Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hypermedia Day Ten - Another Angle

So, right before we left for Paris i was reading a review of a film exhibit (which i plan on seeing after i'm back in DC) that's on display right now at the Hirshorn. The article, while it detailed a few of the films on display in particular, mostly focused on the idea that none of the abstract aspects of the exhibit could really be described in the review, only the basic facts of what happens in each film - that in itself being near pointless.

The article made an argument for the theory that all the concrete aspects of a piece of art (in this case, a film, so: the characters, plot, visuals, etc.) are only there to give the veiwer's consious mind something to attach to and consiously analyze so that their subconsious mind can drift among the abstract elements of the artwork. Now, this certianly isn't what i would present as my primary understanding of what the veiwing-of-art process is, but the more i think about it, the more i can at least connect with this theory's practical applications.

So let's use it to look at dance, yes?

It seems that if we accept this this "theory of watching" (let's call it) to be true, that then the question of "how do we present our work in the best way possible" shifts from being about the concrete specifics of the piece to being about degree of those specifics.

The question then becomes,

"How much concrete information does and audience need (want?) to best access the abstract details of the piece. What is the ratio?"

Now, i think it's important here to distinguish that (in this context) providing more information about the concrete details of the piece isn't an attempt to "explain" the piece, only provide them with more of the "superficial" details so that they (aha!) can connect with the piece's abstractions. So again, the question becomes the amount.

Is it enough for our audience to simply "see what they see?" (as seems to be prefered by many of my fellow choreographers from SLC). For even in that they will undoubtably see more than we could hope to "tell" them. Or is it more effective for our audience to be thinking about the formal elements of the piece (as i felt that i was being led to do watching a piece such as Sara Rudner's last work)? Is additional process-oriented and relational information about the work helpful (for example, from my piece/hyperemdia, that i saw the "venn diagrams" duet as both men being the same person and Rowan saw it as brothers and MCF saw it as lovers) or is it just too much information?

Regardless, i think it's an interesting way to analyze this question. To me, the most important thing to any anwser (whether you're a formalist, "see-what-they-see-ist", hypermedist, or anything in between) is the follow up question:

"if that's the best way to access the abstract, then is the way that we are making and presenting dances supportive of that? If not, what needs to change?"


Jeremy said...

Obviously better words than my own, but this is very much something I have been trying to communicate to you.
What I think this person missed is that all the "superficial" aspects of the dance are not simply for the viewer to access the dance. A person cannot choreograph an abstraction. It is their organization of the "superficial" (you can tell I am not delighted with that word in this scenario) that is the dance. (just to add on for my own sake, I view the abstract part being the expression of the choreographers aesthetic preferences. Is that obvious?)
In a sense I think you do understand all this. And if you wish to view hypermedia as an additional superficial aspect, which I think you are correct in doing, how is it any different than Janet's "taste the rainbow" speech following her piece first semester for the student dance show?

Jeremy said...

I need to add on because I just reread your post. You talk about the degree of concreteness. If you take my understanding of the quote, where I define what is concrete and what is abstract in the dance, then there is no level of concreteness. Nor is their any level of abstraction. There is concrete and their is abstract. Both are existent in the same amount in any dance. It is not something you control, it is just the form of an art creation. Even the very narrative form of theatre is abstract in that it expresses the director's understanding of what theatre should be and how he wants the story to be understood.
What you can control is the emphasis put on the abstraction or the emphasis put on the concrete. And I think for the most part we all prefer the emphasis to be put on the abstract, but I will let you judge yourself. In a good piece of theatre there are still things that you understand that are outside the spoken lines and facial expression. There is an assumed depth to characters and their past relationships that we are expected to make assumptions about. Sometimes these assumptions do not have physical specifics, but are more of a vague but presumably accurate understanding. This is where I think the focus becomes on the abstraction. In good theatre I haven't been told exactly what the character is thinking or exactly how the situations are effecting them, but I find myself with a great deal of empathy for them. I can probably verbalize what I am empathizing with, but that is only because we humans spend so much time creating a vocabulary for our complex emotions and have experienced situations the characters are going through. (We probably sympathize more than we empathize, although me way feel we are doing the latter). Anyways, that vocabulary to me (remember the argument about "suffering") is altogether insufficient, but that's not very relevant.
Anyways, if the show is blunt and there everything that is going on with the character is put into the lines and into their facial expressions, the show is going to be boring. You're not going to like it. If you think someone is an awful actor, it is generally (but not always) because they just give you every thing and don't leave room for you to be swallowed into them.
And this is hypermedia to me. It is an attempt to incorporate the abstract more into the concrete. Your argument would be that most dance pieces have not enough emphasis on the concrete and therefore leave a viewer overwhelmed. Such is the case for your father when watching most dance in the past (though not any more). Such is the case for me when I watched Jeanine Durning's performance project. I don't necessarily disagree that this is the case. But a lot of the time it is the opposite. No one was confused watching your last piece. I assume no one felt this way watching Jules' piece or Belinda's piece or Sarah's piece. And for most people I think it was the essence of the piece, the abstraction, that involved people and made them very enjoyable pieces.
Anyways, to me hypermedia is overkill. It is a creator of blunt actors.

Also just want to ask, so we can talk about it later, what do you mean by a complex piece? was just thinking about that and wanted to know if you were still attached to the concept.

Tony said...

Dance is pretty abstract even when its super-facial. Its like hey whats that move all about? Nobody knows.

The hypermedia idea is abstract and yet to fully manifest itself as a super-face.

a super-face is meant to connote the following

1)the face from "Don't Look At Me Right Now"
2)a really great dance media interface
3)a face with extra orifices

...and much more

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

tony first, then jeremy:
Tony, i'm interested still interested in the extra orifices.

I'm taking "extra orifices" to mean: new/different facets or functions of how we see/make/think about/experience dance. Am i following you, or totally off key?

I think hypermedia has "new orifices" in that it offers non-linear making/veiwing of dance (, a magnified/preserved creating process, the choreogrpher access to more information, and a new way of letting the audience and choregorapher interconnect. BUT. The real evolution is if we actually make this a tool, and then some other artist takes it and USES it - MAKES specifically in that mind set to create something altogether new.

Yes, it is still VERY abstract. Sadly, i really think i need to make it before it can get much more concrete. Money money money money money. And oh, also a job and making my own work and all of that. Not enought time in the day. So this is how (on the amazing Greek Islands) i bide my time. We'll see.

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

Hm Jeremy.
First of all - i was most definitly thinking about you writing this post, and i don't think i could have come to my understanding now about the role of abstraction, so thank you for what you've been communicating all this time while i try to place it in my head. For the record, i think "superficial" is a horrible term too, i just didn't have a better one ready.

I'm not sure i understand you, but i'm going to take a stab at it anyways. You:

"And this is hypermedia to me. It is an attempt to incorporate the abstract more into the concrete. Your argument would be that most dance pieces have not enough emphasis on the concrete and therefore leave a viewer overwhelmed."

Me: I think my point was that hypermedia ISN'T an attempt to explain or incorperate the abstract. I additionally feel that there is generally a pretty good ballence between concrete and abstract in most pieces.

My suggestion is that, while the emphasis exists, people still are at a loss of how to best understand (call it whatever you want: look at, absorb, mull over...) those concrete aspects of the work. My suggestion is that, by guiding them through the formalities of how we look at works (just as we have been through every comp class we've ever taken) we allow them to have a deeper connection to the concrete, and therefore more freedom in the abstract as well. I do not see this as "engineering" their view or will, simply giving them more context - teaching maybe.

I can't speak for mine, but i would guess that some people WERE confused watching some of the pieces you mentioned. Not becuase they didn't know how to watch and not becuase there was some language barrier between performer and veiwer and choreogrpaher, but becuase the didn't have the basic information that we have when we watch dances.

Maybe it's too forward to say, but i'll say it anyways: once audiences have the "in" of being able to quickly identify things like structure, timing, spacial arangement, etc, they'll reallize that what they've also intuited while their mind is busy "analyzing" the piece is just as important. It doesn't take the whole piece to think about these things, so obviously the veiwer will start to think on their own. Maybe, just maybe, they'll feel like they "get it".

Jeremy said...

You didn't understand me. Hypermedia is an extension of the dance (orifice? is that what you guys have been saying?). All physicalized parts of the dance are the "concrete" or "superficial" as I see it. And all the physicalized as I see it are to give body to the abstract. If you buy that, you need to see the comparison to Janet's piece. I said it twice! If you don't buy that, you don't agree with me.

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

i'm not following you jeremy.
i'm not trying to be obtuse, but i really don't understand.

What i hear you saying (and in comparing it to the taste the Rainbow speech - which for the record i never saw, only heard about)is that hypermedia can only serve as "an extension" of the dance, insomuch as that it attempts to over-explain what is going on to the veiwier, and in so doing, negates their own expereince. Is this what you're saying?

I would understand saying that the rainbow speech and my speech at the end of "$ in the bank" are the same thing, but i'm not sure how Hypermedia is the same as both of those.

I'll say it again:
Hypermedia does not explain anything. By giving the veiwer a type of study guide/extension of the piece that gives information about the concrete aspects of the piece (structures utilized, specific timing notes, context and origin of the material, insight from dancers/choreogrpaher/audience) the hypermedia only presents information from which the veiwer can assemble their own opinions and experience. While they mull over these "concrete" aspects of the piece, they are free to connect with the "abstract" parts of the piece, which (to me) might be more meaning driven or emotive, rather than the "aesthetic preference" that you point to (which to me seems perfectly concrete.) But i believe i've said this before.

See how i'm not following you? Want to re-state or just call it a day on this one?

Jeremy said...

No. You definitely got me this time. We just don't agree.

As for your comment about aesthetic preference/meaning/emotion, I include the latter two when talking about aesthetic preference. Just so we have an objective vocabulary.

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

thanks for clarifying!