RE: relations dance/technology workshop

Johannes Birringer (
Sat, 30 Aug 97 22:25 +0100

Hello list:

Diane has responded to Scott's post (and Richard's commentary)....
and spoken about her new experiences

< in which the question of the uncertain relationship between dancer
<and technological expert ...hits home.
<I am one of "those who are trained (are training) in the physical knowledge
<of dancing, that daily ritual o class and rehearsal which tends to take up all
<of one's energy and time..." and in recent months have been seeking out people
<working in technology w/ whom to collaborate.

Since we spoke last week about workshops and methods, I want to report briefly
on the production relations in our workshop "LBLM" (lively bodies-lively
machines) recently carried through in Dresden. Perhaps Thecla and others will
report on theirs. (please read if you have the time)


Designed for 10 days. We had the theatre only for 7 days. So it ran Monday
through Sunday, with 3 public showings of workshop results/open rehearsals at
the end. Working times 9:oo am to 11 pm.

9 participants.

The theatre was given to us in its entirety, so we could transform it into a
physical workspace and lab, moving in cameras, video editing equipment,
projectors, 3 PCs with multimedia software including one sound computer and
sound mixer, synthesizer, amps, etc, and one Power Mac which was semi-nervous.


We always worked on physical base (training conducted by Imma) in mornings,
followed by improvisations and group work based on movement images, objects,
explorations, actions, and then also individual processes of development of what
one might call "scenes". We spoke of them as 'materials' that we examined,
filmed, reviewed, analyzed. We did all that together, created some group actions
that were physical, and later interactive with image material or sound material
(music, voice, found sound, sound created by us in the physical work), then also
pursued in smaller teams or individually on the computer workstations which were
distributed in the space.

We also, after 3 days, started to have sculptural elements that were built into
the space, having to do with material (content, thematic preoccupation and
especially working with objects, substances such as earth, stones, water, kites,
needles, glass, strings, etc), and changed the configuration, while we also hung
lights and used special light for camera shoots (4 Panasonic S-VHS cameras),
reshoots, and video projections.

After three days material was evolving that led most of us to work, in
afternoons and evening, on image manipulation or evolutions, samples and loops,
processing in other words. Some of us had not worked with Photoshop and Adobe
Premiere and various softwares (editing, morphing, Lifeforms) before, and so
people moved around and helped each other, gave feedback, worked with each
other, talked with each other. Construction-work.

No shared dramaturgy or choreography evolved, since different folks, depending
on their level of (expertise is not a good word) acquaintance or comfort or
desire or interest, pursued different tracks. Parallel processing.

[if you wonder what I mean in concrete terms, here's a brief notation:

Holger developed a project he calls "digital morphology", videoscanning and
morphing 2000 found objects he has collected over past 20 years, developing a
film on bones, stones, roots, organic matter, etc. He also plays the didgeridoo.

Heide developed 2 short digital films, and 2 actions in space (one with rock,
the other a dance to the rock movement she had created).

Constance explored a hand gesture/movement she had discovered in a group action,
and went deep inside it, working for the first time with camera, projection,
closed circuit, etc. Collaborated with Lars.

Lars worked on video production and sound experiments and many things.

Jörg (local organizer) worked as doctor for the computers and developed a scene
with Imma and experimented with music sampling and sound computer, also created
2 action sequences.

Jools invented a group action sewing stones with needles, did photography,
wrote, danced, and developed a sculpture installation (garden with hanging
kites) which was enacted by her and Imma. Film projected onto kites.
Imma worked with Jools a lot, and with others, hung lights, and also developed a
LifeForm choreography (reverse sequence) after her action.

Daniel developed two digital films based on a dance improv and a scene with
himself shot on location (elsewhere). Created a sculpture for the projection,
and an interface action between digital projection, synthetic ryhthm, and

I worked on 3 versions of a dance video, using digital editing, tried out
Lifeforms, wrote text and worked on a group scene.]

