Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Multi-Media Interactive 2008 'Underground'

5 Performances 1 Question and Answer session

Grae Burton, Director of the Independent Theatre in Nelson NZ Aotearoa, invited me to perform/present my work over a two week period in late November and the first week in December 2008.

The performances unfolded successfully, with very positive feedback from the audiences. We had only small audiences in the first week. I carried out a lot of advertising through my own email networks and this has been helpful. However, it is all good and a welcome opportunity for me to explore my ideas in front of any kind of audience and gain a public perspective.

The performances were comprised of the following components:
Installation in the form of cafe table and chairs, DVD projection of RL videos, Second Life.com projection, active cell phones, a laptop used at the cafe table holding a web cam linked to www.camfrog.com, initially 4 then finally 5 performers. I advertised the performances in Second Life using the SL Arts Council contacts I have and other SL networks.

The site was the main theatre stage, which was surrounded on two sides by tiered seeting for 100 people. A screen effectively coverered the back of the stage, approx 5 mtrs long by 3 mtrs high. This screen held the Second Life projection. At right angles to this screen was another, smaller screen (about 2x1.5 mtrs) which held 6 of my RL dance videos on DVD. I sought collaboration from Grae Burton who runs the Theatre to perform with us, together with Jo Brown, who dances in my CI classes and works with Grae on Shakespearean projects. Fiona and I danced on stage. A storyteller and musician, Roger Sanders joined us for the final shows.

Performance Focus:

I wanted to centre the ideas-base for the performance series on 'Leaving' as mediator of our movements and relations in urban spaces. The narration and RL live dance is also based upon this aspect taken from my own research and notes.

My other principal focus was, to suggest/create an environment which addresses my stance on real/virtual realities. I have from the beginning of my Masters studies, been interested, from the perspective of my own and others` observations, that we move in and out of 'virtual' moments every day in the every day - however I am not defining these moments as virtual. I am asserting that there is no such thing. That instead, we exist in a fully immersive, mixed-reality of which these moments and 'extended' moment of the 'virtual world' of SL is simply another facet of the Real - another surface within which/upon which/against which to create a presence - and absence. Hence my involvement in the first place with Second Life as a possible ‘surface’ upon which/within which to create the works. (More of this later).

Grae Burton narrated selected writings of mine through the entire performance, as did Fiona and Jo. We created micro scenes of 'Leaving' in a 'station cafe' environment with hot paper cups of coffee, pulp magazines and cell phones. We arranged for people to text us during the performance to affirm the existence of the ether as a 'surface' within which I was implanting various communications: Second Life.Com, YouTube, the online live web cam; www.camfrog.com from a laptop on the cafe table on stage. By camera positioning in the SL station, with views from the cafe table in the corner, looking out across the station to the vid screens and crowd, I tied in the RL 'cafe' table, chairs and seated Jo and Fiona with the cafe in the SL station so one became an extension of the other.

Communication modes:

With my avatar in-life and myself and Fiona dancing on stage, I explored arriving and departing. To this end, I divided my time and physical presence between the computer - monitoring the Second Life station, talking with the avatars who had been invited to the performance in the SL station, changing the videos in the SL station using the YouTube server and creating a presence (ironically) of leaving, on the RL theatre stage. My management of avatars in the space changed through the performance series as I explored different strategies and emphases; how to increase the proactive roles of the avatars in the SL station during this performance period.

Prior to the final two performances on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 Dec, I had felt keenly, the rather ad-hoc basis from which the avatars functioned in SL during my performances. Initially, avatars had arrived in the station space and talked to one another and watched the RL videos being imported in-life and arriving on the large screens. I wanted a more pro-active role from them so I gave this some consideration and called a meeting in the SL station with two people, through their avatars - Clare Atkins PhD (Katipo Kirax) and John Waugh (Johnny Wendt) to arrive at some strategies. I had already decided to bring in three distinct phases/movement scores for the avatars in the station and Clare and John agreed that this might work well.

These movement phases were:
To place a top quality mocap (motion capture from Real Life) dance sphere in the station for avatars to click on and animate themselves. For this I selected coupled dances - ballroom, tango, waltz, slow dance so that avatars could have movement 'conversations' in the station. I did not select singles dances for their lack of engagement with another avatar in the space. After some time this phase would give way to avatars walking through the station cutout crowd as if they were commuting - leaving the station. The third phase was to have all the avatars gradually depart the station, leaving me alone in the space by the end of the performance.

This strategy seemed to work well. There was a distinct visual difference in the avatar presence and occupation of the station space as the phases unfolded. In many ways it became a fractal of what occurs in the real station as the commuter crowd begins around 5pm as a trickle, becomes a flood by 5.30pm and 6.00pm and dwindles to a few people by 6.45pm.

In the last two performances, we were joined by Roger Sanders. He is a professional storyteller and musician based in Nelson. His stories tend toward the parable/fable genre and I asked if he could write me some short ( a paragraph) stories of this nature, but adapt them to a contemporary, urban setting. My intention was to copy these into Second Life notecards and by creating a notecard dispenser (called Station Stories) in the station, avatars could click on the dispenser and receive the stories. The stories were being read by Roger during the RL performance so a conceptual and visual link was created between RL and SL. Some people behind their avatars during the performance, managed to successfully connect to camfrog.com to watch us in RL performing and themselves in the SL station on the screen. Theoretically it would have been possible to hear Roger reading the same stories they had received from the dispenser.

Now the performances are over, I will continue to add stories to the Station Stories notecard dispenser so visitors to the station will have an ongoing selection to acquire. Initially, I had had the bilboard called Station Stories already in the station inviting people to drop their stories about stations/leaving in to my avatar profile and would then post the stories. This is now possible and makes the station space a little more interactive for visitors.

My structuring of the performances evolved as we progressed through them. Every one was slightly different, based upon structured improvisation. I had wanted to present a sequence of rehearsals as the performances and workshop my ideas in front of an audience, enrolling them in some of the problem-solving and receiving real-time feedback. Unfortunately, this was not possible as some of the performers were not confident with this approach. I mean to explore this direction next year together with endnote performances because for me it signifies and validates my process of exploration with my concepts and practice in a way that 'final' performance/installations do not.

So I created a structure which underpinned our movements in and around and out of the space, with spoken words, dance and projection. My thinking with Fiona for our dance presence on the RL stage was to create three short improv phrases or scenarios based upon 'the Stranger', the Friend and the Lover. As we worked through these during the early performances it was not working well enough for me. There was insufficient clarity of differences expressed between the three. We created them differently each time but there was something missing from their expressed intent. I am dealing with apparently everyday, inconsequential events shared between people in the form of 'missed conversations' due to the prevailing process of our constantly departing a series of moments with which we are inconclusively involved. The phrases were short, only about a minute in duration, some 20 or 30 seconds where, after we broke away, (sometimes there was no physical contact at all) I would leave - to return to the computer, so this was working well but the nature of our dancing connection was either too melodramatic or too non-commital. So I divided our dance time into two activities. In the first I would execute a slow roll across the stage to cooincide with the Duende Roll DVD in Second Life and the reading of Duende referenced text. After this Fiona and I carried out a longer, 'Stranger' movement exploration which began tentatively, progressed through a clumsy, edgy, longing-for-but-ultimately-dysfunctional conversation moment. This was followed by a longer, 'Lover' connection which worked more successfully with the longer time to develop the conversation between us. We were more relaxed, the movements better defined and articulated as a sequence which, although obviously intimate, was going nowhere with a final departure.

