The space moulded by the body
This thesis illustrates how moulding the space with our bodies is a constant construction of experiences that forms and re-forms who we are. The use of a choreographic object ‘Locus’ enables the bodies within and around it to inhabit and manipulate the experience of the participants. These intentional and non-intentional manipulations of the space are able to create an affective experience and is what many geographers define as the power of built spaces. The architectural space is constantly giving us signals of what to do, where to go and unconsciously moulding our feelings, behaviours and actions. This research involves the study of extensive and intensive space. It demonstrate through series of experiments with a choreographic object, a future of possibilities of architectural and performative spaces that might enable the communication between multiple human bodies and the build environment.
“A body exists in space…moves in space…is contained by space” (Blom and Chaplin, 1989, p.31).
This thesis considers the possibilities of transforming spaces using the human body as an active tool. The thesis aims to define the relationship between architecture and dance using the body as a medium to modify the space. Our bodies are units that are able to transform the environment, according to Kronenburg (2007), human beings are flexible creatures that manipulate objects and operate in a wide range of environments.
“There was a time, not too long ago in evolutionary terms, when our existence was based in our capacity of movement and adaptability; indeed, it is to this that we owe our survival as species. Most cultures now lead a more or less sedentary life, but it could be that flexibility is once again becoming a priority in human development…” (Kronenburg, 2017, p.10).
These notions have been used as the starting point for an immersive interactive installation project Locus which is being developed by myself and Anthos Venizelos. In the context of this project we analyze human movement in contemporary dance performance, classifying these movements based on the selection of some joints of our bodies(1). Derek McCormack argues that “…dance raises questions with which many other disciplines are concerned, including anthropology, architecture, neuroscience, performance studies and philosophy…” (p.1823). Whilst understanding that the use of choreographic principles is only one way to analyze the body’s actions, this thesis will focus on this as the frame of this dissertation.
Our collaborative project, Locus (Simo & Venizelos, 2018), comprises an open 360 performance arena (Figure 2) involving a perfomer, an audience and an interactive mobile object suspended above the inhabitants head. The design of the object is based on the simple module of an equilateral triangle that is repeated multiple times and creates a flexible structure. The term Locus, here means the center of activity, attention or concentration. The installation has been conceived to encourage the audience participation by allowing them to experience how relevant our movements are in the spaces around. This is achieved by giving both performer and audience an opportunity for active participation in the kinetic structure. It is also speculating about future flexible spaces that proposes a cybernetic model of environment capable of guaranteeing participation for all. (2)
The entire configuration (space and object) is conceptually visualized as “space itself” that merges the performer and the audience behaviours in one single place. As such, it is a reciprocal space that is perceptually and affectively moulded by our own bodies, with not only the performer but also with the audience actively participating in the modulations of the dynamics of the space and giving rise to its affective dimensions.
In Locus, we are developing an integrated platform in Unity 3D(3) using a Kinect V2(4) sensor to detect some of the body joints and within this identify relevant body movements in a simpler way. In order to achieve this, it is important to understand the different qualities of space that are generated by movement so as to render the installation of a dynamic space.
To this end I will analyze what space is in choreography and how our bodies respond to interactivity in dance performance (Figure 3). This thesis report will explain the concept of a space moulded by our bodies, which is, in this context a Forsythian choreographic object (5). It focuses particularly on the interaction between performer and the choreographic object. The aim is to explain some of the scenarios in which the physical design of the mobile object could be transformed depending on the movements enacted by participants and the joints of the body selected. To achieve this, my collaborator and I have translated the information extracted from the Kinect sensor into modifications of the physical space/object using serial communication with Arduino and testing different Servo Motors angles to control the physical instrument for modifying the space.
(1) Focusing on some parts of the body is called isolation and some choreographers as Paul Taylor use this technique to enhance the body as a more expressive tool. In the context of this thesis, this technique will be used to analyze our project.
(2) Archigram proposed an idea of cybernetic architectural space in which was relevant the participation for all.
(3) Unity 3D: is a platform to create 3D games and applications for mobile, desktop. In this case we use it as a graphic interface to link the data detected by a Kinect sensor using serial communication with Arduino and transforming the physical space.
(4) Kinect is a sensor by Microsoft Xbox that enables detecting the human body joints using depth cameras.
(5) Based on William Forsythe’s notion, that the choreographic object opens the question of what else a body can do, a question that calls for experimental movement. How does the object create open situations for movement experimentation? “The choreographic object activates experimentation and play.
2. The Space
2.1. From the architectural space to the performative interactive space.
It is common to understand the space as something measurable and metric. Space “…does not consist in the sum of the width, length and height of the structural elements which enclose space, but in the void itself, the enclosed space in which man lives and moves”. (Zevi, 1957, p. 22).
Zevi (1957) defines space through actual dimensions but agrees that is also affected by less tangible considerations such as lighting, the position of the shadows, colors, verticality, directions, etc. These features make a space dynamic. In the context of the interactions between the human movement and the spaces, we are focusing in the concepts of dynamic, extensive and intensive spaces.
