Re: hand drawn spaces

Tara Olivero (Tara.Olivero@Rollins.Edu)
Tue, 28 Jul 1998 10:40:04 -0400

Scott deLahunta wrote:
> Dear List:
> 1)
> Who can give an 'objective' report on the premiere of Hand-drawn Spaces,
> Merce Cunningham's collaboration with Paul Kaiser at Riverbed at Siggraph
> on 20 July? (not the world premiere -- it was apparently shown last
> November in Ireland).

Please forgive is this description is rather elementary, but I am
somewhat new to the field of dance technology, but I am not new to
dance. I saw the 'Hand-Drawn Spaces' virtual performance this past week
at the Siggraph conference in Orlando, Florida, USA and considered it
groundbreaking. As far as dance animation is concerned, because it's the
first time I've seen dance animation and felt like I could understand
the movement experience (not sure if explaining well-but the first time
I knew where movment originated from in the body; it did not just
happen, like many animations appear).

It may be more groundbreaking for motion capture and animation, than
dance, but it's awesome that they used modern dance mvoement to prove
the possibilities.

Before I get to far along, I also attended a discussion panel with all
the contributors to the piece, including Merce Cunningham. Actually, the
best part of the piece was that all aspects of
it-movement-animation-figure/drawing-sound-worked very well together,
and an interesting mix of artists. Sorry, if I seem to go on, but not
much dance/technology work comes to Orlando, Florida, actually not much
dance besides ballet does. Not that ballet is worthy.

'Hand-Drawn Spaces' was shown in the electronic theatre. It was designed
to be displayed upon three separate projection screens. Sketched 3-D
figures danced between the screens in swift and precise Cunningham
style. Dancers moved in and out of spaces as if moving past you. It
seemed as if watching a live performance; that is they used the space
beyond the boundaries of the projection space; dancers would disappear
and then reappear. Actually it was similar to Cunningham's work 'Points
in Space'. The best were the reflections cast by the figures that made
the performance even more real because if looked like relections of
performers off of black marley. At times the figures almost seemed
alien-like because they moved so well; okay maybe that was due to Merce
Cunninham's precise movement and dancers--almost to perfect to be human!

The figures themselves were quite beautiful. They were hand drawn
charcoal figures recreated in the computer (each stroke created in
computer by geometry). The artist is Shelly Eshkar. You could see
through the figures allowing one to see the origin of the movement and
to a certain degree some weight shifting.

Paul Keiser of Rivedbed was the conceptor and visual designer. He
described the process of the project; getting the figures into the
computer, then capturing the motion into fragments and in the end by
motion-flow editing flowing it into one long sequence.

Merce Cunningham discussed the paramters he worked with- short phrases
with simple movements in no pre-conceived order.

Susan Amkraut and Michael Girard of Unreal Pictures, spoke about the
many challenges they had doing the animation. The dancing baby (we so
often see) is literally their baby-they are the creators of Character
Studio used in 3D Studio Max by Kinetix. The motion capture was done by

The sound was created by Ron Kuivila, who began working with Merce
Cunningham 20 years ago. I'm not sure how to describe the sound except
that it worked really well-it was breathing, moving, not leading your
mind anywhere, it increased in volume by the end of the piece almost
alarming you to pay attention-it was plain and simple sound. He
explained that he wanted to "suggest rather than represent".