Synchronous Objects: What else, besides the body, might physical thinking look like?
by Norah Zuniga Shaw — The Ohio State University Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design
April 28, 2010 – 09:57
There are many interesting new projects happening today at the intersection of dance research and digital media and concerned with the re-articulation and transmission of bodily knowledge. A few recent examples include Steve Paxton’s DVD and workshop “Material for the Spine”; Emio Greco’s interactive installation and DVD “Capturing Intention"; and the generous online digital archive created in the UK for Siobhan Davies’ work. This is the territory of our work, Synchronous Objects, for which I have provided the short video of selected animations. The full work is available at synchronousobjects.osu.edu. Synchronous Objects is a choreographic visualization project that flows from dance to data to objects. The dance is William Forsythe’s “One Flat Thing, reproduced” a contrapuntal piece exhibiting an exquisite chaos that is tightly structured by its three interlocking systems of organization. The data are numeric translations of the choreographic structures/systems in the dance. And the objects—animations, graphics, computer applications— are visual expressions of those structures. They are communicative (we wanted to share and transmit information and invite responses), investigatory (we wanted to probe Forsythe’s choreographic thinking) and exploratory (we wanted to find out what we could see in the dance, and how we could visualize those interpretations).
In Synchronous Objects and these other projects, research is a creative interdisciplinary pursuit. These are not objective studies carried out by seemingly detached scholars but instead are idiosyncratic subjectively informed endeavors. And these endeavors do not attempt to preserve the live moment. They begin from a different point. Instead they ask, what else is there? Or as Forsythe said during our collaboration “What else might this dance look like?” and “What else, besides the body, might physical thinking look like?” They are working with the difficult but also generative problem of making dance knowledge explicit and sharing it not only on stage and in the studio (as we are accustomed) but also through media objects. Together these projects and the many others that continue to emerge are the beginnings of what I hope will be a lively discursive space placing dance at the center of interdisciplinary knowledge exchange about embodiment and physical thinking and creating a rich set of resources for present and future historians and students of the form.
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