ARTech Residency In Review A look back at the 2010-11 ARTech Residency with Jonah Bokaer
Jonah Bokaerâ€™s FILTER. Photo by Eric Boudet
2010-2011 ARTECH RESIDENT ARTIST………………………………………………..
PARTICIPANT BLOGS……………………………………………………………………. 10 MASSMOBILE INTERACTIVE APP……………………………………………………… 21 ARTIST INTERVIEW ………………………………………………………………………. 24 COFFEE AND CONVERSATION PANEL………………………………………………… 29 ARTECH PRESS……………………………………………………………………………. 42 LOOKING AHEAD: 2011-2012 ARTECH RESIDENCY………………………………… 58 CREDITS……………………………………………………………………………………… 59
FILTER. Photo by Marisela LaGrave
ARTech (Artists in Residence at Tech) is an artist residency program created by Ferst Center for the Arts Director George Thompson for the Georgia Institute of Technology. The program was designed as a platform for deepening artist engagement experiences at Georgia Tech. Through ARTech, one or more performing artists will be engaged each season in extended residencies on the Georgia Tech campus to work with identified faculty and students. Collaborations will emphasize a particular exploration of the arts and science or technology that has a unique connection with Georgia Tech. Throughout the residencies, the artists and collaborating communities will explore issues surrounding art leadership, creativity and where art and science or art and technology intersect in our lives and in the creative process. External from the campus, community participants, both young and old, shall be engaged in the residency process by attendance at workshops, studio observation, master classes and website updates. Symposia, panel discussions and public performances wrap up the residency. Each year, new stakeholders will be identified, new ways to diffuse the residency’s theme will be explored and new ways to share the process will be communicated throughout the arts community. One overriding goal of the residencies is to document how the topic and process impacted each participant’s point of view and if their participation has resulted in a new question to ask. ARTech must endeavor to: 1) serve the artist and support their artistic process 2) engage the Georgia Tech community in a unique exploration of art and science/technology 3) share that process with the greater Atlanta community
About the Ferst Center for the Arts The Ferst Center for the Arts is a part of the Division of Student Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Named after Georgia Tech alumnus Robert Ferst, the mission of the Ferst Center is to enhance the education of Tech students and to serve as a bridge to the greater Atlanta community by offering a showcase of some of the most highly-acclaimed talent from around the world. Located in the heart of the Georgia Tech campus, the Ferst Center was conceived as a brilliant showcase for the presentation of concerts, lectures, dance, film and theater. This state-of-the-art facility houses an auditorium of 1,159 seats and features a proscenium stage, orchestra pit and theatrical lighting and sound systems. It is designed to provide a wealth of diverse and enriching opportunities for both Georgia Tech and the greater Atlanta community. The Ferst Center programs an outstanding season of music, dance, and comedy performances from September to April. Dance programming usually features contemporary and cultural dance forms, and the wide selection of musical genres includes jazz, folk, and pop music. 2011-2012 marks the Ferst Center’s th 20 Anniversary Season.
2010-2011 ARTech Resident Artist New York-based choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer was selected as the inaugural ARTech resident artist. In his residency which began in fall 2010, Bokaer explored the use of motion capture in performance, working on campus with Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing and worked in collaboration with the College of Architecture and the Music Technology programs. The season-long residency concluded with the U.S. premiere of his new piece, FILTER, on April 2, 2011. During the residency, Bokaer opened his creative process to the community and to students of all ages, from Georgia Tech and Emory to our school partners, Grady High and Centennial Place Elementary. Artist Biography Jonah Bokaer is an award-winning choreographer and media artist. He has dedicated a short lifetime to expanding possibilities for live performance through choreography, digital media, cross disciplinary collaborations and social enterprise, in the United States and internationally. Originally from Ithaca, NY, Bokaer trained in dance at Cornell University, and subsequently graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts as a North Carolina Academic Scholar (Contemporary Dance/Performance, 2000). Recruited for the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the unprecedented age of 18, Bokaer pursued a parallel degree in Visual & Media Studies at The New School (2003-2007), where he received the Joan Kirnsner Memorial Award. Additionally Bokaer studied media and performance at Parsons School of Design, NYU Performance Studies and through self-taught explorations into digital media and 3D animation Bokaer has worked with Merce Cunningham (2000–2007), John Jasperse (2004–2005), David Gordon (2005-2006), Deborah Hay (2005), Tino Sehgal (2008) and many others. He has also interpreted the choreography of George Balanchine as restaged by Melissa Hayden. Bokaer is also a frequent choreographer for Robert Wilson (2007–Present). Bokaer’s choreography has been presented widely throughout venues in the United States and abroad, including Cornell University, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, Dixo`n Place, Symphony Space, the ISB (Bangkok), Naxos Bobine, Studio Théâtre de Vitry, and La Générale (Paris), Les Subsistances (Lyon), La Compagnie (Marseille), De Singel (Belgium), International Tanzmesse NRW (Germany), PSi (Copenhagen), Kunsthalle St. Gallen (Switzerland) and others. His work in the realms of dance and media have garnered him many awards including a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (Dance & Media, 2005-2006), the inaugural Gallery Installation Fellowship from Dance Theater Workshop (2007), one of four national Dance Access Scholarships from Dance/USA, (2007), and the Alumni Achievement Award from North Carolina School of the Arts (2009). He is the first dance artist to receive the prestigious honor of the Young Leader Award from the French American Foundation (2008-2009). In addition to his significant achievements in dance and media, Bokaer has also worked with a group of artists and choreographers to form Chez Bushwick, an adventurous arts organization that has significantly impacted a new generation of dance artists, choreographers and performers in the United States and beyond. Bokaer is also a Co-Founder of Center for Performance Research (CPR), a nonprofit organization in collaboration with John Jasperse/Thin Man Dance. CPR offers a singular new development for the performing arts in Brooklyn’s first L.E.E.D.-certified building of its kind. This arts facility is an artist-driven initiative: the development aims to provide affordable space for rehearsal and performance, innovative arts programming, education and pedagogical engagement with the communities of New York City and abroad.
Artist Statement Digital culture is now an intrinsic part of daily life. Digital technologies have changed the boundaries of how, where and when dance performance takes place. Networked, interactive and sensory technologies have contributed to the development of new performance vocabularies, and these technologies have created new, and now accepted, modes of production and have repositioned dance performance as a multi-sited, digitally mediated art form. Digital environments can also be designed onstage, creating an opportunity to explore synergies between technology and space, to explore the continued co-evolution of humans and technology through creative, choreographic and live performance practices. The work of Jonah Bokaer asks questions about embodied practices, technology, time, moving images, interactivity and the visual environment and also deals with social, cultural and ethical issues in the development of digital environments. Within this over-arching theme, the ARTech residency responds to or extends some of the following subthemes and areas of investigation: • Synthesized sensory environments: computer programming & performance, interactive performance designs, performance systems, artificial intelligence, dialogic artwork. • Recycled technologies: Do-It-Yourself art, sustainable technologies, found technologies. • Post-digital environments: investigations of mixed realities, evolving participatory systems, embodied media and the impact of digital tools on ecologies of artistic creation, evolution and human experience. • Eco-media: dialogues between technology and nature, digital ecologies, digital eco-systems, embodiment, technology & environmental impact, addressing disparities of access/engagement. • Web-based/networked collaboration; including peer produced art, wikiart, geographically dispersed performance, intimacy and distance, mobile technologies, open source and digitized democratic participatory processes. Digital Environments respond to the activities taking place within them, influencing their interaction and meaning with their (temporary) inhabitants and posing possibilities for development. Work will investigate the crossover between these boundaries to create adaptive, self-governing, evolving domains for the public to engage with culture, choreography and performance. The production FILTER will engage in artwork that: • is interactive • is concerned with the creation of new choreography, and issues of embodiment • is technically specific yet mobile • engages with its audience • is a new work/approach to choreography
Scope of Project FILTER is a multidisciplinary choreography that will examine pattern recognition and perceptual faculties, applied to the moving body, and the human eye. A confirmed collaboration between Tunisian-American choreographer Jonah Bokaer and Cuban-American visual artist Anthony Goicolea, with newly commissioned music by Chris Garneau of ECHOSPACE, FILTER will stage movement in relationship to built spaces, objects, lighting and other media, creating illusions of expanded space by synthesizing choreography, visual design and sound. Lighting for the project was designed by Aaron Copp, whose previous collaborations with Bokaer have won the "Bessie" Award for excellence in design. The visceral depiction of the body in a large pre-cubist painting by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, was used as a springboard to create new movement for the stage in an abstract, non-representational manner, yet with primitive vigor and abandon. As an aesthetic strategy to reinvigorate the thematic material in "Les Demoiselles," FILTER is cast with an abstract quartet of 4 men whose appearances are obscured during the performance through a series of staging and visual filters designed by Bokaer and Goicolea. This casting will serve as a device to keep the same number of characters as the original Picasso canvas, while avoiding any literal associations or references.
