[-empyre-] Welcome Stamatia Portanova, Ashley Ferro-Murray, and Erin Manning to Critical Motion Practice

Ashley Ferro-Murray ashley at ferromurray.net
Tue May 5 15:06:45 EST 2009

Stamatia, thank you for your interesting points about motion capture
performance and Dance Forms. Artistically, my practical experience
with cuts and gaps in technological comprehension have for the most
part been instances of artistic and creative inspiration and impulse.
An unintentional technical divide adds texture and real-time
composition to digital re-presentation. The dancing body can respond
to the tangible divisibility and the real-time improvisation becomes
one that is representative of contemporary digital culture. In my
experience, though, engineers or production staff often describes what
you call ‘divisibilitiy’ as technological mishap. How can we reconcile
the difference in opinion between the divide as creative quality
indicative of lived experience and divide as technological mistake.
You acknowledge that divisibility will become increasingly microscopic
as technicians supposedly move away from the divisible. If I
understand correctly, the divisible would in this case symbolize the
technically imperfect. Do we lose something in digital specificity?

Why my own fascination with the mishap? Why am I okay with the
technology standing as imperfectly successful? Perhaps divisibility
leaves us something to hold onto, a digital trace. I have been
thinking a lot about technologies like Douglas Englebart's 1968
iteration of the computer mouse, for example. Each time the mouse
moves it leaves a visual trace. The trace of the mouse looks eerily
similar to visual art that choreographers including Trisha Brown,
William Forsythe and Shen Wei have all created by dancing so that
charcoal or paint leave traces of their movement on canvas. I fear
that our tendency toward the trace is merely symptomatic of our fear
of ephemerally. The trace becomes emblematic of an unattainable
desire. In Brown, Forsythe and Wei's performances the canvases are
sold and the movement is therefore commodified. The artists counteract
the contentiously "ephemeral" quality of dance just as a digital cut,
gap, or trace leaves a more tangible or perhaps material movement
mark. The ephemeral seems like such an overly parsed topic in movement
theory, but isn't it still this quality that I run away from in my
resistance to the technologically seamless? I must admit that the
unpredictability in real-time movement interactions is what inspires a
good deal of my choreographic response! Perhaps, though, with
increasingly seamless interface we will simply turn more often toward
the original code to indulge in gap, cut, or mishap. Maybe it is not
even the trace of the mishap, but like Stamatia refers to numbers I
find openness and a capacity to generate experience in technical

I am interested to consider how we associate the body itself with
these technologies. Is it really the body that would be prosthetically
dependent on technology, or vice versa? Brian Massumi discusses the
prosthetic interaction in terms of mutual prosthesis. I am curious how
instead of allowing for a differentiation between the digital
technologies that we program and the thinking and feeling body that we
move, we consider the two devices as mutual prostheses. The body is
itself a technology just as digital programs can be thinking and
feeling beings (I do acknowledge that in this case and at this point
in time digital thinking/feeling begins are programmed by our thinking
feeling and independently moving bodies. But, even this assumes a
certain kind of ideally thinking/feeling body type and a certain kind
of homogenous living being, which I would argue we are not). It seems
that a shift in thinking could completely change the relationships,
reliance and circumstances that I have laid out thus far. I do not
mean to return to a cybernetic or posthuman theory, but to be
conscious of binaries that we do initiate. It seems that Stamatia's
accurate account of Dance Forms would be relevant here. As I animate a
Dance Forms figure and it in turn inspires my choreographic intention,
I interact with the animation. The problem here is in the Dance Forms
programs. What does it mean that Dance Forms preferences prompt a
choreographer to choose a modern or balletic body and a male or female
dancer? These program requirements and settings place the
choreographer into a specific box. Here, the program forces us onto a
traditional stage and into an all too confined body type instead of
allowing for a mutually reactant prosthetic relationship to open
artistic possibility. The body is corporeally free only in the case of
infinite mobility.


