Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Andy Clarke (
Sat, 25 Sep 1999 20:10:30 +0100

A number of people have pointed out, in response to my comments on
interactive computer technology, that there have been previous techonogical
revolutions in dance, such as marley floors, sprung stages, raked theatres,
source 4s, and the electric light.

I think that a distinction has to be made between technologies (such as
these) that alter the type of dance that can be performed - either the type
of movement that can be performed and the nature of its presentation - and
those that have the potential to change the formal dramatic structure of
the dance as a whole. Here I am thinking in particular about the use of
sensors to create certain types of interactive performance space.

The former may have repercussions on the dramatic structure of the dance,
but it still remains a linear dramatic whole (with a single beginning, a
single middle and a single end); with the latter, there is a branching
structure that needs to be acknowledged at every stage of the evolution of
the piece if it is to be as satisfying as a dramatic whole for the audience
as a linear work.

These comments apply only to certain forms of interactive environment -
those with a sense of progressing through them, rather than just being
essentially an instrument to be played/improvised on. This is the
distinction that I had made, though not fully explained, between trivial
and non-trivial interactive environments: in the trivial, anything can
follow anything else; in the non-trivial, there is a structure to the work,
even though it is interactive.

This is not neccessarily implying that the non-trivial work needs to have a
narrative (although it is interesting that the question of narrative vs
non-narrative has come up in previous mail). It does, however, imply a
branching structure of some form in which certain options become available
or are closed off depending what came before.

I am trying to draw distinctions between various types of performances that
use sensors. One is wholely linear, another is purely improvised - both of
these are traditional forms. Is there a third form in dance/tech works,
with a structure like that in computer games or interactive literature,
which allows interaction within a framework clearly bearing the "mark of
the author"?

As Johannes noted, a branching structure requires a certain new way of
thinking about choreography, which is different both from the choreography
of a linear work and from improvisation. This would seem the most
interesting area to explore - both for the digital artist and the
choreographer (even if it requires the choreographer to give up a little of
their control).

I don't think that building interactive setups that are just "instruments
for performers to play" is the most interesting use of sensors in dance,
even if it is the one that offers the most immediate gratification and the
greatest chance of success. Nor do I think that it is interesting to have a
linear work with technology just added on as a poorly integrated gimmick.

Andy Clarke

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

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