Each day has brought a new development in the spreading of COVID-19. As I am developing my online classes for Yoga and Ballet for the rest of the semester at Ohio State University, I find it difficult to concentrate. Not because I have two beautiful girls (4 and 7) asking for yogurt every five minutes, but because I’m disappointed and sad, and a little because of the yogurt thing.
After our first spring break, I’m already missing the graduate student cohorts that dwell in our OSU Department of Dance and as we prepare for virtual classes I’m missing my students and the normalcy that I had just begun to find in our semester. It takes me a while sometimes. Now, we all begin to find our new normal. What will that look like? What does a society do when it is told to stay in and distance ourselves? Ways of resilience are now a necessity. Ohio has told all restaurants to close their doors, thankfully delivery and pick up are still available for some. My girls are school-less, possibly til the end of the year and everyone is walking around with an energy akin to holding your breath. I’m now tasked with teaching my child, virtually teaching my classes, and virtually taking classes through the rest of the year that were primarily lab and community-based.
What does a society do once it is told to slow down? I’ve already begun taking control of what I can. I am both happy for some semblance of schedule and exhausted by the level I have to keep it together for the girls. I am required, although I have a hard time focusing on it, to upload new syllabus, learning goals, and grade book for my now online movement courses. I’m thankful for various apps and Youtube providers that already have movement online for me to share with my students. I’m thankful to my cohort for the ongoing texts. I’m thankful for Instagram and Facebook that make me feel more connected to the world. I am grateful for the extra time with my kids, although way too much time, I think they are grateful for this too. I look forward to classes starting and information for my 7-year-olds school to find out what is recommended for her future education. I look forward to seeing and feeling what this means for all of us.
What do you look forward to?
Tilt World rehearsals (Jan 2020 – May 2020) are geared toward building a set improvisational score or group of scores to be used once more dancers are brought into the fold.
Today’s rehearsal began with the accumulation improvisation from last rehearsal, digging deeper into different brushes, colors and textures with different tempos and repetitions of movement. In taking detailed notes and ending each rehearsal with a clear written documentation including questions, I have a clear place to begin to ask and answer more questions. Some technical questions are best researched outside of designated rehearsal time.
Inside Virtual Reality
Looking at my hand while it is painting and remembering the movement inside my body at the same time is a very different mental process than when doing this movement without Tilt Brush. It feels similar to patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but instead you are aiming to look at a trail of paint while feeling your body so you can remember what the whole body does after the trace is created. The paint trace ends up being an “aboutness” of the movement instead of a specific archive. Since paint only comes from one end of the brush I have to make specific decisions about where the brush is on my body, whether distally painting from the hand as an extension of the spine or attached to the hip, foot, knee, or other.
The smoke brush continues to create a dispersed movement after you create with it. I used this brush today and ended by slowing and looking at what I created. Turning in a circle, I’m able to see the smoke move and the intricate pathways the chaotic movement created prior to this.
I also used the Mirror function later in the rehearsal which creates a division in the infinite blackness of the virtual space where the other side has a reflection of what you are painting in real time. I found a very curious effect happen when I watched my reflection painting, because it is not exactly what I am painting, but the reverse. It creates a really inquisitive effect.
Questions and Moving Forward
Does it matter if I reproduce the movement “correctly” after the first iteration of improvisation? The difference and trail of remembering and correcting is interesting. I think the answer is no? It is about the effort and physical thinking.
I remembered that in the Oculus Quest you can record live what you are doing, like what we did in the walk through for our VR Poltergeist room. I’m going to try this next rehearsal to live record what is happening while I’m painting.
I also need to research the audio and the controller settings on the Vive. You can do a lot of modifications with the controllers. Can I configure the controller so I can paint out of two hands/two controllers?
I also want to incorporate resizing and moving whole traced improvisations because I believe you need two hands to do these actions and this will make the palette hand more active even if I don’t achieve two paint brushes.
I set up my phone to record a few improvisations and tests and took pictures of my 1st solo set up throughout the ACCAD’s Motion Lab. It took about an hour to set up and 15 minutes to break down. I imagine as I get more familiar with the room I will be able to set up a little quicker. In the future I hope to save the visual score in Tilt Brush as well.
