RESEARCH PLATFORM

Academy for Theatre and Digitality

Sigil :: Bringing the inner world out

Dancer, choreographer, media and interaction designer, researcher

activeFellowship

Summary
The natural empathic-embodied relation between dancer - audience is partially lost when using VR headsets. This research aims to help the audience to find new aesthetics (mediated experience of time created between the artwork, the artist, the interface and the audience[Shanbaum:2020]), to find engagement, new meanings and purpose when dance is mediated with digital environments In hope to create a visceral sense of unfolding or revelation, but also a feeling of immediacy and loss.

In collaboration with Naoto Hieda

Initial Ideas

Dance and the relations with the performative possibilities of technologies in VR/XR. Exploring the concept of stage when dance happens within hybrid stages (VR and on-site). How to share this kind of content with others?
VR creates an experience where introspection can be achieved. This opens up possibilities for somatic and other movement practices. Working with the body & technology presents the possibility to explore rigid -computer- systems with an ontological approach (praxis/doing), exploring the medium's possibilities. The problem is that often, dancers who work with technology forget their own embodied language (why/how). They get confused and carried away by the pragmatic reality of technology, focusing on the content (what). Forgetting their own embodied power. The result is a superfluous object.

To tackle this I propose a praxis that privileges the process over the result. Working with avatars, sigils, as a ritual practice with a non-anthropocentric approach.
The key aspect here is in choreographic strategies to shift the focus from what to do with technology to how/why technology

Background

The continuation of a research about Dance in VR that started in 2022 at Motion Bank - University of Applied sciences Mainz (Project originally founded by choreographer William Forsythe).

Link to documentation

Using a markerless motion capture system I created, I explored and documented simple visual representations of the body (avatars) in VR. The goal was to move my body in new ways. I achieved this using a non-anthropocentric approach. In the documentation it was important to use an inclusive, clear language that addressed both dancers and technologists. In the 1st cycle at Motion Bank, the focus was on the dancer.

In the 2nd cycle at the Akademie I want to add a layer where I introduce the stage. Exploring the relation between audience and dancer.

Research Questions

  • How can we (as a field) make a dance in a virtual environment so that the audience “feels” the presence of the digital body?
  • What is needed for the audience to find new aesthetics when dance is mediated with digital environments like VR headsets?

Unfolding Process

  • (Sep) Proposal Adjustment: To explore different perceptions of realities when dance happens within Hybrid stages - (VR and on-site)
  • (Sep - Oct) Learning technologies
  • Missing conceptual context to apply technical tools.
  • (Oct - Nov) Proposal Adjustment: The natural empathic and embodied relation between dancer audience is partially lost when using VR headsets. This research aims to help the audience to find new aesthetics (mediated experience of time created between the artwork, the artist, the interface and the audience), to find engagement, new meanings and purpose when dance is mediated with digital environments like VR headsets In hope to create a visceral sense of unfolding or revelation, but also a feeling of immediacy and loss.
  • Exercises on subjective perception of time and space. The aim with this series of videos is in questioning, What is happening in real time.
    • Drinking water action. An action of a person drinking water (action 1) is recorded with 2 different camera perspectives. A setup in OBS is set to switch between 3 different perspectives of the camera; the 2 recordings and a 3rd live feed. A person comes into the space. There is a projection that switches between the 3 perspectives while a person is in the space doing the action of drinking water. This action is recorded. 

Mid-term: Lecture Performance

Becoming Performance in VR

In the mid-term performance, we focused on revealing the research part of our process, specifically about our methodology, through the dramaturgy. The goal was to guide the audience to experience hypothesis, experiment and its iteration.

The new performance rather offers different entry points to the audience so that every audience member can have a different interpretation. Nevertheless, the core of the performance remains the same; we investigate a theatrical narrative while having virtual reality as an actor at the center of the stage. In the first performance, we used a linear narrative around VR to convey how we conduct a research. In the second performance, we used a less rigid structure, namely structured improvisation, to show how we develop a performance. It can be seen as a making-of where Jorge runs around the stage and prepares each technical element for a “real” performance although there is no such a “real” performance that comes out of the making-of.

Though our intention is to show behind-the-scenes of developing a VR-performance, we do not want to limit the scope to “struggle of working with technology in theater” because this theme may be too specific in the industry. We try to add embodied elements and add breaks in between to show humanness of a theater maker. The audience can relate this process to everyday technology such as smartphones, smart devices and potentially VR headsets, which are becoming a commodity.

For the overall structure, we divided the performance into small skits so that each skit features one element (e.g, video of eyes, VR meditation app). As a structure, we might think it follows an idea of Fluxus or it is minimalist; nonetheless, in the actual performance, we see that each element is not separable from each other and we can notice the interconnection between the selected element and other actors on the stage that are not mentioned (Jorge’s body, desk, floor, …). This is because working with technology is inherently a complex process.

Final Presentation

Between Information and Noise :: a Practice on dance and VR

Link to video documention



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