Summer Workshop in Performance Telematics (SWIPT) - Arizona State University, August 3, 2001
A public performance following the two-week workshop in performance telematics raised more questions than it answered. This is not a criticism, as these questions are interesting, though they are not particularly new.
The various set pieces included interactive elements and networked technologies that were largely transparent to the casual audience. The first piece involved a live dancer and readers with preset digital elements on one screen and a second dancer on the University's Intelligent Stage about a half mile away whose image was altered in certain interactive ways and transmitted to a second screen in the hall via the internet. The fact that the performance involved live elements in two or more spatially separate spaces was largely irrelevant to the audience.
I think this was the central issue of all the pieces shown. The interactive elements involved the dancers, artists and technicians in the live productions in a way that hugely affected the product, but the product seen by the audience in the hall or over the net was not appreciably different from anything seen before involving dancers and projections.
So what was the point? In the discussion, it was noted that the workshop provided plenty of time for asking the fundamental question: Does the technology enhance or inhibit the creative process? The answers were predictably mixed. The dancers were engaged by the technology but were also confined by it. The role of the dancer is more active in that movement affects sound, light, and visual elements directly in a sort of synthetic synesthesia. This is an engaging process for the dancer, but changes the role of the choreographer (or if it doesn't, why bother?) and increases the roles of the various technical people in the creative act. In terms of creative collaboration, this is a positively stimulating environment. In terms of audience engagement, there is some distance to go to make the interactive processes apparent.