Re: Ruminations on Interaction II

Johannes H. Birringer (
Mon, 05 May 1997 00:14:53 -0500

>Richard wrote:

>...but it's not just the maker/audience relationship we are questioning
>here (and I wonder to what extent we are in fact questioning that
>relationship, at least in those pieces that still use traditional
>performance mechanisms). What is being challenged much more fundamentally
>is the relationship between maker and performer. This is certainly not the
>first challenge to this relationship, but I think interactive environments,
>when designed with a real insight and level of sophistication, challenge
>the maker/performer relationship in an entirely new way. That relationship
>has already been the subject of much discussion in this list.

I suppose Richard's ideas about "maker" - "performer" (and Scott's worry
about the third part of this correlation, the "audience") indeed deserve
more debate amongst us, if we push dance research to the limit.

Yes, some issues have been brought up already. However, have we discussed
what the limits are?

And are many of us doing dance research or digital art/technological
design/composition research? If the recent discussion on whether bodies
(performers) are needed is meaningful, then I gather we are not necessarily
maintaining the "fundamental" notion that "dance" is danced by real people
in (only) a real space/time. That also means that such "dance" will not
desire to be (re)viewed as "dance" but is transdance. The new musicians and
dj's I recently evoked are talking about reorganizing structures,
reconfiguring the architecture of electronic soundsample data, generating
patterns, designing sonic fields, etc, not necessarily "making" music.

I think asked you before: are you willing to consider yourselves dance
designers or, more correctly, multimedia designers, and where would you
perform/show/display such work (not at old traditional dance festivals, ja?
At electronic-body symposia? at SIGGRAPH? at academic panels? or in the
clubs, the Net? In this case, how is the distribution (a
technological/market symptom) affecting the production?

My young nephew has a homepage now, and wrote an essay about informatics and
the Internet Plus, under industrial development, and he speculates that by
2012 we no longer have to buy CDs or videos, but can download everything. I
wonder whether we could speculate that in the future a dancedesign CD can be
downloaded, meaning a new distribution of a work or interactive piece.
However, that interactive CD will have to be created and performed, if the
images are of real people.

The question then is, how do the real producers (if we drop the distinctions
between composer/designer and performer) think/approach such "configuration"
(dance or multimedia creation), and is it going to be transdance or no dance
at all, if indeed, as my Cuban colleague Abdel Hernández argues, the notion
of "performance/art" is already way too limiting for what we experience in
postmodermn processes of evocation not limited to one space/time or medium
or known genre?

Finally, following on Richard's post, I wonder though whether indeed most of
us still operate with notions of "authorship" (assumed responsibility/
subjectivity) as in: director/composer/choreograper and dancers/performers,
or whether many of us perform and interact with our own materials, or design
our own interactive experiments. W h a t is it exactly that is
fundamentally challenged, what has changed in the performance mechanisms
(display, distribution)? How does the contituted process interact with
audiences/readers? If inter-active dance design concerts (including
Amanda's Internet or other telematic installations/concerts) are possible
now, how does the third part (the audience, consumer, co-producer) enter
into the interpretation of such work, and into its
dissemination/acceptance/rejection? Is the new/next level of "recording" a
mode of composition, as Jacques Attali said in his book NOISE, which makes
all (the receivers) into co-producers?

I think we would be deluding ourselves if we didn't ask whether anybody out
there (on the ground) is waiting for this new work, to embrace it or give it
a viewing. The institutions of reward (critics, theatres, museums, record
stores, recording/publishing companies) or validation cooperate with a
market economy, and their "validity grids" may change under pressure of new
forms. But they'll look out for what is recognizable (saleable).

But my discussion and my parallel posts on postmodern ethnography are not
about the old avant-garde notions of "fundamentally" changing or subverting
the forms. Whenever colleagues on the list speak of fundamental changes, I
wonder whether that still refers to modernist notions of the work (dance?)
or the makers and their production modes. Has the dancing changed (Dawn
would say, no, it cannot, fundamentally).

Then what is the GRID? Is is a new f o r m a l operation (with sensors,
MIDI devices, software etc?), has it changed the content, the effability,
the modes of perception & interpretation, or indeed the entire understanding
and presumption of the constitutive process? Why would the interaction (as
improvisation or choreograpahy among the producers) change anything at all,
apart from the introduction of a few new terms borrowed from the
cyberlanguage of VR or the computer technologies? Technologies of
composition never changed the institution of art, as we have seen in the
avant-garde in this century.

Is then the new dance another formal annexation of means of the tool-box, or
what, as Scott implies, is radically different? In light of my suggested
discussion of transart (ethnography and social polyphonic processes that
neither produce an object nor describe a (new) reality which, in any case,
cannot be represented), how does the new dance at the limit of technology
alter the limits of dance or, rather, the limits of the effable?


Johannes Birringer