Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day Three - Ta Da! Hypermedia!

So! Here we go.
Today i'm going to outline actual features possible (and thus far designed) in a hypermedia system, as well as detail what my specific hypermedia that i was building as my thesis project this year entailed. I'll also try to give my reasoning for why these specific features are useful/important. I urge you (especially if you're someone who disagrees with my theory or feeling of need for the hypermedia) to look at what i'm describing just as a tool for dance. Is it interesting? Could it be helpful? I'm not trying to overthrow dance here, just invent something new.

With that being said, possible components of hypermedia system include:
  • Footage of all performances of the piece from a stationary far shot still tripod (as to maintain a historical record of the performance(s).)
  • A dancefilm version of the piece at hand. Because the aforementioned wide still shot captures so little of what the actual performance is like (many people, including myself, find these types of recordings uninteresting and hard to watch) it becomes necessary to create a version specifically made for the screen. This version could be as literal (in terms of being a representation of the original piece) or take as many liberties as the artist desires. Doug Fox has been leading an interesting discussion of what makes dance videos (specifically internet videos) "successful" on his Great Dance blog here.
  • Footage from rehearsals, showings, studio time, and any other relevant work on the piece. The hypermedia could use footage as a historical record (including ALL footage that has been captured over the course of making the piece) or just specific clips that the artist deems "important" or "interesting" (to be used to direct the viewers attention to certain points in the dance and enrich their knowledge of the process). Additionally, the way that the artist chooses to gather this footage is up to them. While one artist might deem it important to have every rehearsal fully captured, others might only want to record the phrases that have been made or the sections that have been worked on - opting for more of the "final product" of each rehearsal than the rehearsal itself.
  • Footage from collaborators working on their respective aspects of the piece. For example, a composer in his studio working out specific parts of the music, or a lighting designer hanging specific lights for the piece.
  • Interviews (and lots of 'em). While interviews of every and anyone could be included in the hypermedia here are some obvious options: the dancers, the choreographer, the collaborators, the tech crew, anyone who has seen the piece before it has been performed/while it was being made, etc. It is important to note that what the interviews cover, the questions that the persons being interviewed are being asked is not really the most important factor here, insomuch as they are represented and have a voice on the hypermedia. While it might be important for one artist to know what meanings and interpretations interviewees attributed to certain movements, it might be important to a different artist to hear the dancers understanding of their anatomy while dancing, or the ways in which they had to physically prepare for the piece. Yet another might be interested in the social interactions (and possible drama - a la the style of reality shows) that formed in the making of the piece. Another could ask interviewees to place it within their understanding of modern dance and art, and draw parallels to other works. Do you see? It's not what is being asked, but that asking and recording is occurring.
  • Some version of an audience talk-back system can also be included. There are a few (a million) different ways to accomplish this, but again, the representation of their voice is more important than the specific format of the talkback or the questions posed. One method (which is what i ended up using for my project) is setting up a computer interface. As audience members leave the performance, they can go over to a table of computers, each of which could have a different question for the audience member to consider and answer (or no question at all). Audience members can then record short videos of themselves either answering these prompts or just saying what they have to say. Another option would be to have a camera person going around the lobby post- (and maybe even pre-) performance, asking audience members for feedback. As i said - a million different formats, tones, and questions possible. What works best for YOUR piece? Additionally, the artist could decide whether s/he wanted just initial reactions from audience members, or if they wanted to later follow up with some or all of them and ask further questions.
  • Footage of other dances, choreographed both by the and other artists, that the artist sees as in conversation with the piece at hand, influential to the piece's creation or sensibility, or somehow important to an understanding of this piece. These would all of course need to be obtained with express permission of the respective choreographers. Additionally, the hypermedia would be a platform through which choreographers could include films or performance footage of their previous work that they saw as related to the piece at hand.
  • Footage, Files, Images, and multiple other formats of any type of other art that the artist (or for that matter, anyone interviewed) sees as relating to or important for the piece at hand.
  • Artifacts such as journal pages, blog posts, news reports, newspaper clippings, photos, sketches, and fabric samples to name a few that give insight to any part of the piece and its creation.
  • Notation of the piece's viscera/choreography. This could be anything ranging from Labon or LifeForms to a choreographer simply recording a verbal account of what is happening in each movement. Through diagrams, film, animation, or more, choreographers would have the option to somehow historically preserve the movement of the piece.
  • Hypermedia could also develop interaction between the audience and the piece via instructional videos or manuals. These could be as literal as a dancer teaching the steps to a certain phrase for the viewer to follow along with, or more creative and open ended for the viewer - for example leading them through an exercise that the dancers used during the process of making the piece to make their own original movement.
There are millions upon millions more ideas and modifications for what could go into a hypermedia system. This of course is the main feature of hypermedia - each system is modular, customizable, and built to fit the piece at hand. So, for example, if you're me, you might want to make a system that focuses more on the narrative and meanings at play within the piece - the subviscera - and base your system more on the interviews and artifacts, not including notation of the actual movement. If you care more about the physical movement of the piece - the viscera - you might make a system that focuses mainly on notation and instructional video, opting to have little to no discussion of "meaning" in the system. If you want to display that everyone has a voice within the process, you might strive to represent as many different views as possible. If you want to keep the precess a secret (well...first off, you might not opt to pursue hypermedia, BUT if it did intrigue you) you could only include the film of the piece and audience reactions. Bill T. Jones can add (the incredibly moving) documentary footage of his work with terminally ill patients, Merce Cunningham can insert info about his work with Cage, and Balanchine can show diagrams of amazing spatial patterns.
See kids, something for everyone!!!