On Mon, May 4, 2009 at 2:37 PM, stamatia portanova
<stamatiaportanova at yahoo.it> wrote:
> Hello everyone
> first of all, I would like to thank Renate Ferro and Tim Murray for inviting me to join this discussion. Its subject, “Critical Motion Practice”, is certainly a crucial topic in my work, and one that is also very significant in contemporary culture and art.
> I am a post-doctoral fellow at Concordia University, and my research focuses on the relation between movement, dance and their digitalization; in this context, my work is at the intersection between philosophical theory and the analysis of techno-choreographic practice. By ‘techno-choreography’, I specifically refer to three particular ways in which choreographers, dancers and audiences encounter digital technology on the contemporary stage: video and video editing software, Motion Capture, choreographic software (Dance Forms). I think these encounters have a wide significance, not only for the way in which they re-shape choreographic and performative traditions and habits, but mainly because of the way in which they re-formulate some very general, basic paradigms about human movement and perception. In this sense, as a critical theorist I position myself in between the media and performance fields, considering philosophy as the conceptual operator
>  to highlight the reciprocal relation between human movement and digital technology.
> My current project is the writing of a monograph on the relation between philosophy, choreography and digital technology. From this particular subject of research, the suggestion I would like to make, here, is to think of the human body as feeling and thinking ‘with’ technology (rather than being simply limited or prosthetically empowered by it) while moving and dancing. To think with technology means to rhythmically work in unison with its own way of thinking, i.e. ‘code’. Practical examples of sensed-thought code are already concretely evident in the human body: from biological and anatomical codes imposed by our organic structures, to physical techniques acquired through habit and professional movement practice, from the socio-cultural shaping of choreography as a form of art, to digital code. In a certain sense, the philosopher Alfred N. Whitehead encourages us to reflect on this theme in an original way, when he insists on the creative
>  parallelism between the intensive dimension of affects and the codifying function of reason, as two coexisting aspects of the same feeling. I would therefore like to highlight what seems to be an important oscillation between sensation and rationality in every creative process. I think that working along with the necessity to continuously re-propose new rational criteria or new ways to codify, in a world of continuous mutation, can be much more interesting and fruitful then simply trying to erase code in total fluidity, spontaneity or improvisation. But where do criteria come from, and what directions do they take?
> Digital technology is the concrete application of a particular way to think, a tendency towards the cutting of reality in discrete numerical parts, and their re-arrangement into information chunks. In other words, it is the main example of extreme rationalization, and of an ‘intellectualization’ which has been very often associated with the scientific spatialization of time and of our movement experiences (reducing movement to a sum of steps, from A to B or from 1 to 2). In fact, I would like to suggest that, through the use of technology, numbers themselves start to reveal their openness and their capacity to generate experience. The apparent abstractness of this proposition finds its more concrete evidence in the tendency of many techno-choreographic works to respond to the new parameters dictated by the working of the computer, revealing what I define as an aesthetics of the ‘number’, an aesthetics directly influenced by the discrete
>  functioning of the software. Examples of this aesthetics can be found in an increasing number of digital dance videos where the numerical montage of the dance into a sort of digital re-choreography replaces the more detailed attention for movement forms and qualities. Another example is constituted by Motion Captured performances and their presupposed aspiration to capture the fluid continuity of movement through cameras or sensors; instead of continuous motion, the ‘cuts’ of the technical apparatus seem to point towards a ‘divisibility’ with no end (who knows what microscopic level can be further reached in the digitalization?) ‘Divisibility’ appears thus like a particular quality directly related to the practical experience of movement and of the moving gesture. (It would be very interesting for me, Ashley, to relate these ideas to your experience with motion tracking.) One final example of this argument given by the Dance Forms software:
>  all the possible (and impossible) variables of movement obtained through the software and its algorithmic operations are composed into choreographic scores and passed to human dancers in flesh and bones who perform them ‘live. New possibilities of choreographic production and bodily manipulation overcome the apparent aim of faithful imitation or capture of human movement: under a superficial level of realistic representation and resemblance, more interesting effects appear in the relation between the computer code and the dancing human body.
> Looking forward to talk about these (and other) topics with all of you
> Stamatia
> --- Lun 4/5/09, Ashley Ferro-Murray <aferromurray at gmail.com> ha scritto:
>> Da: Ashley Ferro-Murray <aferromurray at gmail.com>
>> Oggetto: Re: [-empyre-] Welcome Stamatia Portanova, Ashley Ferro-Murray, and  Erin Manning to Critical Motion Practice
>> A: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> Cc: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> Data: Lunedì 4 maggio 2009, 18:43
>> Hello everyone! What an exciting opportunity to engage with
