The Song of the Earth — A Contemplation on Art, Science, Nature, and Humanity
March 28, 2020 at 7:30 pm
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Composer Gustav Mahler wrote Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) near the end of his life and in fact never heard it performed. Inspired by Chinese poetry of the seventh and eighth century and written for vocalists with orchestra, the work delves into themes of life and eternity and is considered iconic in the Western classical music canon.
This evening—through a collaboration between Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois School of Music, Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media (eDream) Institute, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, and Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute—musical moments will be woven together with big science presentations by distinguished faculty, followed by a unique rendering of Mahler’s masterpiece enhanced by imagery and movement conceived by Tai Ji master Chungliang Al Huang.
Performers will include baritone Nathan Gunn and pianist Julie Gunn.
Kama Begata Nihilum
February 6-8, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
UIUC Dance professor John Toenjes, graduate student programmer Tony Reimer, and UIUC Dance staff musician Ken Beck, have been working with a cast of seven Dance at Illinois students on a dance, called Kama Begata Nihilum, that features the Apple iPad. Each dancer carries an iPad, which runs a custom app developed just for this show, that allows it to be controlled remotely to display graphics in a coordinated fashion on the stage. Additionally, dancers make music live by gesturing with the iPad. This, itself is rather cutting-edge, but there is more…
Tony Reimer has developed a special Kama Begata app for iPhone and Android that the audience is to load on to their phones before the dance. At times during the performance the phones will respond to what's happening on the stage, including a displaying special kind of 3D imagery called Augmented Reality. This will be an exciting way to have the audience involved in the dance, using society's modern way of communicating, through the smart phone.
And, most excitedly, the dance featured a guest appearance by iPad Man!
Kama Begata Nihilum is about community and desire, about adapting to change, and about the ways we stay connected to, or disconnected from, each other. The title alludes to the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still, which examines the ways that a community deals with unexpected interjections into the course of its existence. In this dance, iPad man is representative of our insatiable fascination with, and surrender to, the products of our imagination. Interestingly, these seem to take on a life of their own, out of our control. Our dancers define themselves as a community by the way they react to this influx of evolutionary creativity. Their journey is one of discovery, by turns playful and reverent, which we hope the audience will join in with them.
Kama Begata Nihilum premiered as part of Dance at Illinois' "February Dance: Hybridity" concert.
This dance is part of NOTABLE, the New Order Tablet Ensemble, funded through a generous grant from the FAA Creative Research Award program. Generous support also given by CITES iPad Initiative. Watch for NOTABLE to develop other performances in the future.
Room No, 35
On February. 1, Cellist Maya Beiser premiered the ©Erika Harrsch-LEDCello for "Room No, 35", an innovative, multimedia collaborative concerto, in partnership with Beth Morrison Projects and Visiontoart at Krannert Center for Performing Arts. The work takes the form of a multidisciplinary staged performance that presents multilayered audio-visual experiences interwoven with music composed by Paola Prestini, improvisation, interactive visualization, and video-art, animation created by Erika Harrsch.
courtesy: Erika Harrsch
The University of Illinois’ eDream Institute (Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media), created interactive visualization tools, based on designs and videos by artist Erika Harrsch.
The interactive visuals created by eDream, will become a part of future performances of the work. In these visualizations the team analyzed the pre-recorded cello sound in diverse ways and extracted characteristic moments from it. Then, they used that information for generating projected imagery on the screen and driving the qualities of the visualization directly from the sounds in synchrony with the cellist's performance.
North American Music
— score by Carolina Heredia
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 6 pm
If you clapped from Ann Arbor, how long would it take that sound to reach New York, or Illinois?
An internet concert featuring Digital Music Ensemble, special guest Elliott Sharp, plus virtual Telematic guests Henry Grimes, John Toenjes and students at University of Illinois, RPI (students of Pauline Oliveros) all connected via the internet at the SPEED OF SOUND
Tao of Bach
CHUNGLIANG AL HUANG
ALEXANDER MURRAY, FLUTE
DAVID DARLING, CELLO
MICHAEL FITZPATRICK, CELLO
ANN YEUNG, HARP
Thursday, September 13, 2012, at 7:30pm | Tryon Festival Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Tai ji master Chungliang Al Huang has been called “a master in the arts of living” and “a sage for the modern age.”