The space we are trying to define might be flexible, mouldable and revolutionary; it is a space of permanent interaction but within the context of this research, ephemeral and a place of experimentation. Zevi (1957) defines the space as its content: for us this content is full of activity, tangible and intangible; it is part real, part ideal.
As established by Gordon Pask (1958) cited in Architectural Design magazine (2008, p.18) “All buildings are embodiments of a mesh of interlinked concepts or interlinked topics…”. Normally, the concept of space limits the definition to tangible qualities but does not focus on those intangible relations we experience in it. When Pask (1958) refers to the ‘interlinked topics’, he was referring to a cybernetic process of actions that are in constant interaction between each other.
For both the architectural and the performance space the body is the main actor, without the human body these places wouldn’t be ‘alive’. “Non-representational theory tries to attend to the ‘on flow’ of everyday life.” (Thrift, 2007 cited by Simpson P. 2010, p. 1). Nigel Thrift (2007) argues that non- representational theory is interested in the human body co- evolution with things, and how this unparalleled ability of the body to co-evolve with things, means that the body and the environment are not separated terms.
Architectural space is constantly giving us signals of what to do, where to go and unconsciously is moulding our feelings, behaviours and actions. We are usually part of this process but we are not aware of it. The same occurs with the performative interactive spaces, where the performer and audience behaviours formulate changes in the environment.
“Moving slowly across a space might generate a gradually shifting visual or sonic environment. Moving your arms rapidly might generate display of hundreds of short sharp images and sounds, building up a sense of chaos.” (Macdonald & Rubidge, 2001, p. 2)
An active performative environment is a place where the viewer becomes part of, and affects the environment. According to Alistair Macdonald & Sarah Rubidge (2001), performative spaces are designed to incorporate the viewer into the artistic vision; the viewers become those who change the qualities of space. Both the performers and the viewers or audiences should develop a sense of awareness of the way their actions affect the environment so that configurations of the space occur intentionally. (Figure 5)
2.2. Dynamic interactive spaces and how the human body can mould them
“Performers actively shaping the space in which they move by creating a dynamic network of interweaving vectors, tensions and transient forms which is perceived by both performers and audiences.” (Rubidge, 2011, p.1)
According to Sarah Rubidge (2011) dynamic spaces are those that are being generated in material space, their qualities modulated perceptually by viewers, rather than materially. In the context of dance performance, these dynamic spaces are generated by the interplay between the dancers’ activities. The dancers are able to experience the space through their bodies through subtle sensation. For example, humans have the capability to know how close they are are to the people around them, especially if we ‘feel’ their proximity as they move closer or further away. These perceptive capabilities are related to our haptic perception and how we understand our three dimensional space.
“The word haptic…is used to describe the various sensibilities of the body to its position in the physical environment and to its own condition. This holistic system of environmental perception goes far beyond visual spatial perception, and refers to a more complex geographical space. It involves the integration of many senses, such as touch, positional awareness, balance, sound, movement, and the memory of previous experiences.” (O’Neil, 2001, p. 3)
J.J. Gibson (1966) argues that people will gain environmental understanding from tangible physical experience, in the architectural context, their contact with the built environment, their movement through the spaces and their visualization of the objects in the spaces. I consider that, if we are able to design a space in which our actions become more tangible,
using our behaviours as inputs, it will be possible to visualize transformations in our built environment. In this sense, we will be shaping the space with our movements and creating a space-in-between as Margaret Morse (year) describes it.
Moulding the space in the context of the installation is therefore not talking about creating a specific shape. Nevertheless, I’m relating this concept to the act of ‘shaping’ and constructing a dynamic network of relations that might not be obvious to the naked eye but might be able to construct the performer and viewer experience in a more tangible way, but more subtle way.
Macdonald & Rubidge argues that “strictly, few genuinely ‘interactive’ spaces are created by interactive artists… Rather they constitute (often extremely complex) reactive systems which are programmed to react to given patterns of behaviours in an installation or performance space.” (Macdonald & Rubidge, 2001, p. 2)
SpiderCrab was one of three experimental projects undertaken by a group of researcher from University of Leeds (Wallis, Mckinney, Popat, Bryden, Hogg, 2008). It is an example of a performance interactive object that is intended to become ‘space itself’(1). At the beginning of the workshops invited dancers were collaborating with a CAD digital drawing of the proposed robot and each dancer was embodying a single limb of the robot. The authors were researching the way a multi-sensory robot could be conceived as an architectural environment but also as a dancing partner. (Figure 6 & 7).
(1) Space itself: a cross between architectural environment and dancing partner.
2.2.1. Intensive & Extensive spaces
“Imagine a world without place”. -Edward Casey cited by Buchannan, Lambert (2005).