I filmed with two cameras every performance except (unfortunately) the last, which I felt was the best! I will edit these and post them on my blog/have them available on DVDs. The lighting in the theatre was very subdued so a certain amount of the performance will be a little difficult to see.

Last Wednesday, I ran another QandA session which was open for the public to come in and talk with me. This was useful because it enabled me to put in place some idea-development in the SL station and talk to the people who came in. Limited numbers meant that I had more time to work than on the last occasion at the Momentum Gallery at Equilibrium in October. Because I was performing under the auspices of Multi-Media Interactive 2008 Underground put on by the Independent Theatre I had left the advertising up to them. The poor publicity up to this point prompted me to take matters into my own hands and advertise what I was doing at the Nelson Arts Council, Wild Tomatoes magazine in Nelson and the Nelson Mail and to send out emails over my own performance networks. The reviewer for the Nelson Leader is currently writing a short review. So for the last two shows we had nearly a full house. All good. The feedback from the public has been encouraging re these final shows. I had printed copies of my Abstract summary as handouts for the audience as well. This either went right over people`s heads or prompted an enthusiastic, interested response.

Friday, 31 October 2008

A Facet of the Real?

I will need, once again, to defer my discussion of the Stranger within the context of ‘Leaving’ as catalyst. I have a number of video clips to show both in and out of the Second Life Station before I move on to that topic, which I see as central to this project as a whole.

On Wednesday, 22 october 08 I carried out my second public presentation of the Second Life, Wellington Railway Station. The images included here are stills in the Station from the presentation day. The first image is a copy of the poster I made to advertise the event in both Real and Second Life. It is a composite of RL and SL images included here as a visual fractal of my stance toward the notion of blended realities. (*Please click on the images to enlarge).

The Location

The setting for this presentation was a small gallery, Momentum, a part of 'Equilibrium, Advanced Chiropractic Centre' in Church St, Nelson, NZ Aotearoa. I gratefully accepted the invitation to 'exhibit' here, there being a broadband connection and it also meant that I could move in for the day; in fact, my presentation lasted from 10am - 4pm. I data-projected the Second Life screen straight from our laptop (Mac Powerbook) onto one of the central walls. Seating for the audience/public was to either side with the addition of mats on the floor in the front. During the day I anticipated that I would have time to continue working in the Station, in between visitors. At 10am I received the first visitors and I had a constant turnover without a break until 4pm. The gallery was often filled to capacity with more people standing by the door. I had no time to record my process or the event in either RL or SL. I spent this time intensively balancing this mixed or blended reality, with questions and discussion occurring unrelentingly in both RL and SL spaces. I wanted the two descriptions of RL and SL - as one blended reality - to extend our perceptions of space and time in a public venue and to recieve responses related to this aspect. I have been intent on (hence my internet blog) presenting my research/practice as a developmental process to the public since I began this programme of study. I am interested in promoting discussion and critical discourse on all aspects of my work in a public arena and I saw this event as an ideal opportunity for this to take place, concurrent with the Nelson Arts Festival 2008. I am very grateful to Graeme Burton, Director of the Independent Theatre in Nelson (the premises next door) for coming in and videoing the event on two occasions through the day. I will be editing the footage for this blog soon.

My aims for this presentation were several:

First, I wanted to create a public forum for my work. I see this as being necessary from the point of view of the performer in the description of myself as artist.

Initially I considered carrying out a series of live, improvised sketches during the presentation but I abandoned this idea after realising the extent of the challenge required in resolving the dual roles. I could not adequately dance, carry out a meaningful dialogue with both audiences and move my avatar - but I am still considering this problem for future events. Although seated behind a computer, I see myself in this situation as a performer/guide, establishing a link, together with my Second Life self, for the assembled audience between Real Life and Second Life. However, my stance was not one of linking the real and the virtual. My task for this presentation was to suggest to the audience that in fact we were faced with the ingredients of a blended reality. I maintained that Second Life and my station was simply another facet of the real. That virtual perception/moments occur for us on a regular basis on any given day and that this encounter with the ether-made-visible was simply a more formal manifestation of this occurrence. Through discussion/presentation with the audience on this aspect there was general agreement that this interpretation of the perception of the Real could be accurate. Most people tended to skim over their barely witnessed virtual moments so it was a new experience to be faced with a captured, sustained virtual/real experience. Although agreement was reached, (discourse on this subject, not agreement, was my objective) conclusions about this aspect were not definitive.

Second, I wanted to expose an audience to my station simulacrum with streaming RL videos.

This aspect is related and an integral part of the aspect discussed above. I had just succeeded in obtaining the necessary permissions on the land for this to take place and I wanted to obtain feedback on the presence of the projected Real Life videos in the Station. Was there a more even balance existing now between the two states of RL and SL, with the addition of the videos? Did this more effectively imply a state of blended reality than a dual layering of the real and the virtual?

I have been building the Station with the deliberate intention of bringing in my RL videos for the last four months. So to some extent, the Station environment now containing these videos becomes (and became on the day) a proving ground for my concepts and dance practice. The Station has been viewed extensively by some people in SL over the past few months and has received enthusiastic responses. But until the presentation no-one had seen the videos in the Station. Ultimately, the experiencing of Second Life is still so new to most people, (it is significant that those people I know locally who are in SL for any length of time become very quickly, fully immersed in the SL experience and perceive it as a real space/time place) that the chasm between the RL video footage and the perception of the SL space as a naturally-occurring environment may be too great for an audience to bridge on the first viewing. I consider what I am doing is to introduce the first glimpse of a process of immersive experience which itself, is as compelling and equal to that of any other experience in Real Life, but that this could be a sequentially-integrated perceptually-based encounter.

To get back to my videos in the Station - I am very interested in their addition to the SL Station space. Energetically they have introduced a quite different kind of presence in the space. I have as yet, to decide what I want from them in the space. The mere fact of their existence in the Station is interesting but I think I am pursuing something more - I want something more from them. Whether this is a symbiotic relationship with the cutout crowd or a contrasting relationship where the videos play an interventionist role (like we as dancers have done in the RL Station) in the space I am not yet sure.

At this stage I have not manipulated the video screens very much but I intend to explore ways in which the RL movement can be blended with the static forms/screens/cutouts in the station to create a mixed visual panorama of feeling.

Despite the fact that the videos are being played on two-dimensional screens, I observe that although they are now removed from Real space/time (through video/edit) their essential characteristics defined by seamless three-dimensional movement which lies at the heart of their visual construct, they have retained these movement-based qualities which we associate with Real Life. These essential qualities separate them significantly from the SL cutouts and screens, which although essentially similar in their original visual signature (movement-based), have assumed a more static state energetically, based on passive two dimensional visual constructs. I am not sure at this stage whether I want to bring the two closer together or keep them apart.

During the course of the coming weeks I will be examining both compositional scenarios:

I am currenly investigating the visual effects of a) keeping the RL screens separated from the SL crowd, b) embedding the RL screens more subtly in the SL crowds and c) implanting the SL crowd cutouts with the RL texture which allows the RL video clips to play on that object/surface. This way I hope to erode, break up the RL video by scattering the projection through the components of the crowd. *(See the image immediately above). The advent of bringing my RL video footage into the Station now allows me to explore more specifically my ideas using the SL Station as a strategic perceptual and compositional device. This stage is significant because it directly affects my physical management of my concepts referring to the subliminal nature of witnessed moments in a Real Life crowd and how we are interpreting this through our dance. Do I want the dance separated away from the crowd, in a corner? Do I want the dance realised as a moving mote within the crowd stream? I will continue to explore both avenues.