Residency Schedule Week One : September 20-24, 2010 Monday, September 20, 2010 11:00 a.m.- Arrive at Motion Capture Studio. Meet with Dr. Karen Liu to discuss the week’s schedule 12:00pm-4:00pm- Motion Capture Work Tuesday, September 21, 2010 9:00 a.m.- Meeting with Jason Freeman, Georgia Tech Music Technology, and students at the Technology Square Research Building Room 226 11:00 a.m.- Arrive at Motion Capture studio 11:00am-4:00 p.m.- Motion Capture Work Wednesday, September 22, 2010 11:00am- Arrive at Motion Capture Studio. *Small group of local dancers and dance students will be in attendance to observe Jonah from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. 12:00 p.m.- Dancer Diffuse at Starbucks at Technology Square. Dancers observing Jonah will have the opportunity to discuss his creative process and career. 1:00 p.m.- 4:00pm- Motion Capture Work Thursday, September 23, 2010 10:30 a.m.- Meet with Erica Penk, undergraduate motion capture student assistant 11:00 a.m.- 2:30pm- Motion Capture Work 3:00 p.m.- Observe class with Professor Jason Freeman. Friday, September 24, 2010 11:00a.m.-1:00 p.m. – Motion Capture Work 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. - Conduct Master Class with Grady High School dance students 3:30 p.m.- Week One Debrief: Discuss the week’s progress, and plan for next residency visit
Jonah Bokaer conducts master class with Grady High School students
Week Two: November 29-December 3, 2011 Monday, November 29, 2010 9:00 a.m.– 11:00 a.m.-Reintroduction to campus 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.- Meeting with Dr. Karen Liu to discuss motion capture work and research 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.- Lecture with Professor Judy Gordon’s School of Architecture course 5:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m.- Meeting with Gil Weinberg, Director of Music Technology at Georgia Tech
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 9:00a.m. – 11:00 a.m.- Planning meeting with Music Technology graduate student Stephen Garrett 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. – Motion Capture Work Wednesday, December 1, 2010 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. - Planning meeting with Music Technology graduate student Stephen Garrett 11:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.- Motion Capture Work *Small group of local dancers and dance students will be in attendance to observe Jonah in the motion capture studio 1:00 p.m.-1:45 p.m.- Dancer Diffuse at Starbucks at Technology Square. Dancers observing Jonah will have the opportunity to discuss his creative process and career over coffee. 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.- Motion Capture Work 4:00 p.m.-6:30p.m. – Onstage rehearsal Thursday, December 2, 2010 9:00 a.m.- Coffee with John McFall, Artistic Director, Atlanta Ballet 11:00 a.m.- Attend 2011 Gegenheimer Lecture on Innovation: Robots to the Rescue! with Dr. Robin Murphy 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.- Motion Capture Work 3:45 p.m.-5:00 p.m.- Meeting with the Georgia Tech Digital Performance Initiative Friday, December 3, 2010 8:30am- Meeting with Dr. Karen Liu 9:00 a.m.- Planning meeting with Music Technology Professor Jason Freeman and student Stephen Garrett 11:00 a.m.- Meeting with Philip Auslander, Professor, School of Literature, Communication, and Culture 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 pm- Master Class with Emory University Dance Department 4:00 p.m.- Week Two Debrief: Discuss the week’s progress, and plan for next residency visit
Week Three: January 24-28, 2011 Monday, January 24, 2011 9:00 a.m.– 10:00 a.m.- Reintroduction to campus 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.- Meeting and interactive app testing with Stephen Garrett 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.- Onstage rehearsal (Leslie Overman, Assistant Editor, Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine observing 2-3pm) 7:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.- Attend Sonic Generator Concert, Woodruff Arts Center Tuesday, January 25, 2011 10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.- Meeting with Paul Cottongim, Ferst Center Technical Director 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.- Onstage rehearsal 4:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.- Dancer Diffuse. Dancers observing Jonah will have the opportunity to discuss his creative process and career. Wednesday, January 26, 2011 9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.- Onstage rehearsal 1:45 p.m.- Chance to Dance Workshop at Centennial Place Elementary 4:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.- Review Ephemeral Bodyscapes Constructions with professor Judy Gordon’s School of Architecture students Thursday, January 27, 2011 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m.- Meet with Erica Penk, undergraduate motion capture student assistant 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m.- Interview with Leslie Overman, Georgia Tech Alumnae Magazine 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.-Meeting with Dr. Karen Liu 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.- Audio Interview with Ferst Center director George Thompson 3:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.- Onstage rehearsal (Dance Critic Cynthia Perry observing 5-6pm)
Friday, January 28, 2011 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.- Interview with Cynthia Perry 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.- Planning meeting with Music Technology professor Jason Freeman and student Stephen Garrett 1:30 p.m.- 3:00 p.m.- Audience Development meeting w/Jonah and Ferst Center Staff 3:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m.- Week Three Debrief: Discuss the week’s progress, and plan for next residency visit Week Four: March 7-11, 2011 Monday March 7, 2011 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.- Interactive App Development Work (Stephen Garrett only) Tuesday March 8, 2011 12:00 p.m.- Follow Up Interview with Dance Critic Cynthia Perry 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.- Dancer Diffuse. . Dancers observing Jonah will have the opportunity to discuss his creative process and career. 2:45 p.m.-4:30 p.m.- Artist Interview with Dr. Phil Auslander’s English Composition II Class Wednesday, March 9, 2011 8:30 a.m.-9:15 a.m.- French dance scene meeting with Ferst Center director George Thompson 9:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m.- Motion Capture Lecture with Dr. Karen Liu’s CS4496 Computer Animation Class 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.- Meeting with Dr. Karen Liu 1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.- Planning Meeting with Jason Freeman 3:00 p.m.-3:45 p.m. –Phone Interview with Technology in the Arts Blog (Jonah and Stephen) 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.- Lecture with Professor Judy Gordon’s School of Architecture Class 7:00 p.m. – Dinner with Stephen Garrett Thursday, March 10, 2011 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.- Interview with Creative Loafing Dance Critic, Andrew Alexander 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.- Master class with Grady High School dance department Friday, March 11, 2011 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.- App Development Work 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.-Interview with Matt Nagel, Georgia Tech Communications & Marketing 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.- App “Sneak Peak” with invited group 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.- Onstage rehearsal 3:30 p.m. - Week Four Debrief: Discuss the week’s progress, and plan for final production week visit
Stephen Garrett conducts a “sneak peak” of the Mass Mobile App
Week Five: March 29-April 2, 2011 Production Week Tuesday, March 29, 2011 9:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m.- Technical Rehearsal onstage Wednesday, March 30, 2011 10:00 a.m.- Master Class with dancer Adam Weinert for Core Dance Company 9:00 a.m.- 11:00 p.m.- Technical Rehearsal onstage Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.- Technical Rehearsal onstage 5:00 p.m.- 6:30 p.m.- Coffee and Conversation Panel Discussion (discussion transcript pg.31) 7:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m.- Technical Rehearsal onstage Friday, April 1, 2011 9:00 a.m.- 9:00 p.m.- Technical Rehearsal and Final Dress Rehearsal Saturday, April 2, 2011 8:00 p.m.- U.S. premiere of FILTER at the Ferst Center for the Arts
Participant Blogs Throughout the residency participants, observers and collaborators were invited to share their thoughts through the Ferst Center’s ARTech Blog. Below are blogs posts chronicling Jonah Bokaer’s creative process on campus.
In the following blog entries, Ferst Center Director George Thompson reflects on Jonah’s time on campus and the progress of the ARTech Residency Make It Look Easy George Thompson, Ferst Center Director September 2010 ARTech (Artists in residence at Tech), a new program in its inaugural year at Georgia Tech, began in September with Jonah Bokaer joining us here in Atlanta. For those of you who don’t know much about Jonah, he has been touted as one of the heirs apparent of modern dance; he was the youngest dancer to join the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at 18; and he is now making a name for himself as a choreographer and media artist, but most importantly as a collaborator, who is hungry for interaction. Through a non-stop pell-mell schedule, Jonah managed to work in the motion capture lab and refine no less than 40 movement phrases, meet with several of the Georgia Tech faculty and have coffee with local dancers to chat about his process. One of the most interesting things being developed out of this residency will be a new Smartphone application (or app) that will allow the audience to be interactive with the performance in April-more on that as it develops. The amazing thing about Jonah is his ability to make it all look so easy. His daily schedule began at 7am and ended by 10pm. I know this because he was my house guest and I never saw him. He ended his week by teaching a master class in the Cunningham technique to Grady High School students. Over thirty students attended, the largest turn out in the history of dance master classes at Grady. Jonah’s class was great, he challenged the dancers as he offered them new perspectives on dance and body control and his clear clean command of the technique shone through. Above all he made it look easy and effortless – something that as an ex-dancer, I know too well is not easy at all.
