Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day Seven - Where hypermedia stops being embalment fluid, and starts being organs

So earlier today i got an excellent question from Tony. He writes:

"Whats left over after the dance?
A decaying body.
So are you looking to embalm the body or add new orifices and organs?"

Excellent excellent question.
Today i was planning to go into a little more detail about some of the specific linking abilities of hypermedia - i'm going to use Tony's question to structure my exposition of the different possibilities. He raises an excellent point: on one hand, i seem to be arguing hypermedia as a means for education, preservation, and historical artifact-making - all functions that in some way strive to extend the shelf-life and provide proof of existence in some way of the piece being hypermedia-ed. On the other hand, so much of why hypermedia is important to me personally as an artist is the possibilities that it holds for transforming or re-programing the format and "rules" for dance making that we currently work within.

I had the realization this year (which my thesis advisor Rose Anne quickly agreed with) that the main aspect of the hypermedia that people were really having a problem with, really rallying against, was my use of it as opposed to the idea of it as a tool. I think largely because of that i have shied away from talking about my own personal desires of how the project would be used within my own work. I have talked to many people who are so against the things that I want to do with it that i still debate bringing them into my discussions - the thinking being that it may be more prudent for the advancement of hypermedia as a form to first establish it and then talk about how i specifically want to use it. However, i think Tony (perhaps because he knows me and we've talked about my goals for this) is right in seeing that there's more to my argument than i've been presenting so far. Since i think i've outlined the hypermedia's ability to embalm pretty clearly, today i'll talk about how it can add organs and orifices.

So first, a note and disclaimer that i find to be VERY IMPORTANT:
I do not see the idea of and theory for the Hypermedia system as it pertains to modern dance as in any way related to my intended use of it. Do you understand? The Hypermedia is a tool (a loose theory, really) that anyone can customize
and use for their own needs. The Hypermedia is a response to a perceived need, and therefore can be used to almost any end by anyone who perceives the same needs that i do, or be molded to address different ones. I urge you (gentle reader) to not let the way i am interested in using the hypermedia affect your understanding or opinion of it as a tool. They are two separate things, although, since i am both the builder and the user, how much is certainly up for debate.

Well then, let's move onward.
Where when and how does hypermedia stop being an artifact and start becoming an evolution of dance making and presenting as we know it? When does it become the new organs and orifices that Tony speaks of? For me, hypermedia takes on the organ role in two different categories: the way it is seen/understood, and the way it is made.

How does hypermedia change the way dance is seen? Well, clearly, looking at dance through a screen, mouse in hand, is much different than sitting as an audience member in a black box theater. However, let's look at it through my ideal situation/timeline: the viewer goes to see a show, is interested in the piece they see, buys or is given the hypermedia, learns more about the piece, wants to/goes to see it again, and the last two repeat until the viewer is satisfied or deceased.

  • The clearest difference for me from our system of dance-viewing today seems to be an ability to study the dance. Although some ways certainly do exist - such as labonotation or written accounts - i am hard pressed to come up with another method of study that i feel accurately accounts for all parts of the piece.
  • Additionally, hypermedia shows as much of the process as the final product, creating less of a hierarchy between process and product. In extreme cases, this might even render the process as much more important than the product. In hypermedia, process becomes just as important as the final product of performance, and the performance itself is just another step of a process that continues both before and after it.
  • Excitingly, (and so here's the new stuff i was originally planning on blogging about today) hypermedia also leads to a possibility of non-linear viewing of the dance. For example, if a viewer clicked on the movement that we called "Venn diagram spots", they would come to discover (if they hadn't intuited it from the piece itself) that one of the big themes or ideas we were working with was Wordsworth's idea of "spots of time", specifically how Joyce centers on it in Ulysses.

    If this idea appealed to them , they could choose to deviate from the traditional linear way of looking at a dance, and instead follow this one thread thematically through the piece, looking at each moment the idea of spots of time came into play. While there's not a great way to demonstrate this without the actual hypermedia technology, you can see the overview for the Venn Diagram Spots movement here:

    The important part of the idea (and the part that to me seems like a true evolution of the form) is this: the dance is no long "stable". Sure, the original piece will always be The Piece, but the audience is then free to investigate it (and in so doing, re create it) for themselves. This is not a new idea by any means (check out this site if you want to play around with it - it's fun!) but i think that giving the audience to do this thematically, is. In this way, dance gets a new organ.
    And, let's be clear, this doesn't have to be only thematic. Narrative, anatomical, dancer-based, chord-structure-following, any navigation is possible. THIS IS BIG! Follow one movement through the entire piece and see how it links into other pieces that the choreographer has made. Trace all the movements in the piece in which the dancers must do something that is physically hard on their bodies, trace all the anatomical inversions, trace the use of letters, trace all the points where eye contact is important. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.
So that's all well and good, but for me that's the tip of the iceberg. These (to me) all seem like "normal" functions that a hypermedia could choose to have; this is not my additional proposed use of the hypermedia that has, what feels like in my small world, so many people, up in arms. This has gotten pretty long, so i think i'll wait and discuss part two of this - how hypermedia could change the way pieces are made - tomorrow.

For your dreams tonight though, one unconditional statement:
In making this piece (the What's Left Over After) with the aid of a hypermedia, I have:

discovered, talked, listened, learned, produced, argued, made, and revised more
worked harder
made better
and enjoyed the process and product more

than any piece i have ever made before, and than any piece i can imagine making without hypermedia.
The question are, it seems
  1. does "more" constitute a new organ
  2. how?
  3. what does this mean for the future of my dances?
  4. does that mean anything for anyone other than me?
Answers (or at least more questions) tomorrow.

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