographers and their gifts of dancing have shaped much of twentieth-century dance history, but it is perhaps even more poignant to realize how many women have entered the technological realm of programming and redesigning interface systems that can incorporate movement ideas and choreographies. There are different angles from which to approach such incorporations and the nature of the interface, and we must keep in mind that the computer as a medium is strongly biased since it operates purely logically and in very tiny playing fields of integrated circuits. Even if it is patched up with other media (video cameras, projectors, image processors, synthesizers, MIDI managers, sound systems, and so on), it remains a machinic device operating on programmed code, treating everything quantitatively as information based on cybernetic models of positive/negative feedback loops and pattern recognition. The quantity of information it processes is mathematically defined, and the kind of information it processes depends on the way the program is coded to read pattern and randomness. All operations revolve around binary code. Since so much energy in cultural theory is spent on decentering the dualisms of Cartesian rationality, the [End Page 372] persistence of binary logic in computer technology effectively shifts attention to the quality and the activation of the interface configuration and the artistic and social practices that mobilize the interface, including the unresolved contradiction that the computer may not be concerned about Cartesian mind/body or gender distinctions when it reads bodies or physical actions, like everything else, as information.
Schiphorst argues that it remains vital, of course, to write code, as in the "LifeForms" software, that applies an understanding of anatomy and body movement while allowing the user to modify predefined movement possibilities. On the other hand, most participants at the SNDO conference arriving at the issue from the side of dance and performance practice expressed their interest in the points of contact between what takes place in the human-scaled physical space and the information systems. As Gilpin suggested, we need not wait for digital technology, or think of it as a device for body representation, but empower ourselves as informers for technological interface design. We may not have an influential language yet to impress corporeal aesthetics upon network and computer surface design, and Gilpin is asking for "a discourse that can actually deal in articulate ways with movement and dynamism of any kind, not just moving bodies." But dance surely has articulated its operational, conceptual, and aesthetic systems, and since they already exist in the same media environment as digital technologies, their physicalities necessarily interact with virtuality. The question is, rather, how the interaction changes the images and sounds in cyberspace, the virtual geography of potentially infinite computational possibilities in a "place" that is not a place, or how the interaction can generate new kinds of "places," either between dance and multimedia activities or along and within real-time multi-sensory immersion environments.
Furthermore, interaction with virtuality potentially or actually modifies human proprioception, as Dubois's research on weightlessness confirms. She points out that the dynamic conditions of movement are altered when "the sources of information provided by inertia-gravitational force disappear. The absence of gravity is lived as an aggression from sensorial origin." The new sensorial images are unusual and conflictual, and they effect space sickness, "a sort of disease of adaptation." In weightlessness or free floating, every movement can induce a totally unexpected displacement, and in approaching new possibilities of being in this space, one has to concentrate on the internal space of one's body (organs are reorganized, blurring the references to internal space) and the interaction with external space as well as on the imagination as it is stimulated by the new environment. Dubois is committed to exploring the exchange between space techniques and dance after she realized during parabolic flights that in a fluid universe of weightlessness the body needs to construct a subjective referential or inner vertical in order to apprehend external space and react to it: "The inner vertical can be felt as an infinite spiral; on the outside everything is relative and one experiences an extraordinary fluidity of movement." Her dance research is now influenced by her interest in the "space in-between" internal body space and external space, and she tells us that in her choreography she searches for a "quality of movement where the dancers are always in a situation of experimentation, a state of unstable balance . . . an interactivity between that movement quality and systems of scenographic apparitions which blur habitual references to the gravity axis of the spectators themselves, thus creating a phenomenon of resonance in their own bodies." [End Page 373]
This notion of "scenographic apparition" can be linked to the role played by "video ghosts" in interactive designs of movement (for example, Bill T. Jones's use of video as testimony in the choreography of Still/Here). In terms of the nodes, or zones of turbulence, we currently have at least four models of interaction in digital art. First, the basic point-and-click or touch-screen interactivity of computer-based multimedia projects, either encoded in CD-ROM formats or left on a hard drive, is confined to a site-specific installation, and thus comparable to video installations or intermedia exhibitions that may include user-access to the Net. The screen/monitor or its projection remains the primary surface of information, although hypertext or hypermedia formats imply a non-linear, non-sequential information structure that is unlike the performance experience in real time, especially since hypermedia is digitized information allowing the user to manipulate it in ways that are not possible for the viewer of a performance in real space.