Developed Improvisation Studies
I created a detailed improvisation study incorporating repetition and color change in order to show an archive of the movement I’ve created.
Once a sequence of movement is solidified mentally and physically I am able to retrograde the movement. Immediately retrograding was very confusing. It is hard to tell where the line begins and ends and what movements were done to create this line and not just trace the line back with your hand. Since all the movements are not recorded, just the hand, it becomes important to discover what about the movement in that moment I want to record. Do I put my hand on my pelvis to record pelvis movement and perhaps weight? How do I record a fast shift in weight? Will changing brushes help with that? For example, if the Neon brush has a continuous repetition after drawn toward the ground will that show a strong weight toward the ground such as falling?
Retrograding improvised movement in the virtual environment is something that I will have to work up to and will require more rehearsal.
Paying attention to my focus is very important. The focus must be on the drawing hand or other groups of paint at all times or pathways are not projected and witnessed.
Paint brushes that have movement after being painted are very exciting and include:
- Neon is very interesting because it traces itself creating a representation of the tracing I might have done earlier.
- Electricity wiggles like lightning
- Fire has a subtle texture that moves along the line
- Stars don’t show the line drawn, but moves along a trajectory
- Snow is similar to stars
Can I record from inside the Vive or Oculus in real time so I can watch the progression and creation of the world after it has been completed? Instead of just a snapshot of what was done? I’ve seen other artists record their progression on youtube, how is this done?
Is it possible to move the headset around without your head in it? Does the headset track whether your head is in it or not? This is interesting for possible audience participation. I tried this below with questionable results.
To devise a one-minute solo to be dropped into the collectively devised theater project titled “Once Upon The Oval” to be premiered in March 2020 at Drake Performing Arts Center. I decided this one minute was a final comment by a character I had been working on throughout the semester, one of the ghosts of Mirror Lake.
The improvisational experiments I initially worked with included the feelings of regret, anger, and sorrow combined with the visual representation of a woman in a Victorian dress. My monologue in the larger scene, The Ghosts of Mirror Lake, includes “Where are you?” and “Did you kill yourself to get away from me?” Through repetition—using a one-minute timer—a psychosis began to develop in my character that I imagined would have resulted from the repetition of anger and sadness represented in the text of the monologue. This psychosis built into accusations of the other ghosts near the lake that might have slept with or taken her husband from her. Movements began to emerge including a spiraling twist characteristic of an ice skater and more literal gestures such as a toe lowering gingerly toward the floor as if testing the water paired with, “Did you dip your toe in that?” The improvisations began to solidify into an identifiable scene beginning with where I left off in the last scene, “Where are you?” and ending with a stripping of gender expectations.
Discoveries and Looking Ahead
I thought of my character as a ghost stuck in time, repeating moments of the past over and over, and reliving moments of anger, sorrow, and regret. The text from my monologue in the larger scene, The Ghosts of Mirror Lake, stuck with me as key lines that highlighted the character’s need to continually circle the perimeter of the lake for decades. I included a comment on the requirements of women in the early 1900s. Wearing dresses when walking, running, or completing any physical activity was absurd and visually representative of gender constraints of that time. My character’s one-minute solo blended the emotional trauma of a ghost and the visual representation of gender during that time period.
The final image of taking off and removing the Victorian dress—made difficult by my uncooperative zipper—and leaving it in a pool on stage felt like a resting place for this ghost. After decades of circling, calling for, and hoping to see her husband in the afterlife, she finally made peace with the fact that he left her. Was their marriage broken before this? Was he seeing another woman? Or was he mentally ill? Like the Wicked Witch of the West, her dress lies in a puddle on the stage, after she defeats her daemons. In the final moment of the scene, the ghost throws her hands in the air, sheds her anger, the restrictions of her past, and moves on.
See experiment here: https://osu.box.com/v/tarasoneminute
Advisor/Instructor: Dr. Nadine George-Graves
Co-creator Laura Rodriguez and I aimed to create a room for a virtual Spielberg Museum to resemble Carol Anne’s room in Poltergeist the movie. Design of the room included interactive elements such as lights that change with proximity, a TV that turns on and plays a clip from the movie when you come close to it, moving objects in a cyclone, the picking up and releasing of objects, and shattering a window on touch.
