Making code dance/making dance code
During [SZOBA|R|T], a German/Hungarian artist collaboration that took place in an abandoned building in the centre of Budapest, I organised a week of livecoding and dance improvisation jams (see all images here). The idea behind these jams was to bridge the gap in tacit knowledge that is now held by dancers and coders separately. In order to let these knowledges synergize, we should all get on it together and start creating and let new knowledge emerge from the process.
Improvisation: the sweet spot between structure and freedom
How do you start (getting a grip on common conceptual notions between the fields of dance and coding)? What are good design rules for an improvisational framework that both coders and dancers can work with? How many rules do you need? How much freedom is necessary? How do you negotiate this as you go? The project was part of my residency at Kitchen Budapest in 2010, more info here.
A short article of mine was published on VVVNT, dealing with the expressive and philosophical potential of performance practices combining dance improvisation and live coding.VVVNT is an online journal, forum, & project space for sharing ways of thinking with practical connections across time, scale, system, & discipline: http://vvvnt.com/media/dancing-the-digital
Livecoding as improvisational practice
Live coding is a type of performance where programmers show off their visual coding skills in realtime. Completely live, you see animated graphics come to life in projections, while a group of programmers punches in code to entertain their audience with a (audio)visual spectacle. A group of coders from Kitchen Budapest have been experimenting with this recently, especially with implementing the Kinect in the Fluxus environment. Kinect captures movement data in 3D using infrared cameras, which makes it a perfect combination with dance.
The aim of this project therefore, was to find a way to get these improvisers to work together and experiment freely during 3-hour jams, not entirely dissimilar to the jams that are common practice in a dance style known as contact improvisation. Eight local dancers – many of them with a contact improv or contemporary dance background – worked with us during the week, resulting in a demonstration at the opening of week 3 at [SZOBA|R|T].
From livecoding to dancecoding: where practices meet
This setup put no pressure on choreographing a stage performance, but stayed closer to the traditions of contact improvisation and livecoding: focusing on the live interaction between all the actors: live music, the several coders, a number of projections, and the moving bodies of the dancers. Responses of all collaborators were very positive so we investigated the possibilities of organising more jams in the future. I left Budapest but the group continued to collaborate and did a number of dance coding work and performances together.
Movement-Moving Machines investigates the ways in which dance acts as part of a media ecology and social practice as emotive, intuitive, physical experience and expression without becoming mere representation. Here, dance movement is understood as a social (semi-)improvisational activity, rather than choreographed steps. What is foregrounded is the idea that movement is relational: it produces space-time and emerges in connection with other moving bodies, the space around them and other non-human actors. By causing interference in social dance contexts and systems that might look like well-oiled machines, the relationality of moving bodies and touch as a social gesture is articulated. Potentiality as the crux of movement is highlighted: “My body is not in movement when I still think I can predict my steps” (Manning, Politics of Touch, 2007: 26)
Movement-Moving Machines aims to provide experiential entrances into an understanding of dance systems as mediated social system. It is a series of contraptions that help investigate the conditions of social dance, music and movement as set by its own materialities, not just meaning and representation. By intervening in the conventions and material relations of a number of dance settings, these useless machines speculate about the politics of dance and touch, the connections we can or cannot make with other bodies and how these are materialized and sustained. But more importantly, how we may cause ruptures in these systems to open them up to a different critique and a more open-ended future.
This was my final research project for the MA Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice I did at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2009-2010. It was exhibited in summer 2010 at the final show, We Are All Transistors.
The last session of Digitaal Danstheater, a research project on using movement tracking technologies and datavisualization in dance productions, was the Projectweek (also called Ludic Week) at Erasmus College, one of the local high schools. Twelve girls ranging from 12-15 years old chose this workshop to fill their week, that aims to introduce kids to more sports oriented or creative fields, to engage them socially in ways that aren’t traditionally offered in school setting and to stimulate developing personal talents. All girls worked incredibly hard these four days, exploring new dance disciplines (classical, hip hop, salsa, modern), developing their own choreographies and experimenting with interactivity: thinking relationships between the body and the computer.
Two groups each made their own interactive dance piece that they performed at the end of the week. It was a fabulous experiment and a good experience that gave a lot of insight into ways to guide group processes, playing attention spans, and scaleability: the most recent Digital Dance Theater workshop was a 4-hour workshop whereas now participants had 4 x 4 = 16 hours in total to get an introduction to virtual theater and produce their own piece. Having more time is a pure luxury for running this workshop and I liked seeing that kids got the opportunity to get thoroughly engaged working towards their own end project over the course of the week.
In collaboration with: Timothy Kok & Nicolet Sudibyo. Zoetermeer (NL), May 2011
Digital Dance Theater is one of the long-running projects I developed at the Digital Art Lab. Together with several groups of teenagers and teachers from the dance department I researched how we can make the potential of motion tracking technology useful for augmented dance and theater performances. Secondly, we’ve been working on methodologies and pedagogies to enable a collaborative creative process with the dance teachers and students. I focused especially on how we can make teenagers co-produce and take ownership of the creation of these performances. After experimenting with a Isadora, we went into the dance studio to experiment with creating a theatrical dance performance including trackable props, and trying out different visualizations.
These experiments served to understand and envision potential relationships between dance movements and various visualizations of the tracking data in different Processing sketches. The many experiments with Nicolet Sudibyo, Melanie Sloot and Charlotte Lam resulted in a a 1-day and a 5-day workshop with a local school and two choreographies for the end of year performances of the dance department at CKC.
The first workshop Digital Dance Theater for teenagers was a great experience. Six girls (ballet/contemporary) and two boys (hiphop) joined the 4-hour workshop and created a 4 minute performance together. They made the choreography, the staging, and chose the interactive visuals and how to work with them. The interactive element was not utilized in full during the performance, and I’m trying to find ways to improve on this.
These videos show a series of experiments with several technologies and exercises to explore the possibilities and workflow with the dance students and how we slowly worked towards a performance (see last video).
This video shows the process and the final performance of an ongoing project with a classical ballet teacher and her young adults class (16-24 years old) at CKC Zoetermeer (NL). This performance is the result of the first course that ran over a period of 2 months, 30 mins a week. The kids developed a story about gamers at an arcade that get sucked into their game and start to live inside it. It seems serious and real – is this what parents are afraid of? – but they know that real life goes on after game over. More images on flickr.
In collaboration with Melanie Sloot, Nicolet Sudibyo, Charlotte Lam. Zoetermeer (NL), June 2011
MAIM expo 2010: We Are All Transistors
The end of year expo of the MA Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice at Goldsmiths, University of London where I showed an interactive installation of one of the Movement-Moving Machines projects (see this post).
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A third experiment is to create a soundscape to manipulate the strong relationship between music and dance movements in many dance forms. I will strategically place three or four FM radio transmitters around a room, each one attached to an iPod, all playing different songs and then I will have dancers listening to a radio, using headphones. As they move/dance through the room they will move through different music-spaces, that will probably/hopefully/maybe affect their dancing.