It is difficult to imagine the world without space or place. To understand the terms intensive and extensive spaces a definition of the concept of ‘space’ and spatial thinking is needed. ‘Space’ raised in the second half of the twentieth century and was mostly related with habitability. Anthony Vidler (cited by Buchannan, Lambert, 2005) argues that spatial thinking before the Second World War was concerned with the seemingly damaging effect space was having on the modern individual. This means that the only relationship between the spaces and their inhabitants was the influence of the space on the people but not the other way around. There were many terms created to identify how the spaces around us made us feel or behave, but no sign of how we as humans could modify or influence the sense of space.
Just after the Second World War in 1970’s Deleuze started arguing that there were ‘points of intensity’ in the social space of the city, so the question of how could individuals affect the space began to be raised. “In different ways, Lefebvre and Heidegger stand on the cusp of this seismic shift of sensibility in that they both argue that the individual is essential to the constitution of place, that is to say, what we now call ‘lived space’.” (Buchannan & Lambert, 2005, p. 3)
From a materialist world point of view, extensive space is related to metric spaces, or those that could be measured. According to Manuel De Landa (2005), metric and non-metric spaces are those where the concept of measurements such as length is important and those where is not. In the context of mathematics, space is defined by distance between fixed points. On the other hand, non-metrical intensive spaces or intensive spaces, seems to be less rigid.
“The points that form a space can be defined not by rigid lengths from a fixed coordinate system but by the instantaneous rate at which curvature changes at that point. Some parts of the space will not be changing at all, other parts changing slowly, and others changing fast.” (De Landa, 2005, p. 84)
Intensive space is more related to the non-metrical or as Rubidge (2012) argues is a space produced by the movement and the relational activities that generate the affective qualities of the space. It is an intangible, felt space but a space that comes to define our experiences and comprise invisible lines between the bodies and the space.
A way of visualizing the space influenced by movement has been explored by William Forsythe with his “Improvisation Technologies”. During an interview with Kaiser (1999, p. 1) Forsythe declares: “So I began to imagine lines in space that could be bent, or tossed, or otherwise distorted. By moving from a point to a line to a plane to a volume, I was able to visualize a geometric space composed of points that were vastly interconnected. As these points were all contained within the dancer’s body, there was really no transition necessary, only a series of foldings and unfoldings that produced an infinite number of movements and positions. From these, we started making catalogues of what the body could do. And for every new piece that we choreographed, we would develop a new series of procedures.” (Figure 8)
This argument is another reason for our interest in modifying the space through the generation of these intensive lines. The intensive space (1) generated by the movement is transforming the extensive space (2) and moulding our experience based on our own actions.
(1) Refers to the body joints selected in the body (view page 18)
(2) Refers to our choreographic object
2.2.2. Affect and space
“L’affect is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a pre- personal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act.” (Massumi, in Deleuze and Guatarri, 1988, cited by Kraftl and Adey, 2008).
It is particularly interesting how the space enables the bodies within and around it to inhabit and manipulates the experiences of the participants or inhabitants. These intentional and non-intentional manipulations of the space are able to create an affective experience and is what many geographers define as the power of built spaces.
Conolly(2002)notesthataffectisexploredinneurophysiology, where the emotions are removed from the social world and reduced to chemical signals of our brains. But feelings and emotions are usually considered to be related to affect, althoughThrift (2004) suggests that affect is a sense of push in the world, rather than emotion related to a more personal world. Peter Kraftl & Peter Adey (2008, p. 215) suggest that “Affect presents itself socially as something that is pushing, pulling, or lifting us to feel, think or act.”.
In other words, affect is defined as the relations and interactions that are happening between multiple single humans which give rise the intensive state that Massumi speaks above.
But how are these interactions moulding the spaces around us, if different bodies and objects will have different affects, consequently, different emotions, feelings and actions?
We are constantly under these manifestations of actions that instantly transform our affective response to spaces, but if we become more aware of our own actions, visualizing us through an object, will these affects be the same? From an architectural context, the affect is related to the combination of architectural forms that interfere in the performance of its inhabitants’ emotions, memories and actions. “Feeling welcome” to get into a building is a way to feel affect: the architectural form is inviting us to get in, to walk through and enjoy all the possibilities inside there.
Conversely, in the performative interactive context of Locus, in which the performer and audience modify the object in the space through their movement, the affect generated by this space will motivate the interaction between participants and space and therefore perhaps encourage a better understanding of their emotions, feelings and actions in the spaces they inhabit in everyday life.
2.3. Introducing Locus: dynamic performance interactive space
“Archigram promoted architecture as a complex, dispersed serviced situation, completed only by the active involvement of the observer; in a fully functioning cybernetic environment, in fact, the architecture could become the observer of its human subject…” (Sadler, 2005, p. 133)
As a collaborative project, Locus (Simo & Venizelos, 2018) was born from the idea of transforming the space using two principal tools. The first one is using the action of body joints of the performer as an input for the system, so as to understand the potential of human bodies in a space, tracking the joints using a Kinect V2 sensor. The second one is to use the audience’s positions in space, captured by a with a Grid-Eye camera mounted above the performance area, as a trigger for the system. In this thesis report I will focus more on the interactions with the performer’s body.
