RE: dance /butter /New web forms

Johannes Birringer (
Sun, 25 Jul 99 23:43 +0100

thanks, Isabel, Jeff, for helping to mediate the currently heated debate about
dance forms on stage and on the web, with or without human bodies (performers,
that is, yes?).

I especially appreciated Isabel's effort to speak about what she saw in the
dance ("Biped"), thus responding, in a sense, to Nick's impatience with
Richard's moving forms. I think it would be productive, for our list, if people
were willing to address choreographic or compositional aesthetics, quite beyond
rhetorical or moral issues (but is it dance? is it art?), which we have little
time for here.

could we re-view (Isabel)?

<< you could observe the choreography and realise that
Cunningham's movement vocabulary in general evolves between two poles as:
the neoclassical balletic tradition which seems to be the one in which the
dancers seem to have pleasure performing, and the unnatural, created as
well with lifeforms using chance methods, working with isolation of body
parts in difficult balances, etc, which makes the best dancers look like
apprendices. I remember in the demonstration Cunningham or Keizer talking
about how hard it was for the dancers to learn and perform in a short
period of time the lifeform movement sequences for the motion capture
studio. Very intellectual work...<<

Well, I find your reading very interesting, although I'm not sure why you call
it intellectual work, rather than seeing the LifeForm-derived Cunningham
vocabulary as different in focus and energy from the neoclassical, different in
its form and shape - and here it would indeed be interesting to hear us talk
about h o w we r e h e a r s e movement or movement improvisations f o r
motion capture, how we develop content for something like the hand-drawn spaces
project (which, one could argue, is also a visual art form, closer to drawing
and painting than to dance-theatre, but somehow historically quite logical in
its extension of the movement/line abstractions, isolations in modern).

Rebecca Groves told us that she is doing research on Forsythe and others,
looking at <<conceptual development of a piece, performer training and
rehearsal>>, and in the context of the discussion between Bud and Richard L. ,
it would perhaps be very good to know more about how a web-dance choreographer
deals with these issues, how the performer-rehearsal is substituted, and yet how
kinetic or movement concepts (as they surely were used by Bauhaus artists like
Schlemmer or painters like Kandinsky) were utilized for the drawing of movement
forms, geometric bodies, etc, and what content ideas were explored.

(Incidentally, two major shows are on view this summer, Rembrandt's self
portraits, Jackson Pollock's no.30 and 31; handdrawn spaces in both cases, but
different content, both bodies of work, I would say, include movement and a
dance of perception).

I saw this concern with content certainly at work in Scott's
"digiexperimentarium project" with his collaborators on "White on White"- in
fact the conceptual development that underlies motion capture, if you think of
the beautiful catalogue published by the Cooper Union of Bill T Jones/Riverbed's
"Ghost Catching," is beginning to build a substantial aesthetic pathway that
could very well be part of our conversations now, if we seriously consider
ourselves a community of transdisciplinary artists. Cunnigham, in discussing
Hand-drawn Spaces, speaks of "calligraphic figures" in his virtual dance
movement alternating with real dancers that "crash through the plane." The
vocabulary he used both implicates writing (eastern forms, thus also visual and
aesthetic) and painting (2D, 3D), and thus the current technological extensions
of painting/graphic art in 3-D design.

I think we are becoming quite aware of the fact that contemporary dance can be a
visual art form (again) that experiments with planes and layers and tones and
color and movements of the graphic (implying two-dimensional cinema/screen
space) within the spatio-temporal and sonic field. The graphic, in the case of
motion-capture, is drawn-from-performance, but our online discussion seems to be
about drawing-for-performance. Can we hear more about this?

<<Yes, we need to bring more dance out of its enclosed closet/the theater, or
change it into more polivalent/interdisciplinary venues where all kinds of
art can be perceived and experienced. I'm tied of the old hierarchy between
artforms. (Isabel)<<

>from Nick:
>The real issue is form versus quality-of-art.
>At IDAT this was a common realisation. Its not the digital/interactive
<concept and retoric that by it self makes a good work, but how it's
<developed in terms of general content, form and aesthetic issues.
< how many people know what they (the dances, like BIPED) are really about

Right on. But then again, most of us are choreographers, composers,
digital designers, and we create new forms with the content we want to shape, or
we quote and sample forms to create new content, and we may not be the best
judges of the the quality of our work, which however will be experienced by
audiences, and there is, interestingly, very little audience feedback on our
list. And I don't mean "hits" - I mean audience articulating their views on what
they saw. I had to smile at Jeff's point about being seated far away from the
stage, the "human body" becoming so very small. Yes, imagine Madonna in concert
without the big screens.

Composing on the computer (close to the screen) may in fact create a different
set of perceptional relations to dance, and to export our work (into real space)
always involves concepts of how the space (installation) of the dance is
configured, if it leaves the monitor. What we may be talking about, in a sense,
concerns the corporeality of the hand-drawn spaces, the interface with the
audience. It is here that the virtual becomes real, as Isabel correctly
suggests. In the rock concert, we take the (image of the) body for granted, as
we listen. In the dance concert, we take the (image of the) body for granted, do
we, but we want to see it, eyes wide shut.

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.