A celebrated author and globally respected keynote speaker as well as a dancer, choreographer, calligrapher, and philosopher, Huang has collaborated with cultural icons as wide-ranging as Sammy Davis Jr., Bruce Lee, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, and Jane Goodall. He and his wife, Suzanne Pierce, performed in Krannert Center’s inaugural events and were the Center’s very first artists-in-residence, and for years he has called Champaign-Urbana home.
In The Tao of Bach, Huang joins forces with a collective kinship of multigenerational artists. The quintet of musicians—cellists David Darling and Michael Fitzpatrick, flutist Alexander Murray, and harpist Ann Yeung—will perform J. S. Bach’s solo suites and partitas as Huang improvises movements based on the Chinese meditative art of tai ji.
Collaborative partners from the University of Illinois’ eDream Institute (Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media), Advanced Visualization Laboratory, and National Center for Supercomputing Applications will complement this synthesis with animations mirroring Huang’s use of flowing calligraphy as a choreographic metaphor. These connections flow naturally for Huang, who says that “Bach’s original manuscripts are calligraphically breathtaking. They are music for both the eyes and the senses—waves of dancing energy.”
Just Ancient Loops
AVL collaborated with multi-media artist and filmmaker Bill Morrison to create a Jovian moon visualization for his latest project "Just Ancient Loops". The visualization is based on Walter Murch's analysis of Jupiter and it's Galilean moon orbits and how they relate to musical ratios.
The project is a collaboration between renowned cellist Maya Beiser, composer Michael Harrison and Bill Morrison. Maya Beiser performed live in front of the film projection, which premiered June 17th @ 9pm during Bang on a Can’s Marathon
photo courtesy Bill Morrison
"Just Ancient Loops is a 25-minute piece that unveils every aspect of the cello – from its most glorious and mysterious harmonics to earthy, rhythmic pizzicatos. In this work the cello becomes this “über” instrument – laying down the drones, building rhythmical grooves on top of each other, singing melismatic melodies, and reaching up to the stratosphere as the music evolves and builds into a massive, exhilarating climax.
Michael Harrison explains, 'Just Ancient Loops uses Just tunings, Ancient modes and harmonies, and Loops of melodic and rhythmic modules. It is a musical odyssey for an orchestra of cellos, with each cello part recorded separately in the studio by Maya. In concert Maya plays the lead part live accompanied by a recording of all of the other prerecorded parts and a new film created specifically for the project by multi-media artist Bill Morrison.'" — text courtesy Maya Beiser
AVL formerly collaborated with Bill Morrison on a visual scene for the Great Flood project.
Space Junk IMAX 3D
AVL Helps filmmakers show dangers of ‘Space Junk’
Data-driven visualization of colliding galaxies created at the National Center For Supercomputing Applications.
©2011. All rights reserved. Space Junk3D, LLC
A growing collection of debris is orbiting the earth, creating hazards that jeopardize both space exploration and the satellite network that powers modern communication systems. These cluttered orbits are the subject of the new film "Space Junk 3D," which features data-driven scientific visualizations created by NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL).
"Since no actual images exist of the most spectacular orbital debris events," explains director Melissa Butts, "we set out to recreate them with scientific accuracy and mind-blowing visualization."
Building on previous animations developed for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope project , AVL created two sequences based on scientific data from computer simulations. The first shows the evolution of filamentary structure in the early universe, using data from Princeton astrophysicists Renyue Cen and Jeremiah Ostriker. The second features a dramatic collision of galaxies created based on simulations conducted by Brant Robertson at the University of Arizona.
"Not only is it cinematic, but it's in 3D, and it's pretty powerful to see these galaxies coming at you, and filling the screen and the room," Butts says.
The AVL team designed these scenes using their ultra-high-resolution 3D visualization environment and two key pieces of software they have developed: Virtual Director for interactive scene design and Amore for rendering both volume and particle data. They also used one of NCSA's supercomputers to complete computationally demanding tasks by the production deadline.
"It's a real treat to be asked to participate in the making of 'Space Junk 3D'," says Bob Patterson, AVL senior research artist. "It's an opportunity to contribute cinematic scientific visualization to a giant screen science documentary to tell the larger story of natural phenomena in the cosmos."