Second, the potential extension into the Net implies distance and spatial separation. The circuitry of telemedia can link locations and thus an interactivity that is not a one-way communication (as in broadcast media) but an engagement involving reciprocity and feedback. Reciprocity opens the possibility of altering and transforming the terms of reference of the exchange; multiple connections between sites create greater turbulence and dynamism among the connected surfaces. In the case of Paul Sermon's Telematic Dreaming, two separate interfaces are installed in separate locations connected via ISDN digital telephone network. The two separate installations in themselves are dynamic installations that function as customized videoconferencing systems inviting interaction with users. The success of the "performance" depends on the creative input of the audiences at both ends. Screen or video projection surface is replaced by rooms with a bed or sofa, a TV, a carpet. The rooms come alive when the user steps inside and acts. The bed in each location has a camera situated directly above it, sending a live video image of the bed, and a person ("A") on it, to a video projector located above the other bed in the other location. The live video image is projected down on the bed with another person ("B") on it. A second camera, next to the video projector, sends a live video image of the projection of "A" with "B" acting upon it back to a TV monitor that is next to the bed with "A." The telepresent image functions like a mirror that reflects one person interacting with another person's reflection.
Zapp describes this scenario as a dynamic system with considerable psychological complexity, since the viewer actually becomes a physical user who is able to experience theatrical roles or spontaneous playful behavior, like acting, pantomime, and visceral movement or choreographic possibilities. The physical bed with its social meanings can provoke emotional responses heightened by the telematic experience, since geographical distance is dissolved in the interaction with another person. The ability to exist outside the user's own space and time is created by the real sense of touch (the bed), enhanced by an acute shift of senses in the telematic space, which Zapp (who has worked with Sermon in Japan) explains as a conversion of sight and touch. The two users in distant places exchange their tactile senses and touch each other by replacing their hands with their eyes. While it might be difficult emotionally to interact with a stranger on a bed in a public installation, the bed interface actually creates a new level of virtual consciousness and immersion affect. The participants act in real space but manipulate themselves in virtual space, the projection field of [End Page 374] interaction. Zapp goes so far as to claim that although the image representation is analog--reaching out with the hand or touching and reacting is shown in physical visible form--the telematic performance affects consciousness of body and self in such a way that the user's attention, initially focused on the real bed, after a while is no more concentrated on the immediate environment but on the distant telematic one and the virtual movement. The cause and effect interactions of the body extend through fiber optic network, and the shift in sensory perception may dislocate the awareness of where the body movement resides. Zapp argues persuasively that such a shift, which implies controlling and "feeling" virtual touch with the eyes, often leads users to explore different sensitivities, and a perhaps unfamiliar playfulness, in the contact and emotional exchange with the other. On the other hand, I feel that such visual "controlling" of tactile sensibility forecloses the most intimate sense we possess while shifting attention to the screen/projection-as-skin.
The intermixing of analog and telematic media in this installation project suggests that interactive electronic art does not depend on a particular technological mode (analog, digital, radio, video, modem, satellite) but on the quality or conceptual structure of the meeting points and conduits of interactive levels. As a third example, then, M@aggie's Love Bytes opens up the possibility, which has also been explored in spatially separate music concerts linked up via satellite or Internet, to stage a dance concert in one location to a real-time audience while inviting the input participation of other artists, connected via modem and Internet, so that externally transmitted video images (from QuickTime cameras), sound-samples, voices and texts can be instantaneously integrated and layered onto the closed-circuit video projection and soundmix in the real space. The choreographer becomes a virtuality-DJ. The real space performance is also filmed with digital cameras and projected to the virtual site on the Net, and since the dancers are moving in front of the local video projection (hooked to the Mac) that is already a projection of the integrative virtual concert, Steggell could be seen as "choreographing" a live mix both for local audiences and for Web collaborators. Her work with present and absent collaborators utilizes the Web playfully for what she calls the "postmodemism" of "time warping and space bending," and this warping indeed functions as an aesthetic of chance events in which the dance between pattern and randomness replaces all known, stable contours of unitary time-space theatricality. When she first "staged" the event in a discotheque in Copenhagen, Web browsers from as far away as Tokyo and San Francisco tuned in to drop off sound and video samples, turning the dance-music concert into a kind of electronic quilt pieced together by the multiple-site collaborations. The quilt-concert migrating across the Net intimates an idea of collaborative performance that is largely unexplored in its effects on content, structure, and reception, since we would have to substitute more familiar principles of the rehearsed and structured collaboration process with the defining features of the digital and distributed medium where such "information pieces" may not belong to anyone any longer, and where the completely unpredictable "dance" may be as electrifying as senseless. Moreover, the live internet switching demands such an amount of high-tech equipment, lines, and cable connections to work properly that the smallest bug in the system can bring it all down, which has to be considered part of the unpredictability pattern.
