choreography Tag

Matt Lewis on the Choreography of Attention

Matt Lewis is a computer scientist and collaborator on Synchronous Objects. His work in generative drawing was an inspiration for the generative drawing tool available on the site. If you have not played with this tool yet, give it a try, it uses data from the dance to drive the motion of the “paint brushes” and create interesting animations and ultimately drawings. Let us know what you think! –Norah

Here are some thoughts from Matt:

MATT: In addition to making choreographic concepts more comprehensible to other disciplines, we are very interested in ways in which choreographic knowledge is useful in other contexts. Exposure to such ideas should provide new ways of seeing, communicating, and evaluating relationships among elements in complex dynamic systems. Having not had much exposure previously to contemporary dance, I now have a much greater awareness of its complexity and breadth of conceptual material. It’s intriguing to me that I see much richer relationships between dancers and their movements than I had before being introduced to these concepts. Continue Reading


Laban and Dance History in relation to Sync/O: Student Perspectives

Mara Penrose, an MFA student, and Hannah Kosstrin, a PhD student in the dance department at the Ohio State University, offer insights about Synchronous Objects from the perspective of Labanotation and dance history in a recent interview with graduate student Lily Skove.
Lily Skove: Can you speak to your interest in Labanotation in relation to Synchronous Objects?
Mara Penrose: Systems of annotation represent the movement they describe. Therefore, dance notations need to be specific to the piece itself and the intended audience. Continue Reading


Lillian Skove on re-thinking choreography

I have invited collaborators on the project to periodically contribute to the blog describing their roles and interests in relation to Sync/O. This post is written by one of our graduate students in dance and tech, Lillian Skove:

“Engaging with Synchronous Objects as a choreographer, I was very interested in how choreographic thinking is a way of knowing that offers new insight into other fields from geography, to computer programming, to architecture. I was also interested in the ways that other fields shed light on my own choreographic practices and turn my understanding of choreography inside out. In the process of creating I seek to undo what I think I know choreography is so that I can be open to inventive ways of working. Interacting with the Synchronous Objects website is a chance to re-think what choreography is, from a series of actions, to an example of counterpoint, to a study of the responsibilities and dependencies among a group—and the list goes on.

Up-ending my assumptions of what choreography is has several practical consequences that are evident as I create in the studio. Continue Reading


Mark Goulthorpe on Forsythe and Architecture

My interest in the work of Bill Forsythe is multiple, and it goes without saying that I see its relevance to all areas of cultural production, including my own field (architecture):

1. to consider its use of rule-based generative processes within an historical lineage of similar intellectual projects in different cultural domains (Raymond Roussel/literature, James Joyce/literature, Antoni Gaudi/architecture, Jacques Derrida/philosophy, Paul Steenhuisen/music). Some of these creative processes have been interrogated by other ‘analysts’ (Lacan on Joyce, Foucault on Roussel, Ulmer on Derrida), but this has yet to be adequately done (to my knowledge) for the more complex contemporary practitioners such as Steenhuisen and Forsythe, and for the kinetic arts in general.

2. to interrogate where emergent technologies nurture a new relational aptitude that Forsythe’s work seemingly instantiates, giving witness to a new mental “plasticity”. For instance, the base mathematic logic of digital systems would seem to now underpin our base mnemonic ‘technology’ with an implicitly parametric sense, where re-calculable variability and inter-relational linkage become the norm; or where the insight gathered from the genome project into the controlling hox genes gives witness to exquisitely restrained genetic variancy in natural organisms that results from second-order controls in biological generative processes.

3. to consider the expansion of creative praxis from an essentially deterministic and individual mode, that has dominated most established cultural fields for millennia, to one that prioritizes collective creative endeavor: a shift of the base ethic of production to one of collective participation, which carries significant import for all areas of cultural activity. The active participation of the entire Ballett Frankfurt / Forsythe Company in the generation of base choreographic material, and the impetus and framing provided by Forsythe as “no-longer-a-choreographer” merits attention for the insight in offers into networked creative endeavor, a model as such.

4. in its exploration of new “psychologies of reception”, which have been referred to by Heidi Gilpin (ex-drammaturge) as characteristic of accounts of trauma (endlessly absented reference); and to locate where the generative rule-based processes deployed as improvisational technologies imbue the resulting work with such inassimilable intensity, or a ‘precise indeterminacy’.

5. to track the relentless deconstruction of the presuppositions of balletic inheritance, Forsythe’s exposure of the “structurality of structure” of the full range of its operations, and to witness the emergence of a re-configured canon. The collapse of the basic step-by-step assemblage of classical choreography into an endlessly differentiated continuity of unfolding form, apparently moves from collage to morphing as a base logic, which seems suggestive from the perspective of the other arts. But the manner of cultural renewal seems to offer salient example of the potential for all the cultural arts, brilliantly liberalized in creative and receptive registers but astute as to its historical allegiance.

6. finally, and most elusively, to consider how an overall choreographic sense emerges in/as a ‘paramorph’ through the generative development process to frame and shape an otherwise mechanistic assemblage. The overarching conceptual strength of Forsythe’s works, as something other than an ideological containment (the typical idea-to-form lineage), yet resolutely coherent as a distillation of impulsive experiment, merits consideration as the vital counterpoint to the barrage of generative techniques that the works draw from.