The interest in machines that could interact with the body is not merely new. According to Mckinney, Wallis, Popat, Bryden and Hogg (2008), Gordon Park’s ‘Colloquy of Mobiles’ (1968) provided an example of computer reactive system (Figure 9). Pask’s vision about how the machines are constantly interacting with us and between them is another argument to design a project that conceptually transforms our actions in continual conversations with ourselves.
“The ability to change is a characteristic of our time. The restructuring and continuous reevaluation of things that were reliable, sacred, hierarchic, acknowledge is something that we learn to live with.” (Sadler, 2005)
This, it is hoped, will facilitate audience participation in the performance event. Both inputs (the performer’s body and the audience location) are intended to generate a clearer idea of how our bodies interact everyday between each other in the spaces around us, and on the other to give both the audience and the performer the opportunity to experience the interaction in particular tangible way through accessing the affective dimensions of the space in action.
“When an object becomes the attractor for the event, it in-gathers the event toward the object’s dynamic capacity for reconfiguring spacetimes of composition. Forsythe’s choreographic objects tend to find one of their points of departure in the form of an everyday object: a balloon, a piece of cardboard, a castle. These “objects” are always part of an evolving ecosystem in Forsythe’s work. They extend beyond their objectness to become ecologies for complex environments that propose dynamic constellations of space, time and movement. These “objects” are in fact propositions co-constituted by the environments they make possible. They urge participation. Through the objects, spacetime takes on a resonance, a singularity: it becomes bouncy, it floats, it shadows. The object becomes a missile for experience that inflects a given spacetime with a spirit of experimentation.” (Erin Manning, 2009, p.4)
The mobile object, or choreographic object Locus (Figure 10) is a composition of triangles intended to be a flexible mesh that is able to be modified in different directions. It is hung from the ceiling, and controlled by a group of ropes all connected above in a control base. This base has the main purpose to hold the electronics in charge of the control of the structure as it responded to the movement of the performer.
We are aiming to show these changes by creating an environment in which communication is established between machine and the body.
Archigram’s investigation into cybernetic systems, for example, took pleasure in animation: Archigram no. 8 described cybernetician Gordon Pask’s dancing robotic mobiles as “‘An Aesthetically Potent Social Environment’, effectively declaring vested interests in art as well as group action”. (Sadler, 2005, p. 133)
Locus, however, is not an architectural entity with the functions of habitability. It is an object, a choreographic object that observes its human impacts upon them. As such the project reflects how actions that might be seem as minimal and with no influence, affect the space around us and in this sense, completes a loop of constant relations in our everyday lives. All our actions depend on our own feelings and affects humans and non-humans equally, and even our simplest actions conceptually would have a high impact on the environment.
3. The space in choreography and our bodies
The space in choreography is no longer limited to dance. Rubidge (2012) suggests the space in choreography as a choreographic space, where the bodily movements are constantly creating a spatial composition. These choreographic spaces are a “transient spatiotemporal networks of forces, vectors and tensions that are processual rather than stable and, crucially, experiential. Although the concept of choreographic space is open ended, and clearly now extends beyond dance practice, in general parlance it often refers simply to the spaces within which choreography takes place (theatre spaces, installation spaces, urban space, domestic spaces, the ‘natural’ spacer of rural landscapes.” (Rubidge, 2012, p. 2)
3.1. Space in choreography
“Space is the 3D canvas in which the dancer creates a dynamic image. Breaking it down into component parts brings a wealth of possibilities for movement exploration. Space can be considered as an active participant, an abstract partner.“ (Blom and Chaplin, 1989, p. 31)
The abstract partner that Blom and Chaplin (1989) refer to might be the static, or metric space. They believe that movement can make an empty, dead space into a dynamically pulsating one. According to Mary Wigman cited by Anne Blom and Tarin Chaplin (1989, p. 31), the space should be used as an active element and sometimes as an opponent. Wigman defined “dance as a motivated tension in space and as a creator of space”. The shaping process of this space by one or more bodies could be identified with the curved, straight or angular shapes of the body; how symmetrical they are, and the positive and negative space created between the body and the physical space. Murray Louis cited by Blom and Chaplin (1989, p. 31) similarly argues that “In its basic form, space is a void- silent, sterile, innocent- before consciousness, before life. A choreographer must fill and mold that void”.