From the Director: ARTech Week 2 George Thompson, Ferst Center Director December 2010 Sometimes in life you stumble across opportunities that you believe will be successful, but I must admit I had no idea how successful the ARTech collaboration would be if asked that question a year ago. Jonah Bokaer is one of those rare individuals who has found and continues to find those sparks of inspiration that lead to big and broad ideas. Through the ARTech Residency, Jonah is creating a new piece called FILTER. The culmination of the ARTech Residency will be the American premiere of the piece at the Ferst Center in April - the World premiere will happen in Avignon earlier in the year, but the Ferst Center performance will be the first time a new mobile phone app developed here at Georgia Tech will enable interactivity with the audience. The more I observe Jonah and the residency, the more interested I am in his choice of name for the new piece – FILTER. I can see him filtering his ideas for the piece, using the motion capture process as a filter for his movement phrases, filtering his group conversations through single thoughts, and filtering out the unnecessary to express a purity of movement in his master classes. Later this spring as part of the residency, the Ferst Center will host a discussion forum with Jonah and his artistic team aptly titled “Coffee and Conversation.” Hmmm, coffee, filter (that word again!)…I hope you can make time to join us and filter though some ideas around the table.
ARTech – A Year In Perspective George Thompson, Ferst Center Director April 2011 It is very fulfilling to have an idea and then have the opportunity to bring that idea from the virtual world to the real world. The inaugural year of ARTech proved to be more engaging, more provocative and more challenging than expected and therefore more rewarding. Almost two years ago when I took the helm at the Ferst Center I saw the need for a residency program that connects with the undercurrents of the campus – hence the fusion or intersection of arts with technology or science. This is a research institute, so why shouldn’t we have artists on campus doing research as well. Jonah was my first and obvious choice, but I had no idea that his artistic process involved motion capture nor did I know at the time know that Tech was home to several motion capture studios – most of which go vacant for the better part of the year. Jonah’s sense of commitment to process, collaboration with peer groups and openness to share his journey has engaged faculty, Tech students, high school students, area college students, professionals in the motion capture business, architects and of course dancers. ARTech and Jonah (the two seem intertwined) have created conversations among observers, within the classroom, in the coffee shops and about town in the arts community. Most unexpectedly, but not surprising, was the note this residency has gotten outside our midtown oasis with The Washington Post's allusions to the dance season at the Kennedy Center (or what was lacking therein) and note from Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Arts Management and Technology’s blog. I have been told that it is a good time for the arts at Georgia Tech, but how shall we reframe the torch bearer of the human condition - that part of our story that is transformative? What questions can we answer and what new questions shall we leave behind regarding these strange bedfellows of art and technology? Jonah has opened a new door at Tech and revealed the challenges of the new corridor ahead. An American premiere is more work than you might think. You have no compass or map to lead you to the right decisions, but as you pave the way and share that journey with others, the rewards are very satisfying. One thing I can say with confidence is on April 2nd when the curtain comes up on Filter, the dancers will soar through space, the audience will be engaged in a new way and the legacy of the evening will be ours to remember.
Throughout the residency, local dance and theater artists had the opportunity to observe Jonah in the motion capture lab and in rehearsals. Following these observation sessions, Jonah joined the artists for intimate discussions on the creative process of his newest piece, FILTER. Below Sue A. Schroeder, D. Patton White, Park Cofield, Monique Wimby and T. Lang recount their observation sessions with Jonah. Observing Jonah Bokaer Sue A. Schroeder, Artistic Director, CORE Performance Company September 2010 Observing Jonah Bokaer at work was both fascinating and sacred – to be in the presence of the artist at work and as art finds its form is like no other experience. For the artist, it requires focus, care and the willingness to allow time for challenges. The day I observed Jonah, technology presented the greatest challenge. Since he was at the beginning of his ARTech residency at Georgia Tech, the technological aspects were still being sorted out. With the assistance of his motion capture technician, Stephanie Chergi of Games That Work, Inc., they worked together to develop a language that I am sure will travel and develop to support this creative process. Jonah’s desire to “capture” 20 movement phrases per day through the use of motion capture did happen as his residency week progressed. The motion capture work space is very different from the traditional dance studio space. A series of cameras in the ceiling read the “points” embedded in Jonah’s special unitard suit as he moves/dances in a fairly small space. Choices were made to move in and out of the
range of the devices in the ceiling. Then, he/we observed what was recorded via playback in multiple versions – the body as a series of points, these same points connected as lines, the 3-dimensional and a final version with added washes of color resembling energy to me. The experience was full and rich and was topped off by a brief chat during Jonah’s break from the work process. Most intriguing for me will be to see how human qualities show forth through this technological process. Finding Connections D. Patton White, Artistic/Administrative Director, Beacon Dance December 2010 Entering the motion capture studio, I see Jonah covered in dots. The dots are attached to what looks like a neoprene suit that he is wearing, covering him from head to toe. He is talking with two technicians and seems to be entering information into a laptop. Over the next hour and a half, Jonah takes time to speak with those of us from the Atlanta dance community who are gathered there, sharing information about the project that he is working on. He asks us about our personal experience including technology in dance performance, and those gathered share a range of experiences. As Jonah goes through a process of 'recording' a series of phrases, I observe a figure that is projected onto the wall behind him. The figure corresponds to Jonah, with his movements guiding the figure in the virtual world. Periodically small glitches seem to take place. A sensor falls off of one foot a couple of different times. Occasionally he will stray outside of what seems to be the boundaries of the motion capture area, and when he re-enters the space, the corresponding virtual figure has morphed into a figure with legs as arms or other body parts. I find this rather amusing, while at the same time creating a somewhat disturbing image. I have often pondered the reason for a marriage of live performance and technology. I find myself feeling that unless the technological aspect of the relationship is addressed from the outset, then the marriage seems little more than unnecessary tricks that are layered on to the live performance. But as Jonah shares his intentions with this new work, I can see that the technology is part and parcel with his creative process. The movement itself--the phrases, the use of space--is emanating from the relationship with the technology we were witnessing. During the session, I took the time to read some of the information that was provided about the initiation of this particular project. I asked Jonah specifically about how the piece of visual art--Les demoiselles D'Avignon--had been selected as a point of inspiration, as had been indicated in the written information. He responded that it wasn't really having much of an impact on the creative process and that it had been selected by the presenting entity in France. I would suggest that it may have more of a relationship/influence on the concept of the work more than anything. Furthermore, since that particular work of art was one of the first breakthroughs in cubism, I would also suggest that the relationship is in the notion of breaking and paving new ground in art making--Picasso with cubism and Bokaer with new technologies. I am curious how the general art form of dance--where the body itself is the very thing of which it is made-will shift and change over the coming years. How will the physical body remain in performance when the technological world is finding ways of, in essence, doing away with the body? How will audiences experience the sympathetic physical experience--of feeling their own bodies through the movement of the dancers--if the dancers are not physically present? We are embarking on unknown territory, and I look forward to seeing the mystery revealed.
