monadologie day 23 & 24

I’m losing track of what day is where…

We spent a big day on Wednesday learning large amounts of material from video of the recent session in the VR Theatre, and we felt rather smug about it until yesterday when brain death overtook us and we forgot … everything. Sticky floor, revolting humidity, no fresh air, tiredness and paralysed trying to recall what came next.

A feeling of running out of time.

I’ve had to do some chopping is what is attainable in the not huge amount of time we have left. We’re not even half way through the process, but it’s time for amputation of ideas that can’t germinate so rapidly. This was a choice between developing a large scale structure that was generatively evolving and a structure that was pre-determined but within that had a series of possibilities for evolution.

The latter is more interesting because it is the actual movement that evolves, or rather, the content of the movement.

Chris gave a talk to us a couple of days ago after we’d finished in the Theatre on the history of Kepler’s laws of orbits, which went right back to Greek and Egyptian epochs before swinging through the Islamic world while Europe was garroting itself from the fall of the Roman Empire through the Dark Ages until the Renaissance, and on through Copernicus, Brahe till we get to Kepler. Then five minutes of Gravitational Lensing.

Later, he said to me (and I quote with wild inaccuracy), “I’m really longing for the days when astronomy could be done with a stick”.

Which is mostly what Newton did.

My original idea was some kind of generative lighting that was a simultaneous representation of what we were doing, that is to say, came from the same visualisations. Then I decided for various reasons that this was uninteresting and perhaps over-complex. I elected for the input that we as dancers would see, which would affect what we did to come from a bunch of laptops (“How many do you want, we have twenty.”). Over the last couple of days due to thinking about the logistics of the temporal structure of whatever was on the screens, I started to see … problems. Needless complexity. I needed a stick.

It’s important for me to say that while I really like new media, art and technology and all that über-fun kunst-wißenschaft stuff, I like it in my work insofar as it is the tools of manufacture. I largely do not enjoy seeing in dance performance excessive staging, as it firstly detracts from the dancers and choreography, and secondly often is a disguise for what is a very paltry investment in the enormously complex process of making movement.

My staging over the last couple of years has gone progressively spartan, until it’s nothing more than a bare stage, a minimum of props and dancers in whatever they’ve worn in rehearsal. Yes, it is an aesthetic and just as precious and self-conscious as spending $800,000 on robots and a Terminator soundtrack. So, I thought, whhyever do I want to have more than is necessary on stage? Also, and this is especially important in regard to astronomy and astrophysics is that it is barely possible to reduce it to human.

More on the stick …

It’s only in the last, say, 300 years or so that our ability to observe and apprehend the universe with our sense has gone beyond the innate ability of our bodies. What was once the entirety of sight, the visual spectrum from red to violet is now little more than an obscure slit in an enveloping cloak. We see all the way from Gamma and X-rays to far into the Radio, wavelengths from smaller than an atom to thousands of kilometers, and we see in distances incomprehensible even a few decades ago. Yet we mediate all this with technology and hardware, and so in some way have to make it sensible within our narrow range of vision.

I decided then to reduce whatever we end up doing to something that could be possible to be performed for Newton and Leibniz and Le Roi Soleil. Well, I might not be able to manage an authentic Age of Reason stage lighting as fire would be likely.

No more computers, just prints of whatever data we use, and so also (and I hope this works) a way around the temporal problems of running stuff off laptops; we turn the pages when we need. I like the idea of using technology to make something that is only performed by people, where the technology itself is absent. It’s not a denigration of technology or some back-to-prehistory anti-science, I think it expresses elegantly and without meaphor the vastness of the universe we find ourselves living in and how this has irrevocably changed us as individuals and collectively, and to find this on our bodies, I think this is the important thing.