Finally, a fourth model of digital art would remove the intersection of actual and virtual performance and place interactivity inside immersive virtual environments. I [End Page 375] don't know of any examples where full immersion has been tested without the hitherto existing limitations of strapping the viewer/user to body suit, headphones and data glove, which implies wiring the body to the computer and shifting the kinesthetic experience to the simulated spatiality produced for eyes and ears inside the headphones. At the current stage of VR 12 research, the wiring is still necessary, which obviously reduces the number of users who can actively move into virtual performance spaces at one time. Canadian artist Char Davis's metaphorical reconstructions of nature in the fully interactive OSMOSE environment (which included an interface driven by the user's breath and balance) caused much attention when it was exhibited in 1996. Other large-scale immersive environments were built during a research project at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, and the photo and video documentations of Diane J. Gromola and Yacov Sharir's Dancing with the Virtual Dervish: Virtual Bodies (1994) display it as an ongoing project consisting of cyberspace "chambers" constructed as a fully connected lattice. Sound and VR artist Marcos Novak, who works with Gromola and Sharir, calls them "Worlds in Progress," and the chamber he programmed presents a space of abstracted forms, lines of light, and geometric constructs. Sharir, however, is seen dancing in the "Virtual Body" chamber that is rendered as a three-dimensional simulation of an enormous virtual body configuring the immersive environment out of visualizations of X-rays, sonograms, and other medical and MRI 13 data of Gromola's real body. Her virtualized body becomes an architecture that can be "inhabited," and for Sharir it is the performance space for an interactive dance that engages both the three-dimensional simulation of Gromola's hollow body and the digitized images (video feedback) of himself dancing within these layers of virtual images. The tracking devices in his headphones and dataglove give him the illusion of multiple body experiences at high navigational speed, causing a sensation of disembodiment and disconnection since his point of view, which can change at a flick of the wrist, doesn't establish a full perceptional grasp of the interior body landscape as a coherent body. Rather, the interior body tends to dissolve into an inchoate environment of giant organs, endless strips of tissue, cavernous bones, curves, lines, and shapes. The virtual-body environment, in other words, doesn't pretend to be realistic; it is a reconceptualized space mapped by numbers of code.
Gromola is aware of the disembodiment effect caused by disorientation, but she designed the space in this way to explore transcendent spiritual states of pain, since for her the "dervish" effect (in Sufi dancing) enables her to link a function of virtuality with her experience of medical treatment of chronic illness. While her conceptual relocation of her body as a virtual stage is truly astounding, what is more difficult to understand is Sharir's relationship to it and his assumptions about choreographing his movements and video images in response to his distressed, disoriented body-experience. Is his internal experience translated into conscious movement choices or do we see him react to a state of disconnection from himself? In the documentation of the experiment he expresses considerable uncertainty, wondering how agency and self are altered by immersion, and how a virtual environment and the possibilities of "distributed performance" can redefine performance venues. This raises another [End Page 376] question, namely how an audience without headphones would watch the dance of the VR performer.
As Theodores pointed out in her exposé on "technography," interactive immersive computer technologies extend and transform the shape of movement and choreography, and if digital media can penetrate the materiality of the body, then our perceptual and ontological notions of embodiment are profoundly questioned: "We can challenge and/or confuse all existing senses we have of order and of norms, spatially, biomechanically, kinesthetically, and aesthetically. Classical frameworks of symmetry, specific body architecture, notions of sequence, and even the way we recognize our own sensory responses and faculties--all of these are challenged and reordered radically and perhaps liberatingly. As we shed the ingrained ideas of what the body ought to do, we enter into a new aesthetic and experiential order." While it is true that the collaboration between digital technology and choreography potentially expands the concept of non-phenomenological information and virtuality just as much as it expands the concept of what the body is, it is less clear how the audience is integrated and transformed into interactive users, since most of the practical experiments to date are made by the artists/programmers and designers themselves.
