mixed means 2

Scott deLahunta (sdela@ahk.nl)
Wed, 08 Apr 1998 11:09:06 +0200

"Mixed Means: One - Two"

My school has supported the use of mixed media on stage as an
'interdisciplinary' activity for the last decade-- video, sound, lighting,
objects (media), film, decor, scenography, costume -- and movement
performance. Now digital technologies have increased exponentially the
possibilities for electronic media and sound creation, manipulation,
production and projection into the stage environment. Digital media also
represent a massive new learning curve. Analog media tended to be one-to-one
correspondence... you pushed a single button and power turned on, or sound
volume increased or camera lens zoomed in. With digital technologies, you
push a single button and algorithms interact to manifest a complex result...
which may leave the user with no idea as to how it was achieved. Wonderful
for 'chance' operations -- but if one wishes to make work from a different
perspective... where a certain amount of predictability and repeatability is
important then it's difficult.

Dance and Digital technology projects need digital artists/ programmers.
Dancers/ choreographers team up with these individuals to produce new hybrid
art forms. Production of these art forms is more like the production of a
film with a team of specialists under the overall direction of director/
producer. But this is something which has been discussed here before.

I am advising my school to rethink approaches in the education to all
electronic media -- analog and digital. To devise a training pattern whereby
remedial courses can help a student to analyze his or her approaches to and
interest in using any and all media on stage. Intermediate and advanced
courses take fewer and fewer students 'up' the ladder to expertise with
digital media. Disciplines are separated out of the 'interdisciplinary' and
considered as isolated forces for the purpose of reflecting on the
interactions in the context of 'Mixed Means: One'. As part of this process,
the history is important to consider.

"Mixed Means: One", a historical trajectory:

1. 1968 -- media literacy is defining what is happening in performance.
Richard Kostelanetz publishes *The Theatre of Mixed Means*, which he refers
to as "definitely a theatre for a post-literate (which is not the same as a
literate) age."

2. 1976 -- Bonnie Marranca in her introduction to the 'Theatre of Images'
PAJ 1976, which focusses primarily on the works of Foreman, Wilson and
Breuer: "The significance of the 'Theatre of Images' is its expansion of the
audience's capacity to perceive. It is a theatre devoted to the creation of
a new stage language". Marranca also writes that it is reasonable to
conclude that the TOI "would not exist without the benefit of technology.
Perhaps experiments with holography may led in the future to a theatre of
total images and recorded sound."

3. 1997 -- Heidi Gilpin in 'Shaping Critical Spaces: issues in the
dramaturgy of movement performance' published in *Dramaturgy in American
Theater: a source book*, Harcourt Brace 1997.... writes on the role of the
dramaturg in relationship to movement performance. The dramaturg has
traditionally assisted in the staging of a dramatic 'text', but as movement,
gesture and image, rather than the written word, have dominated the stage...
theater has disappeared. "The dramatic text is cast aside." Dance remains as
a primary signifying component in a 'mixed-media' field. (Gilpin cites the
work of artists Forsythe, Bausch, Fabre, de Keersmaeker, Teshigawara among


Kostelantz suggests that the theater of Mixed Means began about 1960 and
locates this in the activities of 'happenings' 'kinetic environments', etc.
>From the dance field, he cites artists Ann Halprin and Merce Cunningham and
John Cage. So, dance has been highlighted from the beginning of this work...
and continues to thread through my three comments above -- kostelanetz/
marranca/ gilpin (which is also a USA/European thread). I think it is
significant that Heidi Gilpin (dramaturg for William Forsythe) sees the task
of the 'dance dramaturg' to "expose and explore how this multidisciplinary
quality functions on a compositional level in the creation of these
productions". Here she refers to the 'mixed means' theater, and the 'theater
of images'... which is also essentially a technological theater.

[I am also recommending to my school that some form of 'dance dramaturgy'
should be added to the curriculum... to combine with this re-consideration
of mixed media in light of what is newly available to the school in terms of
digital media.]

Dance seems now to be on the edge of a continual renaissance... and media is
very much a part of that. I disagree with what seems to be suggested for
example in this month's Ballett International... which has a section devoted
to choreographers becoming directors with the implication that 'language' is
somehow being re-invented on the stage through the activities of certain
choreographers. We may be seeing language, words and writing on-stage in the
work, but I hold that it still fits very much within the trajectory of the
'mixed means' theater whereby the media is the thing. It is not the word,
but the mediation of the word, its projection, manner in which it is
written, the body upon which it is literally written (for example with a big
magic marker), etc.

There is nothing which would indicate that we won't continue to make
performance for the stage... the classic argument that photography did not
kill painting, tv did not kill the cinema -- is given by Robert Lepage to an
interviewer who asked him why he doesn't believe theater is threatened by
film or television. The side effect of the 'death of the dramatic text' vis
a vis 'mixed media' theater is that dramatic texts are reinvigorated by
artists like Lepage who use 'mixed means' theater to do so.


'Mixed Means: Two'

... refers to a new space for dance. Another technological space, that of
the 'digital network'. The digital network is liberating all forms from the
genres in which they were/ are contained or, some might say, confined. This
is because the digital network, or say the 'internet', represents such a
dramatic increase in the range and scope of what to might also be referred
to as the 'communication arts' (see Frank Popper's *art in the electronic
age* for some description of this genre of work). Projects which deal almost
entirely in process and rely upon exisiting communications technologies to
do so. Interestingly, this could be perceived as a re-emergence of
'Happenings' which were such a source for Kostelanetz's 1960s book.
'Happenings' on the net... in the work of Amanda Steggell/ Per Platou for
example at Motherboard http://www.notam.uio.no/motherboard/

In an essay titled 'Maniacs of Disappearance*---the membrane in personal
media' a presentation at SYNC in Rotterdam (March 8-29, 1998), Yukiko
Shikata + Kazunao Abe write about the 'liberated video art' which is a
result of digital networks. "... compared with the more formal video art,
which values forms and rationality of editing, the liberated video works
focus on their process and contents as the important factors."


I am out of time -- possibly in a future posting I (or someone else) will
list some URLs where some interesting related projects are taking place
which are liberating the dance/ performance genre from the formal space of
the stage. But, they are out there -- and the remarkable thing about the net
is you can find them yourself anytime/ anywhere... which is also partly a
function of their liberation.


Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558
email: sdela@ahk.nl
http://huizen.dds.nl/~sdela/wra (WRITING RESEARCH ASSOCIATES)
http://www.art.net/~dtz (DANCE AND TECHNOLOGY ZONE )