RE: Falling to Earth

Johannes Birringer (
Fri, 3 Sep 99 04:28 +0100

I much appreciated Ellen Bromberg's account of her experiences
in creating "Falling to Earth." Thanks, Ellen.

Her account of the process and objectives of the collaborative work can
certainly help us to put things into perspective, and I agree with the
concluding comment, namely

< I havent seen all the works mentioned, but it seems to
<me that the works that have been deemed most "successful" by members of
<this listserv are those that are non-narrative and formal in nature. Is
<that true and if there are others of you who are working with narrative in
<mediated interactive environments, I would be very interested in knowing
<more about your processes and how you have been working with structure and

We have generally been using a very vague differentiation, in our discussions,
between more abstract, formalist works and those that focus on narrative
content, although it is by no means clear what some of us mean when they speak
of narrative danceworks, and I agree with Ellen that narrative and structure in
interactive environments may need to be analyzed very carefully, so that we can
determine what kind of narrative shape such works have, and how we "read"
narrative in multimedia performances that are interactively designed. In the
case of "Falling to Earth", the dance choreography was not narrative, I would
think, while the video testimonies were. But this kind of differentiation among
elements of a work that seeks a specific integrity or integration may very well
be misleading, because it may lead us back to questions (of narrative content)
in particular dance genres, say butoh, tanztheater, bharata natyam, odissi,
etc., and how we might experience their narrative forms in an interactive,
mediated design configuration. Perhaps we need to ask (if Jones/Riverbed's
"Ghostcatching" is also narrative, if Company in Space's teleperformance "escape
velocity" is narrative) how narrative is constructed in interactive works, what
tales the drawings of motion-capture based works tell, how we interpret
narrative gesture even if there is no libretto, and how interactive design can
or cannot focus a particular contemporary narrative movement form, or movement

By the way, I enjoy the current exchanges on improvisation sparked by Andy and
Jeff -- they are very helpful for my thinking on how we rehearse, or enter into,
interactive environments, especially if the environment is installed as a
volatile field (of triggers). Perhaps we need to think a little -- when
discussing choreography and interactivity -- about postmodern narrative forms in
literature, in television, and in the hypertext formats of CD-ROMs. It could be
argued that an interactive environment on stage may act like a hypertext in a
CD-ROM, i.e. it is multidirectional. If it were so, then choreography in such
fields may not work so well as linear choreography, but would perhaps be better
composed as non-linear, open to many changes in the syntax, open to
interruptions, interferences, context-shifts, repetitions, compressions, loops.

If those are compositional-structural elements of a new form (in interactive
dance), then they may not be reconcilable to specific dance aesthetics that
depend on linear evolution, deepening/deep listening, trance-like duration,
deceleration, or the recognizable iconography of a myth, quite apart from
concerns about a performance ethic based on spiritual or religious or cultural
motifs which may not embrace the idea of representing a goddess figure as a blue
line or cube.

At the same time, I would be interested in precisely the thinking and
visualization (in narrative, linear terms) that goes into software
design and programming -- i.e. I would love to hear from digital artists and
programmers how they may conceptualize narrative form in motion-capture, for
example, and how they define narration in, perhaps, more mathematical or musical

Incidentally, we have very little critical feedback (interpretation, theory) in
regard to voice in dance. I am thinking of Jools Gilson-Ellis's work with
Richard Povall, and the lack of response we have had in regard to her/their use
of voice (language, vocal dynamics) in interactive choreography.

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.