Re: telematicinterprovisation

Richard Povall (
Thu, 03 Apr 1997 10:56:04 +0100

>Do we see the computer or the interface device in the theatre (this is a
>question that might interest Scott and his workshop on telematics)? and why
>not? Or do we, and do we s e e it or is it invisible (bodily) in the way
>it manipulates or •nterprets the dancer's movement? How intimate is your
>software to you?

Whether we see the computer or interface device in the theatre is surely a
matter of choice - and to some extent a matter of conjecture. There's
certainly of proponents of a non-transparent technology, which can be seen
to be a mediating device through its physcial presence on (or off) stage.
Means of production and all that...

>The dancer tends to not play a piano or an instrument other than her or his
>body. What my question tried to address was the emotional or narrative or
>expressive (I am not much into modern /abstraction or "pure movement" as
>they call it) content, quality and direction/focus of movement and gesture.
>And why we move.

I'm not sure this is true. As I'm usually the designer of the environment,
or 'instrument", however, I'm not entirely qualified to comment. Certainly
when working in a solo situation, it seems as though the dancer is very
much playing the instrument (the interactive environment). Of course s/he
is still "playing" their own body, but if an environment is well designed,
there ought to be a sense in which the dancer is able to play, to control
it, to exert an influence on it. Emotional and/or narrative content is
surely bound up in this - can't entirely be separated. Surely again this
depends on the way in which the environment was designed? If it is
devised environment, made in collaboration with the performer(s), the
content of the piece belongs squarely within the technological context, I

>I wonder how an interactor device, as Mark's homepage explains it,
>"interprets data", transforming space, lighting, sound, video images, etc,
>making "artforms suddenly intimate." The "data," I gather, are the dancer's
>movement that are picked up by interactive technology (sensor devices).
>I refuse to assume that dance can be thought of as data. Now, if I did
>assume it, it change my work, surely.

But what else is movement within an interactive environment if not data?
This is only a word that describes a mechanism for providing information to
a computer, to an interactive environment. I don't find it particularly
perjorative, as Johannes implies.

>Perhaps I should publish my short essay/report on LBLM (our dance/digital
>art workshop in Chichester) in the WRA website, since there I raise many
>questions precisely about my doubts about the interactive "sensibility" of
>the data-reading computer. For my taste, it's not sensitive enough, by far.
>I'd like to find out how it interprets. I'd like to become more intimate
>with mathematics, to a certain point. When I spoke about insecurity, fear,
>desire, or other emotional content of movement expression, or beautiful,
>sensual gestures that touches you or a rhythm that excites you kinetically,
>I am still learning, trying to understand how a software program (and
>graphic user interfaces or MIDI devices) become intimate or read my movement
>or let me read its transformations of my choreography, which I understand to
>be my expression of why I move.

Of course!

>If the interactivity is based on improvisation, how is improvisation
>structured or experienced? Is digital dance necessarily a step beyond
>choreography to something that is interactively out of control or perhaps
>shifted to the computer's unconscious? What do we know about the sentience
>of the computer? What would be "contact improvisation" with a data-reading
>sensor device, and how does the apparent "translation" of movement into data
>figure into our analysis? For example, do dancers improvise or move (in the
>space of sensors) in such ways that the sensor does interesting things....
>do we prod the sensor? Play with it, tease it, seduce it? Is the sensor our
>audience? arriving/departing?

I like to think that the environments I build are unstable systems. The
imperfections of the technology will always make them so to some degree,
but deliberately designing this into a system, or at least anticipating a
degree of instability in the output of a system, is a satisfying decision
for me. On one level, the interactive environment is PART of the
choreography - the two things at least should never be separated.
Choreography for an interactive environment should never be built outside
of that environment - that seems to be an essential contradiction. So,
with all of this, the intimacy, the sensual and the seductive, the
emotional, the improvised - all these are part of the unstable and human
systems I try to create.

>How does an audience in real space "read" our intimacy with the sensor,
>actually this interests me immensely, Mark, how audiences respond to your
>concerts? Can the sensor censor our movement expression, misread it,
>falsely interpret it, fuck up? Can the software be embarrassed, audience
>laughing heartily?

I think I could agree with that - certainly it's not an absurd notion.

with greetings from the 1997 digital creativity conference, derby, UK

R i c h a r d P o v a l l
Assoc. Prof of Computer Music and New Media
MPO Box 0332 TIMARA/Studio 5
Oberlin, OH 44074-0332 USA Oberlin Conservatory of Music
Voice: +1.216.775.1016 Oberlin College
Fax: +1.216.775.8942 Oberlin, OH 44074 USA
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