encounterBLOG // 24 November, Saturday

glow in the dark

2 performances by dancers of the Chunky Move Company charmed our audiences last night, one could sense the delight among the people who left the auditorium — these works were altogether successful in their apparent marriage of choreography and animated projection (interactive visuals). let us look at the marriage and at the animations.

pictures: (the company is very strict, no more than 2 stills are permitted)

glow_sm2.jpg

video: no video documentation allowed.

well, now you will just have to believe me, and what I try to evoke here from the marriage in the dark. unfortunately, i couldn’t see everything either, but at least I could deduce certain things from what i was able to glimpse and hear, from amongst the shadows and the contours, the splinters and splatters, blotches and lines and dots.

on the picture – the first one of the two permitted – you can also clearly recognize that we are dealing here with lovers, with a couple – or rather, with an affair between human actress and her data-double generated from an intelligent vision system (in this case by the software Kalypso). hmm, it is an auto-erotic affair, then, as the other in the couple is neither another woman nor another man. only a shadow or, worse, abstractions of shadows. lines, dots, countours, white and black color stripes, blotches, drips, sort of the whole compendium of the modern day painter with her palette.

(Excursus): Kalypso

Ca¬∑lyp¬∑so (k?-l?p’s?)

n.

1 Greek Mythology. A sea nymph who delayed Odysseus on her island, Ogygia, for seven years.
2 The satellite of Saturn that is eighth in distance from the planet.

Calypso, in Greek myth, a goddess or nymph, the daughter of Atlas, who lived on the island of Ogygia where Odysseus was washed up after being shipwrecked. She kept him there for seven years and promised to make him immortal if he would be her husband, but Zeus sent Hermes to order her to release him, and she gave him materials to make his own boat. Some stories make her the mother by Odysseus of Auson, the eponymous ancestor of the Ausonians of Italy.

well, actually, Calypso really refers to a Caribbean music and rhythm (dance) style, popular on the islands where one also dances to the Rumba, Meringue, Zarabanda, Chacona, Fandango, Habanera. the Calypso belongs to this group of non-secret, non-cultic dances derived from African traditions.

so there we go, now we can look at the Australian dance company and their German software engineer Frieder Weiss under some new lights, linking the afro-caribbean roots of the software with the visual aesthetic of the interactive performance (influenced, perhaps, by Kara Walker’s extraordinary cut-paper silhouettes, recently shown in a retrospective of Walker’s oeuvre at the Walker Art Center and the Whitney Museum [“Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love”].

and we can now also connect interactive art’s minimalist philosophy (the lines/stripes and black and white geometries owe much to Daniel Buren and the abstract geometric expressionism of the early American minimalists) with the strangely erotic seductiveness of its japanese-style anim√© — the abstract calligraphies and dark blotches, drops of blood or wet fluids of ecstatic floorwork — glow literally burns in the dark and breathes life into the mathematics of the camera-vision analysis that underlies the dance.

Glow_stripes.jpg

the first dancer last night, Sara Black, is dressed in white, with kneepads, and slides onto the dark floor which is actually a screen, again we look down upon the mediaskin, light and video images flow onto the dancer who mostly works floor-bound, close to the skin, tilting and twisting, tumbling and stretching, rolling over and under, contorting legs and arms into ever new figurations of abstract movement, unknown to us or unknowable, as we do not see her motivation we can only sense her being in love, her desire, and her rhythmic pounding of the invisible lover.

this is perfect love making, as each movement and each tilting of the body generates an animated calligraphic gesture, a response, an echo, a whispered word from the shadowy lover. half-way through, Black becomes quite audible in her ecstasy, she slides and slides, spinning around, stuttering words of love in unknown dialects of the possessed dervishes – suddenly all is white, and each gentle motion of her arm and elbow draws the purple outlines of her coffin below her, she literally draws her envelope, her lover’s embrace, the draculan sucker who will climb into the coffee with her when the sun rises, now it is night again, we are in the dark, only thin stripes flicker across, lines like knives stab and cut, and the dancer continues, happily enslaved to pulsating underground. the electronic music vibrates in our ears, but our hearts melt, we are swayed to stay on this island, like Odysseys, drawn to the mimicry of perfect re-unions.

near the end, the dancer jumps up, and lets herself fall, again and again, creating powerful dark blotches on the white floor. her body leaves the silent black blob of a silhouette on the surface, and as she leaves and retreats to the side, anxiously, she separates from the loved silhouette, but then the dark blobs slowly begin to move, follow her across the space, and finally catch up with her. she is reunited with the impression of her body, embraced by digital projection, silhouette and person become one again. distance and unity has been calculated and recalibrated.

(Excursus 2)

perhaps Now is the time to

do

away with

pictures of

things

which encourage

our

pleasure

centers

before

trying to

destroy

them

(Kara Walker, “American Primitives”, 2001)

the second dancer, Kristy Ayre, is taller and faster, she captivates our empathy even more as we try to follow her into the union with the inter-actional dynamic calligraphies, the silhouettes under her body, the lines inside. after a while, when Ayre begins to sound the unintelligible words of the goddess of camouflage (Kalypso means, translated, “the camouflager, the hider”), we stare into the dark and no longer recognize a difference between flesh and digital, woman and projection, the woman is the projection and the technoid anim√© we assumed we were watching is nothing but a fantasy of our erotic desire – we crave being united (narcissistically) with our own image of our loved self. we always look for the silhouette to catch up with us and embrace us intimately.

johannes birringer



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