Related Items/ JetLab:Cyberstudio Review

Scott deLahunta (sdela@ahk.nl)
Fri, 20 Nov 1998 11:34:05 +0100

1)
DIGIOPERA: Monsters of Grace --

In an interview with Bill Jones (published in excerpts here
http://www.artbyteonline.com/v1n4bj.htm) and in full in ArtByte (Oct-Nov
1998), pp. 18-22, Philip Glass speaks about his recent collaboration with
Robert Wilson and how he views the changing landscape of musical theater.

Excerpt from introduction to interview:

"Robert Wilson and Philip Glass began working on a new opera, Monsters of
Grace, in 1996. Wilsonís trademark sets are replaced on stage by a
digitally produced stereoscopic film created by Kleiser-Walczak
Construction Company, who in the past has worked on commercial features
such as Stargate and Judge Dredd. The audience must wear polarizing 3D
glasses to get the full effect of Wilsonís mesmerizing imagery.

According to Ray Haleblian of Kleiser-Walczak, the lengthy scenes of the 3D
film in Monsters of Grace were particularly challenging since digitally
animated film sequences are typically short. When completed, Monsters of
Grace will rival fully animated features such as Toy Story in its digital
complexity.

..."

2)
An excerpt from a review of Jordan Crandall's installation DRIVE in NYC
written by Ken Goldberg and published on Rhizome (www.rhizome.org).

"Drive
Jordan Crandall
Sandra Gering Gallery, NYC
http://www.geringgallery.com/
22 Oct--28 Nov, 1998

As our ocularcentric culture goes digital, we are delegating even the
act of watching to our labor saving devices. Jordan Crandall gives us a
glimpse into both past and future in this exhibit of high-tech
Readymades.

Visitors entering the darkened gallery are confronted with a large video
projection of a man performing repetitive motions reminscent of
Muybridge and Taylor. Periodically, tiny points and frames appear at the
edges of the body with the lime green signature of the robotic eye
familiar to viewers of science fiction and CNN's Gulf war reports.
Ken Goldberg is an artist and engineer on the faculty of UC Berkeley.

... "

****************
Anyone having SEEN either of these shows please feel free to post a little
praise, polemic, criticism, comment, reflection or other related bits on
your experience.
****************

Jet Lag: Diller+Scofidio (D+S)/ Builders Association (BA)/
Cyberstudio:Future Moves 2 in Rotterdam

In BRIEF -- the interesting bits:

D+S are two architects, media installation artists. BA is a theatre group
from NYC with a relation in particular to the Wooster Group's methods of
devising/ stage techniques. Jet Lag is a collaboration between the two.

Cyberstudio II in Rotterdam (16-20 November 1998, organised by Dick
Hollander and Klazien Brummel -- taking place in the context of DEAF
http://www.v2.nl/deaf) was organised as a followup to the Future Moves
September 1996 Cyberstudio I which focussed on the possibilities of Motion
Capture and Computer Animation technologies. Whereas Cyberstudio I focussed
on capturing and manipulating digital information derived from movement
performance re-presented on the landscapes of digital space... Cyberstudio
II concerned itself with 'live' multimedia performance.

A brief description of Jet Lag -- devised in relationship to two stories,
one the Paul Virilio story about the woman who flew back and forth from NYC
to Paris repeatedly and constantly, over 100 times, until she died on the
plane 'from jetlag'... the other the story of a UK based sailor who 'faked'
a round the world solo sailing voyage, ultimately and presumably committing
suicide by falling off his vessel at which point his deception was uncovered.

The stories were conveyed by several actors who were always 'mediated' via
miking of their voices and often also via video cameras and projectors...
both in real-time as well as pre-recording (utilizing a blue screening
technique which would place real-time imagery in a 'virtual' space). For
the tragic travel story computer animation was used to illustrate the
airports and jets... with simple techniques of having the actors appear to
be standing on an animated escalator.

The workshop in Rotterdam consisted of morning sessions with 2 hour 'master
class' sessions with members of the Jet Lag artistic team:

Day 1: Diller+Scofidio -- overall concept and design
Day 2: Jessica Chalmers -- writer
Day 3: James Gibbs -- computer animator
Day 4: Peter Norrman and Amber Lasciak -- video and projection
Day 5: Marianne Weems -- direction

In the afternoon -- small collaborative teams comprising mostly Netherlands
based artists, computer artists, composers, directors, choreographers,
video makers, architects, etc. were set to the task of devising and
presenting a concept related to the 'story' of John Glenn's recent return
to space. They have had access to and support from the V2 Media Lab and
have been able to work with video and computer animation.

Brief Summary:

This is an effective model for running a short and intensive 'workshop' on
'multimedia' theater making. There is information and discussion/ debate
which is focussed on a particular performance collaboration, Jet Lag, which
was intelligently and capably constructed (see final comment below for some
criticism). Each of the morning 'masterclasses' was relaxed, but showed the
level and breadth of experience and skill each of the Jet Lag artistic
collaborators brought to the table. The afternoon sessions have I think
been predictably frustrating (always the outcome of being put into groups
and asked to collaborate) so some people have maybe dropped out of that
part, but equally predictably (and partly due to a large enough number
being invited to participate... and also that there was the support of the
computer and video equipment for the visualization of things) groups have
survived those few days and have moved on over the final two days to making
something to show today, day 5.

Today, in-house presentations are being made by the small groups -- there
is some pressure thusly to present, but not to an 'outside' public which
has allowed for less stress and more informality and time for consideration
and reflection and enjoyment. The KEY to this has been that the Cyberstudio
was 'couched' within DEAF which has many public events and presentations...
so many that you can not keep track of them.

So far, my comments here have reflected optimistic and rather positively on
the workshop... but from the perspective of having only audited the
sessions. Maybe there are some listmember 'participants' who have survived
and made it to making a presentation today who could also share their
feelings on the successes/ failures of Cyberstudio II...

***********************

Final Word: in the context of this project and the Jet Lag performance
(which it needs to be said was a theater, not a dance project, nor a dance
theater project by any stretch of the imagination) the computer/ digital
components could be said to be there to 'serve' a multi-layered live and
mediated theatrical presentation of the stories. Where they weren't
effective they weren't used. In the tradition of Robert Lepage, William
Forsythe and Liz LeCompte of the Wooster Group for example. The use of the
large screen video, blue screen techniques graphing live image into
prerecorded, etc. derive primarily from the work of Diller+Scofidio who
almost always use video and video projection in their installation works in
imaginative and large scale ways (like the proposed, but unrealised, video
wall for CNN and so far unrealised project, I believe, to project a single
huge video image onto an entire ice hockey rink).

But these 'interventions' which D+S are known for making into public space/
time utilizing their techniques in the expression of their ideas seem far
more effective to me than their interventions into theatrical space. They
have also worked with Charleroi Dans and Hotel Pro Forma/ Dumb Type. Having
seen now the Jet Lag performance and heard D+S discuss their work in both
the public as well as the theatrical sphere... I have been struck by the
rock hard and immovable conventionality of the theater... a conventionality
which I both loath and love. A conventionality which swallows whole anyone
who is not steeped in and raised in the tradition of theater. And this will
have to serve as my criticism of what I have seen of the theater
collaborations of D+S who are not, as I see it, entirely comfortable and
therefore effective working in this tradition... which would stand in
contrast to the work of the above mentioned Lepage, Forsythe and LeCompte.

Regards,

Scott

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