Re: telematicinterprovisation

Mark Coniglio (
Thu, 3 Apr 1997 09:26:48 -0500

>I thank Mark for his interesting and instructive response to some of my
>I'd be interested in other people's input on the question of the
>"interactor," and perhaps I could dwell for one moment on something Mark said:
> Mark wrote
>>the live performer is reliant on this [software] device, and its failure
>would insure >certain performative embarrassments. But I wonder how useful
>is this thinking? What is >the difference between the Interactor/Macintosh
>software/hardware machine and
>>the wooden machine of the piano, which translate the gestures of the
>pianist reliably >into sound?
>I wonder what lies behind this admission that "its failure" could insure
>performative "embarrassment," or, put another way, is the analogy between
>piano and computer innocent and logical? I am not sure.

What I mean by performative embarrassment could be equally well described
by the 'cello player who, in the middle of a performance, breaks a string.
There the technology at hand failed at the most crucial possible point of
its use. The only difference between this example and the computer "crash"
is that the latter is sadly much more prevelent in performances that I have
seen. We strive to insure that this never happens in our work, as we feel
it is an insult to the audience.

>In that case I would ask myself how I have traditionally come to enjoy
>concert music (or rock music), and whether I see the piano or the electric
>guitar quite transparently as an instrument that enhances the music-making
>of the hands. In other words, is the piano (visible as it is) simply not
>crucial as a physical, material body in our enjoyment of the music/sounds
>produced and the player's energy, artistry, elegance, passion or subtlety?
>Do we still see it? Is it redundant, in the frame of reception?

It is redundant, and I hope that one day some of the devices in use to
allow the gestures of a dancer to control media will mature and become just
as commonplace. But for the time being, there is a certain unavoidable
novelty in these devices because they allow something to happen that the
audience is not yet familiar with.

>I wonder how an interactor device, as Mark's homepage explains it,
>"interprets data", transforming space, lighting, sound, video images, etc,
>making "artforms suddenly intimate." The "data," I gather, are the dancer's
>movement that are picked up by interactive technology (sensor devices).

>I refuse to assume that dance can be thought of as data. Now, if I did
>assume it, it change my work, surely.

How can you refuse? The physical gestures _can_ be measured. You make a
point later in your post that indicates that "For my taste, it's not
sensitive enough" and for my taste also. In the perfect "instrument" would
be infinitely responsive to the gesture of the performer. Of course, the
response of all real instruments exist upon a continuum of responsiveness -
some are better than others. In one sense you could then compare some of
the instruments that I have created (MidiDancer for example) with
traditional instruments by placing them upon this continuum, and you could
rightly say that MidiDancer was less responsive than a violin. But there is
a difficulty in this comparison because one does not look at the fingers of
the pianist to gain the meaning or intention of the work, i.e., the
performative gesture is not also the signifier of meaning. To me this is
the central issue when using these devices with dance: is the dancer a
dancer, or a musician, or an image manipulator or ... ? Will the use of
technology change, the idea of "measureable" choregraphy change your work?
Surely. But if we want the dancer to remain primarily a dancer, the control
of the media devices should be a direct result of the choreography -- not
the other way round.

When I use the word intimacy, I was primarily speaking the removal of an
intermediary human actor between performer and technology, with his or her
replacement being an "instrument" created in software. In the case of the
theater, the lighting board operator is an example. Between dancer and lamp
there is a human conduit of information. This has obvously worked well for
decades and continues to do so, but it prevents certain choices from being
taken by the performer. I am interested in seeing the performer have the
opportunity to make these choices.

>How does an audience in real space "read" our intimacy with the sensor,
>actually this interests me immensely, Mark, how audiences respond to your
>concerts? Can the sensor censor our movement expression, misread it,
>falsely interpret it, fuck up? Can the software be embarrassed, audience
>laughing heartily?

In the end, _how_ you express yourself really shouldn't matter. The use of
the technology, from the audience perspective, is inconsequetial. If the
artwork has something to say, and it is well crafted, the technologies used
matter very little.

In terms of the way that audiences respond, I guess I can only say that the
response has been positive, that our audience is growing and that we
continue to perform. My collaborator Dawn Stoppiello said in an interview
once, "the audience will come to see us for the technology _once_". If
anything, we are starting to downplay the audience's knowledge of our use
of technological tools because some have told us they became interested in
"seeing" the relationship" -- they are looking for the control which is a
distraction, in my mind, to the artwork.

More again soon, I'm sure.

-- Mark

Mark Coniglio, Artistic Co-Director |
Troika Ranch |