Design And Performance Lab




Yoruba dance philosopher 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".




"I want to make a distinction between (1) subject-content of my performances, which centres on my many intercultural performative identities expressed through metabolic and digital processes, and (2) the methods of constructing and reflecting through individual and collaborative means.

To examine this distinction, it was necessary to re-evaluate my physical journal's inner habitual attitudes towards embodied choices. This is with regard to "effort" [Laban] as a response to information coming from out-there in different situations. These situations included information from my out-there-ness, from mundane activities like working and domestic tasks, or recreational activities like performing, practicing martial arts, or playing sport. The experiential data I collected enabled me to work with my physical journal [1] as an expressive instrument. The process allowed me to conceive of new inner attitudes to influence my bodily actions when developing a new relationship between the body and the complex network of passive four dimensional 4-D and interactive five dimensional 5-D processes of new technology concerning performance. These interactions materialize mainly through me interfacing remotely by 'triggering' an audio-visual environment via sound-beam -- triggering an 'information environment' [visuals, sounds, graphics, texts, flash movies, etc] using sonar technology.


Performative Acts in 4D and 5D Temporal Space


To clarify my definition of an information environment: it consists of four dimensional 4-D events in temporal space that appears invisible until triggered by a device. This then requires the intervention of an artistic agent to trigger the events in five-dimensional 5-D. To further unpack this idea, consider a single photograph depicting a series of movements taken with a long exposure. The trace-form reveals a blurred image, marking the beginning and end of an action.

(SPIFF, unstablelandsacpe IV, Marlon Barrios Solano, Interaktionslabor 2004)

With any printing process there has to be a template from which successive prints can occur. When we refer to printing in the fourth dimension, I am not talking about the illusion created by fast moving pictures in the case of film, but the performance print in temporal space, which is the blur that is the trace form.


4-D events can be seen a apparent prints of an artistic concept that can be (a) static 2D or 3-D images that are viewed over time, or (b) moving 4-D images that are recorded live.


This takes into account the effects of entropy on artistic objects and slight variable fluctuations in live performance, in addition to Roland Barthes' assertion of the death of the writer-artist and the birth of the reader-audience, shifting attention from creative meaning to interpretive association (R. Barthes). The significant distinction is that over a certain period in temporal space, the apparent performative print of an artistic concept observed by an audience remains relatively the same. A 4-D template exists within the body of a performer and is projected virtually into the performance space from the moment the performer starts warming up for a public performance. It also exists as a master cut video, DVD or film. An individual performer's ability to embody the past/present/future potential movements in temporal space gives the performer a template to work their successive prints in temporal space. The use of cues in a rhythm acts as a way to minimize the experience of uncertainty in an attempt to make plastic and fix the performance form.


Events in 5-D can be seen a multiple 4-D events that lay dormant as information within a spatio-temporal field with trigger points that require: (a) a strategic plan of choice within the field of temporal space; (b) clear trigger points that are acts of choice for interaction, and (c) an artistic agent that understands the strategic plan and is able to improvise with embodied knowledge and memory (physical journal) within the field creating an artistic experience for themselves and an external observer.


When we consider the print in 5-D, it is no longer something that is visually evident as a repeatable event. This is primarily due to the fact that the dimension underpinning choice as part of its inherent field structure has multiple 4-D possibilities running simultaneously. A 5-D template exists in the parameters of an environment allowing the body of the performer choices, to make decisions and to play in uncertainty as the performer's physical journal embodies multiple/potential temporal spaces. The repeatable 'print' from the template of a 5-D field is the strategic structure of choice that is limited in number. This is to say that the field of choice within an artistic plan is not unlimited and that the parameter of the field has an author, a creator. This field of potential that facilitates change and difference, can be:

-metabolic (meaning that the physical journal can have postural techniques and choreographed or devised phrases embodied within its memory)

- digital (meaning those 4-D events that are stored in the memory of a digital device with a control/trigger function).


It is an ability to be at the state of readiness to hold multiple temporal spaces in the moment within 5-D environment that allows a group of individuals to respond to uncertainty, which becomes a key skill. This is underpinned by their rhythmic use of triggers and set plays to respond to uncertainty, developing the performer ability to be adaptable and flexible increasing their decision-making powers. When considering 5-D environments, there are websites on the internet that offer 3-D virtual temporal space for user to live out their fantasies and explore their alterities. Here, like in the role playing game "Dungeons and Dragons", users create an avatar, a character with a virtual physical journal [virtual lived body/embodiment].

They say that it is a 3-D world but this is not strictly true as everything would be static and there would be no motion or choice if that were the case. What is meant is that it is a 5-D environment contextualizing 3-D virtual objects. The implications of these new spaces are massive when considering the metabolic functions of our "real" physical journals. The Second Life website ( is exactly the kind of space where virtual relationships are replacing real ones and real financial transactions are exchanged for virtual ones to facilitate and develop a virtual market place.. [...]


Designing new computer interfaces

Although my performative research seeks to contribute concepts surrounding trans-cultural practice to the performing arts community, it also has design goals in mind. The goals are to encourage designers of hardware and software systems who are already researching, designing and producing new operational environments to devise and model new computer interfaces which facilitate regenerative and re-creative activities for the physical journal as an aid for movement researchers. My aim is to inspire designers to re-examine ethically the trade-off between performative effort and new technology as we march to ever more efficient means to maximize economic production based on capital gain. Competing for the public' s mobile experience in internet temporal space is big business. It involves a complex relationship between companies that are producing hardware (mobile phones, i-pod, PDA, WAP Jackets and laptops) and software (programmes for communication, gaming and design in all the creative Industries)."


[1] Physical journal: the living body with its psychological and physiological make-up. Taiwo uses the term within a framework the methodological concepts: 1) the physical journal 2) the return beat 3) the moble studio practice, and these concepts, in turn, underpin the assumptions that guide his research into interactive performative experience of rhythm. Instead of using the vague term "body", Taiwo prefers the notion of a "physical journal": the distinction between body (as something that can be inhabited or is understood as separate from the performer) and physical journal, for Taiwo, lies in the idea of the "living" body or processual physical journal which is the result of living informational processes that rely on embodied knowledge and memory. This embodied knowledge and memory has ann unconscious automatic aspect (genetic) and a conscious habitual asepct (cultural). Both are part of the concept of the "pysical journal" and are interwoven in our individual embodied identitidentities. In Taiwo's transcultural philosophy of performance, the identity is always plural,[cf. pp. 93-94.]

(Olugbenga Olusola Elijah Taiwo, Interfacing with my Interface, Phd thesis, University of Winchester, 2006, pp. 87-91, quoted with permission)



(Helenna Ren, Natalie King, Jo Willie Smith in telematic live performance, Nottingham-Phoenix, "tedr", 1 December 2005, Digital Cultures festival)





* For further elaboration on this subject, see Johannes Birringer, "Performance and Science," Performing Arts Journal (forthcoming)


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(Phase IV)

Further Reading

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 André Weill: "Communication Apparel and Optical Fibre Fabric Display"





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.

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Project directors: Johannes Birringer & Michèle Danjoux



Brunel University, West London