"Space Junk 3D" opens beginning Jan. 13 in IMAX® and other giant screen theaters in 2D and 3D.
"Space Junk 3D" is presented by Melrae Pictures, in association with Red Barn Productions. Produced by Melissa Butts and Kimberly Rowe. Distributed globally by K2 Communications, the 38-minute film is available in both 3D and 2D, for Giant Screen and Digital Theaters. For more information, including theater locations, see www.spacejunk3d.com .
AVL team members
First Impressions: Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals
Cylinder and stamp seals played an important role in the legal and social culture of ancient Mesopotamia. These small stone or shell cylinders, usually no more than an inch long, were carved with a unique design to act as the equivalent of an owner's signature. They could then be rolled over the surface of a tablet to make an impression in the wet clay. For centuries, this was the only practical way to see the various inscriptions carved on the seals. Technological innovation has allowed archaelogists to view these ancient seals in a new way. Using a specialized panoramic digital camera to take 360° images of the surface, researchers and archivists are able to discover new revelations about the artistry of the seals.
Using these images, eDream artists are working with museum staff to create an interactive kiosk exhibit to showcase some of these new discoveries.
The exhibit will include an interactive game designed to help visitors explore the various characters on the seals and identify animals & archetypes within "conflict scenes"
The Great Flood
Illinois scientific visualization teams helps show impact of "The Great Flood"
Members of the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (eDream) and the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) collaborated with Obie-winning experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on "The Great Flood," a 75-minute multimedia work of original music and film inspired by the 1927 Mississippi River floods, creating data-driven visualizations of the Mississippi River Valley showing the extent of the destructive floodwaters.
"In 1927, the Mississippi River surged over its banks after heavy rains the previous summer set it pawing at its limits by the time the 15-inch downpours of April hit. Levees across the Midwest and the plains failed, as water pummeled communities along the shores. A mass exodus downstream carried the Delta blues northward, where it would become rock and roll."
NCSA helps Chicago's Adler Planetarium create 'Deep Space Adventure'
NCSA's Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) collaborated with the Adler Planetarium and astronomy researchers to take planetarium visitors on an ultra high-definition "Deep Space Adventure" that combines a science fiction narrative with scientifically accurate renderings of planets, stars, and galaxies.
The Adler's Grainger Sky Theater now projects the largest single seamless digital image in the world with a resolution of more than 8,000-by-8,000 pixels.
In a June 21 interview with The (Chicago) Sun-Times, Adler chief technology officer Doug Roberts said "unless you have been to space, you'll have the highest quality that's ever been done before."
Deep Space Adventure's premiere show features colliding galaxies, a supernova explosion, and a black hole ripping apart a star. AVL had a hand in all of these dramatic data-driven visualizations.
"The NCSA team is known for combining cinematic flair with scientific accuracy to create inspiring, exciting visualizations," Roberts said. "They tapped into the power of supercomputers to provide truly cutting-edge images of our universe."
The AVL team has produced visualizations for planetarium shows in the past, including "Life: A Cosmic Story" for San Francisco's Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Science, "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity" with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and "IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System" for the Adler Planetarium.
"We have, over the years, accrued a lot of visualization and dome expertise working with other full digital dome systems," said AVL Director Donna Cox. But "this is the biggest dome resolution yet."
AVL worked with scientific data provided by scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the Adler.
The project relied on software developed by AVL: Amore, a volume renderer for the type of adaptive mesh refinement data typically produced by astronomy/cosmology simulations, and Virtual Director™, a collaborative choreography tool, and Partiview, an interactive visualization viewer. Using Virtual Director™, the Adler and NCSA teams could interactively collaborate. As the NCSA team created virtual flights, the Adler staff could watch the visualizations unfold in real time on their mini dome, providing immediate feedback.
"We had such a blast working remotely together using our virtual tools and treading new territory to help make the show both visually exciting and scientifically accurate," Cox said.
The Deep Space Adventure Pass includes general admission, "Deep Space Adventure," an additional show and the Atwood Experience. Adult $28; child (ages 3 to 11) $22. Chicago residents receive a $2 discount on adult admission packages and a $1 discount on child admission packages with proof of residency. Visit adlerplanetarium.org for more information.
