hybridised unities

hellen sky: cynetart_08, dresden

CYNETART IS AN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL BASED IN DRESDEN, GERMANY. SINCE 1997 IT HAS SHOWCASED NEW TRENDS IN CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT, BROACHING ISSUES OF CHANGE IN THE PERCEPTION OF THE BODY BY NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES. THE FESTIVAL ALSO REFLECTS ON THE IMPACT OF INTERFACES AND DIFFERENT KINAESTHETIC VOCABULARIES FOR PERFORMANCE AND INCLUDES PROJECTS THAT INTEGRATE ART, SCIENCE AND MEDIA TECHNOLOGY. SINCE 2000 IT HAS BEEN PRESENTED AT FESTPIELHAUS THEATRE, HELLERAU.

The forum, Post Me_New ID is part of CYNETart 08 and is one of a series of dynamic collaborations between body>data>space (London, UK), Eira (Lisbon, Portugal), CIANT (Prague, Czech Republic) and 16 international partners. It is co-produced by an international consortium from the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia and the United Kingdom within an action/research project of the same name, which focuses on “the future of the body”, and is co-financed by the European Commission under Culture 2007 programme.

ZAP PARAMETER RAM—PRAM. This is an old Mactinosh term, circa 1995-2003, pre intel chip—to refresh memory.

That’s what it feels like when you land tired but wired into cities and peoples steeped in histories of all kinds. Like me, Dresden is recovering from time, re-forming its past (the lag of jets, 53 hours in flight, the destruction of wars, five stopovers, occupation). I am here because of my experience in making and thinking about the subject matter of bodies, architectures, electronic networks, the physical, the virtual and states of interconnectivity that cross borders of art, science, culture, design, the social and political as a complex choreography of human evolution.

Running late to the tram stop, I note with pleasure the intricate patterns of contoured cobbled paths under foot, fine mist and rain. Sulphur yellow leaves flash past as the tram turns into the forest on the edge of Hellarau.

I’ve been invited by the co-producers of the forum, Thomas Dumke, Head of CYNETart and Ghislaine Boddington, Creative Director of body>data>space, to add my thoughts about digital performance/choreography and the embodiment of physical/virtual networks with other interdisciplinary practitioners from art, science and technology who are arriving from across Europe and beyond to address the themes of the forum: the future of the body; the complexity of 21st-century European identity; the effect of digital technologies and networked communities on future generations.

My Random Access Memory, that grey matter of mind that connects all senses Zaps, Refreshed into simultaneous embodiment of the feeling state—Heimweh (that German expression for homesickness) and Heimkehr (a coming home). For it seems in present/future times of fire and flood, financial fear and screens of smoke, there is no safe home; but there is a safe return—to people; to dwell in thought, activated by the propositions presented by CYNETart & Post Me NEW ID Forum—and in so doing, to rekindle the spirit of Festspielhause Theatre Hellarau that blossomed too briefly 1911-1914.

The theatre was built as a home for Emile Jacques Dalcroze’s Eurhythmics; his movements were designed to make rhythm flow through the body, expressing the shape and nature of music. Designed collaboratively by architect Heinrich Tessenow, stage designer Adolphe Appia, Georgian painter and set designer Alexander von Salzmann, it was conceived as a meeting place for the European avant-garde, a cathedral of the future, where audiences and performers were to melt together to become a spiritual and sensual unity. Occupied since 1915 by the German and Russian armies, it was reclaimed for art in 2002.

Night. I run from the tram to Hellarau, enter CYNETart award ceremony late. I hear the words “Second Life” jump out from the German. I see a zombie figure, slumping, printed on the T-shirt of award winner Susanne Berkenheger, as she moves to the microphone to accept flowers and a cheque for her project, MOVEMENT-FOR-ACCOUNT-CORPSES. I sense a playful politic reminding us of other crossover balancings between physical and virtual worlds, ethics and responsibilities. She is animating forgotten souls (14 million avatars) abandoned by their makers; sad remains of the data of users who logged out long ago, now living, invisible, half-dead slumping like zombies in the metaversum of Linden Lab’s Second Life.