In all the above, I regard Forsythe as an architect, albeit of the possibility of ballet at the threshold of a new technological paradigm…


Stephen Turk on Architecture and Choreography

William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced is a richly evocative work open to a multiplicity of interpretations and possible avenues of analysis. Architects are particularly interested in the spatial and organizational phenomena produced by the piece, especially what might be called its distributed field of effects. Extensive and nuanced systems of interrelationships in the choreographic structure of the work were uncovered by the broad set of disciplines participating in the Synchronous Objects project. The architectural component of the project augments this work by concentrating on the spatial implications of the composition’s field effects. This effort takes the form of both new analytical work investigating the potential material and spatial possibilities of the piece but also extends this into the design of a set of architectural elements which resonate with the dance. Indeed the title Synchronous Objects describes the possibility of the production of parallel work in different expressive media and filtered through different disciplinary frameworks, which share core systemic structures and expressive characteristics.

By closely analyzing the complex systems embedded in the work the architectural project seeks to make a parallel design that generates effects and perceptual phenomena which resonate and have a strong affinity with Forsythe’s dance while avoiding overly reductive translations and respecting the architectural qualities of the newly emergent objects. As a parallel art, architecture doesn’t offer the possibility of a “scientific” analysis of the data of the project but rather the set of resulting designs extends and opens up an architectural understanding of the complexities and richness of the “form and flow” of the dance. It does this by closely analyzing the complex interrelationships between dancers and the thematic variations forming the choreographic core of the work and translating these to material and performative behaviors in material processes. A large library of analytical relationships was inherited by the team from previous close readings of the work. These deal with cuing, timing, variation, and the mirroring of motifs. In our view all of these are primarily dominated by relationships between what might be characterized as figure to figure structures. Our emphasis drew on these understandings and connected them to what we have termed figure and frame relationships. The particular focus for the analysis was thus centered on the artificial ground established by the array of tables in the work both as a literal spatial operator structuring the rhythm and interval of the piece but also as the source of a set of conceptual implications which we saw as particularly architectural.

The complex spatial operations in Forsythe’s work remind us of the intimate and archaic connection between architecture and dance by reiterating fundamental conditions in all architectural phenomena; the most central on which is the relationship of the mobile occupant to a buildings envelope or enclosure. They also provide for a perceptual field through which to understand interval, distance, unit and number, the conditions that join the temporal art of dance to the spatial art of architecture. Of course, the motif of table and figure in One Flat Thing reproduced is not where the composition stops. Indeed this relationship is established only in a way to question it through its own multiplication, repetition and unfolding of an array of tables moving out into space. This array literally furnishes a ground of action, a zone of operation and maneuver that simultaneously regulates and is regulated by the action of the dancers. At this level of understanding, the dance can be read as exploring the fundamental ideas of interval and their corresponding perceptual measurement. So too can the work be read as an allegorical exploration of the relationship between the human figure and the frames established by society; frames which whether registered through the regulating grid of cities, or the systems of demarcation and mapping in mathematics and science, are the cultural legacy of ideas of rationality. The work seems to be an exploration on both the limits and opportunities of these systems, a condition exemplified by the divergent results of the Scott and Shackleton journeys to the Antarctic.

Forsythe’s dance can also be read as returning the idea of choreography back to a more archaic understanding of the term by revealing a destabilized core in the origin of the trajectory of choreographic history. This core produces a blurred understanding of the separation between the arts of dance and architecture, one that might have existed in the early history of human articulation of symbolic notions of time and space. His interest in a communicable system of analysis, a “score” for dance could well be understood as returning choreography back to chorography, the art of describing “places” (from khŏros; “place” + graphein, “writing”) in the sense articulated by Ptolemy, the great second century astronomer, geographer, and map maker. This is one that restores the notion of the opening of rhythmic and temporal possibilities of the chora (the matrix of enclosure) as the necessity of the emergence of the measurable. It is also emphasizes the situational and embodied aspects of being in the world rather than being transcendental to it; measurement is here understood as being situational and contingent rather than permanent and true.

Mapping or more generally measurement might be said to be at the core of modern scientific knowledge. Science itself is dependent on repeatable and measurable occurrences and is a system which allows for the determination of logical ideas of causality in the world. The measurement, analysis and structuring of flows is an important aspect of knowledge in an era which no longer believes in a fundamental static notion of truth but rather sees the world as a problem of probability and statistical differentiation. Chorography and its descendent forms choreography and chorology, each split along the divide occurring since the Renaissance between aesthetic (irrational) and scientific (rational) forms of knowledge, provide an appropriate metaphor for an expanded form of knowledge which seeks to unify the strands of these trajectories. Forsythe, through One Flat Thing, reproduced, might be said to be situating the idea of the distribution and flows of bodily reality as a central feature of a post-humanist system of knowledge whose salient figure of study is the mapping and manifestation of a new type of statistical or probabilistic identity. This is an identity that is not an ideal humanist centered singularity (a self in the classic sense) but rather one that is conditioned by and constituted out of the flows of modern society; a society in which individual identity is increasingly distributed across electronic networks and broad ecologies which themselves are coextensive with a notion of the surface of the world as a structuring matrix.