While watching the ‘Enemy in the figure’ 1 (2018) by William Forsythe, I recognized examples of dynamic modifications of the space, specifically in the last part of the performance. Here the presence of a wall in the middle of the stage, completely static, was supplemented by the presence of the moving lights, which slightly hide parts of the performance and enhanced the interconnections of the bodies’. This gave me a sense of intensive space where the shadows of the performers are constantly linked with the static wall in the back as the bodies joints are shifting their positions, the affective dynamic experience principally affected by the light. (Figure 12)
Forsythe uses a compositional technique he calls ‘isometries’, described as the way the dancers shift forms from one part to the other of their bodies. Creating lines between different joints and limbs these bodies were able to act as instruments shaping the space as “Learning to develop feeling for transferring the shape or form of one part of the body to another part, so, for example, the curve of an arm might be translated onto the whole body or the line between waist and neck.” (Forsythe cited by Roslyn Sulcas, 2001, p. 1). As such, in the terms discussed in (View section 2.1.2), Forsythe was experimenting with the generation of intensive space. The static wall has the role to reflect these ‘isometries’ of the dancers into the physical space and manifest in a clearer way the dynamics and intensive qualities of this space. This intensive qualities evoke possession, contradiction and a non-linear path in which I consider the wall plays a relevant role. (Figure 13)
This performance also evoked dynamism in the use of physical elements such as ropes, which the dancers gave life to through their movements. The wonder of what is behind that ‘life’ of these static objects movements, made us realized the way of shaping the space in choreography. In this sense, it seems that non-metrical or intensive spaces in these cases are constituted as dynamic intensities, which generate a bridge in between performers and space making use of physical objects that might enhance the affects of the space.
In Forsythe’s “Polarity and Proximity”2, the dancers modified their movements in response to other dancers’ bodies, not necessarily in synchrony, but playing with the distances and time between them. In this way, the dancers were changing parts of the space perceptually for the audience, with other parts not changing at all, and others seeming to be changing really fast. I consider that this has a relation with the definition of non-metrical space given by DeLanda and can give an idea how dancers interrelationships and ‘delay’ between each other’s movement can generate dynamism and felt sense of intensive space. (Figure 14 & 15)
3.2. Our bodies and interactivity
“When I think about my body and ask what it does to earn that name, two things standout. It moves. It feels. In fact, it does both at the same time” -Massumi (2002) cited by McCormack (2008, p. 1827)
Vera Maletic argues that “The human body is completely oriented toward itself. It stands free in space. Its only resource, if we can call it that, is its environment, the spatial sphere which surrounds it, and into which it can reach with its limbs”. (Maletic, 2011, p. 59).
Our bodies are particular entities and cannot be defined as a general concept. Each individual will embody the spaces in different ways and therefore this interpretations could be disrupted and transform into different digital/physical environment modifications.
According to Scott deLahunta and James Leach (2017), dancers are constantly negotiating and manipulating the spaces they occupy with others. In this sense, contemporary choreographers believe that the body has its own intelligence and is always provoking responses from other bodies and therefore, from the environment. Our everyday movements mould our experiences and our ways of understanding the space around us. Moreover, we are able to gain knowledge through our bodies and probably to understand our affects of the space while using it. (View section 2.2.2)
Depending on our perspective (performer or audience), our bodies will understand the interactive system in Locus in different ways. In the case of the performer, it has been identified that when it comes to successful interaction with machines that replicate our movements and generate a performance experience, there is a process of observation, adaptation and constant learning process (Figure 16). The observation phase is the initial phase of discovering. The adaptation corresponds to the understanding of the system. In Locus experiments, the dancer was embodying the object by mirroring its behaviours. The shape, the rhythm of the movement and the timing that was taking to change from one state to the other, dictated the performer an awareness sense of her own movements. (View section 4.3)
We are constantly communicating with the spaces. Without the presence of our bodies, space would be an empty envelope of non-meaningful interactions. The process of interactions between them occurs thousands of times without us being aware of it. Therefore, being aware of our own actions through our bodies will generate more meaningful experiences in the context of interactive dance performances.
Interactivity has become a relevant topic since the last decade of the twentieth century, where computer technologies has acquire an important role in performance interactions.
In this sense, the interactivity developed in this thesis is meant to convert our physical bodies in digital bodies that are able to transform the physical space. The digital composition constituted by simple dots and lines that interconnects the performer limbs (depending on our preferences).
This bodies are representing ourselves as values in the virtual platform, values that will then modify and transform physical entities that as a loop will motivate and encourage different scenarios of movements (Figure 17).
According to Schloss (2003) cited by Zmölnig (2016), to magnify the experience in a performance, the audience also needs to establish a cause and effect relationship between the performers actions and the outputs. In interactive performances the human will always be questioning ‘how do they do it?’ (Wechsler, 2006), in this framework, showing the audience a ‘close-up’ as Zmölnig (2016) calls, or giving them an instrument to discover ‘where does this information come from?’ it is potentially explaining the mechanics behind the technology and facilitating the experience and interaction within the performer’s body, the audience and the space.
The instrument we are referring to in our specific case is the choreographic object Locus (Simo & Venizelos, 2018), which is meant to be able to interconnect the physical bodies through the digital representation of the them and render it into a physical entity that represents indirectly the affects of the interactions in the space. (Figure 18)
But we are not simply touching this environment with our limbs, it is true that the directions we take in the space will depend on our attitudes, intentions or feelings but it is motivated mostly by that ‘spatial sphere’ that surrounds our limbs. Directions will be guided by the space but will also depend on our attitudes, intentions or feelings. According to Ernst Cassirer (1955) cited by Norberg-Schulz (1972), the space is not only determined by the human actions, the space itself has directions which collaborate to identify which is the path to take.