The research experiments necessary for the evolution of a new dance/technology aesthetic became the focus of heated debate at IDAT99, after choreographer Susan Kozel presented her current work in motion capture and declined to entertain questions about the aesthetic direction of her process. I was among those who [End Page 377] wondered aloud whether the dancer, strapped up with wires and constrained in her movement to a tiny platform area prepared for the optical motion capture, is willingly compromising her potential range of movement, effort/shape, motivation and content-oriented expression to the point where watching the dance (I hesitate to call it choreography) is neither interesting nor stimulating for a conceptual evaluation of interface technology. The severely diminished movement, which on the videotape she showed looked like banal, repetitive improvisations with arm and upper body motion, struck me as a kind of impoverished minimalism that fails to be enhanced by the interplay with her computer-generated shadow images and animations projected on the wall behind her. The project she presented, Ghosts and Astronauts, is obviously in an early laboratory phase, and I am inclined to agree with Kozel that there is an inevitable gain and loss in experimentation, that we need time and exposure to motion capture technologies in order to develop a specific language of movement expression that enables a perceptual expansion or new mental awareness for the audience. Choreography with motion capture, in other words, may not necessarily be feasible with the existing or dominant (modern) dance vocabularies, and thus Kozel's videotape was misleading. Rather than focusing on her movement and what it interacts with, we may have to "inhabit" an altered space, listening to or sensing a different kind of dialogue that takes place between the "animator" and that which she generates. In Kozel's case, the dancer's motions are charted onto animated (geometric) figures, which she is exploring as "new life-forms" (following the tenets of Artificial Intelligence), and for her the bouncing cubes on the screen were far from being depersonalized and abstract. Stunningly, Kozel claims that it is possible, through the intimate connection she and her collaborators have developed with the technological instruments and the software, to identify the quality of the motion of the animated cubes according to the dancer who was wearing the sensors. Even if I didn't doubt this claim and the romantic subjectivism that underlies it, I wouldn't know how to integrate it into my earlier reaction to the lack of content of this work, especially if I cannot share the intimacy of exploration as an audience member.
To build full-scale theatres for larger immersive audience interactivity or osmosis is as yet technically unimaginable, and the experience of some of the lab tests shown at IDAT99 made me impatient and yet curious. Unlike the role of the experimenter herself, my input role as user was quite minimal; in a sense, the body's intelligence doesn't get involved in informing the interface configuration, and as in Dancing with the Virtual Dervish, the question of the reconstitution of limits or borderlines between the interior and the exterior is not adequately addressed. On the "mirror stage" of such environments, the constitution of specific kinds of distances between self and the digital surface, the "other," seems crucial for the exploration of physical and psychic confusion or disorganization of the senses. One way to investigate these boundaries, I think, is to challenge the biological organism or organic movement in relation to surface intensities and in the tactile meeting of surfaces and animated figures. What can these sensors tell us about our mental landscapes; how do they move us into new sensory and conceptual territories?
Telematic Dreaming and OSMOSE challenge our assumptions about the connection between vision, touch and hearing, and my idea of dancing with technologies, in fact, is related precisely to the phenomenal interface between movement (and movement copy) and digital video projection as a performative projection of another moving skin [End Page 378] or tactile surface linked to proprioception and neurochemical reactions--all the delicate and subliminal feedback mechanisms that move the brain to know the positions, tensions, and feelings of the body and its parts. My ideas for "Lively Bodies Lively Machines" (LBLM), the workshop I teach every summer, evolved from this thinking about deep contact between organic and non-organic surfaces or projections. 14 A decisive issue in our thinking about technology and choreography is the [End Page 379] question of commensurability. In this regard, Theodores quoted Kozel's prediction that "if technology is regarded as abstract, logical and mechanical and bodies are seen as organic matter only, then the two will be mutually hostile. But if technology and bodies are seen additionally in terms of flows of energy or intensity or as fluid dynamics, then there is ground for collaboration." If indeed the technology in our performance experiments was driven by the experience of the body itself, then knowledge of the body and its silent languages can inform ways of connecting with non-phenomenological structures in digital art. Or it can influence visual or sonic digital environments in such a way that they transmit information sensually or heighten the physicality experienced in the electronic interface, as it is the case in Rokeby's "very nervous systems" (interactive sound installations) or in Pamela Z and Laetitia Sonami's work with DataGloves or DataSuits and multiple controllers, where the spatial sound events triggered by persons moving inside the interface can create a phantasmatic aura and affect their acoustic behavior, both inside the space and after leaving it.
