Re: content over technology

Sarah Rubidge (
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 17:19:50 +0100

Whilst I fully endorse the need to keep content at the forefront of our
minds I wonder whether the strategies we develop as choregraphers when we
work with the kind of technology we are concerned with, particularly
interactive trechnologies, do not themselves become, not only the means
through which we make a work, but also part of the content of the work.
(My focus is interactive works at them moment. What follows uses those as
its paradigm)

Content is no longer an unproblematic concept. It is no longer simply
meaning (although there is nothing simple about meaning!) but covers far
more than that. I think I am finding that the content of the work I create
with interactive systems (that is my interpretation of what my work is
'about') is in part to do with the character of the relationships with
that system as they are formed by performers and/or participant-spectators
as they interact with it. (I use structured improvisation for performers
and allow participant-spectators to find their own ways to engage in a
dialogue with interactive installations.) You could say that the
interactivity is thematised in the work itself. The work may or may not
have content above and beyond that (it usually does) but the interactivity
is _part_ of what it is for the work to _be_ the work. The work is not,
cannot be, independent of the interactivity and the behaviours through
which it is effected.

But for me content also includes the questions the work is asking. Some
of the questions my interactive works ask include - What is the
relationship between you and this work? What is your role in making this
work (either as participant-spectator or as performer)? What does it make
you want to do? Can you change that by changing it? What do you do, what
decisions do you make, to create _your_ world of the work? How do the two
worlds relate (that is the world initially presented by the work and the
world you want to form up within it)? _ Who_ are you in relation to this
work? These questions are part of the 'work' of the work, and for me part
of what the work is 'about'.

I think I am saying that the physical, emotional and intellectual dialogues
which take place between the human being in the space and the interactive
system, as well as between the human being and the images with which they
are interacting, are all part and parcel of the content of the work. So,
perhaps, in order to talk about the work you have to talk about the
technology and the ideas which underpin the particular use/s you have made
of it to facilitate those dialogues.

Hmmm! I hope that makes sense - I am still trying to work the ideas through.
Talking about technology in this way is not to be confused with talk about
the technology of the technical devices (whether they be algorithms, other
programming devices or hardware, composiitonal devices, etc) that we use to
create the interactive environments in which the performer/participant
engages. These may be less directly concerned with the content of the work
than the other kind of talk about technology.

(But don't stop talking about them - they too are the repository of ideas,
and important for that reason.)