ELIZABETH ANN MIKLAVCIC AND JIMMY MIKLAVCIC
InterPlay: Performing on a High Tech Wire
Through the investigation of
five InterPlay performances, this paper will describe the form
and discuss its process and structure. It will analyze some of the issues
that have been encountered, surmounted and those that require continued
examination. It will also discuss subjects such as distributed collaboration,
communications, production elements, real and virtual venues, and the
layered development of works within this innovative art form.
InterPlay is a multifaceted,
real-time, collaborative digital performance event that occurs simultaneously
at multiple sites throughout the world. Artists and technologists from
several institutions synchronously perform and collaborate in real time,
utilizing media and technologies of various forms, such as Access Grid®,
streaming digital cinema and audio, computer animation, remote MIDI
control, motion capture, and interactive distributed virtual reality.
Electronic and acoustic musicians,
dancers, actors, digital graphic artists, virtual reality designers,
video artists, motion control engineers, a variety of technologists
and others come together, integrating their ideas into this large scale
distributed performance. Each site generates two or more video and audio
streams then transmits them onto Internet2. At the host site, these
video streams are collected, processed, combined into the digital mix
and then transmitted back onto the network. This multimedia content
is integrated with each site’s local live performance, creating a
live distributed cinematic performance event.
THE PROCESS AND STRUCTURE
The InterPlay begins
with an artistic concept as a foundation for all participants to build
upon. Artists and technologists at each site create a performance based
on their particular discipline and technological infrastructure. The
host site guides, directs and assists the participants in the development
of each site’s creative contribution in order to be able to integrate
that work into the entire event.
The host site is responsible
for the execution of the entire project. This includes scheduling weekly
distributed video conference meetings, testing new technologies and
integrating them into the project, network trouble-shooting, systems
support, daily communications, overall publicity, documentation, rehearsals,
direction and post production.
The coordinators of the participating
sites are responsible for all local creative and technological contributions
to the project. They work closely with their regional artists and technologists,
schedule meetings and testing sessions; monitor creative and technical
progress; generate local publicity and other activities.
The technological tools used
during the InterPlay performance are crucial. Professional video
cameras, hi-fidelity microphones, computers, lighting design, and a
detailed layout of the performance space are utilized to provide high
quality content. A team of creative technicians is necessary; minimally
this includes a node operator, a lighting technician, a camera operator
and an audio engineer. Communication with the site’s network personnel
is essential and some understanding of the backbone network topology
During performances, the camera
is a portal into the artist’s world. Awareness of the quality of the
streamed video and its framing is imperative. Providing useful
content is achieved by having knowledge of camera technique and effective
lighting. Regardless of the quality of each site’s live performance,
if it is not visually comprehendible through the camera, then the work
is lost within the scope of the InterPlay. Providing high-quality
visual imagery is important even if the main content of a participating
site is audio. Some considerations include close, medium or wide shots
to produce compelling imagery that can enhance the overall InterPlay
Lighting and audio design is critical for an interesting and technically executed performance. Each site’s local performance needs a lighting plan that encompasses both a well-lit theatrical design for their live audience and a cinematic lighting design for the camera to benefit the network audience.
Providing high-fidelity audio
is a primary component and the most pronounced challenge of working
within this form. There are many components in the audio design that
can malfunction and troubleshooting such problems is complex. The checklist
can include an echo canceling system, audio transmission software, a
sound card’s mixing components, or local and remote sound systems.
The InterPlay form is
built upon an infrastructure of IP based telecommunications. The level
of communication necessary to create a coordinated piece over long distances
is extensive. Constant communication with all participating sites is
crucial to the success of the production; this process consists of videoconference
meetings, telephone, email, wikis and web blogs. In order to coordinate
and develop a project, no single form of communication is sufficient
in this collaborative process.
Another Language utilizes the
Access Grid technology for telecommunications and performance activities
although the Access Grid is a communications tool; additional modes
of communication are necessary. For example, to create a fully-integrated
piece such as InterPlay: Nel Tempo di Sogno
(2007), three or four meetings a week with individuals and groups,
telephone calls, web blogs, as well as more than five hundred email
messages were required to coalesce the six participating sites.
include individual site testing and experimentation, then there is a
progression into multiple site rehearsals. Scheduling involves the coordination
of local and remote teams. This requires awareness of the time zone
differences and the schedules of each site’s participants. Differences
in time zones can result in confusion, so it is helpful if the schedule
specifies the appropriate times for each zone.