These are the BASICS. This is generation one. Hypermedia will and must evolve as time passes, and must incorporate new functions, facets, and revisions. These aspects are the ones that i see as necessary and obvious in terms of my invention of them, but i welcome more and more as people begin to develop an interest in having systems made for them. The point is not for me to propagate my own views over and over again, but to present a new option for choreographers to show their work.

A note for today: I was planning to also breifly blog about the specifics of my system today, and then post samples of each category tomorrow, but i've been offered two interviews for jobs in NYC, so i'm hopping on the train from Union Station in just a few hours and booking it up to the city. I'll do my best to post tomorrow, but I won't have my hard drive with me, so i'm going to blog about my system tomorrow, and then post samples on Friday.
As always, thanks for checking it out, and keep the comments coming!

6 comments:

Jeremy said...

"Bill T. Jones can add (the incredibly moving) documentary footage of his work with terminally ill patients, Merce Cunningham can insert info about his work with Cage, and Balanchine can show diagrams of amazing spatial patterns.
See kids, something for everyone!!!"

1. Bill T. Jones made a documentary. How is the documentary not enough? I do however think of the examples used a documentary is most similar to what you are doing and so I could possibly, see Bill T. Jones, possibly, or someone like him using hypermedia to convey the things he did in his documentary. Although I wonder why he wouldn't just leave it as a documentary.

2.Cunningham worked with cage in the way that he did to create a certain result. The result was the dance piece. That was his goal and that was what was important to him. The work. Which is a specimen in itself and does not require background information on how it was created. The piece was about whatever the piece was about, it was not about cunningham working with cage. That feels like a huge missinterpretation to me.

It does not appear to me that he worked with cage in the way that he did in order to have people see the dance and then afterwards go explain how he worked. Do you see the backwardness of this?

3.If Balanchine's work is the spatial patterns, which in part it is, then why would he want you to see a diagram of the work instead of the work itself. This is nonsense. Give someone a dvd of balanchine's work and they can watch it as many times as they like and they will see the spatial patterns. Do you see the backwards logic of this as well? The spatial patterns are part of a whole? They are not made as an individual thing. They are made to be a dance. Which involves movement and dancers. What would balanchine want to remove the spatial arrangements he made for? It's just not his purpose.
Of course for notation purposes this makes sense. It could show all different ways of notating it and then be shown to someone. "Learn Ballanchine in 2 hours!" You could have a clip of the notation being shown just for a half an hour. The person learning the dance could stare at that for the half hour. The rest of the time you would have each person doing their part of the piece individually. (hopefully its a small piece!). Each movement would be shown repeated 3 times and then an accumulation of all the previous movements. See! You could learn Ballanchine just like that! And of course at the end you could watch the full piece, (also included) and daydream of what you would be doing if you were actually a NYCB dancer and not some 12 year old girl, who has no friends and stands around in her pink tutu watching hypermedia.

