Three Interactive Scenes of The Crystal Cabinet Åsa Unander-Scharin, Luleå University of Technology/ Dept. Music and Media Choreography is a field where corporealities are at play. The collaboration of digital technology and dance creates a space for experimentation where the interrelation among bodies, physical and digital realities can be explored and staged in multiple ways. Corporeality does not depend simply on the materiality of the body, but rather on the imagination that stimulates the sensations. We are our body in the sense in which phenomenology understands our motile, perceptual, and emotive being-in-the-world. But we become these lived bodies in a social and cultural context. Body qualities we experience as natural, desirable, repulsive, forbidden or what we locate as erotic zones, are not biologically determined but constructed and variable. The interactive scenes of The Crystal Cabinet (2008) constitute the first part in my choreographic research project exploring volatile bodies and multistable corporealities. This performance took the form of a dream play opera in twelve scenes, including texts and images from William Blake’s (1757-1827) illuminated books, performed by three opera singers, two dancers and twelve musicians in an interplay with moving computer animations and interactive technology. The frame story scenes take place in the physical world, while the in between passages are staging visits in to Blake’s visions. To create his books Blake invented a printing-machine with which he could print his handwritten poems and images. We transformed this idea into an interactive area where the influences among bodies, technology and words work in several directions. My presentation will focus on three video excerpts from The Crystal Cabinet where human and non-human bodies and voices enfold and unfold in continuous variation. The sensory device in the interactive scenes consists of a camera hanging from the ceiling following bodies moving underneath. The camera is connected to a computer programme that transforms the movements to a play backed voice. The programme could be described as a shell where the intermingling parameters are not fixed but open so that we throughout the development of the scenes could calibrate the sensitivity. In three video excerpts, shown as part of the presentation, I will elaborate on how three different characters The Assistant, Blake and Angela, in an ambiguous way control, obey, command and succumb to the expressions of a voice reading Blake’s texts. With his foot centre stage The Assistant slowly rotates down to the floor where he extends his hand to the camera to grasp the machine-voice and pull it down to the floor. Using the body as a ruler and his limbs as a pair of compasses the dancer moves across the space, like a geometrician measuring the world. The voice follows his movements, and on the wall behind him Blake’s portrait of Isaac Newton become elastic and stretchable, dissolves and disappears. The choreography is generated from body shapes found in Blake’s images. Throughout this scene the dancer deforms his body shape by moving like a computer programme morphing between pictures. At the beginning the dancer seems to control the machine-voice but throughout the solo the relation become more and more ambivalent. Gradually the Assistant abandons control of his body, letting it become shaped by the fluctuating velocity of the voice. By degrees he enfolds with the machine and his body cracks, undermined by the extremely slow words. In this scene the played back voice intertwines with a “crystal sound”. The degree of the convolution as well as the velocity of the voice depends on the interactor’s spatial position, underneath the camera. While the dancers in-depth movements influence the pitch and velocity of the virtual voice, his sideways movements have an effect on the crystal sound. The motive was to create a space where the density and gravity seems to fluctuate in different places – a fluctuation heard in the voice and seen in the dancers body. In the second video excerpt the interactive area becomes a poetry-machine in which Blake, performed by an opera singer, captures the words and images of a new poem. He walks across the room fumblingly grasping words with his gestures. This time the interface consists of a grid of phrases and sounds divided into 15 squares and when the performer enters them the machine responds with the words or sound of that square. The gestures are expressing the text fragments, and the interaction rule says that, when hearing a word, he has to respond with the gesture corresponding to that specific expression. In the background the words write themselves on the wall. When the last scene starts Angela is left alone on stage. The machine voice slowly starts to move her body, saying; delight, delight, my only delight. This time the dancers gestures and movements are directly connected to the words of the voice. Her spatial position could be described as a pencil pointing to loops of each word or even phoneme of the text. Through small changes of her position she moves between the words, and while staying in one place her upper body scratches and itches the vowels and consonants of the voice. The sound loops float into her torso to become meandering motions transmitted into the limbs. She then searches around the room to be captured by other words: rose, turned away and jealousy. The further back she moves the more chopping and stemming the voice become; Thorns, thor, or-or-r-r-n-n-s. The fragmentation of the text into pieces of words is transformed into a similar mincing of the dancers movements. Close to the audience the voice performs longer phrases and she stays in a loop saying: what can it mean? When she moves up stage left the first words of the poem I-I-D-Dre-Dreamt wash over her and the trembling movements of the voice spread through her body. From this position Angela continues her shivering “reading” to unfold the entire text by moving sideways across the room. In this dream play opera we used interactive performance technology as a way to require new rhythms and discover new kinetic possibilities in a non-hierarchic connection of body, movement and text. Rather than regarding the elaborations of the digital voice as the final outcome of the interaction, we wanted to develop an interactive system where the rhythms of the voice where circled back to the performers elaboration of the choreography.
Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts - Sensual Technologies : Collaborative Practices of Interdiciplinarity : 05/09/2010 - 08/09/2010