Re: algorithms and bodies

Johannes Birringer (
Fri, 17 Apr 1998 02:44:29

I'm late in reading the discussion, having gotten ill during our recent
"Parachute" performnance cycle, and my body [left side] is currently
processing things differently,
as the wound is healing. The discussion on algorithms, as far as I remember
got started with Scott's remarks, which I want to come back to.
(Trish Brown begins suddenly to look like DV8)

Richard was asked whether
>> "the difference [is] only because your body is involved? Or is the
"machine" >>process fundamentally different in either case?"

he answered:

>For me, the essential difference between the machine process and the human,
>body-driven process is that there is a constant feedback within the
>motion-driven environments I use...
>The algorithms are only there as ways of responding to the realtime action
>of the performer - whether they are called into play depends entirely on
>her action of the moment - the piece lives in the moment and not in the

I am a little confused now, since you (Richard) previously wrote that you are
"making interactive environments... their outcome (whether that be sonic or
visual) is rooted in the body and, in my current work, [is] in the live act
of speaking.

How does the discussion on algorithms relate to the "live act of speaking"
and how is speaking motion driven? or are you looking (hearing)
speech/sound as movement, or is the performer moving/speaking in a certain
way? How? And if he action is in the "moment" (necessarily as series), then
how can the performamnce or the interactive environment n o t be a
process? Or are you now thinking of machine (programmed) process, while you
differentiate live articulation (is it rehearsed, "set" or is it
spontaneous and improvised? random? unpredictable?)

Is there a tendency among dance makers to favor (validate) the bodily
creativity over the programmed process of algorithms or the prerecorded
sound/music? In so many tech-dance pieces I have seen the dance itself
looks progammed or dependent on the interface (when video projection is
used), i.e. dependent on the prearrangement.
Improvisation, I think, has different connotations or meanings in, say,
contact improvisation, compared to interactively designed environments.
What is the weight of algorithm, its rub?

I wonder what Yacov might say about the relation of the wired/connected
dancer to the virtual projections, how is it improvised, or "set"/finite
(if that is a way of thinking through Scott's reference to "Accumulation".

I must admit that I find Accumulation not a particularly interesting,
creative work that tells me anything about logic, mathematics of algorithm
or "pure movement" for that matter. I fact, after seeing Trisha Brown last
week (we have Rauschenberg's retrospective here in Houston), recreating the
1983 piece "Set and Reset" - I felt I was in a museum, Autopsy
Department, watching a very deadening and stifling exercise of the
simulated dissolution ("unpredictability") of choreography based on
(post)modern assumptions about pure movement (abstraction). What was
dissolved, it seemed, was the assumption that there is anything to see or
understand or feel in the dance, except it's decidedly modernist adherence
to the medium (movement) as sufficient to itself. But it can't really be
itself, intelligently. If it claims to algorithmical, then well, why
bother. I was sorry I bothered.

Now, how on earth "Trisha Brown" could look like DV8, you tell me. Scott,
can you make an algorithm change its aesthetics and be "physical theatre,"
and what does that mean for the poor algorithm-as-choreography?

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.