Although they are both based on three-dimensional illusion, the videos may remain as videos projected onto screens and the cutouts may remain - as cutouts. A possibility does exist to animate the cutouts, but judging by the other animated cutouts I have seen this will still only create a moving, shaped two-dimensional screen.

For me there is more evidence of 'conversations' taking place here in the juxtaposed combinations of the RL and SL compositions. There may also be 'missed conversations' in evidence. At this stage it is still quite new and I will need time to reflect upon what I am constructing. Initially I was only able to bring in one video at a time into the Station, but I have just divided the Station concourse into three areas. This means that instead of uploading just one video into the station I can upload three different videos. When any avatar walks into that particular area and activates 'media' the video uploaded into that area will begin to play for them. The video then plays on all the screens with the designated texture/image (image of myself and Fiona with her hand over my eye). The avatar can stay in that area and watch any/all of the screens by using the camera controls. As soon as the avatar walks away from that area into another area, the video selected for that area will play. I have only just put this in place so will work with it for a while and then I may change the designated areas.

Third, I wanted to explore the possibility of a dialogue occurring between the RL audience around me and the SL crowd of avatars in the Station.

Both crowds had received the same poster, advertising the event in RL and SL. The novelty value of Second Life for those seeing it for the first time is profound, so many questions from a public audience address general SL issues and this can become a distraction from specific aspects. During my presentation a wide variety of questions came up and were discussed, eg: the benefits and inherent dangers of intensive and longterm immersion in online world/games like SL and general internet/computing for children and adults. The subject of online education modes came up; Efest, virtual learning and its effectiveness compared to learning in established RL norms of institutionalized (and non) learning modes and other issues. We spent some time debating the question of 'reality' after I asked 'What is Real?'. This reached a serious/humorous point when the avatars in the Station accused the RL audience around me of being the ones who were 'virtual'. Of course from the point of view of the avatars/people in the Station who were sitting at computers in Portugal, Montana, Wellington, Auckland, the UK and Holland, the people surrounding me were virtual. 'Where you stand determines what you see', but also how you percieve what you see - seeing and understanding - subjective solutions to negotiating our respective realities. In relation to this aspect, in my next public presentation I will make a point of focussing upon issues related to my work in SL and if there is time, I may open this up to general questions and topics.

Fourth, I want to investigate with this current work, the extent to which I may be able to extend the parameters of technological/media communication within the context of space/time presentation.

Virtual space and time I believe, is a facet of real space and time. I want(ed) the two descriptions of RL and SL - as one blended reality - to extend our perceptions of space and time in a public venue and to receive responses related to this aspect. As I mentioned above, the people behind the avatars in the SL Station were scattered around the globe, which immediately brings up the interesting notion of a (albeit limited) world-audience. *(The image immediately above has captured myself and Sioux Scribe, my AUT Masters supervisor, in the Station looking at the videos) I am interested in developing an RL/SL real-time blend here though, (allowing for the fact that with any video/edit there has already been a removal from Real Life real-time ) with a strategic presence of one in the other, otherwise I am concerned that it could become akin to passively watching a television broadcast rather than an active encounter in real space/time.

Finally, I will be examining all of the above and prioritising my activities so that I am not endeavouring to take on too many questions and investigative directions!

Second Life Wellington Railway Station - Visitors Book

I include this table with thanks to Toddles Lightworker from Weltec who has been maintaining this ongoing record of the flow of visitors through the Station since I began work.
http://virtual.weltec.ac.nz/Rolle/

A list of visitors to Rollo's build. In order of their arrival.
The total time for all visits by one AV and the last visit time stamp in GMT is shown.

245 visitors so far as of Sat 1st November 2008 NZ time.

