Did you get what was supposed to be happening?

Robert Wechsler (robert@palindrome.de)
Wed, 17 Mar 1999 16:17:42 +0100

Dear Dance-tech:

Even for us "experts" it was often a challenge to discern what the
computers were doing at many of the IDAT performances
and demonstrations. Were these challenges what the choreographer had in
mind? If not, then why is this mistake so often repeated?

Are dance/technologists simply so familiar with the systems they are
using that they have become out of touch with how a lay person
experiences the piece? Does the audience need more skill watching?
More information?

Or is it enough that the technical system changes the way the dancer
feels as they move? And it changes they _way_ they move -- I can believe that
-- but unless it results in something discernible to me then I consider
it something better suited for the lab than for the stage.

I believe there is a common under-estimation of how simple and clear
interactive works need to be (assuming you care at all about bringing the
audience with you). I certainly do not want to argue that we should
leave out all sense of mystery and subtlety in our art. Obviously it is
precisely the variety of applications and approaches that is opening up this
burgeoning field. What I want to say is: let's be careful and hear
what the lay-viewer is politely trying to tell us before we further
alienate our audience. We need to find ways to make our discoveries
more accessible, our shows more audience-friendly.

I have some suggestions:

1. _Use less technology_. And then use it more carefully, pointedly,
and transparently.

2. Begin the piece, or at least have some part of it be _real simple_
and clear. Yes, _hit them over head_. Later in the work people will be
more patient with subtlety if they have at least had some opportunity
to really "get it".

3. Avoid confusing overlaps between different interactive systems.

4. Don't use a technical system when the same effect can be achieved
without it (e.g. triggering the start of a film or sequence of music can
be done by a technician simply knowing the cue.)

5. Don't "fake" interactions when they get unstable or crash. Disclose
what's up, simply and without apology.

6. Its hard to make a piece today using interactive technology which is
not, on some level, also _about_ the technology itself. Its not
impossible perhaps, but I think it is important to appreciate how
sensitive the audience is to the fact that it is a "computer" piece.
Accepting this is perhaps relevant in designing the format and content of the

With friendly regards,
Robert Wechsler