[-empyre-] setting fire to avatars, collapsing realities

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Wed Jan 8 13:26:51 EST 2014

Dear all

Alan - thanks for your extensive responses, which gave me much to ponder and think about
and 'm not sure where to begin. May I just throw in a few remarks, off the cuff?

[Alan schreibt]
>... The virtual is just asmuch in radioi transmissions, in Dufrenne's world of the novel, in the
>doubled and tripled representations of speech, in the phenomenology of the
>gesture, as it is in the obvious creation of buildings and shapes in
>so-called virtual worlds. My world in Providence, aka New Providence aka
>Providence Plantations aka zip code 02903 is equally virtual, equally
>differentiated by imaginary boundary lines, just as SL is for example.

You made an oblique remark, in your first post, that as "Heinz von 
Foerster would have it decades ago, the determinative of culture and 
organism might be formal negation, a turning-away. All my performance work 
is interactive,...."  and as I had not heard much of H v Foerster, I had a look and noted
he didn't like to be defined by the field (or fashion?) of the time he was working in, e.g.
cybernetics (and biology), but he remarked once that he knew the realty of the town
he lived in (Vienna): "I am Viennese. That is the only label that I have to accept. I come from Vienna; I was born there, that's an established fact” ...

Your comment on the analog and fissures then captivated me, as I remembered a dance and a workshop I once saw. 
>I thought years ago of the analog as a form of substance, and
>characterized by the notion of fissure - a fissure being defined as
>separating the same from the same, as opposed to but entangled with the
>digital notion of x and not-x in-relation-to-x,....

The dance I saw was by the Brazilian group Cena 11,  the piece was called "pequenas frestas de ficção sobre realidade insistente" (Small Fissures of Fiction in a Stubborn Reality)
shown at IN TRANSIT festival in Berlin (2006), and what impressed me was the emphasis on the "stubborn reality," for example when muscles tire, when gravity pulls and
bodies fall. I tried to write about it, looking (through the workshop) at their systematic research on (perhaps) unpredictable patterns of bodily resistance to, and hyperextension of, physical limits. 
The physical work was combined with uncanny robotic and animal intrusions into a performance that seemed continuously refracted through digital projections of the dancers’ facial expressions captured by small moving cameras. 
[I had asked you the other day whether you capture your musical gestures]. The digital projections  did not affect the dancers, maybe they did affect the audiences; I stayed focussed on the stubborn reality, the tremors. 
At one paradoxical moment, a large German shepherd dog jumped forward and appeared to rest atop choreographer/dancer Alejandro Ahmed’s shoulders, supremely calm and composed, with Ahmed frozen in place while Leticia Lamela forced Adilso Machado to carry her weight standing on his back, pushing, tearing and pulling him with ropes attached to his upper body. As we experienced Machado’s increasingly exhausted motion across the space, we also gradually realized that the performers were not using "dance techniques" (styles) yet were short-circuiting two contrasting physical phase-states (freeze and acceleration), manipulating the time/interval between physical perceptions which bifurcate under the emotional stress they and we endure. In our sense-perceptional processing of this scene,  I gathered,  we were pushed to the cusp of two mutually exclusive states which, at any point, could change or, if the dog attacked, result in a dangerous crisis. The dog did not attack;  Machado tired and collapsed. 

>Well in our case it does affect the dancer, and frankly although we're not
>doing this now, I pay little attention to what or what not is in fashion
>"these days" as you put it - in fact dance itself is not in fashion,
>Linden Labs is not in fashion, OpenSim is not in fashion, none of this is.
>Re: What is in the projected space - _nothing_ is in the projected space
>or rather the epistemology is a bit smeared, as it might be considered in
>projective geometry as well, between say pole and polar.

