Friday, July 03, 2009

New Work: Twinning Machine

Been playing with Processing (a java-based programming environment) over the last three(?) or so months. Around April, I stumbled on the videobuffer class written by a programmer who goes by the name of Rrrufusss, and started modding it for fun. The Twinning Machine is the first useful tool to be spun off by my experiments. I called it a video delay at first, but I realize now that the ability to select and change the delay time on the fly by changing the position of a virtual tapehead (a function that underlies EVERYTHING that I make the program do in this video) makes it more accurate to describe it as a sampler with a memory that is being constantly updated. Below is most of the performance, titled Is It Time To...Or Do I Have To, choreographed and danced by Rhosam Prudenciado. I apologize to Sam for leaving out a minute or so of the intro where he began offscreen and the video screen was dark, (a choice which I really liked) but this is a capture of what the Twinning Machine saw, and it didn't see him during that intro.

I'd like to thank Paul Morales -- the current artistic director of Ballet Philippines -- for initiating the collaboration and introducing me to Sam, a young dancer who wound up, after a very short period of rehearsal, displaying deep insight into what he and the machine might do for each other. It took me a while to figure this out, as I had been thinking of the program as a video delay, and was looking for a dancer to dance a canon; that is, to use the video delay the way U2 guitarist Edge uses sonic delays. When I gave up looking for this and gave myself permission to start programming functions in the program that would enable me to modify Sam's performance on the fly, the collaboration really took off.

"Collaboration" is a sexy word in Manila these days, but the word is inaccurate in most cases of video+dance, I think. Sound designer Randy Thom points out that for two elements to truly collaborate, both elements have to have the power to effect changes in the other, and in most video+dance "collaborations," video accomodates to the dancer/choreographer while the dancer/choreographer never accomodates to the video. In my more charitable/less vicious moments, I describe video in these instances as acting as window dressing. When Paul asked me if I might do "something technical" with a dancer for Wifi Body (the independent dance festival where the above performance was shown) I told him that I was only willing to do it if the technology would be addressed as a dance problem. In effect, I told him, I wanted to become an obstacle to conventional dancing.

Sam proved to be a quick study, and a very cooperative one. A particular incident comes to mind that illustrates what it means to collaborate and to be a dance obstacle. Sam asked if I could effect a very long delay, so that his image could be active while he basically stood still in the corner. I did as he asked, and we ran the dance through and I noticed that he he had followed it up with an interlude of bobbing up and down in another spot while holding his head. After the runthrough, Sam asked me for my input, and I told him that I was all for him standing in the corner, but that following that with another section where he stayed in one place meant that the video buffer would essentially be filled with static images that did not dramatically differ from one another , and that I couldn't find a way to use those images to counterpoint the bobbing section of the dance. Sam proposed inserting a section of frantic activity in between the sections in order to correct this, and I agreed. This frantic section is seen in 4:35, and it becomes the raw material for the jumpcut sequence that immediately follows.


Diego said...

I'm glad the collaboration worked out, Tad. Paul and I had coffee one day and I told him to work with you; I'm glad he did! I loved what you did for this piece. Keep writing, keep creating.

Anita said...

Very Nice!