Design And Performance Lab
te s t . r e h e a r s a l: 2.3.2006
DAP-Lab team sets up telematic operations at Drama Studio, Brunel University. First joint online rehearsal with partners (in Nottingham and Arizona) are on March 28.
Research Objectives for 2006-07
I. Development of three design prototypes for wearable performance
II. intelligent design/sensor choreography: underwearing telematics.
1. videodress with chromatte [Screendress]
This is a garment and design concept, developed by Michèle Danjoux (fashion design) with Jonathan Hamilton (motion graphic design). It combines garment form with movement wearing a special material (chromatte fabric by Reflecmedia) allowing real time graphics manipulation and chroma key production in any controlled lighting environment. The team collaborates on the structure of the garment and the video held within the fabric of the dress. The performer will be wearing a prototype garment that allows the movement with the chromatte to incorporate real time graphic visualization on the screen partner. The chromatte-fitted performer will work with a camera person who is capturing the movement. The chromatte fabric is designed to work in conjunction with LiteRing featuring Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) arranged in a circular casing positioned in front of the camera lens. This provides all the light required to illuminate the chromatte background for chroma key production during the performance. Danjoux and Hamilton focus the research around creative options and possibilities towards the dress,design, performance,and how we can exploit the potential of the material and sensual technologies to influence the dress.
2. wearable explay
The "explay" prototype, conceived by Michèle Danjoux, approaches a research area generally connected with interface design aimed at experience ('experience design') and sensorial affect. This garment will be tightly worn by the dancer and explored for the stimulation of the senses. Collaborative engineering and conceptual development on this prototype is provided by Demosthenes Koutsogeorgis (NTU), who has previously worked with head-mounted displays, flexible and mouldable displays. The objective is to integrate display panels or display areas into the wearable fabric, and display moods and emotions or experiences to the viewer or partner. We are interested in the visible display as well as the "invisible" displays, i.e. the visualizations will include physiological data (heart-rate, breath, pulse) taken directly from the body by monitors integrated into the garment. The visualizations can be rendered in real time, and will be activated via sensors through the movement of the performer. Intelligent materials used in the production of the cloth provide a new way of experiencing sensorial qualities, which might have an impact both on how we experience our surroundings and how we interact with them. This research is particularly concerned with the physical -- and mediated/digital --relationships of the wearer to the material environment, and thus with interactive relationships. The displays generated can range from light, color, text, and abstract graphics to narrative and sound. A complex design development is involved in this process, which is tested here in collaboration with performers who explore/externalize different characters and bring the "explay" in contact with different surroundings to test the physical and psychological range of experience that is, on a primary level, coming from the intimate proximal relationship of the performer to her or his clothes in their signfying or profusive effect on an environment /perceivers.
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Helenna Ren (left), Natalie King (center), Isabel Valverde (right), Helenna Ren (far right)
3. SensorDress (fantasy filmdress)
Developing further the DAP-Lab's previous telematic and filmic experiments with garments-in-movement and with characterization ("Zorro", "Houdini-Zorro," "tedre," and "Emily D"), and taking its cue from Jane Gaines' article on "Wearing the film", the third prototype is a sensory garment with conductive fibres/sensors built into the fabric. The sensor data from the bodily and fabric movement are used to activate and control imaged and sonic outputs in the interactive environment. The control processing of incoming midi data will be written in PD patches or Max/Msp patches that can activate filmic, graphic, and sonic "scenes" from the "stage" (data-bank). Electronics engineering and creative collaboration on this prototype is provided by Dr Jonathan Loo (Brunel).
The sensor fabrication into the textiles, a type of soft technology that uses very fine conductive fibres which are sewn into the garment, and microcircuits and batteries that are also sewn or stitched into the design of the garment, will be carried out in the lab at Brunel and in the studios at Trent's Fashion/Textile, Multimedia, and Information Technologies Units. The engineering will develop along with the performance experimentation of the wearable sensorial material.
The sensor qualities, as tested independenly in previous workshops or performance by artist groups (Miranda Rights) associated with DAP,generally include:
--- orient, flex, tilt, and rotation sensors; switch/clicker; turn/resistor-switch sensor; heat sensor, photosensor ---
They are all from the same family of accelerometers and sensors, looking slightly different on one end (the sensing part, very slender and tiny little black patches) and they provide different information depending on where they are attached to the body or rub on the flesh in the garment or are moved and pressed as you would when you touch garment fabric. The sensors we use in rehearsal come from I-CubeX (Wi-miniSystem). The transmitter or "mini-dig" sends the data from the motion to the Computer laptops, via wireless Bluetooth transmitter, and on the computing side the information/data is received into a program that is running PD patches.
