Re: undemanding, unambitious, uninformed and uninspired

Kent De Spain (
Thu, 14 Oct 1999 01:02:21 -0400

Andy Clarke wrote:

> When you create an interactive soundscape for a performer to improvise in, how is its structure and its "interactiveness" apparent to the audience? - it seems as though you think that it *is* apparent, as you say that "improvisation with sensors is different than improvisation without sensors" without any regard to the individual work, only its form. Perhaps you could clarify this, rather than regarding one as self-obvious and the other as still open to debate.

I don't think that it is apparent. I said that improvisation with sensors is different because improvisation, by its nature, varies according to the setting. That's all.

> I acknowledge, however, that signalling the "interactiveness" of a performance to its audience is problematic - it is something that concerns me greatly about the whole field of dance and technology. It is *very* important to me that the use of sensors and other technology is not gratuitous or superfluous (from the audience's point of view).
> I expect, however, that formal dramatic conventions will emerge to signal "interactiveness" in a performance - it has happened in other interactive media (such as computer games and the internet)...

I think this is both likely and interesting. Do you have any thoughts about what would be helpful or appropriate? I think our tendency, as audiences of new forms, is to apply the conventions we have brought with us, regardless of whether they are useful within the new context or not. Even your use of the term "dramatic conventions" connotes an extension of, rather than a break with, the historically-based ways we now experience performed "art." I agree with you that what we call "performance" is changing. Interactive technologies create a tremendous opportunity to reverse long-entrenched "audience" (there is another word in transition) passivity. Unfortunately, most of our interaction with technology
occurs within very narrow parameters. We not only must teach "interactors" new conventions, we must lure them into a richer, more embodied, form of interaction.

> Of course, the extent to which the structure of an interactive work and its "interactiveness" *needs* to be apparent is also still open to debate.

Without making the new "rules of the game" apparent, I do not see how you will prevent viewers from simply applying more traditional choreographic standards which may not relate to wither your process or how you understand your product (of course the process can be a product).

> You said, in relation to Brownian Motion, that "'screen-dance', wherever it falls on the documentation/creation spectrum, is not 'dance'". This seems to contradict the comments that you are making now - that a virtual dancer is a dancer "in all but name".
> You also said, in your latest message, that "I use the term virtual dancer not only to refer to animated dancing figures, but for the images of humans captured in space/time by film or video". This again seems to contradict the comments that you made in the Brownian Motion message, where you said that "I do not see any reason to assume that either of these videos is 'dance.' The first is a video using dance material; the second is a video of an animation using dance material."
> There seems some inconsistency in your position regarding what is dance, what is virtually dance and what isn't dance, and I don't think that grouping everything under the umbrella term of virtual dancer is helping your confusion.

There's no confusion. Just the opposite. No matter what side of the dance-or-not-dance debate you might be on, the term "virtual dancer" allows you to indicate that something "like" dancing (e.g. the manipulation of movement as an artistic medium in time and space) is going on with animated or videotaped or filmed figures, but that there are important ontological differences between these figures and live humans that affect the way we experience and interpret the movement.

> I don't really have a problem with using virtual as an easy umbrella term for screen-based dance, although I feel that feel that "screen-based dance" and "animated dance" are better terms in that they are less prone to the confusion that you seem to have about what is a dancer and what isn't. They also don't impose limits on: (a) the type of figure that is animated (I guess that virtual implies humanoid); (b) how it is rendered, represented or animated (I guess that virtual implies recognisable); and (c) the type of movement (if our "virtual dancer" performs moves that are physically impossible due to physical constraints such as gravity or the limits of joints, it is more virtual or less virtual?).

I do not see how the term virtual dancer imposes any of the limits you suggest. I do not think that virtual implies humanoid, nor recognizable, nor constrained to human physicality. It will be up to the field to decide (in an ever-evolving constructivist process) whether the movement of any particular kind of figure (from the humanoid to the abstract) is compelling enough to explore and experience.

> But let's be honest here: "virtual dance" is not used within dance and technology as an umbrella term for all forms of screen-based and animated dance (except in cases such as the Virtual-Physical Bodies symposium mentioned). In stead, it is used for its connotations of computers, technology, and cyberspace in relation to individual works or as some special category within animated dance (normally done on computer).
> The use of the term "virtual dancer" in this context is just hype. Other extreme terms - used for the same connotations of techology and "newness", and for their "hype-factor" - include "cyberdancer" and "cyberhumandancer".

I agree that there is far more hype than content in much of the work being done out there, no matter what people choose to call it. But that brings us back around to Doug's (and others') questions concerning how we can facilitate a discussion about the content of new work instead of parsing the definitional issues. I think that part of the problem is inherent in an aesthetics of technology that thinks newer is better and first is best. I have seen very little real delving into the possibilities of a specific technology. Instead we are all running on a treadmill trying to keep up with the "advances" in our field. I would like to put out a call to all "listies" to post some ideas about what new
conventions would be useful in experiencing and understanding interactive works. We need more manifestos. KD