In September 2013 Marguerite Galizia and Kate Sicchio met as participants in South East Dance‘s ‘Dance Hack‘. The experiment brought together dance artists and computer programmers for 24 hours of sharing, talking, developing and trying out. The work initiated by this interaction is the seed for a new collaboration between Kate and Marguerite, due to begin with a residency at South East Dance’s studios in Hextable in February 2014.
Our starting point for this work was a common interest or desire to demonstrate a use of digital technology in performance that was more than purely ‘reflective’. We stole that word from Mark Coniglio who describes ‘reflective’ digital dance works as that in which the technology offers a reflection of the performer’s movement in the form of a digitally modified image / sound output. For example, when a digitally modified image follows a dancer around on stage. (Yes, we’ve all seen plenty of those kinds of pieces!) This is not to say that the ‘reflective’ use of digital technology is not in itself a valid artistic approach. But it does somehow always leave the viewer wondering whether all the fancy stuff isn’t just an effect. In his ‘Choreographer’s Handbook’ Jonathan Burrows offers a similar observation on the use of spectacle, nudity, loud music, lighting or any other theatrical effect that is too big to be ignored and may even obscure the point of the work. He refers to this as “a large hat”.
So, large hats aside, our aim was to create a work where the digital technology had some ‘intervention’ (Mark Coniglio’s terminology again) within the movement creation or performance. <‘intervention’ from the verb ‘intervene’: To involve oneself in a situation so as to alter or hinder an action or development> Simply put: how can we make our computers tell us what to do? This is easily achieved using algorithms of course. But again, simply programming a computer to give us instructions seemed like a fairly inefficient use of time. Could it not be simpler to ask another performer to stand at the side and shout commands at us? And…isn’t that what choreography normally involves afterall? If we were to achieve any meaningful ‘intervention’ we would have to use the computer to give us access to possibilities that we could not achieve without the computer:
A.) its ability to process large amounts of data in a short space of time
B.) its ability to deliver instructions without bias or interference of biological factors. (hmmm, computers however make very unreliable performers, prone to crashes half way through etc. I did have one mentor who swore that her computer not crashing half way through the performance depended on how many chickens she’d sacrificed.)
So, large hats and sacrificed chickens aside, where does this leave us?
In February 2014 we’ll head back to South East Dance’s studios in Hextable to thrash out ideas for a week. We will import live data in real time into software. We want to create a choreographic score that can be controlled or built around data generated by a completely unconnected activity taking place somewhere else in the world. Our mock up, Right Left Sit, in the dance hack used a touch OSC app to send real time accelerometer readings to a computer. So whilst Kate walked around the room with her phone relaying information to my computer, I sat, stood, paused, put my right hand up, or left, or both according to the instructions generated by the combination of data interacting with the algorithms on my computer. But what other data could we use? Will the data we use have some impact on the subject matter of the work as a whole? Will all the sacrificed chickens achieve something? Or will it all just be one large hat?
Kate and Marguerite will be in residence at South East Dance’s studio in Hextable from the 17th – 22nd February 2014. You can follow our process online via our blogs or twitter feeds. Local dance artists with an interest in the work can come along to our Open Studio sessions every day from 3pm-5pm or to our sharing on Thursday 20th February at around 4pm.
Twitter: @margueritecg @sicchio #RightLeftSit