The rehearsals function as
test sessions and technical trials, where performers interact with the
technology. These preparations are critical in determining what technologies
can be incorporated into the project. This is the time for troubleshooting
multicast network issues; testing and integrating software and hardware
development, utilizing new audio-video streaming systems, adjusting
human-technology interfaces and researching other emerging technologies.
Performance venues exist in
two forms, the physical and the virtual. The physical performance venue
is the space that houses each site’s live performance and audience
in attendance. The virtual venue is the place where the Internet viewer
can experience the performance.
There are very few traditional
performance venues that have the cyber infrastructure required to support
an InterPlay event. In Utah, Another Language Performing Arts
Company presents in the lecture hall of the Intermountain Networking
and Scientific Computation Center (INSCC) at the University of Utah
(UU). Other examples are the University of Illinois, Chicago has showcased
their work in the Electronic Visualization Lab and at the University
of Alaska, Fairbanks, and the physical venue is the Discovery Lab at
the Artic Region Supercomputing Center.
For the Internet audience the
Access Grid technology provides the best view of the InterPlay
event with its multiple video and audio streams. The viewer is able
to see all simultaneous content, including the digital mix. A live QuickTime
stream of the digital mix is also available on Another Language’s
TECHNOLOGY AND NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE
Jimmy Miklavcic with the assistance
of Sam Listen at CHPC adapted the Access Grid technology for use as
a performance system, modeling the venue server, artgridvs.chpc.utah.edu,
to mirror a theater space. The goal is to one-day map the virtual theatre
to physical theatrical spaces, connecting components of several theaters
into a large collaborative network. The virtual lobby has access to
the Black Box, Café, Studio_1, Studio_2, and the Theatre. Through the
Theatre there is access to the Back Stage, Green Rooms, and other virtual
The Access Grid software is
scalable and can operate on a single laptop or expand to a larger Enhanced
Performance Grid. The Enhanced Performance Grid is an environment of
various systems that, together, supports the InterPlay event.
It consists of streaming, broadcast, display, video-capture, recording
and venue servers, an audio control system, streaming collectors, video
effects processors and text-chat systems. Taking into account, all the
participating sites, a highly distributed heterogeneous computational
environment is created.
Another Language Performing
Arts Company, in partnership with the University of Utah’s Center
for High Performance Computing (CHPC), has produced five InterPlay
projects in collaboration with eleven institutions and research labs
across North America for more than five years. The following project
descriptions will highlight many of the structural concepts of the
Senses, premiered on April 19, 2003. It incorporated four
performance streams from four locations on the first floor of the INSCC
building. This prototype project provided an opportunity to understand
the constructs needed to expand the collaboration process to the Internet.
Directed by Jimmy Miklavcic, this InterPlay included four simultaneous
performances in three separate locations by the five artists, Elizabeth
and Hanelle Miklavcic (performance artists), Flavia Cervino-Wood (violinist
and performance artist), Harold Carr (bassist and poet) and Alex Caldiero
(poet and sonosopher). A camera operator was assigned to each performance
location in the building and the corresponding video feeds were mixed,
processed and transmitted on the Internet.
was an investigation that concurrently tapped into four simultaneous
performances and processed the video streams as found objects.
The overall goal was to weave a distributed tapestry of kinetic imagery.
Senses was performed a second time for the Symposium in Science
and Literature at the University of Utah on October 10, 2003. Artists
for this performance were Sam Liston (guitarist), Kate Macleod (violinist),
Alex Caldiero, and Elizabeth and Hanelle Miklavcic. In this performance,
Elizabeth and Hanelle’s performance of was placed on a different floor
to simulate a remote site and test the reliability of video, audio and
communications over a longer distance.
debuted on April 23 - 25, 2004. This performance, for the first
time, incorporated remote sites; the University of Alaska, Fairbanks
and the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (UAF/ARSC) with artist Miho
Aoki (computer graphics), Scott Deal (percussion) and Paul Mercer (technologist);
the University of Maryland (UMD) with artists Nadja Masura (video) and
Brian Buck (dance); and Another Language Performing Arts Company at
various types of social, commercial, and political hallucinations. Each
site interpreted the concept through several different performance and
media forms. Artists from UMD investigated the commercial and political
brainwashing in our daily lives through dance and video, UAF investigated
the delusion of communication through music and computer animation and
UU dealt with social hallucinations through computer animation and theatrical
Minds in a Box (2005)
InterPlay: Loose Minds in
a Box was performed March 31 – April 2, 2005. Participating institutions
included UAF/ARSC, University of Montana (UMT), UU, University of Illinois,
Chicago (UIC), Purdue University and the Envision Center for Data Perceptualization
(PU/ECDP), and UMD.
