Moving Digitally: between sensors and tone

Curator's Note

In today's featured video, I present a short piece of my own choreography. The phrase that is being performed illustrates live interactions with wireless accelerometers where the acceleration of my movements affect the acceleration of sound and video output in real-time. In this process-based work, these very simple sensor interactions are exhibited alongside films of similar movements being performed without the sensors. Still, the phrases performed in the films are directly inspired by movement explorations with sensors. By embodying wireless sensor technologies via somatic exploration through movement installation, I delete the necessity for physical sensors in the video so as to release whatever spectra have materialized in the choreographic research process of rehearsing with sensors and reaching toward the virtual with physical movement. I then digitally manipulate the film of these explorations with the data created by my own live movement in performance.  

Rather than perpetuate a distinction between the physical and the digital, I suggest that contemporary work on dance and technology approach the "digital" as a tone rather than a specific technology. How can we interrogate movement in contemporary society as it relates to the effects and presence of digital technologies inside, outside and between our interactions (between each other, with machines and between machines)?

With the "digital" as a contemporary instance of multiplicity and networking, a creative and critical engagement with digital technology can further an understanding of already existing potentials for movement in a digital age. This is not to say that every interaction with technology is a productive one. Nor is it to suggest that networked or multiple experiences and effects can’t be gleaned from instances that fall outside of a direct encounter with digital technology. Collaborations between dance and contemporary digital technology in the form of sensor, motion capture and telepresence technology, for example, often consist of translating physical movement into digital information. What happens, though, when digital information from interactive technologies (such as sensor feedback) is translated into physical movement? And when this physical movement is input for an interactive digital network? Moving back and forth between various digital translations of the same movement phrase, my own physical movements carry the influences of digital data and vice versa.






Hi Ashley,

Thanks for the post, and also for showing us an example of your own practice. I think it is particularly great, the way you describe the relation between the moving body and the technology, in terms of a 'digital tone' being transferred to the body of the dancer. On this theme, what comes to my mind is that, in the 'passage of information' from one body to the other, from the technical to the human machine, there always needs to be a sort of common ground, something that puts all these bodies on the same level, and in relation with one another. How would you define this 'something'? Is it the 'tone' you talk about, and that acquires different qualities throughout its journey (a digital quality, a human quality etc)? Or can the digital tone itself be described as a 'feeling', a 'sensation', or a 'sense' that is already of the body? Science, for example, explains the capacity of bodies to relate to each other in terms of the 'electromagnetic force' that exists in and between material entities (Einstein). Philosophy prefers to rely on definitions such as 'plane of immanence' (Deleuze and Guattari) or 'extensive continuum' (Whitehead). How do you conceive the fact that 'physical movements can carry the influence of digital data and vice versa'? On what grounds can they relate?

Thanks for your thoughts Stamatia.


The 'something' is a relation, but not one that comes from a common ground. I am thinking relation specifically in terms of Merleau-Ponty's chiasm. The coupling described in Merleau-Ponty's argument responds to a described inability to simultaneously be self and other. The chiasm is a constant movement with and between positionality. I can have mutiple selves that exist in relation to each other just as they exist in relation to those things outside of myself. This moving within/between inside and outside suggests a certain multiplicity of relations.

Rather than transmission through commonality, I think that the 'digital tone' I am describing is not stable or concrete. Thus, there is not a common ground. Rather, I explore a process-based emergence of a media that comes from relations through transmissions.

As for the "tone" I am speaking less about affect and more about actual movements (content and qualities). When I wiggle my fingers without a sensor on my wrist I am focusing on the movement of my fingers. When I wiggle my fingers with a sensor on my wrist the movement becomes less about the fingers and more about the way that the sensors pick up the subsequent movements of the tendons in my wrist. As I explore this shift in attention the movement becomes about something else. When I take the sensors away again that shift is still present, but now that I focus less on the information from a sensor I notice something else about the quality of my finger movement.

It is precisely the fact that with each transmission the tone changes and evolves (performing movement inspired by sensors, re-performing without sensors, filming this performance, watching and manipulating that film with the same sensors that originally inspired the movement, etc) that allows for the idea that there is no common ground within or between media. Rather, there is a continuing conversation that grows into a single statement. The chiasm is the structure of reversal. The sensors affect me just as I affect the sensors. The sensors and the body are in a chiasmatic relationship since their affects on each other reverse and overlap. It is also important, though, to realize that the chiasmatic relationship is not only between body and sensor, but the body itself exhibits chiasmatic relations as does the sensor. With each transmission in my process the tone shifts.

Beyond the phenomenological experience of the multiple and complex web within body, within technology and between media, I am exploring how my performance of the chiasmatic relationship that is my process exhibits a model of Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome.

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