(Katsura Isobe in rehearsal wearing iCube-X sensors, in front of 2D/3D film landscape, programming by Paul Verity Smith, Martin Dupras and Jez Hattosh-Nemeth, March 2006)
The performer interacts with the environment (mediated landscape or figures that are projected as film or multiple films) as well as with her doubles -- her own image or images. Or she can interact with other persons, in real space or projected space. The options of the visual projected world(s), and the distributed auditory spaces, are expanding ever more in the contemporary multimedia field. The possibilities we have to use 3D VR animations and virtual worlds also impact our choreographic practices and somatic knowledge of the body in motion.
What is changing is the sense in which we use "choreography" or understand the creation of movement. In the context of sensory design, materials production and interaction design, and with a different scientific approach to the analysis of movement behavior and the observation of expressive qualities, our research focus shifts to the system, the environment, the interrelations with world and with becoming/worlding.
DAP also associates itself with the underlying history of the interrelations between performance and computer science/engineering. Cybernetics offered explanations of phenomena in terms of information flows and feedback loops in mechanical and biological system. Its influence on composition and the aesthetic concern with the regulation of a system (homeostasis) has expanded now, while computer models of information processing and artificial intelligence merge with experimental studies in physics, molecular biology, and neuroscience. This raises questions about the arts as partners in scientific research, engineering and tool-invention. It also invites us to ponder the kinds of work processes necessary for sustained laboratory experiments that can yield new art works, new inventions and new knowledge.
We ask how performance might use an instrument of analysis or generate a conceptual system to analyze the organization and structure of the system, its metabolism and its boundary, and in our case garment is one of the boudaries in the system. Regarding dance, it is indicative, for example, that choreographers like Alejandro Ahmed (director of the Brazilian company Cena 11) speak of research into "behaviors" and modes of adaptation. Rather than inventing movement phrases, the work deeply probes physical conditions for the re-organization of the body, for example in the company's extensive work on patterns of falling (involving gravity, weight, muscular strength, pressure, etc), and specific instances in which changes emerge in states of stillness and movement. Addressing this research at the 2006 IN TRANSIT laboratory in Berlin, Fabiana Britto used analogies with quantum theory to emphasize the dancers' attention to probabilities of interconnections between the patterns.*
Yoruba dance philospher Olu Taiwo has written eloquently on such "Interfacing" with worlds. When he addresses movement, sensation, and the experience of the moving body within intensive rhythmic environments, he is thinking of hot information environments forming four-dimensional (4-D) and five-dimensional (5-D) processes of perception. The experience combines "metabolic and digital processes".
Taiwo' philosophy was cited to portray the argument about moving in 5-D temporal-spatial environments in its whole context, which is a longer philosophical interpretation of movement and performance [within the framework of the Return Beat rhythm] as transcultural practice in interactive relationships to complex worlds, and also the interconnected metabolic and digital processing of these interactions as part and parcel of a human being's collective experiemce (collective self). For Taiwo, the most important collective dimension underlying the experience is the rhythm (Return Beat).
To return to our third protoyping plan for the "SensorDress/Wearable Film", we propose to advance in a shared methodology, both looking at the wearable fabric as an erotic/sensual garment, an incorporative design and a programming concept that allows flexibility and choice, as well as an inter-active scenario that is meaningful in the effort it will take, for performer and audience alike- their reading and associating of the live movement film. This will be our new meaning of the "collection".
Collection is kinetic impulses shared in sensory experiences. Such collections are the opposite of the theorization we currently see in the "critical dance studies" which try to elevate the notion of "exhausting dance." Rather, we see close connections to the kind of research Thecla Schiphorst is undertaking in Canada, in her experience workshops and her exhale research on bridging embodied practices from performance to HCI. In her work, she studies how performance methodologies can be used as a model for experience, and while applying existing design concepts for creating gestural movement vocabularies in interaction, she develops methods that bridge from experience to experience modeling. Her research thus pushes interactive wearable technology towards biofeedback and collective physical expertience (in the exhale installation, she illustrates how first person methodologies of performance can be used to inform the design of digital interfaces/interactive clothing within an experiential environment).