explored aspects of multiple personalities or schizophrenia. Approached
abstractly, the concept allowed for a broad interpretation of the psychological
theme. The performance structure was divided into six scenes that featured
different artists and technologists individually or in groups of two
or more sites. Miho Aoki (UAF) developed a plan to represent each scene
by color. From this, a dramaturgy was developed to organize
the progression through the scenes. Each scene contained a different
background design and geometrical arrangements of the live video windows.
These were placed in real-time by the node operator to evoke a dynamic
kinetic progression of the cinematic screen display.
Timothy J. Rogers (PU), a motion
capture engineer worked with dancer Joe Hayes (PU) and choreographer
Carol Cunningham (PU) to map and translate the dancer’s movements
into MIDI data that was transmitted to the other sites, controlling
audio and video processing. Dioselin Gonzalez (PU), a virtual environment
engineer developed a software module for the Access Grid called AG Juggler.
This program allowed audience members at all participating sites to
manipulate avatars in Purdue’s visualization lab. Miho Aoki (UAF)
and David Sigman (PU) created the 3D graphics for the virtual environment.
The final InterPlay:
LMIB scene featured Charles Nichol’s (UMT) recordings of The
Blue Box haiku, written by Nadja Masura (UMD). He created an interactive
composition that was manipulated by dancer Joe Hayes (PU). Recorded
readings of the haiku by Dwight McKay (PU), Tina Shah (UIC), Nadja Masura
(UMD), Jimmy and Elizabeth Miklavcic (UU) were processed through MAX/MSP
and controlled by Hayes’ movements at PU. Timothy Rogers captured
the X and Y coordinates of Hayes’ movements and converted them to
MIDI control parameters. This data was sent over the Internet to UMT
using a transport program written by Rob King and facilitated by Many
Ayromlou from Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
InterPlay: Loose Minds in
a Box was performed again for SIGGRAPH 2005 at the Los Angeles Convention
Center on August 3 – 4 and for Supercomputing Global 2005 in Seattle,
Washington on November 17.
on the Banks of Packet Creek (2006)
The March 31-April 2, 2006
InterPlay: Dancing on the Banks of Packet Creek project addressed
the rising trend of tenuous devotion towards the inundating wave of
digital information and dependence on non-experiential knowledge.
Packet Creek depicted the Internet with its flow of disassembled
pieces of data that course throughout the world like schools of spawning
salmon. Dancing on the Banks represented the exposed ritualistic
gyrations of searching, acquiring, disseminating, creating and believing
in this electronic epistemological knowledge. There were five participating
sites; UAF/ARSC; Boston University (BU); UMD; PU/ECDP and UU.
The performance began with
a video of a simulated Linux system booting up and graphics from UAF.
The text of the Linux boot sequence was replaced with a poem by Elizabeth
Miklavcic and was arranged to invoke the sense of a beginning, an awakening
through a visual introduction symbolizing the ubiquitous transmission
Through ten scenes the artists,
musicians and performers forged a slow Bolero style build that came
to a complete stop when the system crashed. Then the poetic boot
sequence engaged once more, representing the never-ending reoccurrence
of the process.
The overall theme among all
sites focused on the binding concept of the overwhelming and inundating
amount of information available to us on a daily basis. The digital
mix was placed in the center of the display. It tied the various offerings
together by combining different moments from each of the sites. At various
moments in the piece, video from all five sites intersected in the digital
mix on the main display.
Sam Liston (UU) added a 3D
element to the cinematic display; the arrangement of the windows on
the scrim defined the visual and kinetic spirit of the overall piece.
Each scene was designed to evoke a different quality and the display
structure followed a Bolero dynamic, of tension and energy, which built
the layered, distributed performance events until, at the climax; all
of it ended abruptly.
InterPlay: Nel Tempo
di Sogno (2007)
InterPlay: Nel Tempo di
Sogno (In the Dream Time) was performed on March 30 – April 1,
2007. Co-directed by Elizabeth and Jimmy Miklavcic, InterPlay: Nel
Tempo di Sogno was a work of unprecedented integration among sites.
