[-empyre-] Virtual Embodiment

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Mon Jun 30 22:03:57 EST 2014

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Welcome to the July discussion on  –empyre- soft-skinned space:

Moderated by Sue Hawksley (UK/AUS) and Simon Biggs (AUS/UK) with invited discussants Susan Kozel (SE), Johannes Birringer (UK), Samantha Gorman (USA), Sophia Lycouris (UK), Tamara Ashley (UK), Garth Paine (USA), Hellen Sky (AUS), Daniel Tercio (PT), Sally Jane Norman (NZ/FR) and Sarah Whatley (UK).

The month's discussion engages themes and issues concerning 'virtual embodiment'. This theme is open to interpretation - suggesting concepts and practices that are situated in the physical, the computational, the imaginative, the metaphysical or all of these spaces, depending on context. Facebook's recent acquisition of Oculus, developers of the consumer level Rift virtual reality headset, promises to make a new virtual experiential space widely available. This raises questions concerning the impact of the virtual when it converges with popular social media. As shared VR experiences becomes pervasive how might social conventions shift and the underpinning notions of selfhood and collective evolve? What might a collective virtual experience contribute to notions of extended or distributed mind, agency or identity? Does virtual embodiment depend on, augment or replace bodily practices? What will the quotidian affects be?

This months guests engage this theme through practice and theory, from diverse disciplines including the creative and performing arts, philosophy, social sciences, cultural theory and computer science.


Susan Kozel works at the convergence between dance and a wide range of digital technologies. She combines movement practices such as improvisation and somatics with academic writing in philosophy and phenomenology. Currently she is a Professor at the School of Art and Culture of Malmö University and a researcher with the Medea Collaborative Media Initiative (http://medea.mah.se). She maintains an active artistic practice that directly informs her writing on topics from affect to ubiquitous technologies to electronic music. She teaches for the Interaction Design programme at Malmö University, is Project Leader of the interdisciplinary research project Living Archives (http://livignarchives.mah.se) and is on the advisory board of the Swedish National School for Artistic Research.

Johannes Birringer is a choreographer/media artist and co-director of DAP-Lab at Brunel University where he is a Professor of Performance Technologies in the School of Arts.  DAP-lab (www.brunel.ac.uk/dap) focuses on research in performance, interactive systems and wearable design. He has created numerous dance-theatre works, video installations and digital projects in collaboration with artists in Europe, the Americas, China and Japan. In 2003 he founded Interaktionslabor in a former coal mine in Germany, initiating long-term research into interactive systems and real time processes (http://interaktionslabor.de). His digital oratorio "Corpo, Carne e Espírito" premiered in Brasil at the FIT Theatre Festival in 2008; the interactive dancework "Suna no Onna" was featured at festivals in London and the Lab’s mixed-reality installation "UKIYO" went on European tour in 2010. The dance opera "for the time being [Victory over the Sun]" premered at Sadler's Wells in 2014. He's currently developing various post-productions from the writing of "Performance, Technology & Science," published in early 2009, for a new Meta-Academy (online) seminar project. 

Samantha Gorman is a writer, scholar and artist who composes for text, cinema and digital media.  Her current work includes the App novella Pry. In Pry, the reader tugs apart lines of the narrative in order to grasp the protagonist's thoughts: http://prynovella.com. Samantha holds an MFA from Brown University in Digital Language Arts. She has taught courses in Digitally Mediated Performance and Digital Literature at the Rhode Island School of Design. Samantha currently lives in L.A. where she is a Ph.D. candidate in the interdivisional Media Arts + Practice (iMAP) program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. 

Sophia Lycouris is an artist working with movement/dance, choreography, improvisation and performance for over than twenty years, who gradually developed a dialogue with new technologies. Her most recent work, City Glimpses (2013), is a multi-sited improvisational piece exploring relationships between physical and virtual performance sites (www.recalesce.net). Sophia is also an academic researcher interested in interdisciplinary methodologies, including approaches informed by creative practice. She is currently Reader in Interdisciplinary Choreography at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Garth Paine is the Associate Director of the School of Arts Media and Engineering and Digital Culture program at Arizona State University where he is also Professor of Digital Sound and Interactive Media. He is particularly fascinated with sound as an exhibitable object. This passion has led to several interactive responsive environments where the inhabitant generates the sonic landscape through their presence and behaviour. It has also led to several music scores for dance works, generated through realtime video tracking and/or bio-sensing of the dancers. His work has been shown throughout Australia, Europe, Japan, USA, South America, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Dr Paine is internationally regarded as an innovator in the field of interactivity in experimental music and media arts. His URL is http://www.activatedspace.com

Hellen Sky is an Australian digital choreographer/performer/director/writer. Her projects bridge dance, performance and installation at times extended through new technologies and data generated by the moving body as a fluid interface between micro-movements, media, virtual-electronic and physical architectures, words and objects. As co-founder of new media performance company Company in Space (1992-2004) and as Hellen Sky and Collaborators she has presented work across Australia and internationally.