In the context of dance, direction refers to what takes us forward or backward, or what bring us up and down. When the dancer is in a position of authority he/she will probably move forward. This quality of the space in choreography is related to the way that our behaviors are guided in architectural spaces in our daily lives.
4. The space moulded by the body
Moulding the space is a constant construction of experiences that forms and re-forms who we are. The interactions between ourselves in our daily lives take place in the intensive and extensive space at the same time. As humans, we are not able to see our interactions or a clear composition of vectors that identify who affects us the most, who affects us the less, and what is the result of this ‘own-self’ that is constantly being affected. We are not aware of this and there’s no clear way to quantify this data. This interactions make us who we are and conceptually this is what Locus aims to express through a choreographic performance.
4.1. Locus : A choreographic object that aims to be dynamic space
Locus forms the center of activity, attention or concentration in the installation. It is a medium to generate intensive space through the dancer’s movement and at the same time, encourage the audience to move and understand the performance. It is conceived as a choreographic object that demonstrates the possibilities of engagement, offers possibilities for experimentation and enhances new ways of representation of the bodies through the object.
The first part of prototype 1 (or 1-A) was formed by two single panels similar to the ones in Figure 20. The first test of the movement of Locus came when we attached one Servo in each of the faces. For a better optimization of the mechanical design it was decided not to attach any electronic devices to the panels. This decision permitted a lighter structure which was free of the mechanics of the movement behind it.
In this test there was no human-computer interaction, just a simple rotation where the movement pulled the panels closer to each other and gave us the opportunity to visualize the relation between the object and the human body. (Figure 23)
To achieve a better performance of the choreographic object, the strips or ropes in charge of the weight of the object were modified into a vertical direction, avoiding what was done in prototype 1-B. In this sense, it was more manageable to define positions of flatness or curviness in the whole object and avoiding a constant contracted position. The materiality in this prototype was wood, including the planes, the hinges and the joints. It was identified that wood is a good material for the triangular panels but might not be for the joints and hinges as generates friction and restricts the rotation.
In prototype 2 (Figure 25), the panels were attached to vertical thin ropes to the base structure above. In this first attempt using Micro Servos 9g SG90 TowerPro, it was just possible to see the movement. However, these motors were not capable to manage the weight and it was necessary to change them to a more powerful version.
Although the structure above was planned to be light, the presence of the electronics were visible, not collaborating with the attractive vision of the project.
This prototype was the first one that was tested with a contemporary dancer and was the prototype in which some experiments were conducted in order to enhance further prototypes. (View page 23)
The choreographic object was conceived as a composition of arrays of the same prototype which could be organized and re-organized as desired in any empty performative space. (Figure 26)
Initially the performer would input data while moving around through the use of the Kinect V2 sensor. This information would be based on the initial three joints of the body chosen by the choreographer. If the [x,y,z] position of one joint is bigger or smaller than another, this might drive the object to move in different ways. Here, the multiple interactions between our bodies and the space are constantly modifying and re-formulating it.
While working with this prototype, we considered inputting the data of the audience using a proximity sensor in the corners of the space. However, it was decided not to use because this would influence the viewers to stay in the periphery of the space and thus don’t feel part of the performative event. (Figure 26)
The following performative experiments were conducted on June 14, 2018 with prototype 2. The aim of these experiments was to understand how the performer would embody the object and how the communication between them was established. For this reason we interviewed the dancer after each experiment to find out what kind of responses she had in her interaction with the object.
The first series of experiments did not use the Kinect V2, but the last one did. The purpose of this was to understand how does these interaction affects the behaviours of the performer and the movements they improvise during each experiment.
It was perceived that prototype 2 was sharp and seemed a bit aggressive, but embodied an incredible connection with the performer. In our first experience testing it with the dancer Tia Hockey (2018), she felt a connection with it in different ways. Depending on the objectives of each experiment, it was easier or harder for her to perform with the mobile object.
In the first experiment (Figure 27), we asked the performer to dance freely without any particular connection with the object; there was no human-computer communication, just a reaction of her body to the moving object. She was embodying the same quality of movement: sharped but elegant and it seems like she was more aware of her body joints while doing it.
Hockey (2018) argued that, “When I came into it freely, my instant reaction was to understand the structure by embodying it in my own structure I guess. It’s quite interesting how the joints as there were a lot of them, they were all close together and I felt them as they would be in my body. I was trying to become that character and feel the same mechanism of moving. I felt it very interesting to kind of stick with, and the quality with which it moves is informing the way I should understand it or move with it”.
The space was clearly manipulating her experience within the intentional sharped movements. The space was pushing her to particular positions and locations. The affect, as Kraft & Adey (2008) suggested, was pushing, lifting and pulling her to act.
In the second experiment (Figure 28) we asked her to imagine she was selecting 3 joints of her body, one hand, one foot and the head. We wanted to understand how limiting or how interesting could be to restrict our bodies and how this information translates into an informative way. In this case, she was isolating her body as a technique to create the movement and in this sense responded to the structure movements just thinking about those 3 body parts.
