Category Archives: Dance && Code

Where's my beret? I've got an art show!

 

As one more surprising development in my artistic life, I created some still pieces based on the dance visualization project that I did at the U of U (see this entry) and submitted them to the annual juried show for U of U art students at Williams Fine Art, a long-standing art gallery in Salt Lake City. Shockingly, I got accepted! (See, I’m the third person on the list.)

In the process, I gave a little theoretical background on the pieces I created. Here’s what I put in my rather lengthy artist statement:

Dance is a challenging medium. It is notoriously ephemeral, as it disappears once the performance is finished. It is temporal, as it is always viewed in a particular order: first the beginning, then the middle, and then the end. And dance is situated, as the viewer typically has a single visual perspective throughout the entire performance.

In a series of experiments called “Danco kaj la universala okulo,” which is Esperanto for “Dance for the universal eye,” alternative to each of these characteristics were explored. To do so, ten dance performances were recorded with a Microsoft Kinect to get digital video and 3D motion capture data, which were then manipulated in Processing.

The first manipulation, “Danco 1: Preter spaco” (“Dance 1: Beyond Space”), presented point clouds – 3D pixel images – of the dancers. Viewers could change their perspective of the dance at will, even during the live performance: zooming in and out, rotating left and right, or going above or below the dancers.

The second manipulation, “Danco 2: Preter ordo” (“Dance 2: Beyond Order”), which is the basis of this print, was an interactive application that placed frames from all ten dances in random order. However, viewers could click on a frame and all of the frames from that dance would be highlighted and connected in order by a curving line. (The line is a Catmull-Rom spline with a random tension factor.) Viewers could then click a button and the selected frames would reassemble themselves in temporal order. As a note, this piece provided the seed for a recent multimedia and dance performance for Repertory Dance Theatre called “Hello World,” which was created with choreographer Jacque Bell.

The final manipulation, “Danco 3: Preter tempo” (“Dance 3: Beyond Time”), derived skeleton views from the pixel data and then accumulating figures as the dance progressed. In this way, the entire dance was simultaneously present as a unitary whole.

The prizes at the show went to actual artists, which is not surprising (although UVU did give me their own whopper prize a few months ago with the fellowship for Dance Loops). The show, however, was a fabulous experience and – hopefully – the first first of many to follow.

[And, yes, I do/did own a beret. However, I don’t have any idea where it is. And I don’t have any black turtlenecks, so I guess I have to pass on the artist image.

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Hello World at RDT

Jacque (my wife the choreographer) and I were invited to create a dance/technology piece for Repertory Dance Theatre, one of Utah’s major modern dance companies, to be included in their fall show, Embark, on 04-06 October 2012. It was a great experience! We called it “Hello World,” after the computer programming exercise that always represents the first step when learning a new language. (See the Wikipedia entry on “Hello World” programs here.) I created the visuals that were projected during the performance (mostly in Processing) and did the sound design (lots of white noise involved).

Here are some previews/reviews:

In addition, two artistic directors who shall remain unnamed said it was the best use of projections that they had ever seen in a dance performance! (Secret to success: Don’t compete with the dancers.)

(Also, RDT published a study guide for teachers, in which all of the pieces in the show are described. The PDF is available here.)

I hope this is the first of many, many more things to come.

UPDATE: See the video in the post “Hello Word” video from RDT (now with audio!)”

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Dance Loops @ UVU

 

I’m on my way down to UVU (that is, Utah Valley University) for my first day of teaching there since I took a full-year sabbatical. The most exciting part of the whole thing is that I will (hopefully) be able to start working with students and my faculty collaborators (Nichole Ortega of UVU Dance and Jacque Bell – my wife – of U of U Theatre) on my big art project, Dance Loops. This is a big, interactive, multimedia performance piece based on work I did during my capstone course at the University of Utah. We’ll spend the year working on it (and a bunch of related pieces) and take it on the road in spring/summer 2013.

Here’s a YouTube video that I prepared when applying for a Presidential Fellowship for Faculty Scholarship at UVU. It’s UVU’s biggest faculty grant and, after quite the debacle with digital logistics, we got it!

And now we’ve got gear coming in: Ableton Live, Max for Live, Akai APC40/20 controllers, Novation Launchpads, Microsoft Kinects, Sony Bloggie 3D cameras, a pico projector and two 3D projectors, Final Cut Pro X, and so on. Whoo hoo! Now we just need to make something with all of that.

 

 

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Exposing My (Intellectual) Self

Homemade by Trisha Brown (1966)

[The above is not me. Rather, it is Trisha Brown performing her 1966 dance “Homemade” with a projector strapped to her back. Way ahead of her time.]

In an experiment with intellectual and creative transparency, I’m going to make public the starting-from-nothing draft of a collaborative art/research project that I will do at Utah Valley University this fall with Nichole Ortega, Jacque Bell, and a large group of students from across campus. (Actually, I have been planning and working on my part for a while; it’s the active collaboration part that won’t start until fall.)

The project is tentatively titled “Dance Loops.” In the shortest possible explanation, it’s an attempt to do with modern dance what Zoë Keating does with the cello. (See zoekeating.com or search on YouTube for more info.)

More specifically, what we’re trying to do is allow a pair of dancers to capture, modify, and project looped videos of their movement during a live performance. To do this, the two dancers use onstage controllers (perhaps Novation Launchpads) to trigger motion capture with their respective Microsoft Kinect depth cameras. Using both their controllers and bodily motion (i.e., gestural control through the Kinects, which will run through Ableton Live and/or Max/MSP/Jitter), the dancers can control the playback of both the music and video projections of their dancing. The dancers will accompanied by an offstage visualist who will program the controllers, load audio clips, and control a central projector.

Well, that’s the idea, anyhow.

This past Tuesday (01 May 2012) I submitted a grant application for this project to the UVU Scholarly Council. If you’re interested, you can see the application letter here. It’s a quick turnaround so I should know by the 15th if the grant gets funded. If yes, fabulous! If no, I’ll see how much of it I can get done without all of the hardware and software.

And so, this brings us back to the transparency issue. I have a few reasons to start the manuscript now and to make it public:

  • To help me focus my thoughts on this project (which is generally a hard thing for me to do)
  • To avoid having to hastily recreate the process at a later date (which has happened to me more than once)
  • To make sure I explore my technical and artistic alternatives and make justifiable choices for the final decisions
  • To get feedback on early ideas
  • And, if nothing else, to get some outside help on proofreading and MLA style, which, as an experimental psychologist, is still new and confusing to me

[Note: The paper currently does not use MLA style headings because I want to use the formatting shortcuts in Google Docs. However, help with citations is welcome at any time.]

And, perhaps for comic effect,

  • To let people see how often a tenured research professor copies and pastes from Wikipedia. (The answer is “constantly” when I’m just starting the project, although it may all be replaced by other resources at the end.)

So, I invite anyone and everyone to check on the project’s progress. Please feel free to comment on the document by selecting the relevant text and then going to “Insert > Comment” in the Google Docs menu. Any insight or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Just click on j.mp/dance-loops-manuscript

Thanks!

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