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October 20, 2006

Ah-ha: Narrative Structures in Reactive and Interactive Video Art


Connecting the Physical and the Digital

[Image left: "Guillotine" by Steve Shoffner) "Performance is so many things: the synchronized sounds of a symphony; actions with words in a play; steps and turns in a dance; words from a pulpit. Performance art, too, is variable, perhaps too multifarious to define, even with semicolons. At traditional performances with traditional support materials, from symphonies with program notes to theatre productions with playbills, performance acts as replay, a repeat of an event, a memorization of a string of notes or a set of lines, a reformulation of a tested formula. Then there are those performances that vary, that respond to the moment, that unfold through the implementation of chance or improvisation or, more and more, digitization. With the insertion of new technologies into performance, the question arises – do actions result from numbers? What indeed is the connection between the physical and the digital? Does the digital component determine the performance, or do actions generate a numeric pattern, which then underlies the piece's structure?

The aesthetic and conceptual import of digital performance pieces is linked to the ordering of a piece's technological components. Random sequencing is one form of structuring immersive environments or data-triggered scenes. Fixed sequencing of scenes, with a predetermined index of performed actions and triggered events, follows a preset score. Alternately, sensory responsive improvisation is flexible and often produces variations in structure. In each case, the piece's content is the result of a digital system: programming or computer responses to external stimuli determine how the performance plays out. Even interactive improvisation, in which a human action triggers a computerized event, is a digital system, albeit one that emphasizes the human element, or input, in that system. The content of an interactive piece is closely related to its structure – the interaction between trigger, whether generated by the viewer or performer, and event. Interesting variations in content emerge when the structure becomes the art.

Below, by electronic interview, four new media artists describe their modes of working with interactive technologies and probe the relationship between order and content in their work. Johannes Birringer makes telematic connections in performance, installation, and video. Mark Coniglio co-directs the interactive dance company, Troika Ranch, with Dawn Stoppiello; he both designed and implements the interactive software, Isadora. Cat Jones' alternate persona catgURL interacts with viewers while performing live on and off the screen. Steve Shoffner instigates interactions with viewers while performing simultaneously on video and within his installations." From Ah-ha: Narrative Structures in Reactive and Interactive Video Art by L. Hermes Griesbach, VJ Theory: ART, 12/10/06.

Posted by jo at October 20, 2006 02:29 PM