AVL team members
The Illinois-Japan Performing Arts Network
see Performances for past events
The Illinois-Japan Performing Arts Network (IJPAN) uses advances in new media technologies to bring together Japanese performers, scholars, and audiences from across the physical distances that have too often kept them apart. Through enabling this global cultural exchange, IJPAN celebrates pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Japanese music, dance, and theater.
In practice, IJPAN combines the University of Illinois’s emerging technology capabilities (led by Guy Garnett, eDream Institute and Cultural Computing Group) and the academic cultural expertise of faculty (led by David Goodman, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures) with the programming strengths of the Japan Society in New York (led by Yoko Shioya, Performing Arts Director). The Network’s seed funding has been generously provided by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.
IJPAN’s External Goals:
1. Participate in the expanding number of global performing arts networks worldwide.
2. Disseminate interactive performing arts programming via the internet, television, and digital media to sites around the world.
IJPAN’s Internal (U Illinois-Directed) Goals:
1. Build on the expertise of Illinois Japan studies faculty to develop interactive programs in premodern, modern, and contemporary Japanese music, dance, and theatre using digital new-media technologies.
2. Integrate performing arts exchanges and collaborations with Japan into the curricular and research programs of East Asian Studies, Music, Theatre, Computer Science, Art and Design, and other departments at the University of Illinois.
3. Institutionalize the Japanese performing arts and interactions with Japanese performing artists as an integral and ongoing part of research and teaching at the University of Illinois and other institutions in our worldwide network.
Call for Participation
IJPAN is actively seeking creative and technical collaborators to participate in, contribute to, and help support interactive, networked performances; workshops; and streamed internet broadcasts for 2010-2012.
David Goodman and Guy Garnett / firstname.lastname@example.org
with A. Colin Raymond and Ben Smith
mWORLDS: Cyberenvironments and Virtual Worlds
Roy Campbell (Computer Science) and Guy Garnett (Music / eDream)
NCSA's Robert McGrath and Mary Pietrowicz
Ben Smith, Brett Jones, Raj Sodhi, Tony Reimer, Stephen Lett, AJ Christensen
The mWorlds project will integrate research in virtual world creation tools and shared, persistent, digital environments with NCSA's expertise and technology in collaborative computing and cyberenvironments. The end result will be the beginnings of an extensible open source framework for building shared, persistent, highly scalable 3D virtual environments that will be suitable for a wide range of applications from the sciences, to education, to the arts.
Unlike commercially available virtual worlds such as Second Life and Active Worlds, mWorlds will provide support for a variety of input devices: from environmental sensor nets for scientific simulations to motion tracking devices in dance performance. It will also support scientifically accurate simulations and visualizations and operating with large-scale datasets in distributed computing environments.
A key design goal is to make it possible, even easy, for non-specialist users to create or customize their own virtual world without having to leave the virtual world environment, and to maximize the capability to communicate objects, avatars, and behaviors between such worlds. Our goal therefore is to create tools for developing virtual worlds that would make such resources as easy to use as the world wide web. Such virtual world building tools are also important for educators to be able to create context specific virtual worlds for collaborative, experiential learning. NCSA's MMOLES (Massively Multiuser Online Learning Environments) project is another application area that we intend to actively collaborate with.
This project is part of a collaboration of researchers from many departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The fellowship will build on NCSA's cyberenvironments and cyberinfrastructure, and will create new environments for collaboration, computing, and creativity.
How the Midwest and its Women in the Arts Contributed to the Technological Revolution that Changed the World (forthcoming)
Author / Editors: Donna Cox, Ellen Sandor, and Janine Fron
In Prairie Futures, we tell the story of women working in digital arts media who made essential contributions to the major global technological revolution that started in the Midwest around 1985, helping to catalyze what we now think of as the Information Age. This revolution includes seminal events at the University of Illinois and in Chicago, converging at an intersection in social feminist change, advanced academic technologies, and the Chicago art scene. Digital gaming, virtual reality, supercomputing graphics, and internet browser-based art all emerged from this convergence.