What these summaries won't tell is that such a lab is always an intensive
affair, a physical and psychic-emotional process with a lot of sharing, give and
take, arguments, etc. No firm content structure was pregiven, so that ideas and
incentives could flow freely and emerge. Some may be impasses, others are
transformed, left behind. Since most of us come (originally) from the performing
arts, we approach the technoid processes like a rehearsal with instruments, and
then sometimes spend long house struggling with software and the computers'
idiosyncrasies, like any work with technology. Comfort zones, and inspiration,
derive from the collaboration in-between our own materials, ourselves and the
shaping of images, sound, movements, figures in space, space itself.


Finally, as a critical reflection, I need to add that the open showing of work
in progress created disagreements that were quite vehement & productive, since
the first open night we structured everything as a durational performance (with
flows and overlaps, but linear and theatrical, like a staging). The staging
seemed wrong to us, and the other 2 nights with an audience we carried out
rehearsal as we did all week, showing how a scene (and an interface) is
constructed, and thus making the physical work with the machines transparent,
interrupted the scenes, discussed them, rehearsed new materials, involved the


In our self-critique we focussed on the issue of the concluding "performance"
vis a vis the "installation" concept (showing the digital material or Lifeforms
or samples on the monitor/projected as they were processed), coming to the
conclusion that we worked in incomplete process, and therefore that a "staging"
falsifies the technological process as such. While an open rehearsal tends to
shift more to the physical side of action and projection, a more rigorous
installation concept would require a sculptural setting, a transformation of the
space into a visual document context, where we as performers may not need to

We also discovered that we have not fully found the answer to the integration of
both dimensions of the process, the physical and the computer-station work,
although it is clear one feeds into the other, and materials simply are
processed and develop their new shapes and qualities.

The question of content and dramaturgy (if one thinks of choreographing a work)
is unanswered, since we would need to spend a lot more time working together
physically as group (4-6 weeks at least) to create a shared piece in which
everyone is committed. The technoid processes have a different feel to them,
tend to distribute work energy differently, fragment more, and the output is
different, and would need to be reintegrated (video, sound)into a whole, while
if we opted for installation or interactive designs, we would still need to work
more carefully and precisely on the configuration and distribution (display) -
meaning, the crucial connection between digital material and three-dimensional
space of representation. Question: what is a "dramaturgy" in this case?

The last issue is altered if one were to work online or as a net performance, or
take further the idea (discussed with Amanda) of a live on-line jam or a jam
that is less concerned with structure, precision, and emotional connection to
the content/choreography, and more with the shared exchange and spontanous
combustion of the event, dramaturgy evolving unpredictably, continuing,
including dysfunctional or disorganized elements, surprising and eye-opening
confluences, etc. Question: how does this (or not) relate to chance event in
sense of happening or JohnCagean holism, or situationism?

In the latter case, of a jam with samples, mushrooms, and movement improvs,
perhaps our older adherence to "choreography" (and rehearsed, memorized
expression and figuration) needs to be given over to a new understanding of
interactive performance that functions with different principles. Nevertheless,
in my work I consider it important to reflect on how the improvisational and
evolved materials construct meaning, alter space and my relations to space and
the images in the space (films, sound, sculptures, objects)---- and how such
work alters and shapes the relations in production between the members of the
ensemble, since I feel that we all are responsible for the parallel processing
and share-waring, and thus there are no experts and interpreters, in my opinion,
only a teamwork towards composition. But a concern with forms, structures and
surfaces might be different from investment into content, gesture and emotional
authenticity. The latter may or may not be a remnant of my training in

Finally, then, I think of these performance/multimedia workshops or rehearsals
as composistion workshops, since we move (act, dance, play instruments, make
objects and place them, program, digitize, and loop and circuit)the "notes" with
which we learn how to process ideas, and react to each other learning to
articulate content in the human-machine constellation. If the rehearsal is
movement-based (that includes movement images on film or animation), then the
resulting work is a movement work, regardless of such or such (there being no
"pure movement") an interface. Distributionally, emerging from such process is
work that can be exhibited online, on stage, in gallery, under a bridge, on a
monitor, movie screen, on CD-ROM, and in a book. We work in space and, as Amanda
suggests, with our fingertips, sending our images and sound ideas to others who
may look.

We also look, altering and modifying our process of construction as we move

thanks for listening.

with best wishes,
Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.