Phrases and Mimicry Park Cofield, Theater Director December 2010 I recently observed the work of choreographer and media artist, Jonah Bokaer, as part of the ARTech program of the Ferst Center at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a theater director with a strong interest in physical theater and the study of the actor’s body, I was particularly thankful for the invitation to watch a portion of the development process for his next project, FILTER, a multidisciplinary choreography that will be presented on April 2, 2011. On my arrival, I was greeted by Jonah and invited into the motion capture studio. He was dressed in a tight fitting body suit with reflective spheres attached to key points of his body. The room, a carpeted, partitioned classroom, had been outfitted with twelve infra-red cameras hanging from a grid, as well as a digital projector. Tape marks indicated a boundary on the floor, inside of which Jonah’s movements would be accurately recorded by the software program that allows this process to occur. A digital projector was connected to a nearby computer and pointed at the wall so that Jonah could monitor the progress of the software while working. The session began with a brief explanation of the work-- Jonah would be recording a series of movement phrases that he had choreographed. Following each take he would be notating the number of frames per second and the timing of the phrase. After a bit of calibration, the recording began with a scientific precision-- “Three, two, one”. . Jonah performed a series of physical movements in silence to test the range of motion of the system. As the recording sequence concluded Jonah returned to a neutral position in the center of the box, his legs together and arms at his sides. The next set of phrases that he recorded were described as “warm ups about space”--- one set had circular movements, the next felt angular, and the last contained a series of oppositional movements. As the technician re-set the system, Jonah knelt next to me for a moment to explain that in the next section he would be moving away from geometry and into studies of movement. These had started as improvisations, but had been fixed, or set, to act as a control. He stepped back inside of the box, this time facing me, and performed a phrase in which he allowed the weight of his head to take his body down, followed by a phrase where his arms were pulling him up, and another with spinning, gyrating, circulating motions. At this point in the observation, I started to draw associations between Jonah’s work and the working methods of Eugenio Barba and the Odin Teatret (Holstebro, Denmark). In 2005, I trained and studied with the Odin and participated in the International School of Theater Anthropology, an international symposium lead periodically by Barba to investigate, discover, and define the craft of the performer. Balance, Equivalence, Energy, Opposition, and Rhythm are key elements in the study of the “expressivity” of a performer. These elements, although common in dance, are less frequently discussed in theater as guiding principles of the work. The Odin actors build “physical scores” (similar to Jonah’s phrases) based on these principals of performance. The scores are repeatable choreographies that can be adapted, adjusted, expanded and modified for the needs of particular performance. Jonah’s next set of recordings were phrases that he was building for dancers. For the first time in the session, music was introduced. There were five versions, each appearing to have a different shape, energy, speed, and direction. The same was true for the final set of phrases that he recorded, which I’m told were based on “behaviors.” For me, narratives emerged for these movements-- the touch of a hand, turns of the head, the closing of the eyes. Each of these evocative gestures seemed to invite me to find a story to interpret each phrase. On seeing his work, I am curious about the process of mimicking these phrases and how interpretation plays into the process. Jonah’s artistic statement indicated that these recordings will be mimicked by dancers and incorporated into the final performance. Is there room for personal flavor-- like a musician interpreting a piece of pre-written music? What is the essence of each phrase-- the timing, the steps, the shape? How much can a phrase change before it can no longer be considered the same set of movements that Jonah had so carefully performed, recorded, logged, and rendered? For me, as a theater artist, I begin to question how this process will translate to the stage. The Odin’s use
of physical scores has been immensely useful to me in my work. The score is, in essence, a script for the body. Much like Jonah’s phrases, they are sequences of movement that can be taught and mimicked. I am most interested to see how Jonah’s phrases survive the process, how they are translated by the performers, and how context and placement on the stage factor into the interpretation of the culminating performance in April. Thank you, Jonah, for opening the door and allowing me to observe your work-you have given me a lot to think about. Breaking the Fourth Wall Monique Wimby, Dance Major, Brenau University December 2010 Artists in Residence at Tech. ARTech. A deceptively simple title for what's really happening at Georgia Institute of Technology. As a dance major invited to witness the merge of technology and performance, I was skeptical of the concept. Technology, especially social media, ultimately tends to remove human connection and warmth. How do artists plan to use technology to “improve” their art? What can technology do that humans cannot? Jonah Bokaer knows what it can do: remove the fourth wall. His piece FILTER, currently in development through the ARTech residency, aims to engage audience members with technology and choreography. As I viewed the in-studio motion capture session with Bokaer, I was delighted to see this dancer, this heralded prodigy in modern dance (he was the youngest ever to join Merce Cunnigham's company at just 18), use his physical prowess to integrate human grace and computer number crunching. Literally, Bokaer would ooze around the little studio for short bursts of time, effortlessly reaching and gesturing, only to stop and scribble numbers when his seconds were up. One hundred and twenty frames were captured every second and ideally Bokaer and his team wanted to catch 7,500 frames every round. It was an amazing intermix of human ability and artificial intelligence, and I was honored to watch the process. Eventually, Bokaer desires to include iPhone applications that facilitate audience participation. When questioned about the application’s purpose, he replied that perhaps the applications will allow audience members to control the lighting or sound for the performance they are watching. I excitedly speculate about what part his recorded motion capture figures will play - perhaps they will encourage and guide the audience as they use Bokaer's innovative applications. Break the fourth wall, Bokaer. Let the audience in. Thank you, ARTech, for making this endeavor possible. Artists in Residence at Tech? More like artists reshaping modern dance at Tech. The Beginning Stages of FILTER T. Lang, Artistic Director, T. Lang Dance and Assistant Professor, Spelman University Dance Department December 2010 Entering a lab that had 12 hung cameras surrounding the center of the room, three Mac computers and a white wall that projects what the cameras captures; this high tech studio space is just another day for choreographer Jonah Bokaer in his motion capturing lab. I'm familiar with Jonah as one the most recognizable male dancers from the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company. His lines were always crisp and technically astute. Mr. Cunningham's experimental works with motion capturing in the late 90s such as Biped, surely inspired Jonah in his own choreographic development. As a result, Jonah has evolved this choreographic device to another realm. In his process for his new work, FILTER, Jonah strapped on a body suit with velcro censors attached to his joints (i.e. shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees). He organized his time wisely to make sure he was able to capture specific movement qualities on film in order to "chop and screw" later in process (I'll explain that shortly!). Jonah created 20 phrases that he wanted to explore and then itemized them into 4 organized groups of study: 5 Improvisations, 5 short phrases, 5 variations on the short phrase, and 5 gestures phrases. His studies started off linear and played with carving space within his own kinesphere. He explored falling off his central axis and manipulating space while layering intricate hand gestures. There was nothing short of
full enthrallment watching Jonah dance and witnessing the beginning of his process with FILTER. I asked him about the post- production process of his work. I was curious to know how he uses motion capturing to continue creating his movement invention. Does he use the right side of his body in phrase 10 and the left side of his body in phrase 2 while pairing his hands and head from phrase 17 and 1to create one movement? Does he "chop and screw” his 20 phrases from motion capturing to create this brilliant vocabulary? The answer was yes. Jonah's choreographic works have always pushed the technical boundary of impossible. Not only has he created his own movement vocabulary through motion capturing he also has to teach himself and his dancers how to do what he created via technology. Seeing Jonah’s previous works like False Start, Replica and Octave, I trust FILTER will be another work that allures the audiences and leaves them with ineffable amazement. Rehearsal Observation D. Patton White, Artistic/Administrative Director, Beacon Dance January 2011 I arrived right at 2:00 PM at the Georgia Tech Ferst Center for the Arts. Outside it was rainy, gray, and generally cold and miserable. Inside the theatre, a calm, placid atmosphere prevailed. I could just barely make out the sounds of classical music playing from a laptop onstage, operated by Jonah. He sat with another young man, huddled next to the chair that the laptop was sitting upon. He would periodically mark though various movement phrases while watching the computer. I imagine, since I could not see the screen, that there was video playing on the computer monitor. The two got up, went to the backstage wing area and picked up four stands, placing them downstage and upstage on either side. Returning to the wing, they got more, continuing to place them around the stage area, almost creating a sort of forest effect. The stands in place, Jonah moved the chair with the computer further to the side, to get it out of the way, presumably. The stage area, itself, was bare. All of the legs were raised into the air so that the wing area and the back wall—all that is typically hidden from view—was visible. Jonah started the music on the computer, and walked out into the audience. The young man began a dance that took him primarily on the balls of his feet through the forest of stands. Reaching, on a journey through the space, traversing from stage right to left, his steps were delicate, and were supported by his hands on the floor at some points, too. Jonah returned to the stage to give him some feedback on his movement, reinforcing the sense of weight forward. The young man then came out into the audience and it was his turn to observe. Jonah began downstage left and began traversing through the space using a similar movement vocabulary. An emphasis on spiraling through space—not a spiral in the body itself, as much as a spiral through space. Lunges, legs crossing and then uncrossing, hands supporting, long and straight spine titling diagonally in space. The music almost has a music-box quality to it. The young man’s second pass seems intentionally lower in space, using the area from the floor up to three feet above that. I’m curious about the intent behind the forced arch/metatarsal emphasis. Jonah’s next pass is even lower in space. Knees, forehead connecting and supporting. Upper body over, hovering in space. The two men’s interaction with one another is quiet, formal. The young man’s next pass, also from stage left to right, and mainly downstage, is very low, Deep lunges, forehead to the floor. But curiously as he reaches stage right, he goes back up into high space.
On Jonah’s next pass, he is even further downstage, traversing from right to left, and he is using the full range of levels. He seems to be playing more with the dynamic range—various energetic states and finding times to pause for varying lengths of time. The music has shifted to a more electronic feel—pops, clicks and squeaks. The next two passes through the space, by first the young man and then Jonah, are more free-flowing, upright movement, with periodic pauses. Energy passes through the body through the physics of pushing on the floor and using the upper body in opposition, twisting and spiraling. Turns, slides result from this increased physical state. Jonah’s pass is less focused on the turning, and more on the static pose. Movement travels through his body, but does not seem to reverberate. It reaches a very clear ending before starting again. Joints, bending and stretching, that is the focus. The two of them walk to stage left and begin a walking pattern through space, circling around walking side by side, matching leg for leg. They touch and are connected at the arm/hand. They move to upstage and begin some lunges from one side to the other. They begin to collapse forward then pivot to new directions in the collapsed positioning. They make it all the way around in a small, tight circle. They are now on their hands and feet, body elongated, facing the floor. Jonah then goes under the arch made by the young man. They part and go to either side of the stage. They each enter simultaneously and wander in walking pathways. Their curvilinear paths sometimes become straight. Their forward walking sometimes shifts to backwards walking. They maintain a sense of relationship throughout, by using the same time signature for their walks. Their walks are purposely slides of the feet on the floor. They both move forward or backwards at the same time. They know to stop at the same time. Are they working from known phrases or are they improvising within a structure. I do not know. The young man begins lying on the floor, facing the audiences. He begins to move and returns to his original place on the floor, but in a new position. He eventually ends face down, his chin on the floor. The music has now shifted to more electronic sounds, like radio signals coming in not quite in tune, but with the music box melody layer on top of that. I must go to teach a class, so I depart, leaving them to continue their rehearsal.
