Double Skin / Double Mind: a workshop installation as theater
In early 2006, I was invited by Bertha Bermudez to participate in the Notation Research project with my experience not only as a designer of interactive multimedia projects for dance archiving, education and documentation; but also based on my more recent work as a theater artist mixing live performance and real-time stage technologies. Bermudez's invitation seemed to suggest a way for me to bring these two strands of my research and work together -- to mix multimedia and real-time stage technologies. My thesis for the project would be that: "extending the multimedia information on the screen into the 'theater' space and using real-time stage technologies, might help improve the transmission of the dance information and further the aims of the dance research".
The project quickly evolved to become both an Installation and a DVD-ROM; the basic material would be the Double Skin / Double Mind (DS/DM) workshop Emio Greco and Pieter C. Scholten had been developing for several years. In Summer 2005, the DS/DM workshop had been filmed for the making of a documentary about it. This meant that its structure had already been analyzed. Here Bermudez was filling the same role that Nik Haffner had with the Improvisation Technologies project -- like Haffner she had not invented the systems of training/ teaching or preparation; but she was the main one to shape it into 'user and design friendly' chapters; naming and editing the information structure.
In contrast to Improvisation Technologies (mental architectures for real-time choreography), That's Kyogen (complex relations between characters, plays and acting) and Nagarika (multidimensional gestural expression of rhythms), the DS/DM Installation/ DVD-ROM aims to provide access to the self-awareness preparation of the dancer for the creation and performance process. And part of the challenge of this project as compared to the other three was the task Bermudez approached me with: "How can we depict the intention and inner quality of the movement? Lets try to describe the indescribable".
An interface design involving layers of hyper-linked information didn't suit the needs of this project, and it had to be something more than just an archive. I felt I could better approach the design challenge, to grasp the 'soft skills' of dance, through the creation of a toolset; a collection of lectures, graphics, text information and custom made software such as the gesture follower, developed by Frédéric Bevilacqua at IRCAM in Paris. This software is designed to give real-time feedback in the form of suggestions about performed movement qualities. There are two platforms for the toolset. One is the DVD-ROM, which I have designed by dividing the space of the screen into a patchwork of fields. [see Figs. 14 and 15] This supports access to all the information areas or fields (video lectures, notation information, related text, the gesture follower) on one level. Mouse 'rollovers' preselect most interface actions; e.g. watch videos, navigate, scroll images, etc. [Insert Two Figures: Screen shot DVD-ROM layout "patchwork of fields" and photo from design session (credit: Thomas Lenden)]
The other platform for the toolset is the DS/DM Installation. Similar to the preparations for the Improvisation Technologies and Nagarika projects, we filmed Emio Greco giving step-by-step training sessions for some of the sections of the DS/DM workshop. His image is projected life-size on a screen inside an installation space (a metal frame from which the screen and four speakers are hung) surrounding the participant. This creates the feeling of having a 'personal one on one workshop' with Greco. An infrared camera watches the movements of the participant, and sounds change pitch and levels in real-time according to a computer-based analysis of these movements. We are also working on ways to depict this feedback visually. In summary, the DS/DM Installation/ DVD-ROM is designed as a visual and acoustic toolset to improve movement awareness in a new media environment.
The Installation has been set up and tested so far at the Instituut voor Mediakunst, Montevideo Time Based Arts in March 2007 [see Fig. 16] and in late June 2007 at the Amsterdam School for the Arts. [see Fig. 17] Here we invited participants and other guests to discuss how to best develop the feedback system of the installation. This has had intriguing results we did not anticipate. By creating a theater-like situation of many people watching a single performer moving inside the installation, we found out that the visual information display of the gesture follower feedback seem more important to the audience than to the participant moving inside the installation. [see Fig. 18 and 19] An exchange process between the mover inside the installation and the audience watching it needs to be established. The audience thus participates on a more cognitive, empathic level, whereas the active user is involved in a physical, intuitive level; and all these levels meet in a reflection of experiences while watching/interacting/ participating in the DS/DM Installation.
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