We mark 1985 through 1991 as a threshold period of technological progress on the prairie, with a surge in innovation from then onward. In national terms, for example, 1992 was a year when 3D graphics in games began to enter the mainstream (e.g., a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumnus co-developed Mortal Kombat), while in 1994 Microsoft débuted at SIGGRAPH (the ACM Special Interest Group in Graphic Arts continues to be a major meeting in the field). In Midwestern terms, 1992 was the year the CAVE was born at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Lab; two years later, Netscape (developed at NCSA as Mosaic) had its initial public offering, becoming the first widely used, graphics-based browser. Author / editor Donna Cox was fortunate to be creating in the thick of it, working in the area of scientific visualization and emergent technology. Also in that time in Chicago, (art)n (a digital arts media artists’ collective) was involved working with Spielberg and testing digital medical applications in hospitals as real, applied products. Author / Editors Ellen Sandor and Janine Fron were also there, helping to create and lead in the digital arts. Kelly Searsmith rounds out the authorial / editorial team as a humanities scholar working to help shape the future of digital arts media programming in higher education.
In conducting our research on these historical developments, we are recording interviews with pioneering women whose stories extend from the fertile Midwestern art/scientific environment during WWII to our present day digital cultural experiences within the arts, science, and entertainment. Interviews we have completed are with Martyl Langsdorf (designer of the famous Doomsday Clock), Carolina Cruz-Nera (co-inventor of the CAVE and a leading engineer and education still vital in the field), Brenda Laurel (one of the first women in video gaming and a leader of the independent GRRL gaming movement), Joan Truckenbrod (School of the Chicago Institute of Art Professor, artist, and author of the pioneering book Creative Computer Imagining, 1988), Claudia Hart (a feminist 3D graphics and subversive gaming artist, and Faculty, School of the Art Institute of Chicago), and Maxine Brown (Associate Director of EVL, leading organizer and theorist of the digital arts technologies). Each woman is placed on a timeline of evolution in arts, technology, feminism, and world history–from a period when no women were mentioned as major contributors in art history books to today, when women play significant leadership roles in major institutions in digital media. These digital pioneers became drivers as well as adopters of new technologies, and their migratory patterns have shaped much of what we recognize as the new digital media in visual and performative art today.
Emerging digital media and its foundations are of significant academic and historical interest. Several recent scholarly books expand upon important digital art developments (such as Edward Shanken’s valuable Art and Electronic Media: Phaeton, 2009 and Judy Malloy’s Women, Art & Technology: MIT Press, 2003). However, they lack the important social and technical connections among digital pioneers in the Midwest (see the eDream Institute’s timeline of contributions here on campus as a foretaste)–especially the stories of the contributions of women. Our approach, we believe, is unique because we are revealing a little-known synergy between individuals and institutions, global migratory patterns and the impact of pioneering efforts from Midwestern women’s points of view.
Gene Coleman and Ensemble N_JP featuring the work, 'Kyoto_Naigai'
Thursday, December 8, 8:00pm Central Standard Time
Dance Rehearsal room, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, Illinois
"Kyoto_Naigai" is a large scale composition by Gene Coleman for an ensemble of nine musicians playing live with a film directed by Coleman, himself. Based on the structure of the Kyoto Train Station, the work creates a parallel universe in which music and architecture become one.
Ensemble N_JP will perform "Kyoto_Naigai" under the direction of the Japanese American conductor Rei Hotoda. The outstanding Japanese instrumentalists Naomi Sato (shō), Yoko Kimura (koto) and Naoko Kikuichi (koto) will be joined by Illinois faculty Erik Lund (trombone) and Michael Cameron (contrabass) and N_JP musicians Ted Rankin-Parker (cello), Nick Millevoi (e-guitar), and Gene Coleman (bass clarinet).
This program will also feature a "telematic performance" (live from Tokyo) by the shakuhachi master Akikazu Nakamura, plus traditional Japanese music for shō and koto, thus revealing the origins of N_JP's powerful and evocative sound
This event is free, open to the public, and will be broadcast live on December 8. All those interested in viewing this event online, please e-mail A. Colin Raymond at email@example.com. Please include "Gene Coleman" in the subject line and your name and contact information in the body.
IJPAN and "Gene Coleman and Ensemble N_JP" are funded by the Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership (www.cgp.org).