Jonah Bokaer and his performance/rehearsal associate Adam Weinert submitted their thoughts throughout the residency on the development of FILTER and their interactions with various campus and community groups. Previewing FILTER Jonah Bokaer, ARTech Resident Artist On October 24, 2010 Jonah Bokaer premiered a portion of FILTER at the Guggenheim Museum 's Works and Process Performing Arts Series. Below he examines the choreographic process from his first week in residence at Georgia Tech to the performance of the work-in-progress. Mimicry is a foundation of learning and teaching movement; dancers primarily learn movement from other dancers, teachers, choreographers, or skilled individuals. In my work, I seek to collapse this foundation, by learning and performing movements from a digital avatar. This avatar performs movement which I've created myself, so the process of mimicry is self-constructed, both doubling and subverting traditional dance conventions.
A reverse mimesis is introduced when people copy the information of media, rather than employing media to copy us. In the motion capture work at Georgia Tech I’ve learned to develop this further; I'm copying movement as transposed onto the body of another figure - in this case, a projected image while also dancing.
Jonah Bokaer and crew build the set for FILTER
Preparation for the initial showing of excerpts of FILTER at the Guggenheim Museum went quite well; I rendered the animations into their final versions, and wrote a DVD that will be compatible for the performance. One of the animations was created on the body of a figure which is entirely collapsed onto the floor, yet the movements were composed through a live motion capture session at Georgia Tech that is to say that human movement has been transposed onto the body of a digital figure, afterwards. Retouching these movements were especially challenging, because instead of working with normal joint hierarchies, I had to work with the figure's prone body. The most challenging aspect of preparing for the preview of FILTER after gathering the digital material at Georgia Tech has been coordinating rehearsals with the four other performers. Because it was nearly impossible to find available times before the performance week, we resorted to "virtual" rehearsals: I created multiple QuickTime files of the animated choreography, so that each performer could practice their roles independently. This saved an incredible amount of time (and funds) that was not available during the creative process. Rather than booking rehearsal space and coordinating schedules, cast members were able to rehearse autonomously, often in different parts of NYC. FILTER, which I began developing while at Georgia Tech, shared 17 minutes of work in progress successfully at the Guggenheim Museum on Sunday, October 24th and was received with great enthusiasm by both younger and mature audiences. I had initial anxiety about how the mixed audience would react to the digital construction of the body, but people were remarkably excited about what they had seen. Dancing FILTER Adam H Weinert. Performance/Rehearsal Associate January 2011. Having worked with Jonah Bokaer for the last 5 years, I found it thrilling to witness and take part in this past residency week at Georgia Tech. The kinds of support offered through the residency serve as the perfect catalyst for the development of FILTER and is bringing us into uncharted water. The work being created is still in preproduction, which is actually my favorite part of the creative process: it is a time when possibilities are abundant, and particularly in the case of this residency, many interesting questions arise as to the integration of each component. The week started with a treat: my first look at the mobile application in
development with Georgia Tech graduate student Stephen Garret (soon to be available on iphone and droid smart phone systems). The program offers the audience a variety of ways to interact with the performance in real time. Possibilities may include texting, drawing, voting and scaling. As a performer, this is an enticing prospect. We are always looking for ways to keep each articulation of a performance fresh, and to find new ways of engaging with our audience. Through this residency Georgia Tech is in a unique position to make this happen and the innovation at work here creates possibilities I’ve never seen before. Other exciting happenings came this week when the music arrived on the scene for the first time. We were also given the opportunity to interact with certain set elements in the actual performance space. Those unfamiliar with performance may not know how unusual or gratifying this is but - particularly at this juncture for the arts - the opportunities afforded by this residency are truly invaluable and entirely rare. Return from France Adam H. Weinert, Performance/Rehearsal Associate March 2011 Jonah and I are now happily back in Atlanta for the 4th week of the ARTech Residency, after our extended trip to France developing the performance aspects of FILTER. Over the course of our time there, we saw the city prepare for spring, and also transform itself to host their winter dance festival, Les Hivernales. This proved to be an exciting way to meet new colleagues, see new work and also to contextualize the creation we’ve built into the international dance scene. The first portion of our stay consisted of a select group - mainly dancers and production crew - though over the weeks our group grew in numbers to something of an entourage. I’d always been under the impression that while very dynamic and diverse, the French dance milieu was something of a closed circuit, and almost impenetrable to outsiders. The experience with Jonah Bokaer in Avignon however, was very different. Our time there had real depth and breadth of scope: we staged a number of debates - or rencontres - with the public, had guests from local arts schools and conservatories and worked with a flood of local technicians and artisans. Out time there was so entrenched that after the performances it felt as if we could scarcely go anywhere without being congratulated. We worked long days, often beginning at 9am and wrapping up past 9pm, but given how many elements there were to integrate - sound, scenic, choreographic and technological - it never felt like too much. We were sorry to go, but very excited to deepen the work and bring it to the Ferst Center.
While in residence, Jonah Bokaer had several meaningful interactions with Georgia Tech Students. He visited Professor Judy Gordon’s Studio ARCH 3012 Altered Movement: Ethereal Constructions course as a consultant to their semester-long projects, and worked with Music Technology graduate student Stephen Garrett on the development of the MassMobile Interactive App. Below, these students share their thoughts on working with this renowned artist during the inaugural ARTech residency. Student Observations Jonah and Adam were both really great when they visited us in studio. They shared their work, which was fascinating, as well as listened to our questions and comments about our current project. As we are designing a theater, dancer and choreographer input was very valuable, and gave us great insight. We all really appreciated the time they took out of their busy schedules to come talk with us, and I wish them all the best of luck in all their future work. Margot Montouchet
Having Jonah and Adam consulting on our projects has been wonderful and their input has certainly been invaluable. I just wish they could have been involved even more! Phil Cancelleri It was extremely helpful having Jonah and Adam come into our studio. They sparked a lot of ideas that I am carrying out in my project. They have amazing insight and are very talented; I was very impressed with their work and way of thinking. It was very nice of them to dedicate so much of their time to come and talk with us and answer all our questions. Ana Lucia Gadala-Maria It was a pleasure to hear from actual dancers since we are designing a performance theater! They spent a significant amount of time with our class discussing movement and theater. Their creative and thoughtful presentation made me think about new perspectives. I hope that our class has the opportunity to have more interactions with other artistic professionals. Gyeong Wan Kim Our architecture design studio was very fortunate to have been granted two visits from Jonah Bokaer and his colleague, Adam Weinert. They were both eager to share their impressive knowledge and many experiences with us. Jonah was distinctively familiar with negotiating creative relationships between the human form and the space it occupies. He undoubtedly leaves a wave of insight and inspiration wherever he travels. Christopher Hancock I really appreciated Jonah and Adam taking the time to come to our studio and review what we are working on. They not only gave us insightful information for theaters in general, but they also commented on the theater designs we are currently developing. Their comments have been very helpful in how I have structured my investigations into effective theater design. Thanks guys! Meghan Gast Jonah and Adam’s input was extremely helpful with our design process. As we are designing a theater, it is important to not only approach the project from the point of view of a patron, but to approach the project from the point of view of a performer. Jonah has allowed us to better see how the theater will be used, and his insights have been invaluable. He has been extremely courteous with his time, and very open with his thoughts. I know I speak for my whole class when I say that the input of Jonah has been one of the most helpful resources we have had for this project. Kyle Keithley Working on a theater, our class as a whole has studied the plans, the sections, how it functions, and precedents. What we hadn't heard was a performer's point of view. Having Jonah and Adam visit was very insightful. Their opinions and comments were fascinating, and their feedback on my video helped me narrow my focus. They also showed us video clips of practices and set up, then a bit of the more final product of a performance. It really made the entire idea of a theater come together. Melissa Doss MassMobile Sneak Preview Stephen Garrett, Graduate Student, Music Technology Program Stephen recently traveled to Avignon, France for the World Premiere of Jonah Bokaer's FILTER. My time in France with Jonah and his team was extremely enriching. I first have to thank my advising professor, Jason Freeman, for providing the transportation funding. Not only was I able to see the beautiful French countryside and Provence region, but I also spent time with a great creative and production team. This was my first time being involved with a completely professional crew and production. I have to say, it was something else! Upon my arrival, I went straight to the
theatre and came in on a rehearsal break that had just begun. It was so great to see Jonah and Adam there whom I had already met through the Atlanta residencies, and they introduced me to everyone and instantly made me feel welcome. My next introduction would be to Aaron Copp, the lighting director for this work. Aaron is a great talent and was such a pleasure to watch as he developed the lighting vocabulary of FILTER (I can actually find my way around a light board now thanks to him!). Aaron, Jonah and I worked together a great deal over the course of the week. I was there to develop a point of interaction between the audience, MassMobile, and FILTER. We decided that MassMobile would make its debut before the performance. The pre-show interaction seemed to make the most sense for our “beta” run of the MassMobile system since many elements of FILTER were being finalized simultaneously. We also wanted to keep the MassMobile interaction brief since the server was all the way back in Atlanta! The opening set of the piece has nine trees scattered across the stage, and the idea was to have a light on each tree. When the house doors opened for the audience, each tree’s light would be set at about 10%. In the MassMobile app, participants could select a tree from a list, and upon selecting it, that tree’s light intensity would rise to 50% and then fade back down to 10% over a few seconds. The effect turned out to be quite beautiful and pleasing, as the trees were partially covered in a gold reflective material. We saw several interesting behaviors emerge through the interaction including collaboration between audience members. Less than a week after the world premiere of FILTER in Avignon, Jonah and Adam were back in Atlanta for the final residency week on the Georgia Tech campus. We ended the week with a “sneak preview” of MassMobile in action with various faculty and staff members from around campus. We demoed several different areas of input and interaction with the mobile app including projected visualizations and lighting and choreographic control. This would not have been accomplished without some great work by Music Technology Master’s students Anosh Daruwalla (who developed the Android app) and Nathan Weitzner (max/msp patch and jitter visualizations). I had hoped while I was developing the app that its eventual use by a live audience would surprise me in some way. This is exactly what happened at the "sneak peak" session. In one of the demos, we displayed the tallies of votes on a bar graph that was projected and updated every 100ms. In this area of the app, a vote choice had to become a leader in order to change the color of the lighting onstage. An interesting feedback loop occurred during this particular demo; everyone initially picked the first choice, then one person picked the third choice. Instead of the others picking other random choices, people also picked the third choice until it became the vote leader and the color of the lighting changed. This was so interesting because for a long time we were just using the bar graph as a diagnostic tool, and in this case it helped people coordinate their choices without even speaking with each other. Jonah, Adam and most of the team that I met in Avignon will be back on campus in just two short weeks for a final week of prep before the US premiere of FILTER, and I am so excited to share MassMobile in an artistic capacity with the Georgia Tech community.
