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MARIA SOFTSI

‘INFORMANCE’ made in ‘TRANSDANCE’ LAB by Maria Softsi, executive producer of the ‘Transdance’ lab.

I was firstly introduced to the new field of ‘dance and new technologies’ last year when I attended the seminars and events of the 6th International Dance Festival of Kalamata. Concepts as ‘interactive dance’, ‘telematic performance’, were as much unknown to me as to the great majority of the attendants of the seminar. Since then, a new door opened in front of me, a door to a path unknown to the most and yet seemed so appealing . A year later, I had an offer to work as an executive producer in a research lab called ‘transdance’. The artists that would have taken part were pioneers on the field of ‘ Arts and New Media’…

The ‘Transdance’ Research Lab for the Arts and New Technologies was organized by the ‘e-phos festival 2001’ last May in Athens. The lab was consisted of three Greek and six foreigner artists all from various disciplines. Those were: Yacov Sharir- Creator of robotic choreographies (Israel/ USA), Jenny Marketou- Net Artist (USA), Sophia Lycouris- Choreographer of Telematic Performances (GB), John McCormick- Choreographer, member of the telematic dancing company ‘Company in Space’(AU), Christian Ziegler- Multimedia Designer (De), Konstantinos Rigos, choreographer, founder of the dance company ‘Octana Dance Theatre’(GR), Alexandros Psychoulis- visual artist on Digital installations (GR), Konstantinos Moschos- computer music composer, founder of IEMA.

Supervisor of Research was Scott de Lahunta, -choreographer, writer and researcher on the issues of dance and New Media.

The lab lasted from 23 rd to 30th of May. The results of the research were published through a Presentation –Informance that took place on May 31.

Informance is a hybrid word that was founded in ‘Transdance’ lab and comes from the words Information and Performance.

The Presentation begun with the charming Video film Transdance by Alexandros Psychoulis who managed to create it during the days of the lab.

Giorgos Papakonstantinou, Councelor of the Greek Prime Minister in the Technologies’ issues, made the introduction speech. The works of the participants impressed him.

Scott de Lahunta explained to the audience the aims of the research. He introduced the artists with the help of Sophia Lycouris who had an infra-red remote camera attached to her arm. While walking around the lab’s space, she was transmitting their pictures through a big central panel in the presentation area.

After the introduction, the audience was invited to see the lab, to talk with the artists and even to participate at the Informance as performers. The aim of the Informance was to inform the public for the results of the research on the easiest possible way. With this in mind, the public was encouraged to experiment with the projects and entertain as much themselves as the others.

At the presentation of the project of Dancemusic from Konstantinos Moschos, a camera was recording the movement of a specific color in a confined space, and through the software Bigeye and a midi controller, those movements were producing sound effects. The colored object could be a t-shirt, a glove, a balloon, or even all of them and could produce sounds from music instruments.

Parallel to this project, with the same camera, a software Nato affected by the movement of the same color was creating sketches on a monitor.

In every movement of the colored object there was a visual and sound effect, at the same time.

In an other area , a part of the Informance too, the movement of a body was captured while passing in front of a camera and through the project Scanned of Christian Ziegler and a projection set was appearing on a panel with the delay of 20 seconds creating a new concept about the dimensions a body could take.

Jenny Marketou, who was wearing John’s McCormick cyber suit ‘Gypsy Exoskeleton’ and under his supervision was connected with all the programs above. For her performance she used things such as buckets, mops and brooms a ladder and a bench and at the same time with her movements she was creating sound and visual effects while giving life to numerous famous fiction creatures . Can you imagine Lara Croft mopping together with the Ninja Turtle?

Many have described the Informance as a Technological Park and I could agree with them. However, behind the entertainment of the Informance, seven days of hard work, constant quest and experimentation had been preceded. The professionalism and the enthusiasm of the artists to seek together and produce- aiming for a successful collaboration- were the main ingredients of that successful Informance.

I could not leave out the presence of the Vicon Real Time Optical Motion Capture. The most advanced system for Motion Capture nowadays in the world. The Choreographers of the lab had the opportunity to experiment with the Vicon , seven of the eight days of the lab. Therefore, unfortunately, we had no chance to show to the audience the results of that research .

Indicatively, I report that the Vicon has been used for the motion capture needs of movies as Gladiator and Star Wars.

Its function is unique. Twelve special cameras are tracing the light from the reflected markers-balls that has been attached to the articulations and main muscles areas of a body, and in fact they are tracing the movement with an amazingly hi fidelity. The Silicon Graphics hardware and the Filmbox software give the opportunity to see the movement produced in real time in an already designed model on the monitor. The experience seemed tempting and I could not resist-as a dancer and a choreographer - trying it my self.

The data from all those who worked with the Vicon -especially with the valuable collaboration of Konstantinos Rigos, Yacov Sharir, Sophia Lycouris and John McCormick -has been stored for the purpose of a further elaboration and use.

Yacov Sharir- pioneer in the world community of Dance and New Media- had to leave a day earlier than the presentation day, so he did not have the opportunity to take part in Informance. His research was remarkable and valuable to the future aims of the lab.

The difficult and so responsible work of the research coordination, Scott deLahunta fulfilled with outstanding devotion and inspiration.

The material –data that is being collected will be the main tool for the continuation of our trying to bring closer the public and the artists to this new field called Arts and New Media.

I left from Athens carrying with me the best impressions as much from the artists’ side as from the company ‘Alas’ that organized the lab, the Artistic Director Yiannis Skourogiannis, his wife Stavroula Tavoulari, Chrisostomos Maslatzidis- Executive Director in technical matters and all those people who helped for the production of the Research Lab ‘Transdance’.