Tafterjournal n. 78 - dicembre 2014



Rubrica: Tecno-scenari

Parole chiave: , , , ,

From the flat opposite my office you can sometimes hear (usually around late morning or the late afternoon) excellent quality swing music. The windows of the tiny flat situated in central Bassano let out a warm ,velvety sound which is characteristic of old record players; and whilst being transported by the melodies of Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole and sometimes also Benny Goodman’s, I can’t help but fantasize about the flat’s occupant, who’s responsible for making my fingers snap ,my head sway and my face light up with a silly smile on a regular basis. I imagine a woman in her 70’s, with a long, silver braid, all made up and dressed impeccably who, whilst doing her housework, simultaneously twirls around her flat to the same notes she used to twirl to many years before, back when her braid used to be a beautiful copper colour. Mrs. Music (as I’d like to see written on her doorbell), moves slowly and lightly but never loses rhythm; she moves her weight from one foot to the other, her hips and shoulders helping her with the switch, she’s got some great moves. Old timey moves, romantic moves, even-if only those were to be shared with a dance partner-, moves that don’t exist anymore. I doubt I’d feel the same way thinking about one of my contemporaries who, in 40 years time, will find himself nostalgically listening to a playlist on Spotify (which by that time would probably be the definition of obsolete).


The advent of the Digital Era and, subsequently, of Media Culture has not only changed the way we think, act and interact with the world but also interfered with our more basic motor skills and the way our body operates in the outside world. I remember a Drama exercise I did at university in order to understand how our body works and is perceived in relation to other people’s. The aim was to observe our classmates’ walks and at the same time to keep on walking collectively around a room. We then had to pick one and try to reproduce it in a credible manner whilst our fellow students had to identify which one of them was being impersonated. It was a simple enough exercise for inexperienced Drama students but it made me realise how the simple act of “looking around” could be a source of creative ideas, and how rhythms, spatial and relational games involving our bodies were necessary study materials. There were those who unintentionally walked like a Zanni, some strutting as a hypothetical Captain and some others swaying as a flirtatious Columbine. It was great fun.


But it seems that lately, with the advancement of technological gadgets, this kind of observations aren’t the norm anymore. It’s as though we stopped paying attention at our surroundings once we found out that we literally had the world at our fingertips. Nowadays the most popular day to day “actions” that we seem to be familiar with appear to be things like: the collision of cheeks of two people trying to simultaneously look at the same tablet, the lowering of heads all aimed towards the same tiny screen and how to forget our beloved swiping of index fingers and thumbs (respectively horizontally and vertically) on touch screens. This detachment is especially evident on trains and buses, where it’s already clear to see that instantaneously falling in love after making eye contact with a beautiful stranger has become an outdated practice. Indeed, we’ll probably all end up alone with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


On one hand, it’s scary to think that digital technology is turning us into slightly alienated individuals who don’t really pay that much attention to their surroundings and are limited to sharing their thoughts, actions, outfits and meals on large-scale media platforms instead of in real life, but on the other hand it’s undeniably a great resource, always full to the brim with informations and possibilities, a necessary and powerful source of ideas, art and culture.


Let’s think of the world of performance and visual arts, more specifically the world of dance (which relies significantly on movement):digital technology is revolutionizing the concepts and language of creating art. Thanks to Merce Chunningam, one of the founding fathers of contemporary dance and also creator of Life Forms, a 3D animation software which originated from the choreographer’s idea of creating new moves for his choreographies with the aid of an electronic system, we can begin to understand the great potential that a partnership between the world of dance and that of new technologies can entail.


Artistic research is breaking new ground every day and this is due to the fact that newer and bettersoftware are constantly being created and improved. The use of digital aids allows the performers to have a say on how they want their performance to be perceived, in particular focusing on scenery and sound design. The sounds produced by the body of the performer, when technologically enhanced, are a way for the audience to feel an intimate connection with the performer, who is fully aware of the sounds, moods and spacial geometrical patterns he is creating. The movements of the dancers, once technologically integrated, control the scenery, they become sound and light engineers, allowing their bodies to reach their full potential and generating a whole new world made up of lights, sounds and expression.


Many choreographers are choosing this mean of communication, one of the latest examples of this is a performance I recently had the pleasure to attend myself, Deep Dish by the Liquid Loft company. Chris Haring, the choreographer, had the idea of using a high definition camera as a prop that records the performance live on stage and then gives back to the viewer a detailed, enhanced view from the ‘inside’, using the projector at the bottom of the stage; the result is completely new footage telling a very compelling story. An orange submerged in a bowl of water is transformed into a sun that warms up an unknown planet; a dancer lying on top of a still life installed on a table becomes an impromptu Botticelli’s Venus; small micro-organisms in wine glasses turn into mysterious and bizarre characters. With a conceptually simple technological system was born a show capable of creating new worlds, poetically unique and extremely particular.


The use of digital language has its limitations, so choosing this method strictly aims to evoke certain memories and imagery that issues a range of emotions and feelings which are different than those that may arise from watching a show that uses the simple and “pure” movement of a dancer’s body.


In relation to this kind of “simpler” choice, I remember a thrilling performance by Compañia Sharon Freedman called Free fall / Calida libre . During the dance the bodies were all tangled up in a single cluster, a kind of primordial matter merged into one block that could contain, hypothetically, all the varieties of the world. Human chains, hugs, lifting, supple bodies ,that at the same time appear strong and present, ready to bear the burdens of others and the “gravity given by the free fall.” A show filled with warmth and involvement, without any interference by technology, even the light was almost absent, and it was precisely this lack of light which is responsible for creating some marvellous, award-worthy special effects .


Digital or not, the ability to move our body and see how others are able to do so is simply to be able to feel, to experience a tangible reality and not to be divorced from physical contact, being that a sensory or visual one. We just need to remember to learn how to do things and recognize the world as we used to do as children, through touch. Perhaps it would be better to go back to using our senses as interface, even with the invention of Google glasses.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License