Re: Research on dance film

Johannes Birringer (
Sun, 26 Apr 1998 13:12:19

Response to Scott, Richard, Isabel and Jos (on dance/film):

Good to see a widening discussion on the issue of algorithms and videodanse.

>I think the problem of the "emptied (post) modernist form" its very much
>still around us in this new hybrid work with technology, by keeping that
>emptiness of reflexion on the medium itself, if it relies to much on the
>technological algorithms for content, even using it in task, improvisation
>oriented work(?)
>It depends very much to what end the algoritms and interactions are
>created for, instead for an end in itself. When the body come into play,
>alone or interactions with algoritmic devices or other computer
>applications in performance, there should be some aim, concept, which
>driven it, as I think Richard suggest with this fresh thread.
>I think the best way to achieve this is by searching the movement, sound,
>and visual elements interaction using computer in a 'feed-back&forward'

Could you explain how you understand this "emptied form"? Do you mean
modern dance vocabularies or abstract ("pure") movement as now a frozen
formalism, exploited by postmodern choreographers interested in
deconstructing/examining the surfaces?

Is this (to mention one of the two articles Scott refers to, i.e.August
issue of Ballet International) what Elisa Vaccarino means by implying that
some videodanse (the fast, short clip) may not have much to do with the
"spiritual/physical emotion of live it still dance at all or
rather much more a betrayal of dance when one attempts to turn it into flat
images and forces its corporality into a box"?

(Scott, actually, this article by Vaccarino on the 10 year genre
"videodanse" is helpful and interesting, and she ends up praising video
art/dancevideo art as an "ideal go-between between electronic and real
bodies." The other article, a review of Meg Stuart's collaboration with
video artist Gary Hill, in "Splayed Mind Out," I found virtually
unintelligible. I have not seen the work yet).

No, modern dance's abstract languages seem to work quite well for those
choreographer-filmmakers who extend the abstract formal languages into
animation, and digital effects and manipulations (LifeForms). I have
commented on this before; the tranlation of tanztheater or butoh into
videodance does not quite work, work in the same way. The examples of
rechoreography for camera, in narrative, expressionist or phsyical
theatre/dance, of course exist, most notably perhaps in Jean Claude
Galotta's work and in the video danceworks of DV8. Pina tried it in "The
Lament of the Empress" (unsuccessfully). Merce Cunningham's "Beach Birds,"
which won a prize at the 1995 DanceScreen Festival (another major
international dance-on-film.vieo fetsival organized by the Vienna-based
IMZ), on the other hand, looked strangely modernist and old fashioned, flat
and uninspired.

Now, as far as new creative investigations of the interface are concerned,
I also pointed out, in some of my posts, that in my experience the
emphasis, among my collaborators, today is not so much in creation for
video/film but in the live interface of dance choreography, film/video
projection and interactive design. This is an altogether different arena,
since it cannot be postproduced intelligently but occurs in the real-time
installation/exhibition contexts. CD-ROM is a way to extend this
interactive configuration.

Now I'd like to ask what Jos and Isabel mean by their reference to "The
Visible Human Body" project and the "Ultimate Human Body" CDROM? Are you
both working with samplings from CD-Roms and medical representations of the
body? Interesting, but what "aim or concept" underlies these CD-Roms? If
you quote these "ultimate body representations," how are you commenting or
transfiguring them without falling prey to their ideology?

Of course the samplings and new technological scans of the body/body
interior are fascinating tools for new choreographic explorations, see
recent issue of Ballet International (3/98) on Antoni Rizzi's "CEGERIC" and
"Body Images"( ha, of course, in the telling context of BI's special issue
on 'dance and fashion'), but I wonder whether they are being used in dance
videos or clips, how the are used, or whether they motivate a new stage
experimentation with danceimage languages or feedbacks/forwards?......

We can continue to discuss this. For Jos, I'd like to mention that I've
always been interested very much in good dance films shot in 32mm. I want
to mention (Scott) that we must definitely distingush between film and
video as media, there are enormous differences in quality and
production/editing process. The most devastatingly beautiful and poetic
film I have seen recently (32mm) was by Berlin filmmaker Peter Sempel,
entitled "Just Visiting this Planet," a meditation on Kazuo Ohno. Stunning,
and not doable in video (light, dark, and depth perception work completely
differently in film). So Jos, you either have your own iea as a filmmaker
for a story/film on dance or a dancer, or you may work in an interface that
is closer to what Isabel described and creates a new meaning through the
collage of samples and stagings. That would imply that the storyboard is
connected to choreography or is a new form of choreoraphy itself of the
dance/body images, motions, stillnesses, outsides, insides, autopsies, etc.
Autopsy I consider not a very fortunate term in regard to what we are
Never much liked Andres Serrano's photo close-ups of dead bodies in the
morgue. Now, Araki is a photochoreographer (have you seen his "Sexual
Desire series?)", and gender biased, naturally.

Finally, Scott, it is correct that Europe has funded and supported
videodanse much more; yet there are festivals now in Canada and the US that
explicitly invite dance films and dance videos, and some videodanse
programs have toured the alternative performance centers in the US (we had
one at DiverseWorks already in 1990). It would help our membership if we
could compile a listing of international videodanse festivals.


Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.