If the projected is nothing, then how does it affect you? what does " _nothing_is in the projected space" mean? 
I did not mention fashion, although may have implied that "interactivity" (performance interfaces with computational environment)
was tested in dance for a while and gradually, I tend to think, lost its curiosity though I  could be wrong and performers are busy
using their Kinect cameras. I watched a performance last year where the dancer, Annalisa Terranova (Central Saint Martins graduate show), in front of screenic projections (kinected)
faced the audience and possibly sought to interact with her virtual doubles, her negatives; in her announcement of the show she said it was an " experiment linking the body movements with interactive video projections."
It was hard to tell, for me, what affected her movement choices or motivated the whole "study for a shadow" (https://vimeo.com/66304376)  unless of course interactivity, as you perhaps propose, is a duet with shadows.

When I asked whether you use shadows in your musical performance, you said yes and no.  
I remember you telling us in December 2012 about the long durational 96-hour improvisation concert
at Eyebeam, and I was mesmerized listening to the sound files you shared online, trying to imagine
your playing these instruments (you mentioned them: including recorders [tenor, garkleinflote, and soprano], 
chromatic harmonica, classical guitar, ukulele, sung lisu, oud, cura cumbus, pipa, violin, viola, sarangi, and electric saz),
and you played with others as well as alone. What I imagined was not virtual but real sound, how do you understand
inhabiting a sonic space? the waves, frequences and vibrations are stubborn, no?  And if you are thinking of connection
(sonic citizenry), I agree of course, yet would consider the emerging or resulting communality as different from  above mentioned
shadow projections caused by Kinect. Kinect connects no one. The dancers I work with are affected by sound (they generate and hear
and share) in complex ways, worth discussing further; the same tends not to happen with visual / graphic interfaces  in my experience
unless the kinaesthetic images extend their "appearance" in a forceful and directed manner (actionable manner) and can be affected in turn and if that were possible become visceral.  What are
actionable images ? (The Croatian ensemble BADCo uses this term in their theatre work; I don't quite know what they mean, but I think they consider video images
projections and avatars not actionable).....

What happens very often in dance, when dancers work with sensors in an interactive environment for the first time – and I just read about this in a review of the Vietnamese piece "Intimacies" choreographed by 
Ngo Thanh Phuong and Paul Verity Smith – is that the performers do not necessarily become (more) aware of projected space or whatever shadows, but they have or gain a more profound
awareness of the physical presence of their bodies (see Kelly L. Le, "The Future of Vietnamese Dance").

>> [Alan you play music with other musicians in real space, not in
>> interactive computational space, right? do you capture your gestures at
>> the instruments?]

>Not sure what you mean; we record sufficiently and when we're playing we
>inhabit the sonic space - in other words, we're in inordinately complex
>and virtual sonic worlds - Jackson Moore speaks of sonic citizenry which I
>quite like.
>Nothing collapses, just the online imagery presents the appearance of
>collapse, but, as with the end of a novel or the Gettyburg Address, the
>ending and/or collapse of language, just finishing something (and
>"finishing" of course is complex and relevant here - what on earth is ever
>finished but our declarations that such is the case?) is of the virtual.

Ah, there is time for wordplay, may I?  (Kevin you will probably pursue the shelves/selves? which I enjoyed. A Heidegger joke).
I just read a music review in the NYT (Vivien Schweitzer: Broken Bow Hairs, Puns and Idiosyncratic Style:
Nico Muhly and Pekka Kuusisto at Le Poisson Rouge) about a concert by Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusist,  it was very evocative 
and I think I could imagine in my mind the "many broken bow hairs, which danced over his instrument like gossamer insect legs."
The reviewer then reports that <<Mr. Kuusisto  announced before performing the Chaconne: “When that’s finished 
— no pun intended —” he would offer some traditional Finnish tunes.>>

The ending is traditional, as a temporary stubborn reality,  I agree. 

>Re: The physical body; I just previewed a new piece Foofwa d'Imobilite is
>working on (online) and I was amazed as usual, not by the limitations of
>the body but how many new movements are possible, even now, and what sorts
>of gestural repertoire emerge out of them. There are infinite games! To
>the extent that the body is substance, analogic, met/flesh...

You believe in infinity (online), then? and I hesitate. 

thank you

Johannes Birringer

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