In this case she noted that the experience was limiting her a bit because she had to be thinking about the 3 joints, looking at the object above her head and understanding how to react to it. She argued that, “When I was exploring with the 3 points, with the hand, the foot and my head, I found it quite difficult just because there was a lot of information there and trying to be really specific about it, was hard for my eyes to adjusttothespecifics,thenplayingwiththedifferentthings, whether the shapes between the moving objects or whether this hand is willing to do something completely different. Maybe it was like not connecting with the space I guess. I felt that challenging and also because there is so much happening and is very articulated, when I had just one hand on one point there would be a lot of movement when there is not moving much.”
In this sense, the benefits of this type of experiments was an understanding that to embody the space we should not limit the performer to the use of particular joints. Nevertheless, this technique can be use as a choreographic tool to create the performance and then re-create live when the performer is already adapted to the system.
The system itself is invoking the dancer to shift her attention from one part to the other of her body like the ‘Isometries’ Forsythe describes in his performances. It is helping the dancer to transfer shapes from one part to the other, without the need to focus on specific joints.
In the third experiment (Figure 29) we also selected 3 joints of the body, in this case, central joints: the head, the neck and the hips. In this sense, we thought that limiting the movements even more without the use of the limbs at all would give us another perspective of creating dynamic space through the body. She said in this occasion that “When the three joints were in the center, it was interesting because it was limiting in a sense and I’m trying to embodied this when I cannot move so much. Having to look at the structure, was a bit limiting my head movements”. In this sense, we asked her if she thought that the scale of the object was too small and might be affecting the way she performs, question that she answered affirmative.
It was considered that a bigger scale of this object would permit her body to feel the presence of the object without directly focusing her sight or touch into it. The perception of the environment would go beyond sight and touch, generating in the performer more sensibility of the transformations of the choreographic object.
As a result the scale of the structure was altered to generate a greater sensibility in the performer by augmenting the number of panels. In this sense, the dimension of each single triangle was not notably modified but the number was repeated to achieve a larger amount.
In a fourth experiment (Figure 30), it was decided to include two more people in the performance as viewers. They were requested to embody the space and walk around, to not be timid and try to interact with the performer and the object. This affected the way the performer moved.
The performer noted: “In this experience I was trying to think about the connection they were going to see and how I was going to guide that, whether I ́d try to be more specific in my movement. So I think for me, in my head, I was more trying to focus on this and to take information from what they were seeing. Whatever I was doing was going to affect their experience, so it added an extra thing in my own head while I performed it. It was quite interesting to respond to that and not just the structure. So perhaps where they move or if their eyes were looking at some point so that informs me. I was trying to find a connection between all of us.” (Tia Hockey, dancer, 2018)
Although the performer was creating a connection between her, the object and the viewers, they didn’t felt as connected as they should. Their role was to embody the space as the performer did, but without their bodies connected to the choreographic object this was not achieved.
4.4. Future research
Locus is still in development. Future research will be based on the latest prototype designed: a composition of panels that cover an area of 1.20 meters by 1.20 meters above the performer’s body.
This prototype has a structure on the top of the multi- panelled object which is composed of 6 bigger triangles that are enabled to rotate a group of vertical thin ropes and panels together. This way it is possible to manage the mechanics of the structure by grouping and distributing the weight and the different scenarios motivated by the body movement.
Further experiments will be rely on the understanding of the motion of this choreographic object and how is it moulding the experience of the participants. There is an intent to experiment with the use of mathematical sine waves functions to the servos motors rotation and increase or decrease smoothly the velocity and rhythm of the movement of the object. This way, we might be able to understand the affects of the user experience in different ways.
“The more stable the frequency and shape of the waveform, the higher the coherence. An example of a coherent wave is the sine wave…In physiological systems, this type of coherence describes a degree of order and stability in the rhythmic activity generated by a single oscillatory system.” (Rollin McCraty, 2002, p.6)
Although McCraty (2002) in his research is referring to how our emotions generate particular sine waves in our heart rhythms, it is considered interesting to observe different oscillations of movement and apply them to the choreographic object. It leaves an open question for experimentation with emotional awareness and how the understanding of these rhythms might be shaping our spaces in a more conscious way.
The latest prototype of the choreographic object will hide the mechanisms on the top of the it but if observed from the side (Figure 31), it will show the arrangement of the group of panels that are being pulled or lifted in fragmented parts. The composition of the panels comprises two layers of wood with a transparency that permits qualities such as lighting to enhance the user experience. These lighting qualities will also , it is hoped, facilitate in the performer a sense of the embodiment of the object while not having to look at it directly. (Figure 32)
It is possible that an array of the same prototypes, hung simultaneously, will be constructed, in order to magnify the performer’s and audience’s experience and give a sense of equality to both of them. The audience will be analyzed in further experiments, using a Grid-Eye camera in order to determinate the amount of people around the space interacting together and motivate a complete the feedback loop of interactions.