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

Okay.
So for all of these examples, i meant to highlight something unique and interesting in these specific choreographers works (something that they are "known for", as to use examples that we already know) NOT encompas the POINT or MEANING of their work. Do you see?

I don't mean to suggest that Cunningham/Cage wanted people to go back and try to "figure out" the work after seeing it, but i do mean to suggest that understanding the scores and methods behind the piece (or other pieces that they had done) might greatly enhance someone's veiwing of the piece, by giving them a greater context within which to veiw the dance. Now, clearly, i'm not holding a gun to Merce's head, or a knife to Cage's throat. If someone wants part (or all) of the process to remain "secret", i'm by no means telling them that they SHOULD be engaging with this process of working.

BUT i think that it bings up an interesting point - i believe that choreogrpahers who would be using hypermedia (such as myself) would already have a desire to aproach dancemaking in a different way than we've traditionally done. Again: my suggestion (which i know you don't agree with, and DO understand why) of making pieces that need to be watched/studied/watched/studied/watched/studdied etc. to be enjoyed. It's just a different way of thinking about what "the piece" is. Maybe for one person, it's having their audience member sit and be transformed by the strangeness and abstraction - the NOT realness or verbalizable - of the performance. For me it's about creating an epic system that the veiwer can engage to enhance their own participation as a veiwer.

Let me also respond to the Bill T. Jones comment, becuase it is a good point: why just make the documentary? I think, in seeing that film (that, let me point out, he did not make, but was made about his company) my reaction (which i still stand by) was that it was worlds more interesting, moving, and thought provoking than the actual piece ("Still Here"). While the documentary was great on its own, the thing that seemed to be absent (which i maintain could be very interesting) would be something connecting the two - some device (for the moment let's call it hypermedia, even though it could be anything) that would show footage from the workshops and with the participants (as the documentary did) and ALSO from the piece and his company's rehearsals and performances, bridging more of the gap of how one thing transformed into the other. Does that take some of the "mystery" away from the piece? Absoulutly. But i think that it would also make it more interesting (as a piece) to watch, in addition to being engaging to watch and investigate as a SEPERATE entity and artifact.

But you're saying "But if the piece isn't good, the piece isn't good, and no one wants to see it." and Vivi is saying "Then the Hypermedia is just a tool for choreogrpahers to apologize for bad art". Again, for me its a different understanding - a reinvisioning - of the structure of making and presenting dances. If the piece isn't good, the piece isn't good. No hypermedia can make a bad piece enjoyable. BUT if the option of hypermedia is presented as an alternative to the method of presentation now (which is almost solely performance based, with a youtube clip thrown up here and there) then i think the way artists understand making dances starts to shift (only for those that want to).

Last (and i'm sorry that these are so long, but you bring up some great points, and i want to get to all of them), i think most of the comments that i'm getting from you, laurel, vivi, etc. tend to brush over the fact that a LARGE part of the hypermedia is to intice non-dance-people, people who may have never seen a show before, into the audience, and give them a foundation for understanding how to understand a dance piece. For you, as an insider to the dance world and as an artist yes, it might feel silly to be offered the chance to "learn a phrase", but how would you be able to watch modern dance if you had never taken a dance class before? Don't you think it might be vastly different? Don't you think something might be gained by letting someone move a little and expereince what the dance FEELS like while they sort out their expereince of watching it? I'm not sure if you think so, but i certainly do.

Jeremy said...

"For you, as an insider to the dance world and as an artist yes, it might feel silly to be offered the chance to "learn a phrase", but how would you be able to watch modern dance if you had never taken a dance class before? Don't you think it might be vastly different? Don't you think something might be gained by letting someone move a little and expereince what the dance FEELS like while they sort out their expereince of watching it? I'm not sure if you think so, but i certainly do."
I learned how to appreciate dance through dance history and then through seeing many many pieces after that. I don't know if I really buy that a person gets a dance explained to them and then all of a sudden understands it. If a person wants to understand dance, they can watch a lot of dance. I don't really think they will otherwise, unless you talk them through it, which you now have clarified you don't intend to do (in your last response to mine when you said there would be many perspectives).

