picasso's bull

Scott deLahunta (sdela@ahk.nl)
Sun, 13 Sep 1998 13:01:22 +0200

Picasso's Bull

Sometime in the 30s/ 40s Picasso painted a series of bull images which
reduced the bull to its essential features... basically a stick drawing
which maintained the key signifying characteristics which distinguish the
bull from all other four legged creatures (something like the curve and
length of the back in relation to legs, shape of the head, horns and
penis). A similar principle is operating in his 1943 *Bull's Head* (find a
picture here http://www.artisle.com/alternative.html) which uses a leather
bicycle seat and handlebars to create the head.

This 'reduction' of a material or object/ subject to its essential features
is one of the key features of modernism... moving towards minimalism/ less
is more, etc. Stripping away, paring down, etc.

Movement Capture

By technological default the procedures known as motion capture and
animation create this pared down image of the human body moving (e.g. the
wire frame). By default I mean that computing seeks to do whatever it is
capable of doing (which, in the popular imagination, is everything and
anything), but must simply start at the essentials because it lacks the
computing power (speed, memory, etc.) to do otherwise. The mo-capture/
animation enterprise seeks what is necessary for the unmistakable
recognition of human movement. 'Correctness' is sought after in the writing
of the software... for instance, the fact that apparently the human foot
seems to 'slip' or 'slide' when placed on the virtual ground in the first
stages of motion capture animation is 'incorrect' and programmers/
animators are working on a software solution.

Media Minimalism

Some of us in the dance/ tech community have tossed around this notion of a
'media minimalism'... obviously to contradict the overall exhaustive
*extravagance* of the emerging digital media... but also as a strategy for
a possible procedure of analysis -- Picasso's Bulls are essentially a
vehicle of reflection/ of analysis. What is a 'bull'? Does motion capture
lead us back to ask the question 'what is movement'? Yes but then No --
because the answer to that question in relationship to motion capture is
placed so quickly in the service of 'correctness'. From there the industry
carries the information on to further levels of *extravagance* and the
reflectiveness of the question is obliterated. On one level, this has to do
with the fact of the equipment involved -- Picasso could do his work with a
pencil // motion capture needs a 100,000 dollars worth of equipment. In the
face of such costs, a 'minimalistic' approach seems a manifestation of
something almost perverse.


So, rather than see similarities between Motion Capture and Picasso's Bulls
(this pared down and essential image), they should be recognised as
'opposite' in the extreme. The Bulls are at an end point of an exploration,
Motion Capture at the beginning. Seen from this perspective, Media
Minimalism is so far an incomplete and flawed strategy. I still like the
idea very much, but we have to work a lot harder to find how to incorporate
it in a productive way into 'dance and technology' explorations. Possibly
the answer lies in some strange dialectic between the question 'what is
movement' and 'what is correct movement'...

... to be continued, maybe.

Scott deLahunta and Susan Rethorst
Writing Research Associates, NL
Sarphatipark 26-3, 1072 PB Amsterdam, NL
tel: +31 (0)20 662 1736
fax: +31 (0)20 470 1558
email: sdela@ahk.nl
http://huizen.dds.nl/~sdela/wra (WRITING RESEARCH ASSOCIATES)
http://www.art.net/~dtz (DANCE AND TECHNOLOGY ZONE )