Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Andy Clarke (
Tue, 31 Aug 1999 23:31:53 +0100

>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 comments were not to encourage an improvisational free-for-all, as some
have taken them - this is suitable for only the most trivial of interactive
setups. It is important to remember that I am not advocating any particular
type of work, only a method of thinking about technology and of working
with it.

As Sita's comments implied, if all a choreographer wants is for a certain
sound to be triggered by a certain movement, then it may as well be done
through the dancer hitting a mark or timing their move (or by being
triggered manually by someone in the audience) than through sensing
technology. It is only when you try to do something more ambitious than
this that technology becomes essential, and my comments throughout have
been designed to encourage this ambition with regard to the use of
technology in dance (and to the form and content of works that use it).

With regard to Jeff's comments on undemanding technology, producing an
interactive soundscape with BigEye is not "trying to use equipment beyond
its intended purpose" - it is using the application for *exactly* the
purpose that it was designed for.

It is unlikely that there will ever be an easier program than BigEye for
creating soundscapes. Nethertheless, the application does has a learning
curve. This does not, however, prevent the person creating the interactive
piece asking themselves "What sort of soundscape do I want to create? What
sort of sound do I want? What movement triggers it? What do I want to
acheive with it?"

The time taken to produce the work provides more - not less - time to
consider these questions, and it is work that fails to address them (and,
in stead, opts for instant gratification) that becomes the "sketches and
studies" that we both find disappointing. In fact, to call these works
"sketches and studies" is probably being generous - part of the problem
with dance and technology is that people perform to an audience pieces
that, if looked at objectively, are just tests or exercises.

Finally, with regard to his questions "When Nikolais began his wonderful
experiments with light and choreography, did he have to individually wire
and test each bulb? Did Loie Fuller have to not only dance, but also
develop the film, design the projector, and build the screen to project it
on?", the obvious answer must be "No, they had technicians." The other
point that I have tried consistently to make is that treating digital
artists as technicians prevents dancers and choreographers from having a
meaningful collaboration with them as equals on work that truly interesting
and innovative.

Andy Clarke

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

Phone: 44 (0) 171 602 3382