Our daily lives experiences are more powerful than we think they are. They are constantly moulding us as individuals and shaping the environment around us. The development of choreographic interactive objects enable the possibilities of containing these actions in a physical space that is normally static and apparently untransformable.
It is claimed in this thesis report that the architectural and performative spaces are clearly merged by choreographic spaces. The active-choreographic space is constantly ‘shaping’ a metaphor of all humans interactions and extending the notion of choreography outside of the limits of dance practices.
The report explains both of the worlds that lead to a dual concept of space: space which contains extensive and intensive qualities. First, the space in which we move, the one we are able to consciously perceive and the second, the notion of space that is specifically shaped by movement.
Locus grounds the idea of giving us a sense of those intensive spaces created by our own movements, while at the same time generating a feedback loop of embodiment between the bodies and the object. It converts intangible daily lives experiences into tangible physical performative experiences offering the viewer a sense of awareness. Moulding the space through the body is a constant construction of dynamic network. The visualization of this co-relations with the use of a choreographic object push us forward to certain actions leading us to an open question of how awareness of our own movements might modify our behaviours. Would this moulding process create another image of ourselves? evoke emotions?
The affects of the space could be defined as intangible qualities of our experiences as humans. We might not visualize them but through our bodies, we are able to feel it and embody these intangible intensities in every single moment of our lives. However further research in the perception of rhythm and motion of the choreographic object might establish a clearer relationship between our bodies and specific object movements.
This choreographic object is an open tool that enables an understanding of how our bodies react to manifestations of movements around it, through the performance of contemporary dance professionals. It offers a different perspective to the performer and the audience of ways of expressing and modifying the space around them together.
As noted in the experiments, the performer argued that the choreographic object motivated her to understand
the qualities of movement of the structure through her own body as a compositional technique of generating the ‘isometries’ described by Forsythe and explained in previous chapters. The rhythm of the object is clearly interpreted by the performer and embodied in different ways each time. The object is shifting the body joints to move in certain ways but is also constantly being influenced by the performer’s movement.
Locus poses an open question of how great the possibilities of dialogue between our bodies and the spaces are and how the physical presence of a choreographic object moulds relations in performative spaces.
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Figure 1. The body. Performer: Tia Hockey. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 2. Figure 2. Locus. Interaction between perfomer, audience and space (object). | General aim of the project. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 3. Locus. The body moulding the space. | Focus of this dissertation. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 4. The body transforms the space. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 5. The body occupying and modifying the space. Diagram extracted from ‘Locus project platform’ in Unity 3D. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 6. SpiderCrab, Emergent Object. Retrieved from: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/481/
Figure 7. SpiderCrab, Emergent Object. Retrieved from: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/481/
Figure 8. Improvisation technologies. Author: William Forsythe. Retrieved from: http://www.heikesperling.de/ catalysts/page/10/
Figure 9. Colloquy of Mobiles, 1968. Author: Gordon Pask. Retrieved from: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/ colloquy-of-mobiles/
Figure 10. Locus | Possible scenario of multiple objects. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 11. Experiments frames with the performer. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 12. Enemy in the Figure. Author: William Forsythe. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/ jun/22/semperoper-ballett-all-forsythe-review-sadlers-wells
Figure 13. Enemy in the Figure / Diagram of dynamics. Isometries of the limbs and joints. Author: Simo, A. (2018)
Figure 14: Polarity and Proximity, Birmingham Royal Ballet. (George Williamson, Alexander Whitley, Twyla Tharp). Retrieved from: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/ calendar/birmingham-royal-ballet-upper-room-mixed-
Figure 15: Polarity and Proximity / Diagram of dynamics. Author: Simo, A. (2018)
Figure 16: Bodies and interaction. Author: Simo, A. (2018)
Figure 17. Physical body, digital body and choreographic object. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 18. The interaction. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 19. Frames of the choreographic object Locus. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 20. Modulation Prototype 1. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 21. Initial structure plan view development Prototype 1. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 22. Initial panels modulation Prototype 1. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A. (2018)
Figure 23. Diagram of first motion. Prototype 1-A. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 24. Prototype 1-B. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 25. Prototype 2. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 26. Prototype 2. Repetition of the modulation. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 27. Experiment 1. Performer: Tia Hockey. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 28. Experiment 2. Performer: Tia Hockey. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 29. Experiment 3. Performer: Tia Hockey. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 30. Experiment 4. Performer: Tia Hockey. Viewers: Naomi Lea, Dhruv Kumar. Author: Simo, A.& Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 31. Prototype 3. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 32. Locus, prototype 3. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Figure 33. The space moulded by the body. Performer: Tia
Hockey. Author: Simo, A. & Venizelos, A (2018)
Amanda Gabriela Simó Rodríguez | 17096733 | RC-202
Theory Advisor: Sarah Rubidge
Tutors: Fiona Zisch, Alexander Whitley, George Adamopoulos, Phoenix Perry, Dominik Zisch
M.Arch in Design for Performance and Interaction
The Bartlett School of Architecture Interactive Architecture Lab University College London
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
View the project “Locus” in the following link: