Art school poses a quotidian task: how to create engaging –well heck, let’s use it, transformative experiences through bodies. In other words:
I may soon tire of the word, but I like it these days. I realize that I am interested not only in the alchemy of bodies on stage, but also in the reshaping of my audience’s (individual) bodies. How can I move them, literally, and what is my purpose when I do.
A natural magic lives in the proscenium setting of western concert dance; when my audience settles in a dark theater, their tushes gently cushioned, they are transformed into a new world as performers look majestically over ticketed heads into the great beyond. And they are changed by the magic of performing bod(ies) in defiance of gravity: legs aloft, jumps prolonged. Oh, do I love the theater. But my current creative impulse lives in the realm of the house. (You know this term, friends, from “house lights,” “front of house.” The house is where the audience is.) And now that I am spending five hours a week in the Motion Lab (MOLA) at The Ohio State University, I realize intermedia in the house is my jam. And my continuing bread n’ butter. There lives my method of magic making. In the MOLA I research how I can mediate the selfhood of my audience through the selfhood of the performer. How can I transform your sense of reality of self through designing what happens to your body?
And luckily, I am honored to have just received the SFI grant from The Ohio State University towards designing an immersive theater experience. The project will at first eliminates the visual perception of audience members in favor of emphasizing the range of other senses: touch, smell, and hearing. Audience members will be limited to 12 people. Or possibly 1. If more, they’ll be prepped to have downloaded an mp3, and to bring their own mp3 player (e.g. smartphone) and ear buds. They’ll be instructed to lie down with their respective heads on pillows, to put on an eye mask, and to be open to instructions via the mp3 recording and through touch. I’m interested in choreographing an audience. This work will harness ludology principles (a term I recently learned from my colleague John Luna) to create guidelines for scripted choose-your-own-adventure interactions among audience members, and between the audience and the “performers.” Experiences might include but are not limited to being guided to reach for someone’s hand, feel a breeze (via a fan) and place themselves in another setting through their shaped imaginations.
Some of these idea have been shaped from reading Susan Kozel’s piece regarding her performance work in Telematic Dreaming. She uses the forum of the “Dance and Technology Zone” to discuss her perspective on the work through both the intimate lens of a performer. She also writes as a researcher in the psycho-physical experiences of digital technologies and its philosophical implications. She writes, “It becomes more and more difficult to sustain a clear distinction between truth and falsity […]” and I’m struck by this allowance of discussion about theater. Because sometime we see theater as trickery. To examine theater that poses the unreal versus the real, but when we’re in a space that changes our own sense of ourselves, the one thing in life we cling to most as real, trather than an absolutist statement about theater/truth. I am down with her ideas about VR generating not necessarily more reality or truth but rather new experiences of truth and falseness. I like the directorial challenge of nailing them to an algorithm. I dig that she’s pointing to how choreographers as space-makers can imbricate technology (here I’m talking about projection) to alter people’s sense of their own bodies. How can I change the “reality” experience of your body, of your physical cultural relationships. I concluded my notes on her writing with “I WANT TO MAKE THINGS LIKE THIS.” This is a phrase the concludes a number of my readings and intermedia viewings lately, and helps me fight the internal battles of seeking originality while honoring my attraction to others’ works.