Our 5-week plan included dividing and conquering various different interactive and animated elements. Laura dived into various iterations of animating and shattering techniques of glass for our window in both Maya and Unity while I sourced scripts to move the objects in a cyclone in Unity and created and textured the walls in Maya. We both sourced 3d Models for the static room objects (bed, wall decals, shelves, door, exit sign, window curtains, tree, and little bunny model) through Turbo Squid and various other free 3D models. We also sourced 3d Models in this way to modify in Maya and Unity such as the lamp, records, horse, and television. When you get close to the television the lights turn off and the television plays a video clip of the Poltergeist movie in which the objects circle in Carol Ann’s bedroom. This video gives context if the user has never seen the movie before. With guidance we created a script to activate the lights when you got close to the TV, this also activated the TV and the circling of the objects. We created hands that were able to grab the objects and conducted many tests to determine how large the collision boxes needed to be on the objects before they were grabbable as they passed the user. The speed of the cyclone also needed alteration (and perhaps still does) so the user can grab the objects. To simulate a museum experience, once an object is grabbed, the user hears descriptive information about the movie or disturbing information of the actors who played the characters in Poltergeist.
Discoveries and Looking Ahead
The biggest challenges we faced during this process included our learning curve when using Maya and also creating scripts for the interactions. Some intricacies in using Maya’s software made it difficult to transfer objects from Maya to Unity and it was easy to miss one little click which would be the determining factor for something working. Similarly, creating the scripts required a problem solving brain and although I have some understanding of coding, we had to get some more in depth help to really get some of these interactions working. The most difficult was when we wanted multiple things to happen at the same time like proximity to the TV results in the lights switching off and the objects beginning to circle (which turns on being able to grab the objects). The more if/then’s you added, the more complicated and the more one thing began to affect the next. I think this factored into the shatter of the window and the video clip playing on the TV. At one point the window was shattering into pieces on the floor, and as you see in this video, the window is one big piece of glass which I think is a result of some of the code mentioned above. Similarly, the clip on the TV is distorted in this final video when it was originally working before this script was implemented.
Even with all these challenges, our previous experience of choreography, movement, and creating performative spaces made it second nature for us to imagine the possibilities of what things could do in the virtual space. Turning lights off, triggering sound, and the flickering of a TV combine to create an immersive experience in the virtual world. Just like live performance, the audience is able to suspend their disbelief further when you nuance light, sound, and interaction. The magic is in the details. Having a more in depth knowledge of how these worlds are created gives me insight into the possibilities when used in performance and how live and virtual performances can live in the same spaces together.
Advisor: Shadrick Addy ACCAD
To work with the Media Design students with the tools presented to expand our The Ghosts of Mirror Lake scene using various forms of projection, live-feed, or other technology available with the goal of enhancing the experience thematically, dramatically, and theatrically. This project will be incorporated into the collectively devised theater project titled “Once Upon The Oval” to be premiered in March 2020 at Drake Performing Arts Center at The Ohio State University.
The process began with a presentation by Alex Oliszewski of the materials available to the media designers to build into the selected scenes. At the end of this class we had an opportunity to mingle with the designers. Our group, Tara Burns, Sean Naughton, Laura Neese, and Emily Craver met with William Ledbetter as our designer and brainstormed about The Ghosts of Mirror Lake. Later, he contacted us for a video of the scene sans media.
The performers worked with Sean, our assigned “outside-eye”, to expand the characters of the three ghosts of the lake. Sean suggested we began with a free-write of our ghost’s thoughts and feelings. We wrote, shared, and decided the location of the monologues within the scene which currently included mostly movement and choice sentences said by the three performers at the same time.
After presenting The Ghosts of Mirror Lake to the Media Design class with our monologues, Will showed us a presentation of the materials he gathered (images and videos) and his ideas for live feed connectivity. That weekend, we all met in the medial to rehearse and understand the connections between light, media, and expand the characters further. Sean coached us in our monologues and blocking, while Will videoed the final representation.
