#datadance is a collaboration between Marguerite Galizia and Kate Sicchio, supported by South East Dance.

 

I met Kate Sicchio during a “Dance Hack” event hosted by South East Dance in September 2013. During the 24 hour hackathon we set out to create a score for a dance work using data streamed in real time from the internet. This remains the premise for our work this week. Our motivation was a desire to use digital interfaces to bring about a choreographic intervention as opposed to the more typical, reflective uses of digital technology in performance. Simply put, if reflective uses are like the wallpaper on a building (aesthetically pleasing but otherwise unnecessary) then we wanted to use the digital technology as the foundations: the underlying structure for the choreographic building.

 

This week was our first opportunity to get back into a studio together since the dancehack. Once again our work is being hosted by South East Dance who are supporting our research through space in kind, at their studios in Hextable, Kent.

 

Our research so far has involved two key elements, the first of which is: sourcing data. For this we’ve accessed a number of sources via the Temboo website, which provides ready made “choreo-bundles” that grab data from websites such as NOAA, twitter, facebook etc and creates processing patches that can relay specified data to any other software. Our initial excitement at finding this resource was soon tempered by a recognition that the type and frequency of the data in these ready made bundles isn’t really useful for the kind of score we envisaged. For example, whilst we were able to stream tweets with a specified key-word, the data was only accessed ever minute or so and would include tweets from the last 24 hours. Recent and relevant if you wanted to run a simple search application, but useless for our score which required a constant updating of data. We encountered the same difficulty with most of the choreo-bundles supplied by temboo, so whilst we haven’t completely abandoned the site, we began to search for live data directly from websites. Here again, this data is readily available. We could find real-time info on satellite positions, for example, but we encountered another problem with how to take data from a website (Java) and input this into the programmes that we were using (Isadora and Processing). Kate spent much of this afternoon searching the internet for a tool to allow us to do this. A ‘Bridge’ application appeared to work but only updated when we manually hit the update button. After abandoning that idea we returned to Isadora and the Izzie community where we found a forum stream that appeared to offer some insight. We await further info here…

 

As is so often the case in any creative process, starting from the beginning isn’t always the most efficient way to work. Think of our end goal, a dance work, as a new motor car, a car that, unlike any other, will run on a new source of carbon neutral fuel, whatever that might be. Ofcourse the key innovation may be in how the fuel interfaces with the car’s engine to generate power and move the vehicle. It’s tempting to hang around like lemons waiting for the researchers to deliver the new fuel before we begin designing the engine. But perhaps it’s possible to come up with some mock-ups that might help the scientists in the lab by working out what the ‘fuel’ (data) needs to achieve.

 

Whilst the live stream of data would create a constantly changing set of co-ordinates or numerals, how will those numbers translate into movement? This brings us to the second key element of the work: the movement score. Our approach so far has been to record verbal instructions for a movement vocabulary: slide, roll, fall, point, for example, and then use a simple Isadora patch to play the sound file that corresponds to a number input. We have committed to one specific rule: it seems important that during this translation there is as little manipulation of the data as possible, so that the relationship between the data and the movement is a literal one.

 

This simple tool allows us to give choreographic ‘meaning’ to the data. But without the live data all we can do is simulate the activity. We began to think about what the data might look like, for example: the satellite co-ordinates gave the latitude, longitude, speed and height of the satellite in orbit. As the satellite moves in one direction around the earth, the latitude and longitude data moves up or down the scale, increasing or decreasing sequentially. Pretty obvious really. In fact if you think about the tracking of any actual object then you will always end up with a sequential string of numbers moving up or down a scale and the reason for this is that an object cannot relocate itself by doing some magical vanishing trick. Even if it suddenly accelerates or decelerates, it will still have to move sequentially on the scale. So even without having the real time data we can imagine what this structure would do with our movement score: it would play the movement instructions in an ascending or descending order at a rate of roughly 1 per second. This may be fun, but doesn’t really seem to offer anything other then a string of numbers, and it may even just be easier to use a random number generator than to go through the rigmarole of streaming this live data. We noticed that the height and speed of the satellite, however, was more variable. Once again it is limited in that it essentially increases or decreases sequentially, however its rate of change was less constant and therefor far more interesting. It would be useful to find our what actually controls the changes of speed and height of a satellite…

Follow us: @katesicchio @margueritecg @SouthEastDance #datadance