In the expanded kinesthetic environment or "unstablelandscape" (Marlon Barrios Solano), three or four or five-dimensional, the dancer "enters": she is wearing and carrying the fabric of the film, the camera eye, and thus also our eyes. As the camera eye (like in a game world), she controls the "camera eye" in the virtual worlds of the three/four/dimensional projections, through her own body motion and manipulation of fabric on skin, the underfabric and thus the wearing of sensors on the flesh skin. The underwear, corset, silk-cloth, lace, is the touch of sensors, but in the interactive world of this experiential performance, the lace also is the camera or the 'controller' of the movement-images, and thus the tilts, the swoons, the falling and rising, the drift of the 3-D world that projects itself. The corset, or rather the underwearing of the shifting, moveable, mouldable corset reveals and dispels a world of images that floats. Motions of floating forms, sometime congealing to a recognizable Gestalt, sometimes flowing as graphic and geometric abstractions, anamorphoses, distortions of space. The lace and the silk become prosthetic impulses, the carnal projections hovering between the phenomenal and the biocultural, leaves of grass, leaves of sounds, words coming from the other end spoken by the hider, the figure in a suspended landscape.
The audience has the illusion as if they are floating into and through the landscape, while at the same perceiving the human actor as the mover who sends the information out to us and to the environment.
In terms of programming, Paul Verity Smith and his colleagues, Martin Dupras, Jez Hattosh-Nemeth and Tim Stephens, worked on the configuration of the interrelated data processing (movement to film to sound and sound to voice/film) for the movement information generated by Katsura's performance in a dance-work titled "Dying at my Feet"/"L'instant Decisif", first performed at Interaktionslabor Göttelborn (2005) and the Digital Cultures Lab festival (2005), and recently revised for presentation in Beijing and Shanghai (China).
Technically, the first patch processes the data coming from the dancer. Underneath the this performative input-patch runs the patch from Macromedia Director which has 30 or more film sections (short 10 second film strips) originally filmed in Gattelborn in the Coal Mine (by Paul V Smith), and additional virtual architectures (created by Tim Stephens). The "stage" on Macromedia Director is is the prepared filmic database or "directed script" for the sequential "scenes" and the potential/virtual dramaturgy of the interactive performance, with Katsura dancing/improvising with the film "stage", or in our terminlogy, "wearing the film." She is wearing the film on her body through the sensors under the fabric.
Interactivity between dancer/mover and visual film projection:
We could clearly see, at the Digital Cultures Lab Festival (Sandfield Theatre) last December, how Katsura has gained much physical experience in knowing how to wear the film and the projective world. Her physical journal, to use Taiwo's concept, has fully integrated the film in her movement, and she does not longer have to look at the screen to sense and know the image-movement. Her vocabulary and the subtlety of her gestures are informed by her sensory awareness of how each muscular or motional flexion and release, each tilt of her body, each gentle gesture of her hand, affects the movement of the visuals. She plays the visual image movement or stillness as instrument.
This requires a deep practice (rehearsing with the sensorial fabric). At the same time, the new fabric we plan to use (Reflecmedia) and to build (FantasyWear) could itself become partly responsible for the affective and responsive proprioceptional processing of the dancer (her physical and affective relationship to the garment and the image of 'character' / role created in the wearer) in action. This "emotional" relationship and expressional exchange between dancer and garment, in turn, will effect the projective world and its behaviors. It directly affects alterity, the other person or persons in the same space with the performer, and we do not distinguish here between "real" temporal space and telematic temporal space. Our work takes place in telepresence. The other person partners the effect, respond to the gesture, as in any call and response situation in a social context. The wearer is the caller, in this sense. The behaviors of the responsive environment are keyed to the motion in wearing.
For the new conceptual reflections on the project and our use of sensual technologies, also presented at DRHA Dartington, see
"The Emergent Dress: Transformation and Intimacy in Streaming Media and Fashion Performance" by Johannes Birringer & Michle Danjoux, in a forthcoming issue of Performance Research (2007)
* For further elaboration on this subject, see Johannes Birringer, "Performance and Science," Performing Arts Journal 85 (2006)
Sharon Baurley: "Interaction design in smart textiles clothing and applications"
Jaana Rantanen and Marko Haennikainen: "Data Transfer for smart clothing: requirements and potential technologies"
Vladan Koncar, Emmanuel Deflin, and Andre Weill: "Communication Apparel and Optical Fibre Fabric Display"
For Thecla Schiphorst's pathbreaking research (with Susan Kozel) on sensual technologies, go to the special session on 'Dance and Wearable Computing: Cultures, Fashions and Design" conducted at the Digital Cultures Lab
Photos: Gretchen Schiller, Niluefer Ovalioglu, Johannes Birringer, Paul Verity Smith.
DAP Lab thanks the cited authors for their willingness to let us discuss these ideas and practices.
(c) dap 2006
Further notes on design and performance concepts are published on this site.
Project directors: Johannes Birringer & Michèle Danjoux
Brunel University, West London