Tilt World: Smoke and Mirrors

smoke-tiltbrush

Concept
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.

Methodology
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.

Tilt World: Solo Rehearsal

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Documentation

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

Part 1
I created a detailed improvisation study incorporating repetition and color change in order to show an archive of the movement I’ve created.

Part 2
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

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New Questions:
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.

Creating an Immersive Virtual Environment

Concept
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.

Methodology
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

The stakes got a little higher this semester

We are now beginning week 5 and I have no idea where the time went. I have read the entire Emergent Strategies book by Adrienne Marie Brown and I’ve learned Emergent Strategies can be placed on your entire life. Change the lens, change the world. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on creating something using Tilt Brush in VR and so far I realize I like to create houses and known environments. I find the disembodiment disorienting and exciting. You have no hands or legs, only a mind, vision, and sound if you wanted it inside Tilt Brush land.  I hopefully will get a chance to try out an improvisational score I’ve built this week. It’s based on the sensations I’ve felt inside the system so far and some brief interactions with some other dancers. Click here and here to see some things I’ve created so far to glean inspiration.

I have a lot more agency this semester. If I have assignments I have to decide how I want to do them and learn from my mistakes. I guess it’s good I decided last semester I was ready to begin failing. All of my classes ask me to present/teach material at some point. I have my MFA required paper in my Theory course (Performing Bodies with Dr. Nadine George-Graves) where I have to create my own topic and defend it. My Research Studio course is basically created by me to build a project (Tilt Brush) using the scope of Emergent Strategies, the resources of ACCAD and the others in the class. This week I’m teaching a class for my fellow graduate students. Thank goodness for my technique class, although it’s hard in a different way.

It’s all hard, it’s all good and I’ve finally got my engine revved up. Now if only we could stop having -6-degree weather and snow days.

 

The “aboutness” of Digital Recess

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A screen shot of a texture from our “Media First” study.

Our final performance in Intermedia was the culmination of three months of “digital recess” as coined by a former student of Norah’s. It was so exciting to have two willing participants wheeled into our playground like “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”from Disney’s Magic Kingdom. That’s not a metaphor, they were sat in chairs and wheeled in. The participants/audience were brought into the space to witness, choose and be the performers often in absurd events like what we titled, “Dada Birthday Party” where we sat at a table and sang “Happy Birthday” to the participants in a surprising and upbeat way and then handed them a tiny mallet in front of a tiny cake and waited to see what would happen. The mallet referenced one of our readings by Soke Dinkla who wrote about one of the first Dadaist artists to include audience participation. “Ernst placed an ax next to one of his works to be used by the visitors in case they did not like the object.” (Dinkla, 280) We asked the participants to choose cards that would determine the next scene. The other three scenes were “Motion Capture,” “Hot Air Balloon” and “Box Head” which we yelled out when they chose the card. “Motion Capture,” a station that was from our second study, was a play on words, two people sat facing each other in chairs and one mimicked (captured) the movements (motion) of the person opposite them. “Hot Air Balloon” was giving the audience/performer a bag of unblown balloons and seeing what they would do when sitting on a white cube at the center of the space and “Box Head,” pulled from our first portrait study and had the person put their head on a box while we took a live feed of their face and asked them mundane questions about their life. Each situation was an experiment commenting on or inhabiting expectation and power. Other aspects of the piece included some movement developed from questions answered earlier in the work, saying a memory and throwing an imaginary ball to another person in the space and at times a voice over commentary, by yours truly. The aboutness of the work seemed to be community and absurdity or audience and performer or perhaps reflection and memory. 

As I discovered at the end of our last lab study, “Interactivity and Participation,” I’m interested and excited about the awkward moments and the moments that could change each performance. Throwing an audience member into the mix throws a wild card that is performatively exciting and something that my lab group played with the entire semester. In this study we focused on comparing viewed performance and interactivity in the form of stations. Tricking the audience that they might just sit and watch and then ushering them from station to station where they were to complete a similar “Box Head” and “Motion Capture” moment from our final experiment. Our third and final station was an array of “bric-a-brac” which had a sign that said, “Arrange.”  This was inspired by our readings from Dinkla about Duchamp’s ready-mades. At the end we performed some movements we captured during the “Motion Capture” station and watched peoples faces float around in bubbles captured from the “Box Head” station. The ideas of being seen and watched were at the forefront of the work.

Our second “Media First” study, came directly out of discovering textures that could be used as projections. Zooming into a moving object or objects, water, leaves blowing, bubbles rising, screens moving or a swing shifting can create a texture when projected into an environment. We gathered textures and then made a study using them. The Motion Lab has screens that can be moved into a circle which made us think of a carousel and I was particularly interested in how we could guide the audience’s gaze around the space.

