Wednesday, September 22, 2010

dispositif / mise en scène VI

"Tiling Performance"

An interview with Hélène Lesterlin, Mark Coniglio and Johannes Birringer, conducted and edited by Marlon Barrios Solano during his visit to the workshop, has now appeared on

In continuation of the previous explorations of the various installations/performances tested during the Live.Media + Performance Lab 2010, the following sections will focus on some of the Saturday evening exhibitions that have not been mentioned yet. We begin with a sequence of photos that refer to the works.

Final showings at the end of the workshop:

1. "Tiling Performance," interactional performance by Ian Winters

2. "The Table," interactional performance by Jennifer Woodin and Tommy deFrantz

3. "Lying Bodies/Outside in," interactive installation by Joff Chafer

4. "Memory Table," interactive installation by Ian Winters

5. "Bubble Playground," interactive installation by Byul Shin, sound by Victoria Gibson

6. "UN-SU," performance by Victor Zappi

7. "Truth Is," interactional performance by Sara Kraft (with video programming by Ian Winters and sound programming by Victor Zappi)

8. "Poppy", architectural projection performance by Emily Putoff, with dance by James Cunningham and Tommy deFrantz, and six screen movers, and sound by Victor Zappi

9. "Grid", interactional performance installation by Sarah Dahnke, with James Cunningham, Suzon Fuks, Julia Alsarraf,

10. "Dotted Landscape," interactional performance installation by Wendy Chu, with James Cunningham, Julia Alsarraf, Sara Kraft, Sarah Dahnke, Victor Zappi

11. "Tripod dance," performance by James Cunningham (with Suzon Fuks)

12. ""Bandwidth," visual music piece by Victoria Gibson

The opening performance of the evening was the silent "Tiling" piece, designed and programmed by Ian Winters, and enacted by James Cunningham:

(James Cunningham performing in "Tiling")

In the wide open spatial environment (one projection screen angled towards the flat space upstage right), we see the performer kneeling on a small rectangual lit area, with a bowl of water placed in front of him, and a camera on tripod behind him, "shooting" over his shoulder. My own camera position (for the documentation) is downstage left, if we were to use the conventional directions in the theatre. The performer is holding his flat hand out near the water bowl, and we gather that his hand is inside the cadre (frame) of the onstage camera which captures the gestural action. The signal from the camera is sent to the software environment, and Ian's programming affects the three long strips of projected images that we now begin to see. The white strips of projected light contain the "tiles", the fluctuating, moving and changing serial images created through the "processing" and filtering of James's filmed hand gesture. The performer, throughout this installation/performance, enacts a dialogue with the camera and the software environment, literally exploring, as time passes, the "outcomes" of his filmed hand, changing proximity and distance to the camera, playing with the water bowl and the water inside it, and at one point picking up a small laser pointer and directing its beam at the water.

This presentation was followed by the "Table" installation-performance by Jennifer Woodin and Tommy de Frantz, which contained a dialogue between Jennifer and Tommy as well as their cups:

We are asked to enter into a narrow, intimate area in the corner of the studio, screened off by tall risers. Inside this corner area, there is a black table, at which Jennifer and Tommy sit down, each with a white tea cup placed in front of them. On a second table, dinner plates and cutlery are waiting as if the dinner table will be set, but we also note that a small projection falls into this second table, “virtual plates” appear as the two engage in a strangely quiet, almost surreal conversation, mostly conducted by the woman who appears to address a dysfunctional relationship. As the couple move the white tea cups, which are tracked by a camera suspended above the table, images of virtual kitchen/table objects fall onto the second table, and at the end, after the woman has left the room, taken her real cup with her, a virtual cup appears in her stead, as if that was all there was left now from the shared history, an empty cup projected onto a flat plane.

After the table piece, Joff Chafer offered his silent and somber "Lying Bodies/Outside In":

(J.Birringer, on the left, ghosting one of the image-bodies, on the right)

Out of the darkness, a green meadow arises, projected onto the entire width of the space. Before the presentation, Joff Chafer had briefly invited us to interact with the installation and note the behavior of the projected “actors”. He also mentioned that the piece was silent and that he’d be interested in feedback as to the kind of score we might imagine with this piece.

The visitors/audience is outside the meadow, looking in, and slowly we observe how dark shadows seem to appear, one here, one over there, and from the shadowy contours the image of person lying the grass appears; perhaps this is a summer lawn, a place to rest in then shade, some of us walk onto the space, and as a visitors approaches one of the lying bodies, that image=body seems to move and respond to the presence of another, changing the way the lie, or rest their head on a hand, or turn over. This provokes responses from the visitor, someone over there lies down as well, or sits next to the image-body. Couples seem to form, but not for long, as the imaged body suddenly loses its full “intensity” (to speak in terms of image resolution and the percentage of projection brightness that can be modulated in the Isadora software), fades, and then disappears. Over there, a new image-body now gains resolution, and visitors respond by moving closer to it. This is the quiet pattern that emerges in this installation: we begin to expect these shadows to rise from the ground, become more substantial, gain composure and gestural presence, inviting what sociologist Erving Goffman, some years ago, called “face to face behavior” in his book Interaction Ritual (1967) – even though he could not have yet meant interactive performance behaviors between humans and computationally controlled images. They thus invite us to anthropomorphize the, to treat them as “living” images? Indeed, it appears as if we partake in a strangely somber, perhaps eerie ritual where humans encounter living images on an artifical meadow or (eternal) resting ground, and these images may well strike us as ghosts or strange emanations, coming in from some under-gound, rising to image-hood, and falling away again. Near the end, one shadow seems coiled and rolled up, and then from the dark shadowy ball a spinning movement slowly emerging, we see (from a bird’s eye view) the whirling dervish figure of a woman, and then she disappears as well, and the green meadow fades, first into black, and after a few seconds, golden leaves appear, hundreds of them, as if autumn had descended on the meadow, and all he have in our cosmic memory now are the fallen leaves floating in emptiness. [see the previous chapter which reveals the prototype ending with Sarah Dahnke – and real falling leaves coming down from the rafters – an ending that had to scrapped due to safety rules in the studio building.]

The “Lying Bodies/Outside In” installation had a strong poetic quality, and I tried to write my response down in a metaphoric manner, implying the emotions one could sense in the room or amongst the “visitors” to the cemetery, without paying much attention to how this dispositif enabled the interface relations technically. Rather, I want to draw attention, in the following, to the distinctions between the three arrangements (above), and how these installations perform, or are performed. My distinctions are meant to serve as a methodological guide to (1) understanding the interface design features and interpreting/describing the content-expression of the projected worlds characteristic of the dispositifs described here; (2) drawing attention to the interaction behaviors that are performed or performable in the dispositif; and (3) locating some of the dramaturgical decisions or strategies that may have guided the artists’ compositions here in the Lab.

(Test image of lying body for Chafer's installation)

In Interaction Ritual - Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior, Goffman outlines in several essays approaches to human interaction from a dramaturgical perspective. To Goffman, all forms of interaction are kinds of “performances.” These performances may fall under the structure of rituals, socially acceptable formalized interactions. One of Goffman’s goals is to outline the units of these interactions so that they may be studied in a symbolic manner.

(continued in next installment: dispositif / mise en scène VII)

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