Experiment.spaces no.2 [Spheres] Proposal

This performative installation is the next iteration of Experiment.spaces #1 which was performed as studio work at MADA (Monash Art design and Architecture) in Melbourne, Australia.

‘Consider chance operations as a means of making a decision and how relinquishing control changes the outcome’
Merce Cunningham.

As a creative device, we will adopt the Aleatoric system as a methodology for the performance installation. This technique has been used to employ non-predetermined and unpredictable elements that cause events to have a certain result. In the interactive process, both the environment and performer will influence each other, trigger specific behaviours in real time. The projections and soundscape will lead the audience on a poetic journey of discovery of the human body, from the micro dimension of the cell to the macro scale of the steps.

The environment

A digital performance environment; the space is a large room with three white walls for projections. Three projectors will be installed into the centre of the room facing outwards. The room will be completely dark, but for the illumination of the of projected imagery.

The projections on the walls are virtual 3D environments. Each projection is a single environment of their own, but networked to each other and connected to the physical environment. The aim is to extend the space allowing the performers and audience to explore new engagements and interactions. Rather than the installation creating a specific experience I want the performer and audience to shape new experiences.

The sensory elements connect the physical world to the digital environments. Three Microsoft Kinect sensors will be placed in relationship with their virtual space. The sensors track and maps movement of individuals, performers and audience, within the space. The movement is represented in the virtual space as an outline, almost a ghost figure passing through the dark virtual world following and mirroring the individual.

Virtual spheres will be floating within the space. The spheres behave like rubber balls defying gravity. If a ghost figure collides with a sphere it can trigger an event. The collision will also cause the sphere to bounce off the figure and move in another direction. Spheres can then also collide with each other, which will trigger further events.

Sound will be always present. The soundscape will evolve, layer, grow, retract and start again.

Experiment.spaces no.2 [Spheres] is a network of spaces, both virtual and physical, which allows performers and audiences to engage and interact to explore and shape new experiences.

The performance

The soundscape uses as a starting point Philip Glass’ Knee Play 1. Each performer will walk in a predetermined pattern. Inevitably they will collide at certain times, and at these moments they will have been instructed to perform a specific movement. Each performer will have their own repertoire of 2 or 3 simple movements, which may or may not compliment the movement of the performer in front of them – their duetting partner. There will also be other instructions with regard to walking into the limits of the space. As the choreography progresses an aural cue will sound randomly generated by the collision of the virtual spheres. When this happens there will be a choreographic shift, which the performers are alert to. Other events triggered include visual shifts and changes within the virtual worlds. These shifts are changing colours and textures of the projected imagery onto the three walls. Sometimes only one projection, sometimes all three. These atmospheric changes will also cause the performers to move into a new section of the piece. Cause and effect.

To what extent does the performer engage the left or right brain when following complex and changing instructions of this nature? To what degree can the performer “lose” themselves in the moment of the work, whilst being cognisant of the next trigger? Will they reach a Zen state of being totally inside the given mechanism so that the body responds automatically? In my opinion Cunningham uses both in his choreographies, dancers always thinking looking for the cues, chance moments.

What interests me about using an aleatoric system to construct a choreographic performance is that the shape, length and quality are an unknown quantity. As an artist I give myself over to the process, the philosophy, thus removing any barrier I may throw up concerning satisfying an external or indeed internal critic.

Technology

Four projectors will be suspended from the ceiling projecting onto each of the four walls. The Kinect sensors placed at the base of each wall pointing inward captures movement with the aim of manipulating the environment, both visual and audio, via movement.

Experiment.spaces no.2 [Spheres] is created from Max 6, which connects four computers directly using their IP addresses. Similar to Experiment.spaces no.1, the coordinates of the individual are tracked via the Kinect sensor and fed into Max 6. The coordinates are used to position the ghost figure avatar within the virtual world. In addition, these coordinates are used to create a relationship with the spheres’ positions in the virtual environment. The spheres have their own behaviours; the spheres respond in a similar fashion to a rubber ball and the environment simulates gravity. We are investigating how this application can be incorporated into a networked performance. From a UX design viewpoint, the aim here is to address slow internet speeds, delays, tolerance of error and loss of quality of movement over the internet and how these impact on user experience.

Microsoft Kinect motion sensor and a combination of applications and programming framework; Synapse, Syphon, Particle Warfare, Max 6 and Quartz Composer.

Experiment.spaces #2 project is part of the Mashup Realities programme

Mashup Realities is an interdisciplinary experimental digital art programme, working with dancers, choreographers, musicians, designers and programmers. Chris Bishop and Seeta Indrani lead the programme. Mashup Realities is part of Chris Bishop’s research study. Chris is a PhD candidate at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. This research aims to identify User Experience (UX) Design methods that support and extend networked performance, in particular dance, by investigating interactive design and digital scenographic practice in Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVE). With a focus upon contemporary relations between dance and technology, this methodology will be applied to a series of performance-based projects entitled Mashup Realities.