Ruminations on Interaction

Mark Coniglio (
Wed, 30 Apr 1997 19:37:14 -0400

Well, it seems after many days of silence I am about to speak. I have
finally found the time to go through the many unread mails in the
dance-tech mailbox, and even found enough time to say something.

I read Johannes' long post with interest, especially about his performance
at the seemingly (by all reports) disappointing performance studies
conference. I wish I could have viewed it. But this particular comment
caught my eye:

>Since we didn't have our BigEye interactive program in
>place, we simulated the interactive dimension of our new work creating a
>multiple video and multiple sound choreography, and three performers had
>worked with the installation design. One dancer (Imma) was absent in
>Atlanta, except her video ghost was dancing and speaking to us in the live
>broadcast, and we spoke/performed to her live, being present.

You say that you "simulated" the interactive dimension of your performance,
but this brings up what I view as an essential quesiton: how do you
feel/imagine that the performance using "simulated" interaction will differ
from the performance with "real" interaction? How does the addition of
performative control of the media -- by the performers, from within the
performance -- change the meaning of the work. It is a question that I mean
for everyone on this list, not just Johannes.

If for the moment we take as a given that we all are drawn to use
technology in our performances in some way, then we can leave the question
of "why use the technology" aside for the moment. I am more interested to
find out how people feel the addition of these interactions deepen the work
in ways that are perceiveable. And by perceiveable, I primarily refer to
the audience, but also to ourselves as creators and to our performers.

My gut feeling about Johannes piece is that, when the interaction is
happening, it becomes a different piece that the one performed in Atlanta.
(Without seeing it the piece, it is difficult for me to say in any case,
but I will hazard my guess) But why? Because the performers have more to
handle, because they are allowed more choices? Will the perceptions of the
audience be substantially affected in either case?

Here are some of my feelings about this. I am interested in the way in
which the performers can control the media, and in the resulting (forced)
relationship between disparate forms. For instance, when the movement of a
dancer's hand, standing stage left, causes a light to go on stage right, it
never ceases to give me a sense of the body being that big, i.e., the body
extends from stage right to stage left. Just this simple relationship
brings up dozens of questions: am I simply attempting to do battle with my
anxiety regarding my frail corporeal container, using technological means
to extend it into some cybogian realm? Am I a typical geek-male showing off
his ability to dominate the technology at hand? Is this a means, by
creating invisble (magical) linkages between cause and result, to approach
the a approach the godlike status admired in ancient mythologies? Are the
sensors that gather information about the performers gestures and
vocalizations a technologic/parasitic invasion of the corporeal, a tacit
admission of the less than shining future of our poor, battered, old
bodies? I could go on.

I believe, however, that my facsination is not just my own. When we
recently gave a workshop, we were called upon to do some outreach lecutres
for grade school children. In these lectures, an array of simple floor
switches allowed the children to play sampled sounds. Good fun was had by
all. But, for me, the telling moment came when the children were sent away
and three very mature teachers came to me and whispered "can we try it?"
Why? What is the thing that draws so many to control the "machine" in this
way? This particular story begs me to ask another question of our group, is
it just the novelty?

There are certainly more questions here than answers. But I am curious to
here the responses from you all. So I'll hold my tongue -- for the moment
anyway -- so that I can see what y'all have to say.

-- Mark Coniglio

Mark Coniglio, Artistic Co-Director |
Troika Ranch |