Who Hrs Mins Secs Last Visit Time

Isa Goodman 0 0 50 2008-07-29T09:41:19.433413Z
Toddles Lightworker 0 2 30 2008-09-19T03:19:52.539177Z
Rollo Kohime 108 35 50 2008-10-30T05:40:26.952631Z
Edithzor Exonar 1 14 50 2008-10-30T23:57:23.584578Z
Eryr Llewellyn 0 15 0 2008-10-13T07:48:17.464219Z
Jeb Lanzius 0 17 10 2008-10-15T10:20:17.235374Z
Arwenna Stardust 1 6 0 2008-10-31T00:37:32.555745Z
SitDevelop Acker 0 9 30 2008-10-31T01:56:10.896277Z
Katipo Kirax 0 24 0 2008-08-29T11:02:10.544746Z
Tran Courtois 0 0 20 2008-07-31T09:41:58.602954Z
Kavisha Quan 0 50 30 2008-08-24T20:54:31.082094Z
LorenzoBuhne Zerbino 0 3 50 2008-07-31T10:58:06.731606Z
ugee Egoyan 0 16 0 2008-09-25T13:46:17.962555Z
Indygo Magic 0 1 0 2008-08-01T23:31:58.930020Z
Dependent Binder 0 4 0 2008-08-08T20:41:28.467404Z
CiderJack Applemoor 0 9 20 2008-10-28T07:08:57.790395Z
Dacary Dumpling 0 6 30 2008-09-05T21:35:04.127492Z
Professor Noarlunga 0 5 0 2008-09-28T22:39:06.877603Z
Steve Baroque 0 2 10 2008-08-01T11:05:52.164306Z
Ellie Dewoitine 3 24 30 2008-10-29T08:36:04.457530Z
SHAKIRA Skirr 0 8 20 2008-08-01T17:12:22.036566Z
Fionnbhar Kohime 5 46 50 2008-09-28T22:49:47.570809Z
Suteruni Susanto 0 0 50 2008-09-09T11:26:32.772152Z
SITLife Jefes 0 1 20 2008-10-30T07:38:59.154443Z
CT Vlodovic 0 8 50 2008-08-03T17:14:42.283931Z
Iphigenia Flores 0 14 50 2008-10-05T22:15:32.386007Z
Edasa Eales 0 0 40 2008-08-04T02:48:46.305091Z
Orwell Sorbet 0 26 20 2008-09-28T23:01:33.511958Z
Itchy Gamba 0 0 10 2008-08-04T06:02:52.527079Z
Mythical Destiny 0 0 40 2008-08-04T06:13:43.302277Z
Mikky Ling 0 0 10 2008-08-04T06:56:45.619766Z
Netpuppy Thespian 0 6 30 2008-08-28T21:29:06.634782Z
Effy Khandr 0 47 40 2008-10-09T20:03:54.900948Z
Joy Janick 0 0 20 2008-08-06T02:21:15.193390Z
Miso Susanowa 0 2 50 2008-08-06T08:57:29.892178Z
Mychal Shan 1 25 50 2008-10-08T08:11:01.867274Z
Bri Rayna 0 2 10 2008-08-06T22:15:01.680774Z
Xhris Roussel 0 7 0 2008-10-03T04:06:46.055965Z
Cheddar Heliosense 0 11 20 2008-08-10T02:12:50.686844Z
BF2 Shepherd 0 10 30 2008-10-29T20:39:31.175239Z
Salina Tuttle 0 0 50 2008-08-07T07:08:44.801620Z
MisterCool Magic 0 3 50 2008-08-07T09:54:20.738757Z
Maxine Pevensey 0 12 10 2008-08-08T02:27:31.943226Z
MoonSkywalker Dezno 0 1 40 2008-10-02T22:56:54.736753Z
jasonzhang Whybrow 0 55 30 2008-09-02T08:09:48.128582Z
L0RD Skytower 0 0 10 2008-08-07T22:28:46.138843Z
Jasoncode Magic 0 7 30 2008-08-29T03:23:05.943684Z
Reynard Ragu 0 26 10 2008-08-14T21:56:02.588205Z
Jiajun Footman 0 0 0 2008-08-07T22:46:13.806924Z
Luenza Parx 0 0 30 2008-09-02T02:06:14.017821Z
Artikas Fhang 0 0 0 2008-08-07T22:48:30.769224Z
Like Susanowa 0 1 0 2008-08-08T01:04:43.912127Z
Dayja Allen 1 6 20 2008-09-29T08:55:10.209625Z
pure Hynes 0 29 20 2008-10-03T14:19:34.301689Z
LakotaWolf Dawg 0 0 0 2008-08-08T20:48:39.591150Z
Terence Meredith 0 1 20 2008-08-08T21:34:58.369900Z
wenjun String 0 17 40 2008-08-09T01:58:26.363325Z
Loquacia Loon 0 2 10 2008-08-10T06:14:36.967985Z
Dresnel Whitfield 0 1 10 2008-08-10T21:17:30.059075Z
Steph Rexen 0 0 0 2008-08-11T00:05:05.856014Z
pall Sporg 0 0 40 2008-08-11T00:05:58.585933Z
indelible Shelman 0 2 50 2008-08-28T21:15:05.068930Z
Mint Runo 0 7 30 2008-08-11T03:43:10.004978Z
Blake Jigsaw 0 1 0 2008-08-12T06:49:35.507702Z
suet Urvilan 0 4 20 2008-08-11T12:11:54.064263Z
Peekaboo Skytower 0 0 30 2008-08-12T23:25:35.519399Z
Keeper Hellershanks 0 0 40 2008-08-12T23:26:17.833291Z
yee Luik 0 0 20 2008-08-13T07:16:53.248283Z
May Luminos 0 0 50 2008-08-13T07:51:19.106693Z
vonded Parx 0 0 10 2008-08-14T22:04:03.705165Z
saberwill Aristocrat 0 0 20 2008-08-14T03:13:06.791674Z
IchiGo Shinn 0 0 0 2008-08-14T03:55:20.421069Z
Alisdair Skytower 0 0 30 2008-08-14T04:35:46.675880Z
ArianaRebecca Juliesse 0 2 0 2008-08-14T05:32:30.298041Z
Wade Corvale 0 1 50 2008-08-14T06:48:51.150909Z
Usefulidiot Dezno 0 13 50 2008-08-18T04:13:44.371903Z
Tobiano Vlodovic 0 5 20 2008-08-20T22:03:46.526578Z
taijikate Bode 0 6 50 2008-08-15T03:47:12.308072Z
Gryphon Vayandar 1 36 20 2008-09-28T22:36:49.661817Z
heiiiiman Rajal 0 0 40 2008-08-15T07:37:02.000433Z
CheeseHead Foden 0 0 50 2008-08-16T01:48:24.621088Z
yikai Xue 0 0 10 2008-08-16T12:22:06.195888Z
Clare Wyatt 0 5 30 2008-08-16T16:16:51.363983Z
Piroshy Ning 0 4 30 2008-08-17T12:07:14.907976Z
Tawhiri Pye 0 6 50 2008-08-17T18:36:12.135964Z
Arm Strom 0 34 30 2008-08-22T15:54:12.278136Z
Winnie Ragu 0 0 0 2008-08-18T08:41:19.877843Z
Maraki Barom 0 1 50 2008-08-20T23:08:17.728746Z
Kandyfloss Khandr 0 3 20 2008-08-21T02:48:58.068063Z
Mo10 Twine 0 2 40 2008-08-21T03:24:50.348143Z
Wifi Hax 0 1 40 2008-08-21T03:42:37.585152Z
archmunster Toll 0 17 20 2008-08-26T10:52:39.753913Z
Paul Allandale 0 0 50 2008-08-21T07:34:20.191013Z
Lula Rhiadra 0 2 10 2008-08-21T10:13:17.558206Z
Yeeting Andel 0 2 0 2008-08-21T14:00:02.241822Z
dougy Hellershanks 0 21 10 2008-09-02T11:00:51.966206Z
stretch01 Quan 0 2 10 2008-09-08T04:52:16.818796Z
Karen Ashdene 0 5 50 2008-08-22T08:15:41.201598Z
FREDDIE Jigsaw 0 0 0 2008-08-22T11:16:57.276796Z
aimme Bookmite 0 0 0 2008-08-22T11:44:29.436530Z
Clawz Karu 0 2 10 2008-08-22T14:01:48.118140Z
jaimeball Khandr 0 6 0 2008-08-22T16:00:21.701898Z
Mittze Tatham 0 9 0 2008-08-23T01:18:56.127352Z
Farr Baxton 0 13 20 2008-08-24T21:05:57.364448Z
elivana Langwarrin 0 0 10 2008-08-25T00:55:45.645500Z
Tip Ametza 0 5 30 2008-08-25T07:46:57.199885Z
Alice Svenska 0 1 40 2008-08-25T16:43:27.315369Z
Geon Nasu 0 27 50 2008-09-17T09:12:53.483948Z
MaxNaughty Magic 0 0 20 2008-08-26T22:30:14.980355Z
Johnnie Wendt 2 6 50 2008-10-31T04:11:43.888323Z
Trinny Dreamscape 0 1 10 2008-08-27T02:18:47.016323Z
Wendy Steeplechase 0 17 10 2008-10-07T00:50:52.367572Z
Fin Morpork 1 51 10 2008-09-10T08:17:20.036443Z
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Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Blending Realities

On wednesday, 22 october 08 I carried out my second public presentation of my Second Life,Wellington Railway Station. My aims for this presentation were several:

First, I wanted to create a public forum for my work. I see this as being necessary from the point of view of the performer in the description of myself as artist. Initially I considered carrying out a series of live, improvised sketches during the presentation but I abandoned this idea after realising the challenge of resolving the dual roles required. I could not adequately verblise with both audiences and move my avatar - but I am still considering this problem for future events. Although seated behind a computer, I see myself in this situation as a performer/guide, establishing a link together with my Second Life self, for the assembled audience between Real Life and Second Life. However, my stance was not one of linking the real and the virtual. My task for this presentation was to suggest to the audience that in fact we were faced with the ingredients of a blended reality. I maintained that Second Life and my station was simply another facet of the real. That virtual perception/moments occur for us on a regular basis on any given day and that this encounter with the ether-made-visible was no exception.