MassMobile Interactive App
A major component of the ARTech Residency was the development of the MassMobile Interactive App. Jonah Bokaer worked with Georgia Tech Music Technology graduate students Stephen Garrett, Anosh Daruwalla and Nathan Weitzner to create the interactive platform that made its premiere along with Bokaer’s FILTER at the Ferst Center for the Arts on April 2, 2011. Jonah Bokaer, dancer Adam Weinert and student Stephen Garrett were interviewed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Arts Management and Technology's Technology in the Arts Blog.
Mobile Audience Participation with Jonah Bokaer and the Ferst Center By Thomas Hughes | March 27, 2011 Audience interaction has become a pretty major trend this year and arts organizations around the country are experimenting with different ways to engage their audiences. But how does one go about making their experience a participatory one? Artist Jonah Bokaer and the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech decided to approach the issue using mobile technology. Jonah Bokaer is an award-winning choreographer and media artist participating in the Ferst Center’s first ever year-long dance residency program, ARTech. Jonah worked closely with students from the Georgia Tech Music Technology Program to develop MassMobile, a Smartphone app that acts as an interactive platform for audience members to participate by affecting the stage in different ways. On April 2nd, MassMobile will premiere with Jonah’s new work FILTER at the Ferst Center. I had to opportunity to speak with Jonah as well as Stephen Garrett, one of the graduate students on the MassMobile development team, and dancer Adam Weinert. Where did the idea to include the audience in the performance, through a mobile app, come from? Jonah – Well, in 2004 I made a work called RSVP, which planted 12 cellular devices in the audience. We used those devices and their ringtones to create the music for the piece. And that was engineered from offstage by the composer. But, when doing some initial research down here and planning this production called FILTER, I wanted to put forward the idea or the proposal that there could be interaction or intervention even, with the show. And maybe Stephen can take it from here, but we spoke with Jason Freeman and the Ferst Center and this relationship started. Stephen – Yeah, and I think Jason’s idea, who is my advising professor on my master’s project, was to create a system that allowed for a rapid deployment of audience interaction devices through peoples’ mobile phones. So the idea came from Jason through some previous mobile development work and with several other projects, to create an iPhone and Android application that will allow any type of input that
the phones will allow. Whether that be an accelerometer, motion data, text messaging, touch data, drawing…anything that the phone will accept, to try and incorporate that into the performances in some way. What are some of the direct ways that the audience is affecting the performance through MassMobile? Does it affect the lighting or are there sound elements that change? Jonah – Well, one thing I just want to clarify is that this production will premiere in its full form here in Atlanta on April 2nd. So we’ve had a six or seven day production period in Avignon France and we premiered the choreography, but MassMobile and these technological components have not yet been unveiled and actually this week we are holding a workshop with invited public to interact with it further. So in terms of how the audience affects the performance? We’ve identified four ways for potential interaction. In particular I wrote in one section of the performance which is very much open-ended and is a 9 minute section which can basically be reconfigured a bit. Specifically the lighting is influenced. We worked closely with Aaron Copp, who is my lighting designer, to integrate that into the performance. Stephen – And certainly MassMobile itself, the way that the app can interact with a piece, is not set in stone. It’s a creative conversation that is always happening. But specifically for this piece, for one of the sections that involves interaction during the pre-show, the audience is quite literally plugged into the lighting board through their app. The actual technical details of the connection is that the mobile app is connected through a client server relationship to one of our servers here at Georgia Tech. Then there is a laptop that sits in the lighting booth that constantly pulls for information. Based on what items people have selected in the app, the laptop is connected directly to the lighting board and will instantly turn lights on and off. You can change color palettes and things like that pretty much instantly. Did you build MassMobile specifically for this performance or is this a platform that could be used for other performances/performers? Jonah – I would almost say that it is still in progress. But, you know, Aaron Copp and I have known each other since 1999 and have been building work together for a long time and often in our creative discussions we would say, “Is there some way to interface or interact?” As opposed to working with just video or with sound, lighting is so integral to these performances that MassMobile seems like a natural fit. I think that for light and choreography I am working in very particular ways. For larger applications of MassMobile I know there are many options. Stephen – So MassMobile itself is the platform and the app, and is still in pretty active development. Working with Jonah and his FILTER has been a great way to beta-test the app and see it grow to more of its current capacity. My professor Jason Freeman already had the plan to use the application in a live music notation work with saxophone where the audience could directly affect the notes that the performer is seeing onscreen. So there are other uses for MassMobile in the arts imaginable. Could you speak to the importance, for you, of having participation from the audience? Jonah – Well, I should say that my degree is not in choreography, it is in media and visual arts. For my thesis I focused on the myth of interactivity and focused on a lot of mid to late video work in the 1980’s and 1990’s. My sense was that there is a certain parallel between what we could call this myth with interactivity with video, but also with performance. Just because it’s time based, it’s not necessarily interactive. This is one area of focus of mine in terms of creating performances. I guess the impulse to say that an audience could interact, is still pretty much in progress. So far, at least in this stage in the piece, we’ve only had pre-show interaction. It’s kind of an open question.
I think some major conventions of theater are called into question, for example having the phones on during the show, the light of a cellular device on in the theatre. Some artists would consider this distracting, but in this case we are actually inviting it. There are certainly questions of attention and attention span. We’re sort of walking into this project and saying that it is assumed that this will be unusually structured. So why create such an unconventional performance? Well really, the participation is a part of why we wanted to open this out. Because instead of really disrupting or undermining a performance, we wanted people to be able to engage and help the author. Stephen – The way we’ve enabled that interaction is a very direct and literal effect the audience can have with the lighting of different parts of the stage. [The pre-show] is an opportunity for people to come in and the curtain is open and they can see the initial set and it gives them a chance to explore. Our hope is that creates a deeper and more meaningful bond throughout the rest of the performance. That [the audience] has really explored the set and can experience it on a different level. In addition to the interaction between the viewer and the stage, do you think that this program will cause the audience to interact with each other?