Illinois scientific visualization teams helps show impact of 'The Great Flood' for premiere at ELLNORA
September 10, 2011, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Members of the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (eDream) and the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) collaborated with Obie-winning experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison on "The Great Flood" a 75-minute multimedia work of original music and film inspired by the 1927 Mississippi River floods, creating data-driven visualizations of the Mississippi River Valley showing the extent of the destructive floodwaters.
ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival kicks off Sept. 8. During the opening night celebration, members of the eDream/AVL will discuss their collaboration with Morrison and will show 3D versions of some of their Great Flood work in Krannert Center's Studio Theater. eDream associate director Guy Garnett, Illinois post-doctoral researcher Ben Smith, and graduate student Tony Reimer also will present new interactive performance works.
Yoshi Oida's Interrogations: Words of the Zen Masters
Illinois Japan Performing Arts Network (iJPAN) presents via LIVE two-way streaming
Digital Computing Laboratory (DCL) from the Japan Society of NYC, October 8, 6-8 pm
with an introduction by Professor David Goodman of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and shared discussion in CU and NYC, made possible by the generous support of the Japan Foundation and the technical support of Guy Garnett of eDream
Witness a master at work as revered actor Yoshi Oida returns to Japan Society! Known primarily for his over 40-year collaboration with legendary British director Peter Brook and in recent years for being one of the most sought-after opera directors worldwide, Oida graces our stage with his solo masterpiece Interrogations. The comical play depicts a test that a Zen master gives to his student, lasting several days, with the goal to determine if the student has reached enlightenment. The test consists of a series of questions framed in koans, or riddles, that the student must answer correctly in order to "graduate." Since its premiere in 1979 at the Avignon Festival, this one-man play with live musical accompaniment has been hailed as Oida's masterwork and has been performed worldwide, with recent stops this summer in Austria and Barcelona. Oida's hilarious performance is accompanied live by Berlin-based experimental musician Dieter Trüstedt. A $28 performance value, provided free to the U Illinois campus and CU communities.
Science Olympiad National Tournament
Rock Stars of Science Shake their Groove Thing
Assembly Hall, May 21, 6-8 pm
eDreamers flash mobbed the stage while SONT keynote speaker and Renaissance entrepreneur Jerry Fiddler rocked on guitar at the opening ceremonies of SONT 2010 on May 21. The mob was celebrating the airing of a high-energy video eDream created to celebrate scientists and science kids as rockstars.
The mob included Donna Cox, Kelly Searsmith, Bob Patterson, and Jeff Carpenter of eDream with AVL staffer AJ Christensen, family, friends, and AVL staffer and event photographer Stuart Levy. Jerry rocked on Bob Patterson's vintage 1970s Les Paul electric guitar. The video, viewable at eDream's blog, was commissioned by SONT 2010's campus leader, Howard Guenther. Pictures of the mob are available at the eDream gallery.
Dance at Illinois's Restaging of the Trisha Brown and Robert Rauschenberg Masterpiece
February 3-5, 2010, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Project Lead: John Toenjes, Musical Director and Associate Professor
eDream facilitated the restaging of Astral Convertible through fundraising, technology development, resource sharing, and creative input. Trisha Brown and her collaborators’ staging of Astral Convertible in 1989 struck the dance world with its transformation of dance through the integration of the newest creative technologies available at that time. As nine dancers in silver costumes moved through a minimalistic, post-industrial urbanscape of eight fixed towers (designed by Robert Rauschenberg), they tripped sensors to turn car headlamps and tape decks on and off, spotlighting or shadowing dancers and playing or silencing Richard Landry’s music segments–as unpredictable in their length and sequence as aesthetic weather. The opportunity now exists to use this work as a springboard forward into future performance. The restaging of Astral Convertible for the 2010 Krannert Center for the Performing Arts season signaled fresh possibilities to a new generation of technology-savvy artists and updated its appeal for contemporary audiences.