Discoveries and Looking Ahead
The final class was the first time we had done the whole piece with the media. Although I wouldn’t call this a collaboration with the media designer, I would call it a successful pairing and enjoyed everyone’s openness to ideas and investigation in the work. This process would have benefited from a full class period of experimentation with the media designer allowing for an active collaboration. However, with that said, the theatrics brought depth, the media cultivated history, and the work on text and character building brought meaning to the scene. Sean’s outside eye was thoughtful and inclusive, Emily, Laura, and I worked effortlessly together, and Will’s contributions completed a multidisciplinary vision.
Advisor/Instructor: Dr. Nadine George-Graves
My co-creator and I, Laura Rodriguez/LROD, aimed to create an Augmented Reality application used as an educational supplement to Laura Dixon Gottschild’s Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts.
We chose ten pages that we would augment in the book. Each being accountable for five, we discussed ways that would most effectively visualize the textual content. We also were looking at different ways to activate our selected pages resulting in a blueprint containing a motion capture example of poly-rhythm, several reliefs of video examples of the pieces discussed in the book with sound and including the capability to stop and restart the video with a button, one relief picture of a definition with sound to clarify the pronunciation of the word ephebism and one relief of a black and white picture that changed to color.
Discoveries and Looking Ahead
As we collected assets and artifacts for the project (i.e. video of Pearl Primus, a video of Earl “Snake Hips” Tucker, a photo of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, etc.) we realized this project would run into copyright issues. This was also brought up in our first user test and demonstration during our Grad Day Showing in OSU’s Dance Department. However, using materials without permissions to create a proof of concept was successful. We also have discussed converting the app for cross platform use as it is currently only Android based.
In addition, Vuforia only recognizes images not text unless graphically designed, so using Gottschild’s “Digging” posed some problems in that the content that we wanted to highlight only had text on the pages and all the photos for the whole book were located in the center. For the pages that didn’t have imagery, we used found photos and created inserts to the parts of the book. Although effective, it was most satisfying when the photographs printed on the books pages came to life. If designing an educational tool for augmented reality again, I would prefer to work with the writers as the book is being designed to keep Augmented Reality in the design process creating a more cohesive visual and educational experience.
Advisor/Instructor: Shadrick Addy ACCAD
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham
Today a friend reminded me that I’m thinking too much about what others think of me. She quoted Martha and said, “it’s not your business.” Thank you, friend. The more I read from other choreographers and talk with other dance artists and movement makers, the more I realize how everyone is simply saying, stay in there, keep following the questions, keep following your gut, stick to the process. The thing that strikes me, however, is how often it is said, which leads me to believe that it is necessary. So, here we go again, it’s not my business to care about what other people think of me, just to stay motivated and keep marching.
“VR is perfect for things you couldn’t do in the real world, but not for things you wouldn’t do in the real world. Flying to the moon like Superman is okay. Participating in virtual mass murder—especially if it is designed to be realistic—is not. This is a big deal. Everything we know about training in VR points to the realization that the medium is incredibly influential on future attitudes and behavior. We don’t want to train future terrorists on VR, or desensitize people to violent acts.”
Excerpt From: Jeremy Bailenson. “Experience on Demand.” iBooks.
I assume Bailenson’s statement about virtual mass murder is specifically geared toward a game that would portray you as a serial killer, but I wonder how that works with military, war, and first-person shooter games. Bailenson also describes from the above book three things to consider when creating VR. Does it need to be in VR? Don’t make people sick? Be safe.
Superhot (published by Superhot Team) is a first-person “shooter,” made for a lot of platforms, but I played it for the first (and only) time on the Oculus Quest. I quote the word shooter because you can pick up different weapons other than a gun to kill your assailants. You are loaded into a white room, with a white box to your left with a weapon on it. The first task is to figure out how to grab a weapon and shoot or stab the bright red bodies walking towards you. These bodies explode into shards of red when you are successful in making contact and as they drop their weapons, you can grab them and other weapons also appear around the board as well.