Jonah Bokaer (left) and Stephen Garrett (right) do a run-through of MassMobile Jonah – The way that we piloted MassMobile was to have six mobile devices distributed internally to members of the creative team, producers and close colleagues over the course of a few days. I did note, on a couple of occasions, the social interactions that would occur person to person. Maybe Stephen would like to address any interactivity within the platform itself. Stephen – We did see people that were using the app that were sitting next to each other sort of communicating in person and coordinating their efforts, but at this moment that’s not something we’re doing. [Interactivity within the platform] is something we are looking at in the future of MassMobile. More specifically looking at how do we enable or make sure that people have their own voice in their interactions with the performance. From a performer’s perspective, what is it like working with something like MassMobile? Adam – From a performer’s perspective, I think what excites me most about this kind of initiative is that as a performer we’re always looking for new ways to engage the audience and make each articulation of the performance event unique and special and fresh. I think that MassMobile can be a unique way to do that. The other thing I really appreciate is how we’re using this mobile technology and multimedia to make the performance more personal. Which I think is rare and hard to accomplish.
ARTIST INTERVIEW In March 2011 during Jonah Bokaer’s third week in residence on the Georgia Tech campus, Ferst Center Director George Thompson interviewed Jonah to learn more about the development of FILTER. GEORGE THOMPSON (GT): I'm sitting with Jonah Bokaer who is the first ARTech resident here at Georgia Tech and part of the Ferst Center's commitment to artist residency on the campus. I first thought of ARTech when I got here because so much at Georgia Tech ends in the word Tech and the AR in Art stands for Artists in Residence at Tech, and I wanted to explore and see if there are artists out there that were interested in perhaps that unique meeting of where art intersects science or art intersects technology, and much to my surprise many artists are exploring this. I was lucky enough to come across Jonah's work and I think his use of technology is deep in his artistic process, and I think that he was hands down the choice to start this program with me, and I'm so thrilled that he's here. Part of this program is him developing a new piece to have its American premiere here in April which is called FILTER. And so maybe with that, Jonah, why the title FILTER? Where did this come from? JONAH BOKAER (JB): Well, first all, George, it's such a pleasure that we can have a creative encounter here and also on stage at the Ferst Center. FILTER actually came into being through the ARTech residency and this is my third time being in residence on campus for a week. It's been deeply enriching on so many levels for the process. The title actually came from an element of my work that is often not visible on stage, but it's the process of filtering color, image, light and sound and digital software. That’s usually sort of a preproduction component of my work, and it also it can be just changing the angle of light or the quality or intensity of light, but then also changing what people see and here on a stage. So I decided to give that title or that action front and center for this - - for this piece and for this residency. GT: It's really interesting because the first time you introduced the title FILTER to me it came with an image on some of your paperwork that was a half sunken rowboat in a very pristine pond. Was that a significant piece of inspirational artwork for you? JB: Right. I selected that photo early on in the residency because it's a photo which is digitally constructed. So that event, which results in a very compelling image, it never actually physically happened that way. What I learned through this work was that the images that are presented on stage all have a little slant to them and all have some sort of a digital or a mechanical alteration of some kind. That image is also by Anthony Goicolea who is the scenographer originally from Atlanta. So we get to lead with that one. GT: That's very interesting because now that you've talked about your manipulation of the elements on stage or significance of the elements on stage, I noticed in an Image by Anthony Goicolea early video of this piece that you shared with us that all of the dancers seem to have your physical appearance, the coloring, height, size. Was this deliberate? Was this part of the fit for this piece? JB: Right. Thanks for picking up on that as well. The piece has four performers on stage and we did intentionally cast this to have four cast members who look similar if not identical. I think as we realize the final phase of the project we will really be working with people in terms of appearance, costume, hairstyle to really almost look like twins. The background for this was to sort of aesthetically look towards a
process of duplication, and then part of it was by chance. We have two young men in the company who do look startlingly similar, and then there's a little bit of personal history as well. I'm one of four brothers, and so we kind of explored that in certain ways as well in the choreography, certain kinds of games and spatial patterns and ways of partnering. GT: Right. That’s really interesting because I was curious initially at that because of your most recent piece I had a chance to see was titled REPLICA and I just didn't know if this was perhaps a continuation of that thought process and that these were replicas of you or something. JB: Thank you for asking that. It's perceptive of you to comment on that. REPLICA was roughly an hour long duet between myself and - GT: Which we're also going to see on the bill here. JB: Exactly. REPLICA will be performed here too. REPLICA is a duet between me and a woman, Judith Sanchez Ruiz, and we dealt with a lot of themes of doubling. And FILTER did continue after that piece and into new themes of multiplying and duplication. So while I'm not in the piece, we did choose four people that really resemble me and resemble each other, so. GT: Not to get off the subject, but I did want to like talk very briefly about REPLICA. JB: Right. GT: And you mentioned Judith. It is a very interesting part of the duet in which she partners you and lifts you, but the lifts look effortless without preparation of continuous flow of the same energy and momentum, and perhaps you can share a little bit about the rehearsal process and the technical aspect of that happening which looks effortless to the audience, but I know from personal experience, it's far from that. JB: That's equally perceptive. Oftentimes I think, in our work in particular, the choreography is staged to look effortless, but there's a great amount of difficulty and skill with some of these sections or patterns. That section of REPLICA in particular my body weight is entirely passive, and it's the other dancer's job to basically move me, lift me and find different ways of locomoting with me across the stage, while sort of without a “heave ho.” GT: Right. JB: She’s charged with sort of choreographing how I get across the space. And it's very difficult not only for the two of us, but also it takes a very strong and committed female performer to sort of take a 6' man across the stage. GT: Right. JB: It also requires some skill from me where I distribute my weight and how I lean, how I use my feet and legs, and so there's a lot there. GT: It really is fascinating, and I hope that the audience gets a chance to enjoy both pieces, especially in juxtaposition now that we know a little bit of the relationship between the two which is great. JB: Great. GT: Moving back to FILTER, you know, I came from a background in which music, the soundscape of the piece, often was the inspiration for the movement for the choreographer.
JB: Right. GT: I know that your background is quite the opposite. Merce Cunningham often would create the piece with the composer creating a piece, and they'd bring the two together and see what creative thing happened. Talk to me a little bit about this choice of music and maybe how that came into being. JB: Definitely. Well, I think as you point out, in the tradition that Merce Cunningham and John Cage were involved in music and dance, but also creative elements were happening separately, often lighting and the stage design, to a certain degree costumes, and a project of mine has been to collaborate with other media design and music and light certainly, but not in separate chambers, so to speak, to actually put them back together, fuse them, if you will, so there is some synthesis. Musically, I usually do create the material, the staging, the content of the work first, and then we add music in to compliment that. So it is a bit different from working with an existing or commissioned score and then creating dance to that. What we're trying to do is we're trying to fuse many elements together. One thing that's exciting for us is just two days ago, actually while we were in Atlanta, the final version of the music arrived with us. GT: Oh great. JB: And it's been fantastic. So it's sort of a dream come true to be in a theater and in a residency and then you get the music and you can work with it in the actual space. So that's been a great process. But the music also had some surprises. It's actually much sort of sweeter than we had originally anticipated. So we're always negotiating and what I find fascinating is the way that that influences the way we direct the material. GT: Well that's interesting that you have that observation about the final part of the music. So the music that I saw on the video clip-JB: Right. GT: Was not the final piece? JB: It's not the final piece. There are components of that music that are in the production. GT: One thing that I noticed, and I'd love for us to talk a little bit about, is that in one section I saw, the movement was extremely harmonious, pleasing to the eye, smooth and the music was more abrasive, abrupt. Was this part of the experimentation? Did that stay that way? Was that deliberate? JB: Right. This is great - - I've wanted to speak about this actually so I'm glad weâ€™re talking now. The one thing that I've learned a lot about in the past two weeks in residence at Georgia Tech has been the digital music department. There are many components to the music department here, which as I understand it, are situated under the architecture school. GT: Right. JB: And interacting with Jason Freeman and some of his students as well has shown me a little bit of the landscape and the understanding that the music community has around digital music. When I encountered that understanding here on campus, I realized okay so this is perhaps a school or a community that's fluent with electronic music and its history. But then, you know, when round one of the sound design arrived I thought oh wow this is a little abrasive. So there's an aesthetic to that part of music history, electronic music, which can be challenging I think for the ear and for the public. A big focus of ours right now is where we steer the music for these final phases of the work.