Second, I wanted to expose an audience to my station simulacrum with streaming RL videos. I had just succeeded in obtaining the necessary permissions on the land for this to take place and I wanted to obtain feedback on the presence of the projected Real Life videos in the Station. Was there a more even balance existing now between the two states of RL and SL, with the addition of the videos? I have been building the Station with the deliberate intention of bringing in my RL videos for the last four months. So to some extent, the Station environment now containing these videos becomes (and became on the day) a proving ground for my concepts and dance practice in the RL public eye. The Station has been viewed extensively by some people in SL over the past few months and has recieved enthusiastic responses. But until the presentation no-one had seen the videos in the Station. Ultimately, the presentation of Second Life is still so new to most people, (it is significant that those people I know locally who are in SL for any length of time become very quickly, fully immersed in the SL terrain and perceive it as a real space/time place) that the chasm between the RL video footage and the perception of the SL space as a naturally-occurring environment may be too great for an audience to bridge on the first viewing. To get back to my videos in the Station - I am very interested in their addition to the SL Station space. Energetically they have introduced a quite different kind of presence in the space. I have as yet, to decide what I want from them in the space. The mere fact of their existence in the Station is interesting but I think I am pursuing something more - I want something more from them. Whether this is a symbiotic relationship with the cutouts crowds or a contrasting relationship where the videos play an interventionist role (like we as dancers have done in the RL Station) in the space I am not yet sure.

Despite the fact that the videos are being played on two-dimensional screens, I have noticed that being based in the realm of the 'Real' with seamless three-dimensional movement at the heart of their visual construct, because they have retained this movement, this essential quality separates them significantly from the SL cutouts and screens, which although essentially similar in their original visual signature (movement-based) they have assumed a more static state energetically, based on two dimensional visual constructs. I am not sure at this stage whether I want to bring the two closer together or change their essential qualities. The videos may remain as videos projected onto screens and the cutouts may remain - as cutouts. A possibility does exist to animate the cutouts, but judging by the other animated cutouts I have seen this will create only - animated two-dimensional cutouts.

At this stage I have not manipulated the video screens very much but I do intend to explore ways in which the RL movement can be blended with the static forms/screens/cutouts in the station to create a mixed visual panorama of feeling. For me there is more evidence of 'conversations' taking place here in the juxtaposed combinations of the RL and SL compositions. There may also be 'missed conversations' in evidence. At this stage it is still quite new and I will need time to reflect upon what I am constructing. Initially I was only able to bring in one video at a time into the Station, but I have just divided the Station concourse into three areas. This means that instead of uploading just one video into the station I can upload three different videos. When any avatar walks into that particular area and activates 'media' the video uploaded into that area will begin to play for them. The video then plays on all the screens with the designated texture/image (image of myself and Fiona with her hand over my eye). The avatar can stay in that area and watch any/all of the screens by using the camera controls. As soon as the avatar walks away from that area into another area, the video selected for that area will play. I have only just put this in place so will work with it for a while and then I may change the designated areas.

Third, I wanted to explore the possibility of a dialogue occurring between the RL audience around me and the SL crowd of avatars in the Station. Both crowds had recieved the same poster advertising the event in both RL and SL. Developing a dialogue between the SL Station crowd and the RL audience. The novelty value of Second Life for those seeing it for the first time is profound, so many questions from a public audience address general SL issues and this can become a distraction from specific aspects. During my presentation a wide variety of questions came up and were discussed, eg: the benefits and inherent dangers of intensive and longterm immersion in online world/games like SL and general internet/computing for children and adults. The subject of online education modes, efest, virtual learning and its effectiveness compared to learning in established RL norms of institutionalized (and non) learning modes and other issues. We spent some time debating the question of 'reality' after I asked 'What is Real?'. This reached a serious/humorous point when the avatars in the Station accused the RL audience around me of being the ones who were 'virtual'. Of course from the point of view of the avatars/people in the Station who were sitting at computers in Portugal, Montana, Wellington, Auckland, the UK and Holland, the people surrounding me were virtual. 'Where you stand determines what you see', but also how you percieve what you see - seeing and understanding - subjective solutions to negotiating our respective realities.

Fourth, I want to investigate with this current work, the extent to which I may be able to extend the parameters of technological/media communication within the context of space/time presentation. Virtual space and time I believe, is a facet of real space and time. I wanted the two descriptions RL and SL - as one blended reality - to extend our perceptions of space and time, in front of the public and to recieve responses related to this issue.

Fifth, I have been interested (hence my internet blog) in presenting my research/practice as a developmental process to the public since I began this programme of study. I am interested in promoting discussion and critical discourse on all aspects of my work in a public arena and I saw this event as an opportunity to engage with this process. The setting for this presentation was a small gallery, Momentum, built into 'Equilibrium, Advanced Chiropractic Centre' in Church St, Nelson, NZ Aotearoa. I gratefully accepted the invitation to 'exhibit' here, there being a broadband connection and it also meant that I could move in for the day; in fact, my presentation lasted from 10am - 4pm. I data-projected the Second Life screen straight from our laptop (Mac Powerbook) onto one of the central walls. Seating for the audience/public was to either side with the addition of mats on the floor in the front. During the day I anticipated that I would have time to continue working in the Station, in between visitors. At 10am I received the first visitors and I had a constant turnover without a break until 4pm.
I had no time to record my process or the event in either RL or SL. I spent this time intensively endeavouring to balance this mixed or blended reality with questions and discussion occurring unrelentingly in both RL and SL until the last person left at 4pm. I am very grateful to Graeme Burton of the Independent Theatre in Nelson (the premises next door) for coming in and videoing the event on two occasions through the day. I will be editing the footage for this blog soon.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Paradox in Blended Realities

... Estaban got to his feet and looked straight ahead. 'Age is not the problem Senorita. The problem is you are too beautiful for my resistance.' Tahi smiled and felt her face grow hot. It was the first time anyone but her dad had called her beautiful. 'Did you not feel my admiration when you was hanging out the sheets?' He looked down at her and grinned. 'Doesn't mean you can kiss me,' she said, trying to frown. 'I'm very sad at this point. The Maori he open my heart and the memories come back. I want a woman to take them from me.' 'Why do men think sex makes problems go away?' she asked.

'Because beauty and pain they should always be together. That is duende,' said Estaban. Sitting back down he grabbed the bottle and sculled back the last tarry remnants of wine ...

Extract from 'Estaban' by Briar Grace-Smith Sept 2008

In this quote above, two disparate persons come together to share in a moment of insight into the sublime - past memory and present paradox - beauty and pain. I included this quote very kindly provided for me by Sylvie Haisman, with permission from a fellow colleague in the same course. The piece was written recently so the Duende is very much current. Duality of emotion surfaces as a veiled aspect of the dueting in the corner of the main entrance to Wellington Railway Station in these latest video posts. I say 'veiled' because I am convinced that we keep our feelings in public places for the most part, under wraps. How to express, in a commuter crowd at rush-hour, these sentiments associated with that excess of passion so driven by the Duende? My belief, and I have said this in earlier posts, is that it is possible to feel these emotions and possess these insights without giving way necessarily, to an outward show of that internal turmoil. People do it all around us, all the time. I maintain that far from the Duende dwelling only in that rarefied atmosphere of traditional Spanish narrative, whether it be realized in dance or text, the essence of the Duende surfaces in the events of the everyday. The mundanity of the everyday conceals a multiplicity of moments which for each of us, at any given time or place, can be elevated beyond the routine. I am interested in expressing traits of the Duende evident through the poignancy in our apparent inability to stay close and present with another person or place - in the everyday. Emergence of this condition is there to be recognized on a daily basis, because we ourselves, are inevitably located in the everyday.