It incorporated thirty-two artists and technologists, and six institutions,
UU/CHPC, UAF/ARSC, BU, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champagne, UMD,
Elizabeth Miklavcic coordinated
nine actors from three distributed sites (Utah, Alaska and Maryland)
into a cohesive expression examining temporal experiences. A widow from
Victorian England mourned the passing of a loved one; a French aristocrat
told her horrific experiences living through the French Revolution;
a mid-century Cardinal struggled to tend to his flock of believers and
a talking tele-evangelical head spouted rhetorical half-truths about
the morality of time. Those and others, intersected through different
moments in time, interacted and communicated with each other as they
examined how their lives had slipped through time.
The multi-framed cinematic
display incorporated background flash animations by Miho Aoki (UAF)
that ran behind the various video window arrangements. More than eight
video streams of performers, musicians and computer animations were
distributed in different groupings across the display.
Embedded Performances: Utah
Within the InterPlay
form, Elizabeth Miklavcic, investigated the development of layered performance
works. In the first four InterPlays
Elizabeth conceived embedded performances that were integral to the
shape of the overall InterPlay projects. In InterPlay: Intransitive
Senses, she created Tea Party, for InterPlay: Hallucinations
she staged The Surface of Things, InterPlay: Loose Minds in
a Box saw the dual-site coordination of Dressers,
and with InterPlay: Dancing on the Banks of Packet Creek,
she developed Mind Waves.
– InterPlay: Intransitive Senses
Tea Party, one of the
four simultaneous performances of InterPlay: Intransitive
Senses, was an embedded performance/installation that depicted a
cross generational place of play and sharing within the simple constructs
of a tea party. It was a very gentle piece that focused on acceptance,
by allowing the tea guests (Elizabeth and Hanelle Miklavcic) to play
through the fantasy with color and design.
Magical bags were filled with
different items and hung from the ceiling. The bags depicted the magic
of discovery and once the contents were exposed, they were then explored.
The sequence of actions by the partygoers was predetermined, but the
conversation and some of the events were left open to improvisation.
By the time the tea party came to a conclusion, the whole environment
had been transformed by the interaction of the two people spending time
The Surface of Things
– InterPlay: Hallucinations
The Surface of Things
focused on stereotypes of first impressions and assumptions that are
in direct conflict with the real person. The work consisted of a younger
man, Opponent A (Aaron Henry), and an older woman, Opponent B (Elizabeth
Miklavcic) and a mediating Judge (Tony Larimer). Opponents A and B vocalized
assumptions based on outward appearances. They directed video cameras
at each other and used the projected video images as ammunition for
their misinformed statements. The images were projected on the scrim
and hanging sheets of frosted plexiglass. Two full-length mirrors hung
on the walls and a hand held mirror allowed the opponents to examine
their own surface. The Judge, as an outside observer, recognized
the encounter and became the instrument that empowered the two opponents
to drop their assumptions and see clearly for the first time.
Flash animations (created by
Elizabeth) played during pauses in the exchange. The animations served
as an abstract apparition of the inner voice. As the play resolved and
the opponents became friends, two new opponents appeared with a new
judge and the assumption dance began again.
– InterPlay: Loose Minds in a Box
Dressers was an endeavor
to coordinate a specific idea among sites, remote performers from different
locations worked with the concept of the restrictions or freedoms of
external costumes. The structure for dressing began with sedate
or normal clothing and worked toward a more outlandish or fantastic
The premise of Dressers
was based on readily observable external changes in appearance as indicators
into affiliations such as class, status, wealth, intelligence, mental
health, etc. The exploration involved a philosophical premise of personalities
in constant fluid motion like a lava lamp. Each heat-activated floating
bubble inside the lamp represented a personality skill set revealed
by external dress which at times morphed, split and combined according
to the events of any given moment within the performance.
was designed to show the evolution of personality through a manifestation
of matching the external with the internal, through the process of dressing
in different outfits and exploring physical actions influenced by these
In Utah, Elizabeth explored
a variety of characters during the six InterPlay scenes. Scene
1, The Void in the Corner, she became “Church Lady” sitting
in a pew of imagination listening to a sermon and surveying the congregation’s
myriad of fashion statements. Scene 2, The Imprisonment of Thought
introduced “Red Bandit” and “Dragon Lady”.
The red satin costume was a visual and textural experience that affected
movement and attitude.
Scene 3, The Air Inside
our Head, “Madeline” donned a 1970’s polyester suit jacket,
sky blue lycra modern dance skirt, thick blue mittens, a blue hat and
a wool scarf that tied the hat down as if to keep a chilly wind from
blowing it off.
