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Beginning of Document


INDEX

1] Description

2] Summary

3] Conditions for Research

4] Conditions for TRANSDANCE


5] Working at the Level of the Data

6] Parallel Projects

7] List of Primary Software/ Hardware

8] Contacts


9] Participant Biographies

10] Acknowledgements


The information on this site is only up to date to August 2001. After this, the author(s) do not guarantee any of the reference links.


A Research Laboratory Report:
TRANSDANCE

Research Lab on Body, Motion and Technology
23-31 May 2001, Athens, Greece

By Scott deLahunta (UK/ NL)

** Schematic of the space showing the dance/ research lab, the cinema area and the one of the two stages used for the telematic dance performance that took place alongside our research project by Isabelle Choiniere.

1] Description:

The TRANSDANCE research laboratory was conceived and organised by Yiannis Skourogiannis of ALAS as a part of "e-phos 2001", the 3rd International Festival of Film and New Media on Art from 23 May - 2 June in Athens. ''e-phos 2001'' was entirely devoted to the BODY KINESIS and BODY ANAMORPHOSIS and included a wide range of activities such as telematic dance perfomance, multimedia theatre perfomance, live electronic music festival, video games festival, festival of documentaries on art, s&m fashion show, lectures, and new media exhibitions.

TRANSDANCE was advertised on the website (http://www.filmart.gr/) as a 'dance and technology' research lab on 'body, movement, technology'. The dates of the research lab were 23-31 May 2001, the precise location was in two warehouses located behind IME (Foundation for the Hellenic World) at 254 Pireos str., Athens, Greece.

The lab was structured as a research project for professional artists with established practices. This means there was no separation between 'students' and 'teachers', and all learning took place in the context of peer to peer exchange. The international selection of invitees came from a diverse range of artistic backgrounds: electronic music, the visual and theatre arts, dance and performance art, interactive/ digital media and net art. They were: Sophia Lycouris (UK); Jenny Marketou (USA); John McCormick (AU); Konstantinos Moschos (GR); Alexandros Psychoulis (GR); Konstantinos Rigos (GR); Yacov Sharir (USA); Christian Ziegler (DE). Short biographies are included at the end of this report. My role was described as research or process advisor for the project. The production coordinator was Maria Softsi and Chrysostomos Maslatzidis was Technical Advisor.

2] Summary:

The TRANSDANCE research laboratory explored a variety of interfaces between the physical and virtual worlds. While taking the theme of 'dance and technology' as a starting point, TRANSDANCE supported a wider range of conceptions of the physical body or bodies, from the trained to the everyday, the social and the collective. It focussed on the virtual space as a networked space that can function as a performance space, a shared, creative, social and playful space. Through exploring interference and mapping processes, the participants worked towards realising the transformative possibilities inherent in emerging technologies. The lab has given rise to three extended projects (an animation and telematic project and a documentary). Hopefully the following report presented as a set of open conceptual tools and methodologies will help disseminate the results of the research to the wider community where further artistic investigation needs to continue to inform the technological developments in these areas.

3] The conditions for research:

Before TRANSDANCE, I had participated in four research projects of varying scale involving digital media, electronic networks, live performance and choreography (Migratory Bodies, Chichester College of Higher Education [UK], Summer 1998; Digital Theatre Experimentarium, Aarhus University [Denmark http://www.daimi.au.dk/~sdela/dte], Winter/ Spring 1999; Hot Wired Live Art, Bergen Electronic Arts [Norway http://www.bek.no/hotwired/], Winter 2000; Cellbytes, Institute for Studies in the Arts [Phoenix, AZ http://isa.hc.asu.edu/cellbytes/], Summer 2000). These projects each brought together a range of creative expertise, e.g. choreographers, dramaturges, composers, writers, digital media artists, programmers, scripters, graphic designers, video/ filmmakers, telematic and installation artists, etc. They have involved a variety of technologies from basic audio video graphic editing, to interactive systems (sensors/ triggers), mobile technologies and high end motion capture systems. Each project has involved the building of or use of an existing electronic data network to a) facilitate the sharing of materials and b) to support real-time performance interaction.

As one might expect, the research agendas and conditions for these projects have varied widely, depending on the mix of organisers, participants, cultural/ institutional contexts, funding and resources available, physical location, preparation work, etc. The aims and objectives of each project have not always been very explicit, partly because of the difficulty in knowing precisely what these can be beforehand. Usually some area of technology research that will be coordinated with an exploration of live performance forms is articulated (such as was done for TRANSDANCE). Often, some general cultural themes having to do with the transformation of the physical world confronted with emerging technologies are taken as a starting point for content exploration. The collaborative nature of these events is sometimes made explicit and an object for analysis during the working process while other times not. In all of these projects, there was an effort made to present something at the end of the event in order to give public access to the work that was done. Other forms of public dissemination of research outcomes have been through making project related videos, cdroms, websites and articles in journals.

Each of the projects mentioned above was a rich and productive environment for learning and exchange, but amongst these TRANSDANCE provided an unprecedented mixture of technical expertise and facilities, diversity of artistic approaches and the space and time to do some very focussed and specific research work.