Theodores posits that the notion of "disembodiment" in technological immersion is resisted here for its perpetuation of the transcendent metaphysics of mindspace over body intelligence. Indeed, the thinking and sensing body empowered by technology offers up, in reverse, visceral languages of bones, organs, fluids, and even of seeing inside a movement. This would bring us, in choreographic terms, to the notion of "impossible anatomies," or the "impossible body," as Merce Cunningham suggested in his experiments with LifeForms. Zapp, Dubois, and Schiphorst would add that new systems of behavior can be informed by the absent presence of electronic bodies in telematic media, while unstable/weightless bodies or the animated models of LifeForms both hint at giving more materiality to "spaces in-between," to non-solid presences or vanished presences, to unlikely gestures (unlikely for trained movement behavior), and to possibilities of movements as yet unseen, which Schiphorst joyfully compares to the "shock of freedom." Furthermore, technology as a compositional tool, as opposed to its recording and archival functions, assumes as a starting point such cross-overs to an impossible body aesthetic. Theodores is correct in reminding us that the "thrill of the unnatural is reaffirmed by technology in much the same way that aesthetic pleasure was derived originally from classical ballet in terms of virtuoso technique and 'unnatural' acts. The technologically possible anti-gravitational body, the multi-layered, extended, enlarged, the vanishing, the inside-out bodies of the virtual and the immersed invite us to a new definition of artifice, of the extra-ordinary, and thus to new desires for the performing body."
This idea of the unnatural desiring body offers a fascinating, erotic, and deeply politicized ground for performance/media practice, since it also reminds us of a wide range of contemporary performance art focused on the production of the "other," the foreign, the abnormal and dysfunctional, the diseased, and the abject body. 15 As a [End Page 380] political site, the body thus performs already a potentially dysfunctional role vis-à-vis technological abstraction and recuperation/dispersion, and I agree with Theodores that the concept of "instantaneity" needs to be carefully examined as an effect of technology's affording us access to instant transactions, transformations and morphings.
Technological composition or technography, in this sense, "can disappear before it has ever fully appeared," raising the issue of both a "radical forgetting and a radical remembering as perhaps two emerging ideologies of technography." Linking this to my examples of animated puppet theatre and online performance, the notion of instantaneity forces us to reflect on the contemporary experience of browsing, saturation and image/data transmission speed; if all art/information is speeding up, the very speed and intensity of technological advance are in themselves an informing agent of choreography, which also implies that the notion of an "aura" of the instantaneous loses its mystique. We would simply have to learn, once again, how to operate or function without the familiar integrity of an older physics of space, time, and mass. In the new parameters of digitally-enhanced performance, compositional dramaturgies or hierarchical structures or linear movement/narrative are substituted by templates of varying intensities, screen spaces, and lattice structures. In such noncentric spaces there is no stable point of view, and body forms and movement forms can be transformed and "disappeared" in many unforeseeable ways. In new performance research, such technological and bodily contingencies need to be tested in order to create physical platforms or stages on which such work can be exchanged with audiences. 16
Johannes Birringer is an independent choreographer/filmmaker and artistic director of AlienNation Co., an international multimedia ensemble based in Houston. He is the author of several books, including Theatre, Theory, Postmodernism (1991), Media and Performance: along the border (1998), and Performance on the Edge: Transformations of Culture (forthcoming). His most recent dance productions include Parachute (1998), North by South (1998), and migbot (1999); he is currently completing a new sci-fi opera titled MIRAK. The project website is at: www.alienationcompany.com.
1. See Douglas Rosenberg, "Video Space: A Site For Choreography," http://www.art.net/~dtz/archive/DanceTech99/author.html. Those interested in these online discussions may consider joining the dtz (dance&technology zone) maillist. Contact: http://www.art.net/~dtz.