I have consistently aired the intention to work with almost, discarded moments of feeling and recognition - we churlishly throw away our sensing of inexplicable perception slips occurring out of the corner of our eye - events witnessed in passing as we hurry on our way to the next engagement - which hopefully, will be clear and unambiguous. So my dance deals with ambiguity and paradox, with back-eddies and corners near to, yet almost invisible from the mainstream of movement in this Station space. (image above, the SL Entrance corner which figures in the RL dance videos below. There is a mixed-reality reversal here. I could have referred first, to the Real Life corner. Which is real? ... paradox in blended realities).

I like corners. They both create and define that duality for me, offering up an irony existing in a constrained space which is both a haven and a trap - an enclave which provides a sheltered view - outward. So there is a circling within a contained fractal space, a fraction of the wider environment - a point of purchase in the stream of humanity. This is how I see where we are dancing and like a tidbit of unusual flotsam found at the tideline, we are stumbled into by the people hurrying on the edge of the crowd. You can see the doubletake. The unspoken question, the '... what the ...?' From a corner one can make forays out, into the flood and be tossed back again. Commuter detritus?

I have made work in my last sessions in the real life Station which are careful interventionist expeditions, breaking out and away from these corners. These studies will figure in my next post. For the moment, these two video studies below, 'Cutouts' and 'Leaving and the little death' are firmly located in the corner of the entrance.

In 'Cutouts' I have returned to pursuing black and white as a basis for creating quiet, understated micro-dramas, easily missed. Can the Duende exist here? I have asked this question above and in earlier posts. I am honestly not sure but I think, yes! Rather than define the Duende through obvious expressions of passion in our movement I have tried to tone this down in the dance itself although keeping a semblance of propriety emotion, while introducing a certain tension at the editing stage. 'Cutouts' is introduced through the flow of commuters at the entrance, resembling, with their white outlines, moving cutouts which I have been creating in my SL Station. I have used the 'extract' filter in Final Cut to create this ambiguity in the people and background. I have kept initially, the saturation of colour largely intact to denote that sense of normality in the main crowd flow (as distinct from our corner which is unashamedly black and white). This disappears, when the crowd quickly becomes black and white too - perception viewed from our dancing perspective - looking outward while inwardly preoccupied with the intimacy of the moment. Fiona and Sylvie are engaged here in a conversation which is laced with a certain tension in their improvisation coming from a connection which is not quite mutual. Sylvie seems to have a hidden agenda. We are never quite clear as to what exactly this may be. This is what I am looking for. Ambiguity. Sylvie appears to be playing with Fiona, (there is a sense of a desire to control Fiona) while Fiona simply seems to want to attain and maintain a connection. Small tensions. I think this is enhanced by the lack of distracting colour. The footage is grainier and I think the conversation is grittier for it.

I have used sound devised by Craig Agnew (Nelson musician/composer/lecturer at NMIT) here. We have been experimenting with abstract and minor key riffs to introduce into the work. I wanted another layer of sound over and above the Station sounds, to imply an extra voice in the conversation of the duet. I explored several choices before settling on this sound addtion.

In 'Leaving and the little death' I have kept the use of the Pleasantville effect to reduce the saturation of colour selectively and I have layered in myself rolling in the middle of the crowd flow, as a third party to the dialogue of movement expressed by Fiona and Sylvie. Am I 'the little death' here? Perhaps. I wanted to suggest that sense of a minor chord in the duet. A falling away into an unknown place. Here I have brought in another sample of Craig Agnew`s sounds which is localised around my movement.

I think that both of these studies are working more successfully as micro-dramas with the combination of close-up intimacy and contrast/desaturated colour. There is a sense of a story unfolding about perhaps something which is to be lost. A falling down.

*I have added these Second Life Station images as a current update on the commuter crowd in the Station. I am planning now on manipulating these images in such a way as to explore more sense of disquiet in the space. I will post the developments as they emerge. At this point in my thinking, I am beginning to explore the idea of using Second Life cutouts enlarged to real life human proportions and mounting these in the real life Station.






Paradox in Blended Realities - Leaving and the little death

video

Paradox in Blended Realities - Cutouts

video

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Strangers All - 'Duende ... in this place' Webb, P. Wilson`s Bowl

Come what may, sooner or later under the influence of our 'becoming' Massumi, B and Bergson, H , rather than 'being', eventually we are removed from known others and places. Traversing time and space ensures that we become strangers in a strange land where we must encounter others assuming the same mantle. I assert this deliberately, while simultaneously something deep within me seeks to dodge the notion. Even so, if you have read my earlier posts you will know that I do not intend for this direction of thought to imply that the human condition as it articulates and finds a voice, either in each of us or in the collective sense, necessarily possesses by nature the truncated vision of a depressed soul. Rather, I am suggesting that 'Leaving' is as it should be - a necessary element within the wider scheme of what it means to be human.

I maintain then, that the manifestation of 'Leaving' as an action, ostensibly subsumed into the norm of any given day of activity becomes essentially, an occurrence of significance. An ongoing event in itself. Rather than happenstance, 'Leaving' emerges as a force to be reckoned with, possessing the quiet and largely unnoticed capability to modify our behaviours with others and to impinge occasionally on our perception of the dynamics inherent in arriving, residing and departing both people and places.

'Leaving' will make strangers of us all. It is easy for the spirit to rebel at such an assertion. I am aware myself, since I have lived a somewhat diasporic existence through my childhood and then moving to the other side of the world to 'make a life', that despite this upheaval (the process is no small thing) I have people 'back home'; family and friends, who I like to think will never make of me a stranger, (The old adage holds true: 'Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in'), the kinds of people who you may not physically see for literally, years and years and yet when you do meet again, a core of recognition, of acknowledgement, an empathy emerges to celebrate that connection that between us we possess, but which has lain dormant for a time. I have written on the Notecard Dispenser outside my simulacrum of Wellington Railway Station in Second Life; ‘The Duende for me, speaks of ‘Le Petit Mort’ – the Little Death which resides in many a parting. The demise of connection, the fear of intimacy and recognition failing to outlast time and distance’.

We talk of friendships made in our formative years, which will always exist for us come what may and frequently, so they do. So we continually invest in our own makeup in the way that we conduct our lives, an energy and concentrated intent which ensures that some at least, of our connections with others are not entirely ephemeral. We derive strength from this knowledge to enable us to continue on and most of us know the feeling when we are leaving on a journey, that no matter how far we may go, even if we travel without the expectation of being welcomed on our arrival, if we have someone who awaits our return or at least, is conscious that we are gone, this may in itself assist us in the process of leaving.