4] The conditions for TRANSDANCE:

The organisation of the TRANSDANCE research laboratory followed a series of lectures on digital and interactive dance organised for the Festival of Dance of Kalamata in July 2000 by Yiannis Skourogiannis and the ALAS team. His e-mail of 4 September 2000 to me outlined the initial concept for the TRANSDANCE May 2001 event as follows: " the invited artists will be provided the necessary means to work towards a completed event or concept that will use either the physical space, or the virtual space, or the combination of both."

The preparations over the next several months were mostly left to Yiannis until we had a confirmed list of participants. Following this, I took on a greater role as process advisor for TRANSDANCE which involved making regular contact with the participants and organisers via an electronic mail list (yahoogroups.com), identifying what resources would be made available and what sort of research everyone would be interested in pursuing (for a short list of the hardware/ software that was available click here). From these discussions, two main research areas were specified: 1) to set up for some web streaming and possible influence from viewers/ on line audience; 2) real time 3-D environments. There was also an interest in exploring some scenographic/ installation possibilities in the physical space, but due to various circumstances, e.g. the Vicon system took up much of the space, etc., it was decided to place less emphasis on this area.

"Web streaming" refers to the use of technologies such as Real Player (http://www.real.com/) and Quicktime that are able to compress and deliver audio/ video to the desktop via what is referred to as a 'live' stream. A popular technology for broadcasting using the internet, the player software for viewing the streams is available for free and often comes bundled with browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The lab participants were interested in going beyond the broadcast model and exploring the interactive possibilities of using live streaming with the involvement of an audience. Despite the fact we had on hand the StreamGenie, Pinnacle's portable system for live, multi-camera web casting (http://www.pinnaclesys.com), it proved difficult to explore this area in depth as this would have required the organisation of additional resources such as an online server and more technical expertise to support artistic experimentation in the streaming medium. (For some artistic work already done using the possibilities of streaming media please see John McCormick's site http://www.companyinspace.com/home and Jenny Marketou's Smellbytes site http://smellbytes.banff.org/)

We did have the technology and expertise to move forward in the second research area: real time 3-D environments. For this, we had the unusual good fortune to be able to work closely and for almost the entire laboratory with high end Motion Capture technologies. Briefly, Motion Capture refers to the computer hardware and software that makes possible recorded digital 3-D representation of moving bodies. Recording sessions involve the placement of markers or sensors on strategic positions on the body that provide the basic information for the computer software. The expense of these systems, which includes the cost of the equipment as well as the expertise to run it, is quite high with developments being driven primarily by the industries such as medical, military, entertainment and advertising that have the necessary capital. These costs make it difficult to pursue investigative artistic work. For some insight into recent uses of Motion Capture technologies in the field of dance go to http://www.arts.uci.edu/lnaugle/html/mcs/.

We were informed quite early on that there would be a "state of the art" Vicon Real Time (http://www.vicon.com) Motion Capture system brought over from the United Kingdom and installed for us to work with, to include technical support. It is my understanding that this was arranged as an exchange with the Athens based AMY Digital Video company (http://www.amy.gr/amydv). AMY provided the technical facilities and support for the lab and had access to the Vicon system for the purpose of marketing and demonstration. The system installed for TRANSDANCE used twelve high resolution infra red cameras to capture the position of 20 plus reflective markers placed on the performer. To this, John McCormick was able to add another Motion Capture system, an electro-mechanical suit often referred to as an "exoskeleton" made by Analogus / Meta Motion (http://www.metamotion.com/) and called the "Gypsy". This system is able to sense, capture and process the motion data in the suit itself. Both of these systems would be able to drive an animated character in real time through Kaydara's FilmBox Motion Capture software (http://www.kaydara.com/).

With these systems, one is able to move in the motion capture suits (either wearing Vicon's marker suit or the Gypsy exoskeleton - or both at the same time) and simultaneously drive a three dimensional animation in the digital space of the computer. From a commercial broadcast industry perspective, this is often referred to as Performance Animation meaning real time animations can be used in the context of live media events - examples often used are to imagine the weather announcer on the local television station giving up-to-date forecasts in some animated form or combining live actors from remote locations as animated characters sharing the same scene. From a dancer's perspective, the possibility to watch one's movement in real time from any angle including from directly below to directly above is enabled in these systems and, despite the encumbrances of the respective body suits, as a movement visualization system for a dancer this has as yet unexplored possibilities.

Exploring real time interaction in 3-D environments evolved into a primary research trajectory of the TRANSDANCE laboratory. We were able to demonstrate in the final presentation a scenario that involved Jenny Marketou performing everyday domestic actions (e.g. cleaning the space, etc.) wearing the exoskeleton while sharing the same digital/ virtual space with a pre-recorded animation of one of the other participants. Jenny's wrist movements were mapped to the position of the other animation in space (vertical and axis orientation) so that as she performed her simple everyday tasks - the audience could see on the screen the outcomes of her actions in this shared virtual space. This demonstration built a representational bridge between a prosaic set of activities and a highly technologised, non-everyday virtual space. Jenny was also able to interact in the physical space with audience members making more explicit this connection between physical and virtual spaces. This was by no means a finished artistic work, but exemplified how it is that a research laboratory can produce an effective working demonstration of the artistic possibilities of a set of technologies. Out of this research, plans are underway to organise a larger scale telematic performance event linking three of four Greek Islands in the Aegean using some of these technologies and to advance some of the explorations made at TRANSDANCE.

(CONTINUED)


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