2. See Lev Manovich's provocative archaeology of moving pictures leading to his thesis that in the age of digitization, cinema's identity as a media art is destroyed since "cinema can no longer be clearly distinguished from animation" and subordinates the cinematic to the painterly and to special effects simulation. Manovich's "What is Digital Cinema?" appears in The Digital Dialectic: New Essays on New Media, ed. Peter Lunenfeld (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999), 172-92.
3. See Paul Kaiser, "Steps," in Ghostcatching, exhibition catalogue published by The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City on the occasion of the installation of Riverbed's collaborative dance animation project with Bill T. Jones, January 6-February 13, 1999. The catalogue contains vivid descriptions of the technical and aesthetic process as well as numerous color illustrations of the digital installation. The color stills were also published on the Internet at http://www.cooper.edu/art/ghostcatching, and on Riverbed's website: http://www.riverbed.com. Another significant "mocap" project was initiated by producer/choreographer Scott deLahunta during a residency at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, in the spring of 1999. The research team, including deLahunta, Torunn Kjolner, Susan Rethorst, Kim Madsen, Erik Soldtfeldt, Susan Kozel, Claude Aebersold, and Luca Ruzza, engaged a series of digital performance workshops utilizing magnetic motion capture (Ascension Motion Star Wireless), animation (MAYA), and projection technologies. The project culminated in a production workshop, Digital Theatre Experimentarium (May-15 June 1999) and the première of White on White, with choreography by Susan Rethorst and animation by Soren Birk Jacobsen. A comprehensive Project Website was posted at http://www.daimi.au.dk/~sdela/dte/.
4. Computerized tomography.
5. For an incisive critical interpretation of Kentridge's use of the "mixed media" role of puppeteers and his collaboration with Johannesburg's Handspring Puppet Company, see Yvette Coetzee, "Visibly Invisible," South African Theatre Journal 12.1-2 (1998), 35-51.
See also Leah Ollman, "William Kentridge: Ghosts and Erasures," Art in America 87.1 (1999), 70-75; 113.
6. Musical Instrument Digital Interface.
7. The term was first used in the title for Allan Kaprow's 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, performed at Reuben Gallery in New York in 1959. Subsequently, Kaprow explained his concepts in his book Assemblage, Environment & Happening (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1966). For an excellent, illustrated book on the history of performance art, see Elizabeth Jappe, Performance--Ritual--Prozess (Munich: Prestel, 1993). The new media museum at ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe has now published an illustrated catalogue that traces the history of recent media arts and interactive installations; see Hans-Peter Schwarz, Medien-Kunst-Geschichte (Munich: Prestel, 1997). For other important handbooks on performance and media art, see RoseLee Goldberg, The Art of Performance (New York: Dutton, 1984) and Frank Popper, Art of the Electronic Age (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1993).
8. Integrated Services Digital Network.
9. Company in Space, directed by Hellen Sky and John McCormick, are recognized as one of Australia's most innovative performance companies, pushing computer and communications technologies to access new pathways between performer and audience.
Escape Velocity was performed at Arizona State University on Saturday, February 27, 1999, with choreography by Hellen Sky (Arizona) and Louise Taube (Australia), computer design and operation by John McCormick (Australia), original score and interactive sound design by Garth Paine (Arizona), and camera performance by Luke Pither (Arizona) and Kelli Dipple (Australia). Using teleconferencing systems to bring dancers in the two locations together in the same virtual space, the composer in addition used VNS and MAX (MIDI sound software) to sense the video image of the choreography and create a layer of interactive sound fed into the mix with pre-structured material. Paine also used Supercollider to generate material that was controlled by an audience member at IDAT moving a mouse around on the screen of a browser at that end. He then converted those mouse positions into MIDI and a Supercollider patch at the other end which was also fed back into the mix. As my description indicates, with these performance experiments it is vital to recognize the team work that underlies the aesthetic production. Earlier that day at IDAT, another remarkable performance was presented by the collaborative team Half/Angel (dancer/writer Jools Gilson-Ellis, Ireland, and composer Richard Povall, Ohio). The Secret Project centered its thematic material in the use of interactive technologies in the context of live performance. Using motion sensing (BigEye) and other interactive softwares, the team explored the interaction of choreographies, original text/vocals and soundscapes. Rather than attempting to control a virtual stage space, Half/Angel sought to extend the actual and metaphorical motion of the performers into sonic and visual landscapes. With new softwares enabling a radical re-thinking of the body in physical and digital space, Gilson-Ellis challenged us to experience choreography as live musical composition and vocalization of the poetry she had written. In her movement, she literally danced with her arms and voice as extended musical instruments that can layer and caress the textscapes/soundscapes (programmed by Povall) she triggered in space through her interaction with the camera-sensor. The Secret Project was one of the most subtle and moving performances shown at IDAT, gaining attention for its astonishing integration of interactive live dance/sound and voice.