"So for all of these examples, i meant to highlight something unique and interesting in these specific choreographers works (something that they are "known for", as to use examples that we already know) NOT encompas the POINT or MEANING of their work. Do you see?" You really missed my point here. I'm not just talking about cunningham and ballanchine. When I talked about cunningham, I am asking how is knowing process relevant to what merce presents? What he presents he presents for a reason. As for most choreographers. Ashley may or may not show you process in her work. If she chooses not too she does so because it is irrelevant to the piece. If she wanted to she could've, but she chose not too on purpose. As clearly does Merce. So it is really irrelevant is my point.

I don't want to go throug hthe ballanchine example again, except to say the spatial patterns are present. They are there. They don't need another form of presentation. If a person can't see that the people on stage are moving through space in a certain way, they are blind. Or at least near sighted. Say goes for contentless movement. Why does movement need to be reshown in a different way. Why not just sell dvds and let someone watch it 3 or 4 times?

Sarah A.O. Rosner/The AOMC said...

I think my point is that yes, it (structures of creation, spatial patters, etc - PROCESS) is relevant to what merce (or anyone) presents, becuase it is an inherent part of the piece. Whether or not the artist decides to show it to the audiece, it exists. So why not reimagine dance with the expectation that the audience can see that part of it too? I think that, while maybe this information isn't relevant or important WITHIN THE PIECE or as part of a performance, it's relevant historically and analytically when "studying" for lack of a better word, these pieces.
As i said, not for everyone.

I think say what i'm getting at exactly, but you miss what i'm suggesting:

"if a person wants to understand dance, they can watch a lot of dance. I don't really think they will otherwise, unless you talk them through it..."
I think that showing multiple perspectives and vantage points IS a way to "talk them through it" but in doing so, maintin the veiw that "there is no wrong way to see a dance." I can walk them through it my way (meaning and narrative) and someone else can walk them through it their way (an anatomical analysis) and someone else can walk them through it yet another way (by comparing it to other historical pieces). These "walk throughs" do give the viewer perspective, insight, and knowladge with which to bolster their understanding of dance, but also remind the veiwer that each way of understanding is simply another opinion, all of them interconnecting and contradicting.

I do agree that spatial patterns are spatial patterns are spatial patterns, but i think that it can be interesting to see them written out (so you can see them in a consise format, multiple at a time) and compared across pieces or even choreogrpahers. In "Champions of Dance: Origonal #1" when we did the ballanchine chain, it was (to us) an obvious reference. But in a supposed hypermedia of ashley's work, one might be able to look at that pattern, and discover what it is in reference to, as well as compare it to some of his actual patterns.

Jeremy said...

@ the first part:
It is relevant sarah, but not in viewing the final product. We are already at a point where an artist can choose to show or not show their process through the presentation of the work, but once again the point of hte process is to get at a final product. So while it is relevant to the choreographers and dancers and may be interesting to an audience as well. It is not relevant in the viewing of a final product. Do you understand what I'm saying? we are talking about different kinds of relevance.

@spacial patterns. you got what I was saying, but once again: interesting? sure. neccessary? nope. It's just like a bonus goodie. Nothing wrong with bonus goodies, but I don't think your goal is to make a hypermedia of bonus goodies.

"I can walk them through it my way (meaning and narrative) and someone else can walk them through it their way (an anatomical analysis) and someone else can walk them through it yet another way (by comparing it to other historical pieces). These "walk throughs" do give the viewer perspective, insight, and knowladge with which to bolster their understanding of dance, but also remind the veiwer that each way of understanding is simply another opinion, all of them interconnecting and contradicting." I don't see how any of those would be contradicting? It seems like you are back on the straight arrow here.

Doug Fox said...

Hi Sarah,

This is excellent series. I'll definitely add my two cents early next week when I get back from DC.

I just added your blogs to blogroll on Great Dance.

Doug Fox
Great Dance