Think Tank #1: ACCAD Lab The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA June 21, 2010

Posted: July 1, 2010 in African Contemporary Dance, Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project, Research Phase, Shifting Center Cyber, Technology
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Photo by Steven Gunter

Madagascar

Think-Tank #1: ACCAD lab, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

June 21, 2010

Esther Baker-Tarpaga held a face-to-face think-tank session with researchers and artists, Olivier Tarpaga, Norah Zuniga-Shaw, Vita Berezina-Blackburn, Matt Lewis, and Nicole Bauguss about the Shifting Center Project. From the hour and a half session the group discussed and brainstormed ideas about the following issues:

  • The Physicality of the Communication
  • Access: Who, Where, When, and How?
  • The Event
  • Points of Departure

The Physicality of the Communication: getting to the nuts and bolts.

The think-tank opened with the very practical question of how to manage technical issues and  challenges of digital communication between the two countries.  The group encouraged the research team to use ongoing networks that link Africa to the US.  Common elements used in Africa include: Skype, blog, email, video, web page, phone text, and social networks like Facebook.  Texting and videos via cell phones are also very popular and accessible.  Another easy way to share information is through screen-capture software; it is free and easily records digital information from desktops. The group also addressed issues of translation from English to French as well as how best to record a trace from each community.

Yet, even with these tools questions arose as to how to make the exchange of information tangible?  What are the physical elements that can be used to create dance?  Visuals, physical text, installations, topography, video, and sound were a few elements that offer fodder for movement creation.  As information is gathered and shared deeper issues about the definitions of network and technology emerged.  What is the current conceptual territory in regards to centers of information and networks?  Should those be interrupted, if so, how?  Ultimately, the group agreed Shifting Center project is about emergent taxonomies, sharing information, and discovering what is the significance of technology as a conceptual base for dance creation; The conceptual space of shifting centers.

Access: Who, When, Where, and How?

The think-tank discussed various points about access, ways of exchanging information, and new ways of using current networks.  A few ideas they discussed include:

  • Twitter – encouraging discussion and dialogue about dance in Africa

◦      Enable Facebook

◦      Use from phones

◦      Use tweets as visual installation or use in the conference

  • Wikified blog – a blog manager organizes, edits, and shapes an open access blog
  • Live Access through webcast: U Stream
  • Hashtag

One of the first questions to address is the available and type of internet access.  In Senegal and Burkina Faso internet cafes are the most common, wireless in common in most countries and Facebook is already in use, yet accessibility is still limited.  Once of the big challenges will be finding locations with strong internet connections that will allow for collaborative dialogue. At each location, universities with the fastest internet connections, such as I2, should be contacted as well as American Cultural Centers, French Cultural Centers, Goethe, US Embassy connections, etc.  Beyond internet, other technologies such as cables from computers to projectors as well as video conferencing rooms will be valuable tools during the project.

The combination of digital tools will allow a live web-stream as a performance medium.  The performer and audience may not be in the same location.  Discussion and dialogue about the performance may occur from locations beyond countries in Africa and Columbus, incorporating a more global community.

The Event

The conversation turned to the actual production itself.  With the available technological resources, what can be created?  The BakerTarpaga Dance Project mission is to address issues of boundaries.  The Shifting Center project hopes to highlight the economic and border challenges that prevent people from connecting to the larger world around them.  Students and communities need to access other areas of education and culture as well as have opportunities to meet and exchange when travel is not an option.  The group brainstormed ideas of how to overcoming borders:

  • Create and Curate – four students on OSU blog to four artists in Morocco or various locations. Through live feed, blogging, and texting students at OSU converse with African artists and may be given assignments and projects to fulfill.  Students may delegate the mode of communication, one on Facebook, one blogging, and another tweeting and determine the best form for collaborative research.
  • Create a score, model, or trial with specific conditions.  Collaborators in Africa and Ohio will create work based on trials.  Create responses and use responses as continual fodder for artistic creation.
  • Give specific instructions and actions via the web: NZ Shaw “turn six times”
  • Create video project for DTW’s tweet project
  • A week-long workshop dedicated to collaborative creation and learning via the web
  • Take or offer a dance class via the web
  • Audience exchange with choreographer’s from countries in Africa
  • Live-feed exchanges

◦      issues around time zones

◦      video image can be partial and disappointing

◦      what other elements besides a moving body can be live-streamed?

As ideas developed the next question arose: How do we make it happen?  The group agreed there should be some type of live element involved in the process or product.  The project should also have a traveling took kit: small projector, camera, tri-pod, and other recording tools to capture and collect various traces of the project.  The projector may offer tactile nature of dance and performance and allow crowds to interact not just with images but with sounds as well.

Digital sharing brought up many questions about how environment relates to meaning in regards to dance.  What is a meaningful communication related to dance?  What does dance feel like when you’re in Dakar, or Ohio, or Senegal? What is relevant to the choreographers? What are the dance ideas that work well with bodies from various locations? What elements are limited to the locale, i.e. air, humidity?  What is dance conversation in Morocco versus Mali?  What are the key words used for dance in each area? How will altered definitions change the meaning in various dance cultures?  Any ideas shared should center around the goal of shifting ideas, getting ideas to move between stationary locations.

Points of Departure

Near the end of the think-tank session the group discussed examples of other projects that have created works based on similar processes.  Locative Media Links connects participants via phone computer and guides movement scores, somewhat like a flash mob, but with specific goals to accomplish during the score.  This might be a launching point for a movement score that uses text messaging.  The score may be exploring certain public spaces, walking around on the street, or it could be narrative.

Another company Blast Theory from Rotterdam, UK uses recordings from participants’ daily experiences.  For example, a recorded description of a bike ride, or another may include  a short story from a person’s life.  The prompts are very well crafted and produce interesting material.  We may glean this idea and consider theatrically crafted prompts that may generate interesting movement for the masses.

Other ideas generated around this one concept: make playful use of what is and what people have.

  • Make use of GPS location; meet someone at this coordinate, speak with someone who is leading, using text messages.
  • Camera Phones; use photos
  • Send a text message to a number that everyone can access or have entrance to a system
  • Encourage comments/responses on blog posts; think of structures that encourage participation online.

As the conversation continued, think-tankers encouraged us to integrate the flow of ideas and to find a common language and interest.  As forms of communication are explored they encouraged us to consider what forms feel the most satisfying and meaningful.  In process-based research it is often only the product that is seen; how can the process be more transparent?  They encouraged us to think how the process can connect with audiences more than just through the final performance or product.

As with any research it is difficult to anticipate outcomes, and particularly with the ephemerality of dance, this becomes extremely challenging.  Yet, the process should offer something, it should add to the critical dialogue and begin the process of shifting centers of common products in dance to innovative and creative processes.

The conversation shifted to building networks and collaborations that can build conditions to address some of these issues. Norah will be incorporating her improv class with a group of dancers in Senegal; they may send movement scores to each other, use sound scores from various locations, or improv based on various conditions that are unique to the location.  Esther will continue to gather visuals, objects, and other collection items while in Africa: photos and posts will be updated every other day.  The research team in Africa will also be gathering opinions from artists:  What integrative projects are interesting or needed?  Where is dance relevant and what are audience’s responses?

Written by: Kristen Jeppsen Groves, Media Manager

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