Re: Promoting Technology (was Pantha)

Richard Povall (Richard.Povall@oberlin.edu)
Mon, 24 Aug 1998 12:43:05 -0400

>On the other hand, you are then in a trap because people come to the
>performance looking for technilogical innovation...

I'm not surprised that this is turning into a major thread, and I thought
I'd throw in my 2 worth...

Simply, I don't think there is an answer to this. If you underplay, or
ignore altogether, references to a technology that's being used in a
performance, I think Mark's right to say that can be confounding to the
audience. It's "that problem" about balancing aesthetic/artistic
considerations versus the role of the technology. Almost a form/content
issue - but not so straightforward really. Even if you make a point of
using your chosen technology only in such a way that it amplifies the
content/aesthetic concerns of a given piece (which I try to do), you can
never get away from the fact that the technology is still intrinsic to the
work. If you're using motion-sensing systems to generate, well, whatever,
then that is bound to have a fundamental effect on the work - even if it's
ultimately not a dominating effect. In fact, if it doesn't have such an
effect, then why do it?

...I'm struggling here, trying to get these thoughts straight...

Perhaps I should just outline some work I'm doing. I've just returned from
an immersive two weeks at the Banff Centre, where the company are working
on development stages of a new work. We constantly came up against the
issue of audience/performer paradigms, and this is one of the major
questions the folks at Banff, as our co-producers, want us to address. Our
solution is to present the performance in the traditional way - a piece
centred on it's content, but riven through with the technologies we are
using (which in turn, affect the content...) and let the audience
experience this as an "art work", without too much discussion about the
technology. However, in addition, we are building a series of sculptures
with a touch/motion-based interface that will allow audience members to
experience their own manipulation of the same (or similar) sonic
environments we are using in the piece. These devices will be available
before and after performances in an installation-type setting. There may
be some informational/interpretive written material available in that
context - but it does deliberately remove it one step from the performance.
The last thing we want is for the audience to read about the technology
that's being used just before they see the performance - because they won't
be watching the performance, they'll be watching (for) the technology at
work.

Of course, this doesn't address the issue of how such work should be
marketed. I'm afraid I have to be a whore and admit that I'll push the
work in whatever way people want it. We've talked about hype and media
misrepresentation on this list before (somewhat shrilly, too), but if a
work genuinely has a technological core, or spine, and if that can provide
a media handle, than why not use it? Particularly in the US, we're in the
position of having exceptionally poor coverage of the performing arts, and
a remarkably low profile for artmaking and art in general. If this is one
way for the work to receive some exposure - so be it. The danger is always
the hyping of work through an angle (technology, sexual identity, political
viewpoint, whatever) that's not actually there in the work. We can blame
reporters for misrepresenting information, but the way in which we write
our press releases is usually as responsible for misinformation as any
reportage.

Phew, sorry...

r

R i c h a r d P o v a l l
Director, Div. of Contemp. Music/Assoc. Prof of Computer Music/New Media.
Visiting Researcher, Exeter College of Art & Design, Exeter, UK.
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