I found Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” music video to be even more inspiring after having learned the origin of the projection magic she utilized. Jerome Bel’s “Veronique” Series is an almost poignant solo for a corp de ballet dancer from the Paris Opera. These and others were “Viewings” we watched throughout the semester. The course highlighted an array of artists using not only technology but also other mediums. Our reading from Simon Morely’s “Writing on the Wall” highlighted artists influenced by Duchamps “readymades” that began to experiment with mixed media approaches to panel art in the 1950s.  In the text I was interested with the “affichistes” and their ripping down advertisements and using them to create their own art. Intermedia is a course about creating with found objects. Everything we experimented with was already made, we just put it together in different ways. Use what you have to create something new.

The collection of topics, viewings, technologies and the history of media art we’ve explored has allowed me to place the concepts and people we’ve discussed in a way I couldn’t before. I can see how certain artists were influenced and where that landed their trajectory. I’m beginning to understand what interests I have and what kind of art I want to make. I’m beginning to understand my artistic world a little better and that is an important piece in trying to figure out what place I want to have in the puzzle. What’s the puzzle? That’s another question entirely. 

Susan Kozel, affect & phenomenology

IMG_20181008_223651 Susan Kozel spoke in ACCAD’s Motion Lab at OSU last week and she packed her hour presentation with current works. “Performing Encryption” which involved converting and encrypting movement into data, then creating movement to encrypt and decrypt the encryption. She also spoke about her project “Living Archives” which works with archiving movement and performing memory. This project lead her to working with Margret Sara Gudjonsdottir who is a choreographer who works primarily in states. Gudjonsdottir and Kozel and another collaborator, Jeannette Ginslov, are working on a project called Conspiracy Archives, involving archiving Gudjonsdottir’s choreography of somatic resonance and states. When glancing, it seems almost as if they are doing nothing or only moving very slowly, but they have spent hours to arrive in these particular states. They are not necessarily an emotion, but they could involve them I believe. So, basically I’m not sure what exactly they are, but it is very interesting to me. Moving slowly in these states creates certain affects between audience and performer and even between the performer an their surroundings, “if you allow it,” Kozel says. Susan Kozel is a phenomenologist that is most recently interested in the phenomenology of affect.

These words of affect and phenomenology were thrown around a lot in this presentation and I feel like they are such ephemeral words for me right now. One minute I completely understand the words and why they are being used and the next minute I’ve lost it. How can you study something that is happening right now? How can you think about doing the thing if your too busy thinking about doing it? Perhaps you can only study the thing if you are on the outside? Max Van Manen writes, “Phenomenology is the philosophical name for the method of investigating or inquiring into the meanings of our experiences as we live them.” I’m still a little confused about what is actually being investigated. It also seems that if your investigating it in the moment, by the time you investigate the moment it has past and so you are not actually living in it but you are investigating the past experience. This is the part that confuses me. The aspect of time.

Manen also lead me to this great video, “16: Moments” directed by William Hoffman. I’ve seen it before but in this context I believe Manen is alluding that any of these moments could be investigated phenomenologically: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNVPalNZD_I

When looking into affect I found “Emerging Perspectives on Judgement and Decision Research” to have a great first sentence to Chapter 10, which basically says, no one knows. But it was written in 2008, so perhaps phenomenologists know a little more 10 years later.

“Although researchers in the field of emotion have not yet agreed on a precise definition of affect, we use a specific definition throughout this chapter. We see affect as “goodness” or “badness” (1) experienced as a feeling state (with or without consciousness) and (2) demarcating a positive or negative quality of a specific stimulus.”

“We distinguish affect from emotion, which generally refers to particular states (such as anger, fear, or happiness) that are “intense, short-lived, and usually have a definite cause and clear cognitive content” (Schneider, 328). We also distinguish affect from mood, which generally refers to a feeling (such as having the blues) that is low in intensity, can last for a few minutes or several weeks, has no object or has fleeting objects, and does not have to have a specific antecedent cause or cognitive content.”

“Unlike emotion, we view affect as having the capacity to be subtle and to be without elaborate appraisal properties; unlike mood, we view affect as having a direct (rather than indirect) motivational effect. Similar to mood and emotion, however, affect can vary along both valence (positive, negative) and arousal (high, low) dimensions. ” (Schneider, 328)

For their purposes, Schneider and Shanteau are most interested in the “potentially subtle feelings triggered by the object of judgement or choice and not on the influence of specific emotions or background mood state on the judgement or choice. (Schneider, 328)

Again, I still feel like affect is either so specific a thing it is hard to define or is so simple an idea I’m making it out to be something bigger than it is. But if the latter is true, I can’t see people writing chapters about it.

That is where I am right now. As Christina Providence, my current pilates/gestalt guru would say, “Be where you are.”

Update: Norah the amazing also wrote about Susan Kozel here!

References: <– practicing my Chicago Manual of Style!

Schneider, Sandra L. and James Shanteau. 2003. Emerging Perspectives on Judgement and Decision Research. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Manen, Max Van. “What is phenomenology”.  Online Powerpoint, http://www.maxvanmanen.com/files/2014/03/What-is-phenomenology.pdf