Strange Loop


In April and May 2011 I carried out a research project, Impossible Spaces. The research received backing from DanceDigital and the Arts Council England and resulted in a work in progress, Strange Loop.  The work involves live projection in performance, where the projection is a live relay of the performance space, slightly adjusted by the use of interactive software, to create small differences between what is happening live and what is shown on the projection. My aim was to use the flatness of the projected image to extend the real space and bring about relationships that would not be possible in a 3-D environment. The resulting work in progress was a play on cause and effect, confusing the viewer’s sense of space, time and perspective.

An interview by Dance Digital explains the ideas behind my work with excerpts from Strange Loop:

What is a Strange Loop?

When I started developing this work I called it “Impossible Spaces”, a modification of Escher’s “Impossible Buildings”. Whilst rummaging around for material on Escher I came across Douglas R. Hofstadter’s thesis entitled “Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” In it he describes the notion of “Strange Loops”:

The “Strange Loop” phenomenon occurs whenever, by moving upwards (or downwards) through the levels of some hierarchical system, we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where we started. (Hofstadter, 1979)

In plain language a ‘strange loop’ is an object, a statement or a situation that contains a contradiction in itself. The most well known strange loop is the liar’s paradox, summed up in the statement: “I am lying”. If I was actually lying then I am not actually lying. But If I was saying the truth then the meaning of the statement must be false. The Mobius strip is another example, as are several of Escher’s sketches.

Strange Loop, a work in progress, May 2011

So what did it look like? Here’s a short clip of the work in progress:

Moving On

It’s been five months since the project was wrapped up. In the meantime I have been to the Interaktionslabor in Saarbrucken and the fabulous Digital Futures in Dance Symposium hosted by DanceDigital, Southeast Dance and Pavilion Dance in Bournemouth. Whilst watching, listening and thinking about the way forward, I feel that I’ve finally been able to pin down my own specific identity within this broad field of technology and live performance.

  • At the moment my work involves an integration of live video projection in a performance context. Dance is my background, the body is my starting point, but it’s a body placed in space and sometimes defined, perceived and manipulated by that space. The idiosyncracy of the work derives from this re-examination of the body’s relationship to the space it inhabits.
  • I use some digital technology to carry out real-time video processing. But the emphasis is on facilitating an interaction between the live dancer and their virtual counterpart.
  • I do not use the projection to create a new space behind the dancer. I do not project a dance film behind a live dancer and aim not to use any pre-recorded material in the performance.
  • Throughout the work the audience should witness an intersection of the two spaces: the real space with the virtual space.
  • I am concerned with developing an interdependency between the real dancer / space and the projected dancer / space, so that they both need each other in order to exist.
  • I question what this relationship does to the movement exploration. How does it expand the performer and viewer’s perception of space? What effect does this new space have on the dancer’s movement and performance presence? How can these be amplified and extracted?

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