simon munnery once more stabs at the void between dead film and live theatre.
simon munnery once more stabs at the void between dead film and live theatre.
a sense of satisfaction to see someone i’ve been helping get on the research ladder accepted to a workshop and the paper we co-wrote going into the acm archive.
it happened! performers performed, audiences audienced, and now i have a lot of data to organise and analyse.
Come and see some free stand-up comedy, in the name of science!
of course, if you’ve just written a sensor logging smartphone app, and you have some bio-sensing data logging kit in the research group, you’re going to use it, right?
the interactive-map-and-then-some app turned out to be a step too far for the organisation we hoped to make it their own, but there still was a festival and a need to determine just what smartphone sensors could tell you about the activity around a festival. and so another app was born, one to harvest any and all sensor data for real-time or subsequent analysis. the interaction, media and communication group i’m part of now being rebranded cognitive science, here is the cogsci crowd app, as it stands.
a little bit of a more compelling demo than last shown. development of this app has proved pretty painful, part of which is engaging with openFrameworks and c++ at a level beyond demo, and part of which has been the flakiness of the ofxAddons i’ve tried to use. the 3D model loader ofxAssimpModelLoader turned into the bane of this project; a core component of the app, the scope of its ill-effects was never clear until the debugging got truly brutal. i also had to ditch ofxTwitter, but at least can contribute back my working of the search functionality into the immeasurably better codebase of ofxTwitterStream.
happy to report the festival of ideas has won a business to arts award. it was a really satisfying project to be part of, and i’m really proud of how it responds to the ‘liveness’ of that kind of live event.
it doesn’t look like much at the moment, but this is the first step into my research group at university doing a study on real festival audiences at real festivals. i’m developing an interactive map / timetable app, which will have quite some interesting features and opt-ins by the time we’re done. the promoters we’ve been talking to already have an interactive map of sorts, i’ve already done some interesting things visualising live events, and of course there’s my phd on audiences and interaction.
to oxford for the ‘Inaugural RCUK Digital Econmy Theme CDT Student Research Symposium’, ie. gather the guinea-pigs and see what they’re up to. happy to regain the overview of my research though, and working on a presentation is so much more enjoyable a process than writing for me.
to dublin, to save ireland. 50 social entrepreneurs had been flown in from around the world to kickstart the adoption of their ‘proven solutions’ in ireland: the three day event was called change nation, and that really was its aim. ashoka have that kind of clout, and aren’t afraid to use it.
the best thing you can be asked to after spending a year getting to grips with a phd and producing a document of goodness knows how many words is to take that and boil it down to two sides. thanks to newcastle’s culture lab (any surprise?)for cornering me into this by proposing a workshop on liveness at the premier conference on human factors in computing. and best of all: my position paper has been accepted.
This is the Brain.
We are using experimental thought-casting technology to display in real-time the ideas and thoughts are emerging at this moment, inside the Hexayurts and elsewhere. Come join our artists and coders in drawing it all together: talk to us, doodle with us as we find the emergent themes, trends and stories.
an early saturday start to attend the ‘audience through time’ conference organised by the drama department at queen mary. it was a good effort, and my chairing of the ‘technology and liveness’ panel seemed to go down well – phew. i especially enjoyed martin barker‘s talk, which was spot-on topic for me and presented with gusto: motivated by the issue of ‘liveness’ it started by asking how do audiences make sense of and respond to the near-live quality of streamed performances in cinemas, but soon progressed to an empirically backed provocation of a ‘scandal to theory’ that really showed the value of crossing disciplines.
it might have been finished on the plane out to holiday, but i and it got there.
thankfully the viva was like a good supervision session rather than a critical demolition. if only i had actually pressed the record button on the dictaphone app like i thought i had. possibly the best insight came right at the end, almost as an afterthought from my drama supervisor: its really all about attention.
three things you don’t want together: wedding organisation, alt-wedding organisation, and writing the first-year dry-run of your PhD thesis. all so important in life; all epic on the deadline front, all with just a week between them.
having just overhauled the ‘about the live in live cinema’ presentation for the IMAP seminar, i thought it should be quite straightforward to translate this into a 4,000 word essay – my penance for sitting in on a module from QMUL’s excellent drama department last semester. how wrong could i be, the structure to my argument turned out quite differently. all the better for it, however.
Three silhouettes, bodies poised above glowing buttons; a piercing light scanning light beams across the void of the image. ‘Rhythms + Visions: Expanded + Live’ says the text. Flipping the flyer over, the venue as School of Cinematic Arts, University of South California lends an air of authority, and finally in the body text a definition: ‘a live-cinema event’.
I was there — in fact, I am one of the silhouettes on the flyer — and the ‘live-cinema event’ shall frame the following discourse on liveness, media-based performance, and how the role of performance in a true live cinema needs to be rethought.
Walking into the School of Cinematic Arts, there was no being led into the dark of a cinema theatre, rather this would be an exploration through the outdoor spaces of the complex. Moving image works were aligned onto the architecture, and scrims echoed projections in space. Finally, a stage area. The first act starting: Scott Pagano accompanied by four musicians. For the unconventional setting thus far, this is a setup all will recognise: there is what could be termed a cinema-grade screen with performers in front, and rows of seating laid out beyond.
