Just a simple techno-dancer...

Jeffrey Gray Miller (giullare@satorimedia.com)
Wed, 01 Sep 1999 16:24:58 -0500

I must admit, I have not been as frustrated and infuriated by someone I've
never met as by Mr. Clarke. Somehow, Andy, you keep managing to push all
the right buttons to get a reaction out of me...talk about an interactive
>From: Andy Clarke <andy@kinonet.com>

>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.

No, you're not advocating a certain kind of work, but you are dismissing
others--such as improvisation--with no regard to content, only form. Surely
an interactive setup designed to be such--for example, a dance piece I saw
in Minneapolis done by five contact improvisers, led by Steve Paxton, in
which the lighting design was improvised as well by a very talented man with
fast fingers on the board--could be a completely whole and uniquely
aesthetic experience. It was, in fact. What is not suitable, which I
believe we agree on, is when it is meant to be rehearsed--and isn't.

>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.

Again, we've missed the forest for the trees. I'm speaking of video
cameras, computers, the internet--none of which was designed to be used for
dance performance. As opposed to marley floors, sprung stages, raked
theatres, source 4s, all of which is technology specifically designed for
performance. Even BigEye uses a format--MIDI--which is not designed to be
used in video, as anyone whose been stuck with a note on in a video window
can attest to. BigEye is not technology--it is a translator between
technologies, protocols, transforming one--the video signal--into
another--the MIDI signal.

>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?"

Gee, thanks for the credit, Andy, glad my degree counts for something. Yes,
those are exactly the questions I asked--namely, I've seen many BigEye
productions in which a movement in an area triggers a sound, but it's always
the same movement, the same sound--no dynamics. So I set out to provide a
multi-timbral soundscape which would dynamically alter the sound based on
the performers' changing movement. And it worked, with a relatively simple
bit of code, so I stopped fiddling with it--having accomplished what I set
out to do. Now it's up to the performer to polish it, and use it either for
improv or set performance.

> 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.

Absolutely. I came from a theatre background, and was appalled when I found
the rehearsal ethic in dance and technology often has little or no tech
rehearsal, rarely a dress, and all too often ends up incomplete before the
audience. However, as Richard pointed out, some of these may have to be
"sacrificial lambs"--until the resources are as commonly available as, say,
studio space. I am not making excuses--I am simply stating a fact.

>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.

In pursuit of our building a lexicon with which to intelligently and
impartially address this subject, I would put forth the idea that the
difference between "technician" and "technologist" is the same as that
between "dancer" and "choreographer"--one relates, the other creates. The
other difficulty, of course, is the tendency for techies of both sorts to
treat the performers as idiots. And critics don't like anybody...