10. The "Bodies of Influence/Connecting Bodies" conference/workshop was held at SNDO on June 9-21, 1996, organized by Ric Allsopp and Scott deLahunta. My references are to the weekend conference on the connections between dance and technology. Direct quotations are from my video transcription and from additional transcripts kindly provided by Scott deLahunta. I wish to thank the authors for their permission to quote them, and I especially thank Diana Theodores for her incisive and challenging synopsis of the various media demonstrations and theoretical premises she focused under "technography," the term she coined to address the mutually informing processes of technology and choreography. The references to Dancing with the Virtual Dervish: Virtual Body are drawn from Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments, ed. Mary Ann Moser (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), and additional references to OSMOSE and the work of David Rokeby are based on my on-site visits at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery (New York City) and Gallery 2 (Chicago Art Institute). Paul Sermon and Rokeby were featured in the exhibit The Presence of Touch, organized by the School of the Chicago Art Institute's Department of Fiber, Sept. 20-Nov. 1, 1996. Other important recent video and digital art exhibitions include Rites of Passage: Art for the End of the Century (Tate Gallery, London 1995); Sonambiente (Berlin 1996); Being & Time: The Emergence of Video Projection (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo 1996); Mediascape (Guggenheim Museum, New York 1996); and Body Mécanique: Artistic Explorations of Digital Reality (Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 1998-99).
11. The CD-ROM was created at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, with interface design by Volker Kuchelmeister and Christian Ziegler. A revised version of Improvisation Technologies was published on CD-ROM as a special issue of the ZKM digital arts edition. Divided into 60 video chapters, the CD-ROM is made up of lecture demonstrations in which William Forsythe shows the essential principles of his improvisation techniques. Dance sequences, performed specially by Frankfurt Ballet members Christine Buerkle, Noah D. Gelber, Thomas McManus and Crystal Pite, can be called up as further illustrations. Also included is a document of improvisation practice: Forsythe's performance of Solo, filmed in 1995 by Thomas Lovell Balogh. The CD-ROM is in English only, and is accompanied by an illustrated English/German booklet featuring an interview with William Forsythe and an essay by dance critic Roslyn Sulcas. The CD-ROM also premiered at Dance Screen 99 (International Festival for Dance in the Media) in Cologne, 9-13 June 1999.
12. Virtual Reality.
13. Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
14. The LBLM workshop in performance technologies was first created for the Split Screen Festival at University College Chichester (England) in 1996, and was held there again in 1998. It has been taught in other countries, most recently at the Nordic Solo dance festival-forum in Copenhagen (summer 1999), and it is generally offered at festivals, summer schools, and residency programs to students and practitioners from diverse artistic backgrounds.
15. For a new critical study of the excluded, marginalized and repressed representations of bodies in modern dance, see Ramsey Burt, Alien Bodies (London: Routledge, 1998). For studies of contemporary performance art, see Rebecca Schneider, The Explicit Body in Performance (London: Routledge, 1997); Linda S. Kauffman, Bad Girls and Sick Boys: Fantasies in Contemporary Art and Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Kathy O'Dell, Contract with the Skin: Masochism, Performance Art and the 1970s (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998); Rodney Sappington and Tyler Stallings, eds., Uncontrollable Bodies (Seattle: Bay Press, 1994); Catherine Ugwu, ed., Let's Get It On: The Politics of Black Performance (London: ICA, 1995); and Amelia Jones, Body Art: Performing the Subject (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998). See also the essays in the special issue on "Sexuality and Cyberspace: Performing the Digital Body," published in Women and Performance 9.1 (1996).
16. For a more extensive discussion of my ideas on "scanning dance" and "impossible anatomies," see my book Media and Performance: along the border (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 27-144.