The musicians are playing, seemingly consumed by their instruments and keeping in check with each other. Pagano is standing, the only one twisted around to face to the screen rather than audience. In his hands, an iPad upon which — and with — he is furiously gesturing. On the screen an abstract composition unfolding, organic forms built out with photographic elements, a triumph of aesthetic. The music is instrumental and amplified, without naming a genre it’s accessible to the Los Angeles audience: guitars, keyboards, percussion. The audience seem receptive; there is a pleasing fidelity and sheen to the work.
But what here is live? But what here is cinema? These are the questions in my mind as I watch, and to which we will return.
Next a performance from the collective of which I am part, but not a piece with my direct involvement; I am still in the audience. Endless Cities by D-Fuse. It is a film in the Ruttman and Vertov tradition, a montage of urban scenes from around the world, and is accompanied by a live score: musique concrète performed from laptop with percussion accompaniment. Again it seems accessible, and in the photographic detail there is much to latch onto and be absorbed by.
It’s Live Cinema in the sense that I first heard the term: a musical accompaniment to a silent film. A montage from the kino-eye, it’s easier here to answer ‘what here is cinema’ than the Pegano piece. But I still wonder, what is really live here, and why bother?
The final performance is in many ways my creation, and so here I cannot report from the audience, but can offer my view as a performer. Which is one of immense frustration. Starting out, I am in a good position: we have an expanded staging that breaks the imagery out of the single frame, a developed aesthetic that abstracts footage in sync to the music, and the impressive shot bank of Endless Cities to pull from. It’s less the dérive and more the impressionism of a late night taxi ride. And we’ve performed it really well before. But that is precisely what is killing me by the end of this particular performance. We have performed it better before, so wouldn’t a recording of that performance have served us better? It’s a recognition that performance in this context translates entirely to the audio-visual output, for our actual performance is opaque to the audience, operating somewhere between obscure symbols on an obscured screen and twitching trackpad fingers. At which point, rather than taking the best performance so far to play back, I ask myself why not just create a master version in the studio and be done with it?
This is the terrain from which I argue. My motivation is not to categorise art or debate concepts, but to get to the heart of what a true live cinema could be.
The Transmediale / CTM joint keynote was Philip Auslander talking on liveness, and there was no way I wasn’t going to be there. He pretty much owns the field of liveness by virtue of writing the book ‘Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture’. It’s a great book that firmly moves performance theory beyond the aura of the body on stage to something that I can reconcile myself with as a media based performer. Having got over the history of mediatisation, the second edition is a lot more contemporary than the first, and CTM was to hear to my understanding his first progression from the position of that second edition.
in one-liners rather than the fuller descriptions I intended, here are the speakers I found interesting. it took a long time for the symposium to get beyond the ‘what’ and start to touch the ‘why’ or ‘what could be’, but there was gold when it did.
given my phd research centred around liveness and media based performance, off to berlin for the as-if-it-were-made-for-me symposium of club transmediale:
there is a big d-fuse production in the works, where the brief rather wonderfully was emphasising interaction with and within the audience. as briefs often do, things have changed a lot since the heady time of working on and winning the pitch, but the core of it is still generative graphics and punter control from the club floor. and so here, courtesy of dr.mo‘s crack team of coders is an in-development iPad app talking over WiFi to a QC plugin, where my two fingers-as-proxies-for-collaborating-audience-members are sketching locally and that is being incorporated on the club’s screens.
pixelnoizz, *spark, an empty media card and a glitch machine: when its here+now, you’ll be part of it. an experimental performance workshopped as part of visualberlin festival 2010.
as part of the media and arts technology programme, a group of us have been investigating live performance in terms of the audience. its an area i have great interest in, believing that the entertainment can be an emergent property of the audience rather than something that has to be received from a singular performance/performer: eg. kinetxt. this project is more subtle than that, instead trying to tease apart what exactly makes an audience an audience and play with that. the first step is to stop thinking of an audience as a single thing. its a collection of people who at some point, hopefully, come together and somehow an audience emerges. its the interactions between the individuals that create an unstable state we call an audience…?
my phd has this first year not doing phd stuff. which isn’t all bad: i have to make an “experimental documentary about a contemporary arts practice” to hone my media production skills. i think the brief was “make sure they know how to use a camera”, props to the film department at queen mary for challenging us with something a bit more interesting.
part research, part curiosity, part embarrassment at just not having been before, i mounted a solo reconnaissance of secret cinema. and was impressed. if i’d known the film was going to be bugsy malone, i probably wouldn’t have bothered, but it was great: hundreds of hipsters in 1920’s chicago dress, and a moment of sheer audience electricity as they all realised there really was going to be a giant custard pie fight, and they were not just in the middle, but the only way through was to embrace it. that, and grab and put on a plastic poncho in the ten remaining seconds…
second of two installations i’ve really enjoyed recently, re-rite is a multitrack recording of the philharmonia orchestra performing stravinsky’s the rite of spring, played out across 25 screens and the three floors and many rooms of the wonderfully dilapidated bargehouse. i’d have gone to see such a mediated-live-performance-with-lots-of-screens type thing anyway, and doubly so as the philharmonia partnered with friends yeast to make this (props, pulled it off to a really high standard) but it really got under my skin: the experience was unique, beyond the goal of somehow giving the experience of being inside an orchestra on stage.