'... in this place'. We are inexorably drawn away from both, places which have meaning for us and also one another and although we are also drawn back, the involuntary shove in some form or another, is away again.
'... in this place'. Belonging. This post title is taken from a poem by P Webb in the collection, 'Wilson`s Bowl. It denotes for me, the subtle unspoken paradox that although we may find ourselves at times, attached to a given place, the span of occupation is not timeless - it will come to an end and the knowledge of this makes for us the time we do have in-situ all the more poignant. We tend to gather to us and harbour those qualities which combine to shore-up those spaces with a sense of place; emotions, objects and connections with people which assist us in sustaining the feeling that we are grounded in one situation, that we belong, together with a certain sub-set of humanity which has been arrived at to some extent, through our own choices - we like to think that we choose our friends ... and this is the case, whether in real life or apparently virtual world extentions like Second Life.com. With Clare Atkins` (aka Arwenna Stardust) permission I quote here from her Second Life blog: It was the first time that I had felt a different sense of community in Second Life. I have long felt at home in the virtual community of educators both on Koru and in other educational sims but here were 5 RL individuals, most of whom would never have met even in SL if not for being virtual neighbours ... it was surprisingly reassuring to know that we have a neighborhood in which we belong ... It reminded me of the PhD research that a NZ student, Archmunster Toll, is doing into how far the concept of nationhood extends into Second Life. His survey questions including several that ask after your sense of ‘belonging’ to the region that you have as your SL home ... I have finally begun to realise that I DO feel a sense of neighbourly community with other land owners in my home regions and that I have developed some pride that the sim and its surrounds are developing in a way that I find not only friendly but aesthetically tasteful too. These comments by Clare reflect the sentiments of many residents in Second Life. When I first arrived in-life a year ago I was investigating SL as a potential 'non-place', anticipating a lack of sensed 'belonging' after the French-Algerian anthropologist, Marc Augé`s theories of 'Non-lieux'. (non-places, Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, Verso, London, NY) To my surprise, I discovered that many avatars I spoke to in-life insisted that Second Life held all the empathetic qualities we would associate with Real Life locations and people. A sense of belonging for residents was very much alive and well, in-life.

'... in this place' then for me, is both relative and diverse. I support and applaud the sentiments which allow us to remain optimistic about the apparent stability of our existence and our conviction that we can belong across a broad range of contexts, whether they be perceptual, philosophical or physical. Yet pathos can also be a constituent of our belonging, the poignancy of change through becoming, the bittersweet draught which at times inescapably juxtaposes the centredness of ‘being’ at home.

In my Second Life Wellington Railway Station I have placed a bilboard requesting written responses to my concepts of ‘Leaving’ and the Duende (the great sense of longing for the Portuguese surfaces here too, in the Saudade) and the build itself. What follows is a Second Life Notecard response written in-life after visits to the Station by Johnnie Wendt. (I quote him here with his kind permission). He told me that he needed to sit on the Station bench in the Concourse for a while and reflect, before the words would come:

There is a certain sadness in the smell of newly mown grass on a late afternoon, morning dew glistening like teardrops on a pasture and the scent of summer in a brownskinned girl`s hair. They exist for the moment in a time and place but only for that moment although the memories may return for the flicker of an eyelid, sparked by a perfume or a trick of light. The ineffable sadness contained in all beauty is engendered by the fact that time moves on inexorably. Nothing ever stays the same. Inevitably everything moves towards death and decay. Summer will always end no matter how long one wants to hold onto the golden days or feel again the warmth of the girl`s skin, or see the sunlight sparkle in the golden down on her arms.

Old-fashioned railway stations, with their Gothic grandeur, bring back all those memories: Fleeting memories of the people who have moved through our lives – have entered or left or who are leaving as everyone must do eventually: The sadness of limited mortality contained in all our encounters. Even the sadness amid the laughter and the precious laughter of the precious solace from loneliness which can grow from the smile of recognition across a crowded hall.

In this station, with the sounds of unloading and loading trains, the pavement clatter of many feet, the birdlike chatter of the throngs, that sense of duende can become overwhelming. The loneliness in a crowd – the inevitable alienation of the human condition – and yet at times the companionship or welcome and touch of close friends and then again the pain of their departure: the memory of companions who you left behind for no good reason or because of words that should have been left unsaid; and the memory of words that should not have been left unsaid in that meeting with the girl with the smell of summer in her hair who has now gone, departing on another train at another station.

This railway station is my heart, my memory, my life; like everyone, I cannot stay here with my memories and my happiness. From one entrance or the other I too must depart, always leaving some of me behind in the memories of the station and the people who pass through it.

Perhaps in the moment I die I will understand.

Johnnie Wendt
Sept 2008

I am humbled, moved and indebted to Johnnie (Second Life name) for this response. It strikes at a part of the heart of my own sense of Duende - first real love at the age of eighteen after having found one another in our final year at school, seeing off on a train from Oxford Railway Station in England the girl of my then dreams, after a few days of sharing Shakespearean theatre in rose-laden walled gardens, punting on the river Cherwell, with the summer weather perfect. Standing there on the platform in agony, on what should have been another perfect day with the train receding in the distance, it seemed that we would both surely die. She left for a home in Alberta, Canada; I stayed, to go on to Art College in Devon. We wrote to each other for a year, but I was never to see her again.

Those remembered summer perfumes, almost synesthaesiast in the richness and orchestration of their overlap ... a world of memories embedded and brought forth instantly with the scent of a daffodil thirty-six years later - or a mixed-reality Railway Station build redolent with history and countless stories in the contemporary artifice which is Second Life.

The pathos of leaving. Will 'Leaving' make strangers of us all?

In my next post I will be posting two more video clips from the last dance sessions in the real-life Station, together with a critical commentary on the work. This will include an update of the commuter crowd in the SL Station in the form of images. After this I will re-visit what it may mean to be a stranger within the context of 'Leaving' as catalyst.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Strangers All - 'This place ...'

Come what may, sooner or later under the influence of our 'becoming' Massumi, B and Bergson, H rather than 'being' eventually we are removed from 'known' others and places. Strangers in a strange land. Strangers to one another. I assert this deliberately, while instinctively my spirit seeks to dodge the notion. Even so, if you have read my earlier posts, you will know that I do not intend for this direction of thought to imply that the human condition as it articulates for each of us or in the collective sense, is either melodramatic or depressing.

The manifestation of 'Leaving' then, as an action, ostensibly subsumed into the norm of any given day of activity becomes essentially, an occurrence of significance. An event in itself. Rather than happenstance 'Leaving' emerges as a force to be reckoned with, which possesses the capability to modify our perceptions and our behaviours with others.

'Leaving' will make Strangers of us all. It is easy for the spirit to rebel at such an assertion. I am aware myself, since I have lived a somewhat diasporic existence moving to the other side of the world to 'make a life', that despite this upheaval (the process is no small thing) I have people 'back home'; family and friends, who I like to think will never make of me a stranger, (The old adage holds true: 'Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in'), the kinds of people who you may not physically see for literally, years and years and yet when you do meet again, a core of recognition, of acknowledgement, an empathy emerges to celebrate that connection that between us we possess, but which has lain dormant for a time. We talk of friendships made in our formative years, which will always exist for us, come what may and frequently, so they do. I like to think that this condition will always prevail, indeed, without being overtly optimistic, I am sure that it will.

A natural extension exists here of course; that over the twenty odd years that I have lived here, in New Zealand Aotearoa, I have partnered in relationships with friends and family that equally, would exist in the same way if I were to decide to no longer live in this place. So we continually invest in our makeup, in the way that we conduct our lives, an energy and concentrated intent which ensures that some at least, of our connections with others are not entirely ephemeral. We derive strength from this knowledge to enable to us to continue on and most of us know the feeling when we are leaving on a journey, that no matter how fare we may go, if we have someone who awaits our return, or at least, is conscious that we are gone, this may in itself assist in the empowering process to leave. As we are inexorably drawn away from one another, we are also drawn to and back to each other - and away from each other again.

I used the words, 'in this place' in the paragraph above. We tend to harbour and gather to us those qualities which combine to shore up those spaces we term as places; emotions, objects and connections with people which assist us in sustaining the feeling that we are grounded in one place, together with a certain sub-set of humanity which has been arrived at through choice. We like to think that we choose our friends (although not necessarily our families).