Scene 4, One is None,
focused on imprisonment and deformation where the ceiling and front
cameras were mixed together creating a perception that “Masked Witch”
was falling through the floor. Scene 5, How Many Are We?
and Let Loose the Mind “Party Crasher” utilized layers of
unique color, outlandish sparkle and freedom from restraints for the
purpose of joyful expression. Elizabeth was armed with a wonderful silver
feathered papier-mâché party hat. It symbolized the conscious choice
to free the mind and reveal the concealment of different personalities.
Scene 6, The Blue Box,
Elizabeth portrayed “Old Crone” with a maroon velveteen cape and
held a carved wooden box. Ending the performance as an aged mysterious
crone was a journey, a lifetime in miniature that flashed inside a little
world, inside a magic box.
– InterPlay: Dancing on the Banks of Packet Creek
Elizabeth created a piece about
personal and universal explorations of visual spirituality. First, she
broke down the words of the InterPlay title; dancing –
movement as expressive spiritual life force; banks – the representation
of an edge, the place where elements meet and transitions exist, places
of magic; packet – packets as enclosed matter, or bounded information;
creek – water, flow, force, life, sensation, reflection, an element
that must be respected.
Inspiration came from the Great
Salt Lake and an earthwork created by Robert Smithson in 1970, located
on the northeast side of the lake. These influences were brought indoors
through the building of a Zen garden with images of the Salt Lake projected
from a high-resolution visualization cluster.
A dynamic component of Mind
Waves was the kinetic building of a string web that symbolized the
formation of the World Wide Web and the entanglement of our complicated
lives. Utah performer, eight-year-old Kate Bradford strung the room
while Elizabeth Miklavcic constructed the Zen Garden. At BU, Robert
Putnam (Access Grid Node Operator), Junko Simons (Cellist) and Jacqueline
Combs (Performer), incorporated the web idea into their performance
creating a visual connection between Utah and Boston.
This visual effect connected both sites literally and figuratively. It was as if the strings extended across the country. The harmonious musical and visual connections between the textures of Junko’s cello and the quiet approach of creating the Zen Garden tied the sites together, creating a quartet between the two sites. In Mind Waves the action of filling the room with string was a symbolic representation of the InterPlay concept as the performers became more and more entangled in the self-created web.
Elizabeth Ann Miklavcic
- is the Founding Artistic Director of Another Language Performing
Arts Company and the co-director of the InterPlay performance
series. She has over thirty years of professional performance experience.
Beth is a multi-media specialist at the University of Utah Center for
High Performance Computing. Her digital works have been shown at a variety
of film festivals and are available at the U of U Marriott Library Special
Collections Division. She is the recipient of the Salt Lake City
Mayor's Artist Award for Performing Arts. She holds a MFA Degree
in Modern Dance from the U of U, where she received two Orchesis Honorary
Dance Society Awards; her choreography has been presented nationally
Jimmy Miklavcic - is the Founding
Executive Director of Another Language Performing Arts Company
and the co-director of the InterPlay series, a telematic collaborative
performance form. In 1972, he began his visual arts studies at Richard
Stockton College of New Jersey. Focused mainly on painting. In 1978
he continued his studies in Performing Arts, including acting, technical
theatre and electronic music at Cabrillo Community College, Aptos, CA.
Jimmy holds a BS in Computer Science (1987) and currently the Multimedia
Specialist for the Center for High Performance Computing and an Adjunct
Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications at the University
Thanks to all of the participants
of InterPlay series, the hard work and enthusiasm from all of
the artists and creative engineers at the participating sites The University
of Alaska, Fairbanks and the Artic Region Supercomputing Center; Boston
University, Massachusetts; The University of Illinois, Chicago Electronic
Visualization Lab; The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne and
the National Center for Supercomputing Application (NCSA); The University
of Maryland at College Park; The University of Montana; Purdue University
Envision Center for Data Perceptualization in West Lafayette, Indiana;
Ryerson University Toronto, Canada; and The University of Utah. A special
thank you to Hanelle Miklavcic who is always our inspiration. Thanks
to Julio Facelli, Director of the Center for High Performance Computing
at the University of Utah, and Joe Breen Assistant Director of Networking
at the Center for High Performance Computing, University of Utah. Acknowledgments
to the sponsors of Another Language Performing Arts Company – the
Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks Program, the Salt Lake City Arts
Council, the Utah Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts,
and the contributing members of Another Language Performing Arts Company.