Tamara Ashley is the Artistic Director of dancedigital.  To this role she brings a strong background in conceptual thinking and experimental performance practice in dance improvisation, somatics, live arts and new media.  ​Through the organisation, she supports and nurtures artists working with dance and new technologies, seeks to develop conversations with practitioners across disciplines and engages in research to develop thinking, tools and products for the dance sector.  As a researcher, Tamara has focused upon the application of qualitative research paradigms to creative and practical research. Tamara has undertaken studies that explore dance improvisation and somatics in environmental and digital performance, with publications in the Choreographic Practices Journal; Theatre, Dance and Performance and Training; Contact Quarterly and has published book chapters on choreography, site-sensitive performance and improvisation.  A committed educator, she lectures on practice as research in the PhD programme at the University of Limerick and is a Senior Lecturer in Dance at the University of Bedfordshire. 

Daniel Tércio holds a BA in Philosophy and another in Fine Arts, a MA in Art History and a PhD in Dance. He is currently an assistant Professor at University of Lisbon, teaching courses in Dance History, Aesthetics, Movement and Visual Arts and New Technologies applied to the stage, within graduate and postgraduate programmes. He is a member of the Board of Directors at INET-MD Instituto de Etnomusicologia - Centro de Estudos de Música e Dança where he coordinates the research group on Dance Studies. As main researcher, he took responsibility for delivery of Technologically Expanded Dance, a project supported by the Portuguese Ministry of Science. His interests are wide, ranging from aesthetics, through dance history, cultural studies and iconography to digital technologies and experimental video. Daniel Tércio has authored several studies on dance and art. He has also written two science fiction novels and short stories issued by Portuguese and Brazilians publishers. His dance reviews appear regularly in the Portuguese press, since 2004.

Sally Jane Norman is Professor of Performance Technologies at the University of Sussex, UK. Her work on embodiment, gesture, and technologies, grounded in dance and martial arts, has involved historical research (avant-garde approaches to theatrical embodiment, Université de Paris III/ CNRS), and creative experimentation at the Institut International de la Marionette, Charleville-Mézières; Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe; Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music, Amsterdam (as artistic co-director and co-organiser of the 1998 Touch festival). Co-founding jury member of Telefonica Foundation’s Vida Art and Artificial Life competition, she has published extensively on expressive gesture and its technological extensions. Sally Jane currently supervises a cohort of interdisciplinary PhD students, teaches on the MA Sound Environments course and is preparing a monograph on live art and technology.

Sarah Whatley is Professor of Dance and Director of the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University. Her research interests include dance and new technologies, dance analysis, somatic dance practice and pedagogy and inclusive dance practices. Her current AHRC-funded project is ‘InVisible Difference; Dance, Disability and Law.  She is also leading a major EU-funded project (EuropeanaSpace), which is exploring the creative reuse of digital cultural content and is part of the team leading the EU-funded RICHES project that is exploring the impact of digital technologies on dance and performance-based cultural heritage. She led the AHRC-funded Siobhan Davies digital archive project, RePlay, and has published widely on Davies’ work and archival practices in dance and performance. She is Academic Advisor: Digital Environment for The Routledge Performance Archive. She is also Editor of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices and sits on the Editorial Boards of several other Journals.

The month's discussion is moderated by Sue Hawksley and Simon Biggs

Sue Hawksley is an independent dance artist and artistic director of articulate animal. This interdisciplinary performance company undertakes collaborative projects focused upon movement, identity, territory and presence, which have been presented internationally.  Sue has performed with Rambert Dance Company, Mantis, Scottish Ballet and Philippe Genty among others, as well as working on many freelance projects as performer, choreographer or educator. Sue holds a practice-led PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art, awarded in 2012. Her research critically examines concepts of embodiment through choreographic and somatic practices, philosophy, and mediation. Sue has extensive experience as a dance educator, and most recently was Senior Lecturer in Dance and course co-ordinator for the MA Dance Performance & Choreography at the University of Bedfordshire. Sue also practices as a massage and bodywork therapist.
Simon Biggs is a media artist, writer and curator with interests in digital poetics, interactive environments, interdisciplinary research and co-creation. His work has been widely presented internationally, including Tate, Pompidou, Academy de Kunste, Maxxi, Macau Arts Museum, Walker Art Center and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. He has spoken at numerous conferences and universities, including ISEA, ePoetry, SLSA, ELO, and Cambridge, Brown, Cornell, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Paris8, Sorbonne, Bergen Universities. Publications include Remediating the Social (ed, 2012), Autopoeisis (with James Leach, 2004), Great Wall of China (1999), Halo (1998), Magnet (1997), Book of Shadows (1996). He is Professor of Art, University of South Australia. http://www.littlepig.org.uk 

Simon Biggs
simon at littlepig.org.uk  |  @_simonbiggs_ 
http://www.littlepig.org.uk  |  http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs

simon.biggs at unisa.edu.au  |  Professor of Art, University of South Australia

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk  |  Honorary Professor, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh

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