Sunday, 7 July, 2019

It goes with out saying that technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, and thus it has had a profound influence on our daily lives. Some of these advances can seem trivial, while others are downright scary. Nonetheless, the manner in which we interact or don’t interact with the world around us has changed dramatically. As Sarah Rose, Ruxy, and I have embarked on this journey together, I have continued to ponder what role, if any, do emergent technologies have in the arts? More specifically, can these technologies be useful tools for the devising and performance of physical theatre? Perhaps naively, I feel the integration of technology in the arts is necessary. The general public, for one reason or another are no longer interested, or simply not capable of interacting with art in a conventional manner. As artists and devisers this is why we must challenge ourselves to understand how people want to interact with our works, but also in how we devise our creations. I believe that emergent technologies can facilitate the creation of exciting new works and also create new paths of engagement in the audience. As we head into this final week of our residency at SURGE we will continue to explore the how a performer can interact with new tools of creation and how interactive technologies can have a positive influence on the devising process of performance art.

- Ryan

Thursday, 4 July, 2019

We’ve been playing primarily with two of the three prototypes that Ryan designed. These are rough draft programmes using a Kinect sensor, surround sound speakers, a menu of sounds that correspond with physical gestures performed in the space. 

One of the prototypes is called the “Drum Kit.” There are set gestures that are done by lifting your arm, pulling back your elbow, or even punching out in front of you. The range of gestures are linked to specific sound cues using machine learning. So when you move, it triggers that sound to play. It’s like being the conductor of an orchestra using your whole body to make all the different instrumentation.

The other prototype is the “Drone.” This one is sensitive to a performer’s spatial relationship to the Kinect sensor. The closer you are to the sensor, the more pure the sound is. The farther away, the more reverb on the sound. The pitch can also be changed depending on how high or low the performer moves their hands.

We’re having a great time experimenting with the technology, but we are also being challenged by how to make meaning out of the interaction. It’s one thing to stand still and lift up a hand, but it’s another thing to have a connected, narrative reason for raising a hand and a specific sound being made because of it. There are flickers of success and we’re hoping to keep unlocking the pieces where it works and where it doesn’t. But the moments when it lines up, feels surprising and strangely powerful: human and technology responding to each other instead of one controlling the other.

- Sarah Rose

Tuesday, 2 July

The Voyager space mission team was tasked with the challenge of identifying what sounds and images encapsulated the story of human existence. They asked the question, what does it mean to be a human on Earth? Well…that’s a pretty big answer. At least that’s what we’ve been discovering in our process.

After playing with the physical sound making technology at the core of our residency to see how it worked, we dove into our research. Listening to the fantastic Radiolab podcast called “Where the Sun Don’t Shine” which told the beautiful story of Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan falling in love while creating the golden discs. We looked at Complicité’s Encounter and how we can be more creative with the ways we use sound to tell story. We looked at a replica of the golden records and listened to the entire contents to hear what was chosen to represent the human condition in a collection of sounds.

The material is fascinating and beautiful and hopeful. We tend to feel like romantics when we get into big philosophical questions about “why we are here?” Yet there’s the nihilistic part of all of us that also wonders what it’s all for. If we are here in this world for only so long, what does it matter if there are any remnants of our existence? Would anyone or anything who eventually finds the golden discs gain any value from discovering some vinyl from 1977? We don’t know… and it’s that very oscillation from optimism to pessimism that keeps us intrigued and wanting to know more.

- Sarah Rose

Monday 1 July, 2019

We’ve loaded in equipment, butcher paper, markers, and our imaginations into the Surge space today. We even played around with the Kinect sensor technology to see what is possible. Turns out - loads and loads. We can already see interesting potential (poetic!) connections between movement, the possibilities the technology is affording us, and our Voyager story, which is gorunding us for content.
How appropriate that I’ve spent the last 2 weeks doing psychophysical gesture work with MICHA! All of it is to be poured right in here - the Kinect machine will learn a set of movement patterns and gestures that will then trigger sound.

We are doing a marathon of devising tomorrow! We have departed!

Ruxy x