Thursday, June 7, 2012

UpsideDown World

Lately I have been exploring different processes in the creation of hybrid reality work, seeing if I can merge real life theatre, film, animation, dance, movement and choreography with virtual performances. At the end of a year of exploration I was surprised to find that I am most at home with the kinds of processes and results that dance has to offer - organic, responsive, exploratory. The theatre ways of yore aren't cutting it for me anymore - partly because the old collective theatre ethic no longer really exists and so, it seems, the support for ideas that question or inquire no longer exist (here). Also, performing in online spaces has changed me. Theatre feels rigid and contrived when compared to the experience of locating the expression within the moment, as dance can lend itself to do, as virtual performance, by the nature of the platforms and their limitations, requires. It seems I have come to need this immediacy and the risk to be a part of the performance or else it just isn't as satisfying. 

Dance has proven more receptive, in my experience, to incorporating new technologies and virtuality than any other traditional discipline. In these photos by Justin Hall I am working without a net in a very spontaneous performance piece that took place last summer - Upside Down World, Pearls for Pigs - at the BBMC studio in St. John's and simultaneously at the Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance Simulator in Second Life. 

Following an upsetting gallery experience this piece about taking control of one's work and the context within how one shows work just sort of happened. It happened as a direct response to events occurring at the time. Avatar performers - Fau Ferdinand/Yael Gilks (UK) and Jo Ellsmere/Jane Leffler (USA) - interacted with me from virtual space via a large projection. There was very little script, only images and cues for certain actions to happen. The rest of the performance was an exploration, I followed my impulses and responded to the actions of the avatar performers, projected large on the floor in real time, I played with the visuals that they generated and sound that I generated. The avatars could see my actions via a webstream and so could also respond to me. The performance was a process that I went through with others, as opposed to being something that I stood up and performed, it was a direct response to the present. It marked a change in consciousness in my approach to live performance.

Since then I have been actively seeking experiences that feed these impulses to reach, to explore the moment, to expose the boundary. It's just more fun that way. I have been lucky to be able to work with dancers through programs offered by Neighbourhood Danceworks in contact improvisation and choreography. I am also working whenever I can with the amazing dancer/choreographer Tammy MacLeod to develop ideas. We are currently creating a new piece slated for a first viewing as part of Neighbourhood Danceworks' First Look series in July. 

Upside Down World (Pearls for Pigs)
 photos by Justin Hall

Here is a video of the performance and the avatar audience from the virtual side. The machinima is made by UK artist Arahan Claveau:

Upside Down World (Pearls for Pigs) made possible by the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Media Arts Section and the Black Bag Media Collective in cooperation with Roles for Women Theatre Company