The game requires you to duck, stab, shoot, dodge, hide, and find your way through a maze of white and red. I found my anxiety level rising as more and more red bodies came my way; it seemed as if they were so close, so quickly, and I had no time to respond. I found the world very disorienting and one time ended up lunging out of the way into my parent’s television. However, my 16-year-old cousin had no problem. Response time has to be very quick in this game. I found it difficult to grab the weapons and often died trying to get a weapon before I was killed by an oncoming red body.
I did not play this game long, the physical room was in jeopardy, but I can imagine how this game would appeal to people who like first-person shooters. I am not one of those people, however, the striking, clean artwork of red on white was stunning. The precision needed to pick up and hit your assailant required a skill I did not have, but perhaps if I kept playing, this game might heighten my reflexes. I wonder if I would have the same reaction in a non-VR platform? A little more distance between myself and the game might make all the difference.
Where is Superhot on the mass-murder spectrum? Even though it is not designed to be realistic, there are elements of realism that make you react as if you are being attacked. How realistic does the experience need to be to be considered mass-murder? How does the anxiety and frantic speed provoked in order to maim a body differ in the virtual world? Is it easier to stab or shoot this body because of their faceless and shard-like appearance that explodes when attacked of shards? Is this body’s absent frame enough to remove the empathy the player feels when completing these violent actions?
When a trigger is pulled or a stabbing motion practiced, it is imprinted on the body. The impulse, instinct, and musculature are trained into the muscle memory of the player’s body. When the repeated actions are practiced they are then housed in the player’s body as they complete this game and after. This is why VR is used for flight simulators and quarterbacks as they research gameplays.
Where is the line drawn and who determines whether VR content falls under the realm of “training future terrorists” or “desensitizing people to violent acts?”
My summer research turned out to be two months of rehearsals digging into how I view different ways of making and different dance aesthetics. I will continue and finalize an iteration of this research next semester.
In May and June, I met with fellow, almost 2nd year, amazing, talented dance grads Alessandra, Davianna, Laura, and Emily for four hours a week in addition to two hours a week of solo research. Alessandra was a wondrous resource as dramaturg and Davianna, Laura and Emily were important and vocal collaborators in the process as well. Using making methods and ideas surrounding emergence and improvisation, we explored the complicated definitions of control, specifically surrounding societal conduct and power structures affecting women.
I began this process with some ideas I found in Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed detailing the education of oppressive societies to fight against their oppression. Although the stakes are much greater in Friere’s books, I found that some of the words he used to subdivide the last chapter define complicated and layered societal formulas that happen in the everyday.
The first four phrases were ways groups of people elicit power and the next four are their counters describing ways people can come together to liberate themselves from their oppression. We began by defining these words within our bodies through improvisation and the use of space:
Divide and Rule
- Unity for Liberation
The concepts of separate/divide and together/away kept resurfacing physically. The ideas of bodies in unison and then not, bodies high, middle and low as a power structure, three against one, and bodies intercepting or inhibiting another’s movement came to the surface. The ideas of women empowerment, control, and social structures were apparent as these themes were explored further.
The questions that remain are: How do I unite improvisation and codified movement in a way that doesn’t seem forced and goes along with my personal aesthetic? What am I trying to say and how much of that do I want the audience to actually glean?
Below is an example of what I consider codified movement. A phrase or sentence of movement designed to be completed somewhat the same each time.
Below is an improvisatory exploration involving the parameters of finding moments where the other person is completely supporting your weight and you theirs as you move together and then away.
Below is an improvisation where Emily and I are trying to force Davianna to one corner as she is trying to get to the opposite corner.
Yes to redefining virtuosity
Yes to conceptualizing experience, affects, sensation
Yes to materiality/body practice
Yes to investment of performer and spectator
Yes to expression
Yes to excess
Yes to ‘invention'(however impossible)
Yes to un-naming, decoding and recoding expression
Yes to non-recognition, non-resemblance
Yes to non-sense/illogic
Yes to organizing principles rather than fixed logic systems
Yes to methodology and procedures
Yes to editing and animation
Yes to style as a result of procedure and specificity of a proposal
Yes to multiplicity and difference
Page 98 in “Dance” edited by Andre Lepecki