Re: Did you get what was supposed to be happening?

Johannes Birringer (
Fri, 19 Mar 1999 02:36:28 +0000

Dear colleagues,

Robert Wechsler's commentary is interesting in many respects, and can be
appreciated, even as it has internal inconsistencies, and of course I
would expect that some of his suggestions will be contested.

One fundamental issue raised is of course the relationship to the
audience, which indeed was not always at the forefront of the
presenters' desire to show work in progress; and we did have some
questions about whether lab experiments function well or at all as
danceworks/artworks. They may not be intended to function as such, since
the lab frame is different from the public stage. But the conference
performances were shown to a discerning public, and here it's not clear
why Robert sees danceworks as
"computer pieces" whose design has to be transparent (and so on, see
his suggestions 1 - 6. Why can't we use overlaps between interactive
systems? Why does the piece necessarily have to be about "the technology

These questions/suggestions imply aesthetic choices or assumptions, and
those, unfortunately, never got really addressed in a sustained manner,
as I was suggesting at the "theory" panel, especially in regard to our
(presumed) investment in exploring a new movement vocabulary or an
altered movement experience or a transmedia form of expression that can
carry content within and across interactive systems and scenographies.

If I understand Robert's request correctly, he argues for simplicity,
clarity and honesty (involving an audience's empathy, inviting them to
"see"). The subtlety can come later (what the computers are doing?)?
Why can't the subtlety be there from the beginning?

I want to say that I loved and respected Jools Gilson-Ellis's
performance (Secret Project) with Richard Povall. It was moving and
subtle and clear and had its secrets. As performer, Jools's moving body
and voice, extended instruments (since they perform with a camera and an
interactive system), her intelligence, can be perceived weaving stories
with a new or different spatial/acoustic awareness, an awareness of
feedback vibrations and tresholds, gaps and overlays.

It was very audience-friendly. Neverthess, even here one could discuss
the question that came up elsewhere (after Susan Kozel's video of her
work), namely whether interactive systems, sensor devices/fields, motion
capturing hook ups, robots, etc., limit or constrain movement expression
in a new way, a disconcerting way, and here I am refering to
movement/expression content that is not abstract (so-called pure
movement) nor feebly improvised, but organically connected to an
emotional or spiritual core or a precise, complex physical dramaturgy
addressing the social body. (and in Jools's case, addressing
textuality). I have not seen an interactive dance drama yet. I have seen
a lot of compression.

The last piece I saw at IDAT, "Seguiriya," like the Audio Geisha, left
me a bit exasperated. The reduction was not so subtle but rather
grating, the dancer hidden in darkness.

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co., Houston