Networked_Performance

[-empyre-] Ashley Ferro-Murray

“[…] What an exciting opportunity to engage with this topic, Critical Movement Practice

To start things off I will share some thoughts on my artistic work and academic scholarship, if you will allow me to temporarily bifurcate these two inseparable aspects of my career. As a choreographer who has a particular interest in digital media, I explore real-time dancer/ audience interactions with digital performance technologies including live video motion tracking and motion tracking sensors. My work with this technology has led me to question how digitally facilitated movements impact our physical awareness and stand relative to dance history. As a female choreographer, I find relationships between dance history and digital technologies particularly important as I consider social relations that might instantiate a classically masculinized audience gaze.

Projection screens, for example, can hang to segment a stage, consequently obstructing the audience’s view. This can empower a dancer to appear and disappear, or join the audience in watching projected images. The performer can transcribe the space between audience members, screen and projection thereby destabilizing an otherwise objectifying gaze. Doesn’t this seems like such a simple answer to an audience/dancer relationship that choreographers have worked to deconstruct for decades?! Even with the introduction of a destabilizing projection, though, the relationship remains more complicated.

In order to consider examples of how our everyday movements and technologies can both inspire and complicate dance choreography, I often turn to my experiences as an audience member, choreographer, performer and theorist as one moving/ thinking body to complicate a historical situation of dance history alongside technology. By considering my experience as an audience member and in the choreographic and performance process, I hope to clarify whether or not digital projection and presence can open the gaze and defuse the subsequent objectification of a dancer. In doing so, I explore how digital technologies can inspire and re-open my conceptions of what choreographing corporeal technology can be, or is. This research also often consists of philosophical perspectives ranging from phenomenological to deconstructionist to historiographical standpoints among others. As we write about critical movement practice I hope that we can think not only about questions surrounding the dance performance space, that we think also about how we write theory that speaks to, or is movement and practice movement that speaks to, or is theory.

I am excited to hear about your responses, thoughts and work.
Ashley

May 5, Ashley Ferro-Murray wrote on [-empyre-] on the so-called everyday:

It is interesting to consider Renate’s proposed intersections within a larger art context or the everyday. Of course, in dance practice and choreography we consider the everyday both practically and phenomenologically. First and perhaps most obviously we have periods of choreography within certain dance communities where artists introduce postmodernity to the stage with the direct intersection of art, everyday practice and dance. I am thinking most specifically of 1960s Judson Dance Theater in downtown Manhattan and artists like Yvonne Rainer and Lucinda Childs and Bruce Nauman. Both Erin and Stamatia also refer to Forsythe’s conception of choreography. Stamatia explains, “if we mean by choreography (as Forsythe does, and as Cunningham also does) the setting of parameters that make the body’s techniques ‘tend’ towards outcomes that will in the end always be new and surprising, rather than the mere description of a body already positioned in space-time.” In this case we consider how our body movement regardless of when or where (be it a stage space or everyday place) can push toward the new and/or exciting and open a possibility. Whether in technical and analogue repetitions like the 0 to 1 binary, or in daily choreographed repetitions using digital devise like Renate mentions I think we move consistently toward the virtual.

Allow me to explore the limitations and openness in considering devices like the iPhone as choreography. The iPhone user learns and perform a gesture-based vocabulary that is specific to the device. Interactions, then, promote a form of movement-based communication. Using an iPhone to navigate a city is an experience based on the content that the device provides. Rather than walking and looking around to take in sites and sounds, one walks looking down at the bubble that represents your GPS location. Use applications on the iPhone to choose which restaurant to go to, again relying on the device to decide your next destination. Based on these experiences, an iPhone user perceives her environment based on physical transcription, but one that takes place between the mover and the device as the intermediary, as opposed to the mover and her immediate surroundings.

Though this is a movement-based and, according to Apple an embodied experience, using an iPhone can encourage a closing off of the body. We can crunch our physicality to peer into an iPhone, imagining a reality within the device. In this sense, our movements are confined to the touch of a finger and the body is immobilized, or disembodied. Not only does our body become less present in itself, but also companies like Apple commodify the movements that we enact with our fingers. The iPhone is even programmed to anticipate and auto correct gestural ambiguities with “smart” functionality, therefore preemptively deciding what we want to say based on corporate programming. The body then becomes indicative of a projected figure. Whose presence are we representing and what movement do we engage when we interact with devices like the iPhone?

However, it is precisely this competition between the digital and the physical that is indicative of our everyday interactions with contemporary society. If we experience the world through the touch of a finger as opposed to constituting our space by walking around a city, quotidian movement does become reduced to digital exploration for technology’s sake. The digital visual aid becomes a visual impairment as the body disappears and acts only as a support to the digital device, as opposed to the interactions between the two as mutual prostheses. A closing off of the rest of that body then
subsumes any embodied movement vocabulary that a device engages. As we become more wary of our own objectification as a digital presence, the materialization of this experience and these human-computer interactions in dance performance is insightful. The duality of iPhone interactions and the way that they can simultaneously embody and disembody signifies a situation that is implicit not only in the politics of performance, but also the process of engaging with digital presence in general. If we acknowledge and become self-critical of our bodies using prosthetics like the iPhone, we can challenge objectification with micro-movement and micro-attentions. Stamatia asks, “Can the limitations of actual displacement (such as often happen with Motion captured performances or choreographic software) work as productive constraints?” Here I think that they can.

Allow me to return to an earlier emphasis on the in-between to locate new thought and therefore work within the limitations of displacement as a productive constraint. Erin makes the incredibly rich point, “To move with movement moving is a proposition toward the development of techniques that create modes of capture that seek not to identify movement’s having-passed but that move-with movement’s own incipience. How to do this technologically requires, I think, a different approach to technology, where technology is less a tool than an active assemblage of potential techniques that feed from and move with a becoming-body.” We apply this very point to both the artistic process and the everyday experience to consider Erin’s call to use technology not as a tool, but as “active assemblage” amidst others including texture and movement in “art,” which both Erin and Renate emphasize. It is interesting though to add art to the list of movement, technology and texture and consider all of these processes under an everyday experience. It seems that we can reach a virtual space by moving in-between these processes where technology can act as an “active assemblage” and as one quality among others within the affect of my performance. I find this place within the virtual as an in-between space amidst immanent repetitions in movement, technology, etc.

I must admit, though, that I have trouble pin pointing exactly what that virtual is is my experience and art practice. The virtual is a figural quality that I intuitively perceive. Perhaps this is where we turn to Erin’s situation of philosophy. Maybe it would be helpful to consider presence and perception here. I think of philosopher Alva Noe who works with dancers on action, presence and perception and who argues that consciousness is dance. Thoughts?

Ashley


May 5, 14:30
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