Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Andy Clarke (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 11:36:08 +0100

The comments on the success or failure of "Falling to Earth", and Sita
Popat's observations on the work of Sean Curran, have proven the most
interesting responses to my original message.

Sita said that "Sean Curran appeared to be as in control of the music
through his traditional choreographic approach as those artists who were
using costumes and lasers to control sound directly through movement", and
this is exactly the type of problem that I had in mind when I said that
there were "fundamental issues that need[ed] to be addressed".

There are fundamental questions here of whether sensor-based interactive
technology has any place within traditional choreographed dance
performance, and if so, what this place would be, what form these works
would take, and whether there needs to be a rethinking of our notions of
what dance, performance, and interactivity are.

My criticism of non-interactive video projection work was based upon the
fact that this represents the safest and least threatening use of
technology (aside from the "old" new technolgies, such as lighting boards,
CD players, etc.) and so avoids these fundamental questions (particularly
when, as so often appears the case, it is simply used as abstract moving

Johannes' comments on "Falling to Earth" (and other works) highlight the
key problem with modern dance that typically just isn't strong enough to
work with projected video imagery - it can either be put with strong images
which overwhelm it or distract from it, or weak images which seem
irrelevant or superfluous. The most common response to this problem has
been to use weak, abstract, "wallpaper" imagery and justify this through
saying that it is like this so it doesn't detract from the choreography. I
would prefer dance to have a more "robust" engagement with the aesthetics
of projected video imagery.

The aim of my original message was not - as some appear to have taken it -
to say that "the latest technology results in the best work"; in stead, it
was to encourage those involved in the production of dance and technology
work to have a more active critical and aesthetic engagement with the
technology that they use (whatever that may be).

There is nothing wrong with exploring one application or one piece of
equipment in depth to "deepening the understanding and ... better express
oneself" - the whole point of my message was to argue in favour of the
"deep" use of technology, rather than the superficial. Such an exploration
must, however, be guided by a strong self-critical eye (particularly for
those working within academia) otherwise it easily becomes just "ploughing
the same narrow creative furrow".

It is a cop-out to say that "only when the technology becomes undemanding
will the resources be available to produce demanding work" - a cop-out of
the worst kind, because it is laziness trying to disguise itself as
artistic integrity. The time taken to establish a video connection for a
performance does not make it impossible to question the aesthetics of this
connnection during the creation of the work.

I do not accept the lazy or second-rate use of technology in dance. The
first telematic dance performance took place in 1977, and I don't feel that
recent work in this area acknowledges this history (or is informed by it),
or represents any real creative progression from that early work. The
inherent conservatism and insecurity of dance as an art form should not
lead to a refusal to engage fully with technology, its history, and its

Andy Clarke

Andy Clarke
78 West Kensington Court
Edith Villas
London W14 9AB

Phone: 44 (0) 171 602 3382