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A Murder of Crows















Black was the without eye

Black the within tongue
Black was the heart
Black the liver, black the lungs
Unable to suck in light
Black the blood in its loud tunnel
Black the bowels packed in furnace
Black too the muscles
Striving to pull out into the light
Black the nerves, black the brain
With its tombed visions
Black also the soul, the huge stammer
Of the cry that, swelling, could not
Pronounce its sun.

Hughes, T. Two Legends, Crow - From the Life and Songs of the Crow,
1972, Faber and Faber, London

* Please remember to click on the image to see an enlarged version. Thank you.

I have been considering for some time, the identity, tilt/rush and ambient effects on the Concourse space, of the Wellington Railway Station evening commuter crowds, (the morning for me is quite different - loud with light and a focus on the new day; less furtive, less drear, less dark and less orange [the evening lights cast an orange glow in the station] - the fixation upon destination realized in a step with somehow, a more wholesome timbre and mood, affecting the spaces with a correspondingly rounder echo).

That linear stream of dark humanity launching through the station doors into the Concourse, between 5pm and 6pm on a working day feels at its height, as if it should last all night; at times, massive, endless, inexorable, echoing. Mostly dark. Bent on moving through those spaces. Bent in thought. Bent under baggage. Bent on not noticing the surrounding environs unless it has to, or unless something impinges or intervenes in its traverse.

A Murder of Crows

I was fortunate enough while still at school, to have listened in awe while Britain`s then Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, read some of his works to us. He was passionate, driven, so much so that his hands shook as though with the palsy; he spoke huskily and drank, I remember, from a glass of water while he recited works from 'Crow'.

Hughes has said that the poems of 'Crow':
...were usually something of a shock to write.
Mostly they wrote themselves quite rapidly ...
and several of them that seem quite ordinary
now arrived with a sense of having done
something ... tabu
39.

'Crow' was a ravenous dark blot, a mischief-maker,
something of a trickster
figure, full of ironic, sardonic and sometimes
foul humour. Crow for Hughes,
was a figure who appeared to be
beyond God`s ability to manage; The epitome
of the sacriligeous,
the unspeakably awful - everything.

Sometimes, God gave up:
God went on sleeping
Crow went on laughing

Hughes, T. A Childish Prank, Crow

Yet the poem above, one of two works which makes up 'Two Legends', speaks to me of the Duende too.

'Crow' was 'Crow'. He could be nothing else. He was stuck. Yet part of that description which defines him is made up of that passion rising, lifting in a surge to find an exit from his being - a noble passion from the core of even such as 'Crow', notorious, bad to the bone; tension in existence constantly created and itself, creating that surge of '... the cry ...' surfacing in the act of arrival, although tragically still falling short, Crow mischievous, spiteful - his personna dominated by black, breathing black, surrounded by black and dark plotting. Perhaps 'Crow' is the Duende ...

'Scratch an Englishman find, not a Lion - but a Crow', said Hughes and this sentiment goes back in England, it would seem, to 1475. "A Morther of Crowys" was used to describe a flock of crows at that time, which evolved into 'A Murder of Crows', describing the behaviour of large groups of crows apparently putting to death one of their number in a cold-blooded, methodical kind of way. Ornithologists tell us that this does not actually happen, that crows are scavengers, not killers, but the phrase stuck. Contrast this with the phrases, 'An Exaltation of Larks' and 'A Chandelier of Hummingbirds'. Hughes` 'Crow' would be delighted at the distinction.
The video clip immediately below is concerned with my investigations
into how the crowd that I am constructing from cutouts and screens
is articulating in the space with regard to rhythm and flow through
the space, the density of the effect with varying degrees of
transparency, the varied scale of the individual screens/cutouts and
the character of the crowd itself. The clip begins with my initial
formation of screens which, over the past two weeks has morphed and
evolved (as my experience with making cutouts has developed) and
become more focussed upon the 'crow' element - the darker, more
ambiguous aspects of the atmosphere I am examining. I wanted a
sense of the crowd looming over the avatars in the space, but I am
also interested in the unexpectedness of encountering a range of
scale in the figures.

video

My current focus in the Second Life Station is concerned with the crowd identity - that 'crow' factor in the Station, where I have been working with transparent cutouts of people taken from my photos and video footage. I am exploring aspects of this dark personna while endeavouring not to make the reference too literal or overt. I have made the cutouts and screens transparent on one side so when you are standing in the Concourse looking back to the entrance, the space appears relatively empty. I have done this because a) the real Concourse space is, at intervals, very empty with a hollow echo, b) it provides visual relief from a feeling of congestion in the space when looking in the opposite direction and c) I want avatars when they visit, not to feel too overwhelmed by the crowd mass.

I will be including video clips of my investigation in the SL Station into this idea, as it develops. For me, between the dark reality expressed by Ted Hughes`'Crow' and the flock as 'a murder' I am attaching significance in feeling to that dark, flapping body of intent coming through the Station doors. Shaped like an entity all its own, forbidding in tone, the crowd surges past us, mostly uncaring, mostly shy of stopping, mostly cold-hearted it would appear, (people just really being people, innocently on a mission to get through the drafty spaces and home to the hearth yet for us, driven by ideas of pathos, uncaring are they all - that wondering/judging murder of crow(d)s). The crowd as an organism though, is pragmatic, separated from us by its own rhythm; other worlds, other intentions, other deadlines, creating a river-context into which we can dip, comment upon, subtly intervene with but never bring to a halt. The crowd and our back-eddy at the edge, is Bergson and Massumi`s 'becoming' made visible.

The video clip I have posted below is the first of my work carried out in July at the Station. I wanted to work with/introduce more tension into the conversations we as dancers were having. The results were slightly shocking for myself and Fiona as dancers, where we imbued the duet with considerably more feeling toward another than had hitherto been brought into the dance. The 'conversation' was on the edge of traumatic, which was, I feel, just what I wanted and what was needed. Certainly, we attracted attention from the commuters, some of whom were openly curious (90% still appeared to want none of it - although without asking, you never actually know and indeed, the work is not dependent upon affirmation from the crowd - it is enough to know that there is happening, a range of perceptions of what we are doing) about what was taking place. I have left this footage largely untouched other than to introduce the 'Pleasantville' effect again, to introduce a more sombre atmosphere into the work, but more importantly, to suggest that our perception as protagonists is altered and slightly different from that 'norm' being experienced by the crowd. To extend this idea, I added three blurred moments of crowd-rush in normal colour, to enhance this feeling of separation. So the crowd here is 'normal' yet removed, innocent yet unwitting of the dramas we are playing out and of course, equally so with regard to any other essays in emotion being carried out around them. I will be adding more duet works shortly, where tension was also investigated, seeking to express levels of poignancy.

At this point I would like to offer my very grateful appreciation to my wife, Fiona, for being such a supportive dance partner through the period of my Masters study thus far. Also a huge thank you to our co-dancer, Sylvie Haisman, based in Wellington. Without Sylvie, my work would not have been possible in the forms in which it has been expressed to date. The video clip below of myself and Fiona, together with the clips which will follow of my July 08 work, were made in collaboration with the improvisation flautist, Edouard Heilbronn. He joined us for the duration of the work over the three days of dance and filming. I am indebted to him for his expertise and patience, energy and empathy for my concepts and his tolerance while creating his own improv sound score in response to our movement, in what was a cold and drafty Station.