Working with improvising dancer Christian Burns, I will explore the delicate balance of power of a duet between human and algorithm. The algorithm will be a software environment that controls both music and a projected video entity. It will be designed specifically to elicit dance, and it will share the stage with the dancer using a projection scrim and localized sound.
Much contemporary video work for dance uses dancer tracking so that the dancer controls some aspects of the video projection. Here I would like to create an environment where a dancer “tracks” the video. This provides an opportunity to examine some of the dynamics of power between two entities. In one sense the dancer submits to the algorithm’s influence; in another sense the dancer can dominate the performance by making conceptually complex choices that are more interesting that the algorithm’s.
This project is a natural growth from my work pressed (excerpt included in the work sample), in which dance improvisation choices were made based on video symbols for a collection of poses. Now I am working with 3D shapes projected into the dancer’s field of vision, shapes that interact according to physics simulation, making the resulting video more physical than conceptual. The algorithm’s appearance and behavior will be optimized for its efficacy in inspiring dance; it will be a choreographic tool.
At the time of this application, I have programed early versions of the algorithmic entity (excerpt included in the work sample) and have received positive feedback for its use motivating dance. I plan to refine the software environment to be able to use a wide variety of shapes, ranging from human-sized bodies to virtual kinetic sculpture.
If I receive the Performing Arts and Media Arts grant October 1, 2015, it will be an ideal time to have regular workshops with Christian to develop the music and video algorithm through the winter. The artist’s fee will allow me to take time off other work to focus. I will also book at least three well-documented performances from April though the end of September, 2016, with the intention of gradually working in two other dancers for two more duets in the suite.
By the end of the grant period, I hope to have developed and performed an unusually conceived work that has the potential to influence other media artists and expand my personal practice in future work.