Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Richard Povall (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 19:35:46 -0600

Andy wrote:
>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.

I don't agree with this Andy, because I think it kind of misses the point
(hope I'm not missing your point!). IF the sensor-based interactive
technology is used in a way that is entirely sensitive to the movement, and
neither dominates not places unreasonably demands on the performers, then
there is a place for "traditional choreographed dance" within sensing
environments. Having said that, I do that that the particular environments
within which one is working are likely to have some fundamental effect on
the content of the movement, but I'm referring to content as aesthetic or
motivic or metaphoric rather than literally the content of the physical
movement. I think the choreography has to adress the fact that it is
working within and effecting an interactive environment. This is perhaps
an argument for using the latest technologies, which not only present no
limitations on physical movement (at least within the video-based sensing
systems like I use), and which also respond sensitively and
quasi-intelligently to the movement they are seeing. We DO work with set
choreography, but it can never be 100% set, because it is, after all, an
interactive environment, and those environments are subject to external
forces, and the way in which a performer reacts to what s/he is creating
will also differ in each performance. Having said that, it does not work
simply to work with improvised movement, at least in the work we're doing,
because it ultimately is too loose. I would say that most of the work is
about 90% set by the time it reaches performance stage.

>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 wonder what it means when the "technology [is] undemanding"? In my
experience, working with technology is never undemanding, and I agree that
this is a cop-out, in that it suggests that more concentration can be put
on the choreography if and when a technology become stable enough to be
"undemanding". All too often, though, the difficulties of working with new
technologies does demand too much time, which is yet another reason to work
deeply with a particular technology over a number of years rather than
falling prey to the temptation always to use the latest gizmo.

Having said that, I love gizmos and will always try to introduce something
new into the work each time I/we make a piece.

R i c h a r d P o v a l l
Senior Fellow, RESCEN (Centre for Research into Creation in the Performing
Arts), Middlesex University (in assoc. with the South Bank, London)
15 Higher Dean, Dean Prior, Buckfastleigh, Devon TQ11 0LY UK
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