Re: jerwood spaces and telethings

John McCormick (
Tue, 27 Oct 1998 00:14:09 -0500

Hi Scott,

How lovely to hear from you, and glad you could make it to the performance. We
have another week of performances here so please be patient as I have a few
things to do before I add my thoughts to those of yours.
Talk to you all soon


On 25-Oct-98, Scott deLahunta wrote:
>A letter I began writing to John McCormick of 'company in space' has turned
>into something I am sending to the list. The focus of the letter is the
>telematic piece which was just performed between the Jerwood Space in South
>London (with Wayne MacGregor) linked live with and intervening in
>Australia's Company in Space's piece. I am not going to describe the work,
>but some of the questions which arose in the viewing of it.


>Hello John,

>Just to say hello and it was nice to see you on the wall in the Jerwood
>spaces. I was there for the Saturday morning (in the UK) performance.
>Technically it seemed to come off with nary a hitch. The material from your
>end and the video layering technique combined with Wayne's movements worked
>well as a piece of multimedia (video/audio) performance with plenty of
>richness and dynamism, provocative narrative, etc. Within the rectangular
>frame of the projection space we had no trouble 'reading' the piece. My
>critique of that particular frame (in isolation) ends here.

>We were discussing some of the additional and potentially confusing layers
>of 'meaning' which are added via the teleporting in real time of imagery
>from one part of the world to another. What was added to the viewing
>experience? The piece registered high on the end of emotionally charged
>imagery which was not necessarily meant to spark an inner conceptual
>monologue as regards the 'connectivity' of UK with Australia. So, what did
>this 'connectivity' add? Another question was in what way did Wayne's live
>presence at our end enhance or detract from the media performance. We had a
>glimpse of the Australian audience or voyeurs (as in what an audience
>always looks like from the point of view of another audience) for a brief
>moment towards the beginning. I found myself thinking about the nature of
>live broadcast and which are the live telecast events which normally get
>our adrenaline rushing and why.... live sports/ live news from a war zone,
>etc. I was going on afterwards about the Jason project where schoolchildren
>were linked up live with scientists doing projects in remote zones around
>the world (have to look that one up to be sure I had my facts right).

>Josephine Leask -- a UK based writer on dance -- and I were discussing the
>way in which Wayne's particular movement style (extreme hyperextension in
>joints, etc.) which is very videogenic and seemed to fit the particular
>narrative, visual, aural and emotional content of the imagery coming from
>your end. Seen in this light, I suppose it is always possible that if one
>desires the input of a particular performer such as Wayne into a media
>piece and you can't afford to bring him to Australia you can always
>teleport their uniqueness into the imagery.

>Still though, the question of prerecording versus live comes up. While he
>was improvising and re-interpretting the material gathered by watching what
>was coming from your end... I see no reason why this could not be
>prerecorded or preset -- other than one reason being a matter of efficiency
>in the process. In fact, it was probably a lot less time consuming and
>potentially less expensive to beam him in real time... and carry on

>This raises another question for me about media performances in which the
>live element (Wayne at our end) plays secondarily in a sense. Wayne is
>improvising, I imagine that much of the specific movement gestures, etc
>coming from your end are improvised to an extent. There is another layer of
>improvisation here presumably and that is the real time video editing going
>on. I'm not sure that you could arrange it heirarchically like that -- but
>if you do and you accept that the final outcome of the image relies quite
>heavily on the video mixing... is it possible that the performers are more
>exchangeable/ interchangeable in this media environment?

>... this question of improvising opened up for me some thoughts regarding
>the nature of dance improvisation performance -- generally, the tendency is
>for dance improv to go either in a formalistic direction (usually a
>response in spatial and temporal terms) -- or an energistic (sic) response
>to some sort of dynamic perceived often peripherally to be going on in the
>space. I would categorize Wayne's performing as energistic in the sense
>that the formal elements are subsumed into a moving presence/ energy that
>is 'Wayne' (for comparison to help out I would say that Steve Paxton, for
>example, is more on the formalistic side). This is, of course, arguable in
>the extreme -- but I'm aiming at a point...

>So, on our end we have an improvising energy, Wayne -- but he can only
>respond to what is in some practical senses formalistic in that he is
>relying to such a greater extent on the visual and framed nature of the
>image gestures he picks up from your end. Yes of course, there is an
>element of the energistic in the images -- in their manipulation, but these
>are mediated bodies, closeups, quick cuts, reframings, doublings, etc. What
>is the nature of this sort of improvisation ? in terms of the experience of
>the improviser. From the viewer's point of view Wayne's focus (and 'focus'
>being one of the indicators of improvisational intention which can
>translate into meanings for the viewer) is split between camera eye and
>video projection which is giving him feedback, shows him how he 'appears'
>in the media environment. This is all quite interesting stuff... but...

>But this does not address the question of the 'live' broadcast coming from
>Australia. It could have just as easily been beamed from another space in
>South London... or another room in the Jerwood to explore the same
>phenomenon. Yes?

>We have something here in the UK called Noel's House Party -- which I was
>watching last night. The use of live broadcast whereby the drama of people
>who are suddenly surprised to find themselves on live camera with a studio
>audience is played over and over again. But it uses multiple live
>broadcasts all happening at the same time from different parts of the world
>(mostly UK) and woven together via live editing to create the most
>incredibly tight story line. References (both in the dialogue as well as
>visual) to geographic placement constantly affirm the 'distance' aspect. I
>have only seen the show a few times... and obviously they are using
>equipment which is out of the reach of most of us, but still -- it seems
>there might be some clues to strategies for making live broadcast resonate
>as an integrated meaning element in a performance piece.

>... and related to this BBC story is one last thought on the claim (which I
>hear used as a justification for the benefit of these sorts of projects,
>partly because more in-depth discussion is complicated and mostly just
>raises questions which are not answerable at the moment) that now "these
>technologies are in the hands of artists and not in the hands of broadcast
>companies like the BBC" -- that artists set up this Australia/ UK link and
>not a global national corporation or government. Yes, of course this is
>partly true and sure it's a good thing... but I think it's not enough to
>take the onus off of artists to use the possibility in the most
>sophisticated, intelligent and creative ways possible and also maintains
>this high/ low culture split which is really not worth doing any longer. We
>are all implicated in all political processes and any one of us might find
>ourselves working for the BBC at any time.

>John -- hope you don't mind me using this opportunity to wax on a bit -- no
>amount of waxing and waggling will diminish the wonderful experience of
>seeing a friend on the other side of the world who would otherwise be
>unavailable to me -- but I had to suppress a desire to jump up into the
>performing space with Wayne and wave to you !!



> Scott deLahunta's
> Temporary Address: 7 Oct. - 11 Nov. 1998
> Care Of: Laban Centre London, Laurie Grove
> New Cross, London SE14 6NH, UK
> tel: +44 (0)181 692 4070 / fax: +44 (0)181 694 8749
> Writing Research Associates, NL
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            John McCormick