>> this
>> topic, Critical Movement Practice in such an open forum and
>> for such a
>> generous period of time. I do hope that many people from
>> many
>> perspectives get involved in what I am sure will prove to
>> be an
>> interesting discussion. 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
>> On Sun, May 3, 2009 at 8:26 PM, Timothy Murray
>> <tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>> >
>> > Now that the May Day weekend is past, we are happy to
>> introduce this
>> > month's discussion on -empyre- of "Critical
>> Motion Practice."  Many
>> > of you may recall the lively discussion we hosted in
>> September 2007
>> > of "Critical Spatial Practice," which
>> emphasized architecture, new
>> > technology, and tactical media.   We thought it might
>> be interesting
>> > to return to the problematic of "critical
>> practice" by reflecting
>> > specifically on the impact of "motion" this
>> time around.
>> >
>> > For this purpose, we have arranged a fascinating
>> lineup of guest
>> > performance artists, choreographers, and theorists who
>> will discuss s
>> > motion--both self-reflective and interactive--at the
>> intersections of
>> > art, choreography, geography, architecture, theory,
>> and activism. How
>> > might technological and critical approaches to
>> movement and
>> > interactivity empower creativity, enhance artistic
>> activism, and
>> > encourage artistic/performance practice and
>> collaboration? The
>> > alignment of criticality with movement and cyber
>> configurations of
>> > embodiment and space permits especially creative skins
>> of networks,
>> > resources, and discussions whose resulting
>> configurations range from
>> > texts and performances to sculptures and
>> installations. The work of
>> > our guests reflects a broad range of performativity as
>> it relates to
>> > the broader social paradigms of technology, culture,
>> and art.
>> >
>> > We open this discussion with this week's guests
>> who will join us
>> > tomorrow, Stamatia Portanova (Italy/Canada) and Ashley
>> Ferro-Murray
>> > (US).  They will be joined mid-week by Erin Manning
>> (Canada).
>> >
>> > Stamatia Portanova (Italy/Canada)  received her PhD
>> from the
>> > University of East London, School of Social Sciences,
>> Media and
>> > Cultural Studies (England). She is currently a
>> post-doctoral fellow
>> > at the Concordia University of Montreal where she is
>> working on a
>> > monograph on the relationship between choreography,
>> digital
>> > technology and philosophy. She is also a member of The
>> Sense Lab
>> > (Concordia University, Montreal) and of the editorial
>> board of
>> > Inflexions, the online journal of the Sense Lab. Her
>> articles have
>> > been published in La nuova Sherazade: Donne e
>> Multiculturalismo and
>> > in the online journals, Frontiera Immaginifica,
>> Fibreculture and
>> > Extensions: the Online Journal of Embodiment and
>> Technology.
>> >
>> > Ashley Ferro-Murray (US)  is choreographer who uses
>> interactive
>> > performance technologies as a means for exploring
>> dance and new media
>> > in our contemporary culture.
>> > Ashley is a PhD student in the Performance Studies
>> Program at the
>> > University of California at Berkeley with interests in
>> the
>> > intersections of performance, philosophy, technology,
>> and feminism.
>> > She is committed to experimenting with interfaces of
>> software,
>> > hardware, and philosophy as they interact with the
>> body and its
>> > politics.   http://ferromurray.net
>> >
>> > Erin Manning  (Canada) is Research Chair and
>> Professor of fine arts
>> > at Concordia University  (Montreal, Canada).   Erin
>> directs the Sense
>> > Lab (www.senselab.ca), a
>> > laboratory that explores the intersections between art
>> practice and
>> > philosophy through the matrix of the sensing body in
>> movement.  In
>> > her art practice, she works between painting, fabric,
>> and sculpture
>> > (http://erinmovement.com). Her current project,
>> entitled Folds to
>> > Infinity, is an experimental fabric collection
>> composed of cuts that
>> > connect in an infinity of ways, folding in to create
>> clothing and out
>> > to create environmental architectures.  The next
>> phase of this
>> > project will explore the resonance between
>> electromagnetic fields and
>> > movement through the activation of the existent
>> magents in Folds to
>> > Infinity.  her writing addresses the senses,
>> philosophy, and
>> > politics, articulation the relation between
>> experience, thought and
>> > politics in a transdisciplinary framework moving
>> between dance and
>> > new technology, the political and micropolitics of
>> sensation,
>> > performance art, and the current convergence of
>> cinema, animation,
>> > and new media.  Publications include Relationscapes:
>> Movement, Art,
>> > Philosophy (MIT, 2009), Politics of Touch: Sense,
>> Movement,
>> > Sovereignty (Minnesota, 2007), and Ephemeral
>> Territories:
>> > Representing Nation, Home, and Identity in Canada
>> (Minnesota, 2003).
>> >
>> > Welcome, Stamatia, Ashley, and Erin.  We look forward
>> to hearing more
>> > about your practice.  We  very much appreciate your
>> willingness to
>> > kick off this month's discussion of "Critical
>> Motion Practice."
>> >
>> > Best,
>> >
>> > Renate and Tim
>> >
>> >
>> > --
>> > Renate Ferro and Tim Murray
>> > Co-Moderators, -empyre- a soft-skinned-space
>> > Department of Art/ Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media
>> Art
>> > Cornell University
>> >
>> > --
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > empyre forum
>> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> --
>> Ashley Ferro-Murray
>> MA/PhD Student
>> Dept. Theater, Dance & Performance Studies
>> University of California, Berkeley
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

Ashley Ferro-Murray
MA/PhD Student
Dept. Theater, Dance & Performance Studies
University of California, Berkeley

More information about the empyre mailing list