Post Me New ID commences the following morning. Guests and participants arrive from near and far. Included among the presenters and speakers are Ghislaine Boddington and Leanne Bird (UK), kondition pluriel (Germany/Canada), Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson (Austria), Steve Dixon (UK), Yacov Sharir (USA), Masaki Fujihata (Japan), Denisa Kera (Czech Republic/Singapore), Michael Takeo Magruder (US/UK), Fiddian Warman (UK), Sita Popat (UK), Susanne Berkenheger (Germany), Marlon Barrios Solano (USA dance-tech), Johannes Birringer (Germany/UK/USA), Thomas Dumke (Germany) and many, many more.

Each morning over three days seminal artists and practitioners deliver keynote presentations that reflect on their frontier research in developing performance/interactive installation, using telematic, human computer systems, virtual 3D multi-user environments, to trigger the day’s discussions, provoke questions.

Choreographer Professor Yakov Shahir (USA) reminds us how long dance has been extending itself into virtual ‘stages’ to question and expand choreographic forms. He compares his earlier works, wearing heavy, hot, hard-wired computers, to the lightness of new software and wireless connectivity that he can perform in real time to his interactable double—a cyberhuman, in a continual dance of transformation one into the other; virtual shifts both embodied and disembodied at the same time, as a flow of consciousness.

Steve Dixon (UK), author of Digital Performance (MIT Press, 2007), one of the most comprehensive books on the subject, reminds us that we have always had multiple identities, from masked balls to performance personas, as mirrors of or aspects of self. His telematic collaborations with Paul Sermon and the Chameleon Group (UK) allow improvisatory participation between audience members in the USA and a performer in London. The screen becomes a magic mirror we step through, a portal between shared worlds, not only a reflection of self but also shared space for play and interaction.

Masaki Fujihata (Japan) takes us on a journey of thought through time from the design of tea houses to his early interactive 3D spaces, to learning calligraphy and on to new frontiers of neuroscience that will become pertinent in how we design into the future smart interactivity that privileges the infinite intelligences of our embodied memory.

In their installation performance, Kondition Plural-Passage (Canada-Germany) develop a complex crossing between the physical installation space and the electronic interactive computer architecture, where audience and performer relationships merge. Synaesthetic transformations of data, generated by us as we twist and slide dials sewn into the performer’s clothing, alter her movement vocabularies and simultaneously generate 3D images and sound environments across a matrix of five curvilinear screens and speakers. And so time turns back and we at Hellarau in CYNETart and Post Me New ID in 2008 inhabit the vision of 1911—a cathedral of the future where audience and performers were to melt together to become a spiritual and sensual unity.

There were many other works but not the space to cover them including a beautiful slow-moving pixel sea-sky-horizon, bathers caught still in motion over time. Our visual perception affects our conscious state. A Wagnerian chord suspends time as we lie two at a time in slumped back canvas deck chairs.

post-post me_new id

Given we are curiously and ambiguously hooked into networks like flickr, twitter, jitter and Max in our multi-identity, networked Facebook of life, looking towards the future with smart solutions for creative survival, we could turn our gaze skywards for a moment to clock those turbulent, giant black balloons from our frequent Google flyer rewards system, served up from all those searching engines looking for answers.

Post Me_New ID will be producing a book and a DVD. In addition, a series of Creation Processes will result in a public installation/performance.

I would like to thank the last of ANAT’s quick response funds for partly supporting my presence in Dresden, and my artistic collaborators on Darker Edge of Night Stage One, the Australia Council’s Inter-Arts Office and Arts House’s Arts Lab who helped me have something to say.

CYNETart_08 and Post Me_New ID Forum, Festspielhaus Hellerau, Dresden, Germany, Oct 30-Nov 9 2008

RealTime issue #90 April-May 2009 pg. 33

© Hellen Sky; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2009