The importance of this effort was underscored by the awarding of an NEA American Masterpieces: Dance grant to pay for performance rights, and FAA’s support for the required Trisha Brown Company member’s participation in restaging the work. In this production, our intention was to go beyond a mere update of Astral’s creative technologies to re-conceptualize the production through transforming the media-rich environment of the contemporary dance stage and its action. The stage may be viewed as an imaginative space into which we project theories of culture and existence. By incorporating “chance” elements, the original production participated in an experimental theater movement that broke from a tradition wherein performers conformed to expectation, according to script. A new world of reaction to the unexpected had opened up. Yet, in this new paradigm, the “world” of the stage (costume, light, sound, set) had yet to gain a significant degree of autonomy from the intervention of human performers. The reimagining of Astral Convertible has true cultural significance, as, in production leader John Toenjes' view, we explored and developed new theatrical ideas for the computer age: the relationship of the human to the technological as an expression of the evolutionary extension of our biological capacities into responsive and reactive environments. Given these performance goals, original creative research for the production will involve exploring 21st century theatrical possibilities inherent in computing networks and interactive and green technologies. We intended to:
- create stage environments (including lighting, sound, and video) that respond directly to the arrangement and movement of performers in real time;
- cause the costumes to change their appearance in response to shifting arrangements of dancers;
- integrate world-wide and local human communities into the performance via internet and other sharing technologies; and
- incorporate and highlight environmentally “green” solutions whenever possible.
Thus, the production investigated and included sensor embedded, networked costumes; video projection onto moveable surfaces; custom, digital instruments; and wireless networks coordinated from a single server that enable interactive effects between dancers’ costumes, dancers and towers, and towers with one another (based on proximity and motion, as detected by sensors). Connections between these ad hoc networks during performance gave rise to spontaneous communities, communicating relationships visually and audibly between entities on the stage. Of course, the basic technologies employed by the original production were also updated to reflect technical advancements: car headlamps to LED lights, tape recorders to digital playback devices, 12-volt devices to low-voltage versions, wired and static installations to wireless ones. These plastic, contemporary technologies were integrated much more dynamically. They also significantly reduced environmental impact. John Toenjes led this project because its integral use of new technologies builds upon his research into interactive, motion-based arts. A team from Dance, Theater, Music, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Production and Design departments (David Warfel, lighting; Regina Garcia, sets; Ann deVelder, costumes; Terri Ciofalo, stage manager; Guy Garnett, computer technologies; Ken Beck, audio and circuit design; John Toenjes, sound) collaborated with a team of eDREAM partners that included world-class computer scientists and engineers from NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) and IACAT (Institute for Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies), Mary Pietrowicz and Alex Betts among them. Other collaborators included Kathleen Fisher (reconstructor), alumni of the Trisha Brown Dance Company and Thecla Schiphorst (Simon Fraser University), a seminal figure in computing and the performing arts who is helping to design and develop wearable body architectures for the production. eDREAM donated the use of its shared Creativity Space for exploring, integrating, controlling, and developing new technology for performance.
U Illinois, RPI, IUPUI, and Butler U
Creativity Space / NCSA, April 30th, 2009
Live from NCSA’s Creativity Space, Professor Guy Garnett’s (eDream and IACAT) graduate student Ben Smith performed in an internet concert with musicians and dancers located at studio-labs in Indiana and New York. Other performers included the IUPUI Telematic Ensemble, at IUPUI's Concert Space under the direction of Scott Deal; the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute multimedia ensemble Tintinnabulate, under the direction of Pauline Oliveros and Jonas Brasch; and Butler University dance students, from the studio of Cynthia Pratt. During the telematic concert, Indianapolis-based new music ensemble BASILICA, under the direction of Ben S. Jacob, premiered a new work by Charlie Olvera. For more information visit IUPUI's concert page. Telematic arts (aka telearts) use "computer-mediated telecommunications networks as their performance medium" (wiki). According to IUPUI’s vision, they "synthesize traditional artistic mediums, such as live music, dance, drama, and the visual arts with Internet-based interactive media and performance content."
U Illinois NCSA and KCPA Stage 5
eDream Reception / HASTAC Conference Blue Lights in the Basement Concert, April 20th, 2009
Guy Garnett's grad student Ben Smith performs violin at KCPA's Stage 5 in realtime with grad student and NCSA staffer Mary Pietrowicz (flute) and Dance faculty John Toenjes (percussion) at eDream's shared Creativity Space studio-lab, via an experimental high-speed network connection. The performance test was so successful that the connection between the two will be made permanent. We hope to win future support to extend the network to all major performance spaces within KCPA.