GT: Right. JB: And I've been very interested again in fusing things so that there is a synthesized toll with the sound, with the light, with the movement, with everything. GT: Well obviously the other big element that the audience often sees is your set that collaboration. This is a very interesting set in that it fills the stage, but it has a very modernistic feel to it. These treeless branches or small trees, a platform that rotates and rocks and revolving platforms. I know that you worked with Anthony on this concept. Maybe you want to share a little bit of that process. JB: Definitely. Working on the set design with Anthony Goicolea has been fascinating for us. One thing I would sort of start by saying is that it's been rewarding to see so many components of a piece come together and I do think that has a lot to do with ARTech. Even talking with engineering students or people who are thinking from a design perspective has been great for us. Anthony being born in Atlanta and his connection to this place has also been informative. I would say the past four years or so, the design, not just the set design, but the stage space, the lighting, has started to become used as a fundamental principle for organizing the dance. So oftentimes we start with the set, as well as the inspirations and ideas for the piece, certainly the movement, but the set really orients what we stage. So in this production, and what we've made with Anthony, the set actually functions on three levels. There are elements of visual or installation art that are built. For example, these trees that transform as the production happens. There is what we could call a spatial component which is a plank that has three levels in the space and sort of represent three dimensions in a way, and they actually happen on three different levels throughout the piece. And then there's also a moving image component which is a video component and that's what we've used the motion capture component of the residency to complete. So I think you're right to say that it's rather involved, but it's also a residency like this that makes that even possible. So I think we've really benefited from that. Then just to kind of zoom out and take it down to our theme, we're sort of having a natural world and a technological world meet, which is kind of how we orient the work right now. So you see elements of nature, but then you'll also see elements of more modern use of technology. GT: Right. Well it certainly captivates you visually and I'm looking forward to seeing the entire piece. JB: Thank you. GT: You mentioned the video aspect of it, and I believe you said the video was from a work in progress showing at the Guggenheim last year. JB: That's right. GT: Are there additional elements that have been added since then? Is it in its second, third incarnation? How has that developed with that piece? JB: Well, we had what I would call phase one of the project which just as you say was work in progress, and that was at the Guggenheim Works and Process Series last October 2010. That was a good way for us to show about 17 minutes - - 17 to 20 minutes of work in progress to get a real sketch of the scenic elements to let the performers really start to become comfortable in this environment. It has changed since then. It's changed visually, the costumes, the direction that we're going in has also changed. But I guess what we could call phase two then deals with fusing these elements together. Really the third phase we're saving here for the Ferst Center which is really I think what's at the heart of the innovation of
this piece. We’ve been developing an app in collaboration with different people on campus here, and that digital application will feed into or even plug into the performance in some way. GT: So the audience can actually participate in the performance from their seats in some fashion?
JB: Exactly. The way that that occurs or the way we're designing that now is the app will be called Mass Mobile. It's something that can be downloaded in advance, maybe on the day or even the evening of, which we're still figuring out, and through a series of voting, drawing, maybe even texting, the data from the audience, the public, will then be collected on a server and will influence either light or projection in the performance. So we're sort of giving, not the whole thing, but parts of the performance over to the public to determine. And I think it's really something that would not be possible unless there were a residency like ARTech. GT: Well it sounds really, really exciting. I think the exciting thing about this is to watch it develop from an idea to its full bloom. I know that the Ferst Center dance audience is looking forward to this and I think the more and more you and I speak, the more and more questions and conversations arise. I just want to remind everyone that the American premiere of this piece will be April 2nd, 2011 here at the Ferst Center at 8:00 p.m., and that Jonah will be joining me on stage after the performance with other people from his artistic team for a talkback. There will be lots more questions and lots more conversation to happen. JB: It’s a pleasure for us and also for the team to fully realize this production and everyone's looking forward to the Ferst Center. GT: Well, Jonah, thank you. It's been great talking with you. JB: Likewise. Thanks again.
COFFEE AND CONVERSATION PANEL DISCUSSION During the production week of the ARTech residency, Ferst Center Director George Thompson hosted a “Coffee and Conversation” panel discussion with each of the ARTech collaborators and Jonah Bokaer’s creative team. A transcription of the discussion is provided below. GEORGE THOMPSON: When I got here I was interested in starting something that explored the intersection of arts and technology. Through this idea, the ARTech Residency was born. Today we have gathered here Jonah Bokaer, our inaugural ARTech Resident Artist, members of his artistic team and various ARTech collaborators who have worked with Jonah throughout the year to create his new work FILTER which will premiere this Saturday, April 2nd at the Ferst Center. So, I will introduce the panelists and give you all a short introduction to them. We have four particular questions that I will lead them in discussing centered around this project, and then we'll open it up to everyone who's listening if they want to ask a few questions before they have to run back and do more tech work. So without further adieu, I want to first start with right here with Adam Weinert. Adam Weinert was born in New York City. He began his training at The Royal Ballet School in London, and continued to The School of American Ballet, and The Juilliard School where he was awarded Scholastic Distinction and the Hector Zaraspe Prize for Outstanding Choreography for 2008. Adam has danced with Shen Wei Dance Arts, The Mark Morris Dance Group, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company. He began working with Jonah Bokaer in 2006. Next we have James McGinn, a contemporary performer and choreographer working in and between dance, theater and performance. He has been greatly influenced by performing in works by Wally Cardona, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Jen Mcginn, & Judith Sánchez Ruiz, among others, and is currently engaged in projects with Amelia Arenas, Jonah Bokaer, Miguel Gutierrez and John Jasperse. James' choreographic work has been shown by various institutions throughout the US and was presented in the 2011 American Realness festival. To his left is David Botana, a Cuban-American dance artist raised in Miami. His movement studies started through martial arts and gymnastics. David Rafael graduated from the New World School of the Arts, and then moved to Brooklyn, NY. He is currently a member of the Cunningham Repertory Group, and works with various other New York City choreographers. Immediately to his left is Jonah Bokaer an award winning choreographer in media arts. He has dedicated a short lifetime to expanding possibilities for lack of performance throughout choreography, digital media, cross disciplinary collaborations, and social enterprises in the United States and internationally. For those of you who have not been following our ARTech blog, he also just received the SSACD award with the world premier of this piece in Avignon, France, one of the first awards given to American. JONAH BOKAER: The award really belongs to this whole team here. It was a surprise. GEORGE THOMPSON: That makes Saturday's performance even more delectable. Next, we have CC Chang. CC received her M.F.A. in dance from the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampeign, where she was awarded a three-year Creative and Performing Arts Fellowship. CC has worked with Robert Wilson, Jonah Bokaer, Daria Fain, Tere O' Connor, Hong-Kai Wang, Rebecca NettlFiol, Esteban Donoso, Riverbed Theatre Company, Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group and many others.
Chris Garneau is our composer for the piece. Chris is an avid lampshade collector. He enjoys treats and loves small and large animals as well as wind, trees and fancy gems. He is an experienced and high scoring skee-ball player. He is happy-go-lucky and enjoys spending time at the town fairs. He has released Music for Tourists LP (2006), C-Sides EP (2007) and El Radio LP (2009) with Absolutely Kosher Records (North America), Fargo Records (Europe), Pocket Records (China), Lirico Records (Japan) and Leaplay Music (Korea). Next we have Stephen Garrett who is a Georgia Tech graduate student in music technology. Jonah and Steven developed the MassMobile interactive app that will premiere with his performance. We're very, very interested in hearing more about that. And then we have Stephanie Chergi from Games That Work who was early on in our collaboration. She is a motion capture technician who worked with Jonah in the GT Motion Capture Lab during the first two weeks of the ARTech residency. Finally, Judy Gordon is a Senior Lecturer and has been teaching design studios, seminars and independent studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology since 1998. Jonah visited Judy’s class to consult on the "Ephemeral Bodyscapes" studio project. So to start the conversation, as I alluded to the ARTech residency program. I basically gave three mandates to Jonah when I first spoke to him. I said I would love this residency to (1) explore some intersection of arts and science or arts and technology; (2) find a deep collaboration and interaction with the Georgia Tech campus; and (3) that we share this artistic process to a much broader audience, to the Atlanta community and to the national stage as well. So with that very broad kind of introduction, I'd like to have Jonah talk about how did you begin to approach that exploration with this residency? JONAH BOKAER: Great. Well, first of all, I really have to acknowledge George here, which although George did not read his own biography, he is quite the champion of ARTech and also synthesizing the many components that he spoke about today, not only in terms of the production FILTER, but also a lot of the points of intersection with the Georgia Tech campus, with the arts communities and the youth communities as well in Atlanta. So this seven month process of creation and also interacting with the communities in Atlanta has been extraordinary. We’ve been sort of bringing people along all the way. I think this is Adam's third visit here. There's been a series of teaching and interaction of course, but also Stephen Garrett has played quite a leading role in developing the mobile application which we've been saving for really this Saturday's show. Also, it's an honor that Chris is able to be with us and not only perform his new music live, but also to have such a central and surprising role in the piece. So in terms of how did these three mandates come together, they were made possible by five visits here, five week-long residencies, with the fifth being the production week. I would almost say that we had two weeks in the beginning of research, which definitely involved Stephanie and the motion capture lab here. We then had a third week which was in January 2011 and that involved bringing a performer, Adam, down to really sketch out some of the phrases in this space. Just by chance that was the day that Chris gave us the first nine files of the music. So we thought oh okay we're arriving back in Atlanta, arriving in the space, and arriving with the sound. That was also the week when we just made leaps and bounds with the mobile app. The fourth week at which point we had sort of premiered the dance and knew what we were expecting and got a lot of the technical elements together, did a lot of teaching at Centennial Place Elementary School and throughout the communities here.
So the intersection of art and technology has been really our thread throughout this work and whereas I thought that we would be looking toward some of my past interests, that being motion capture, animation and maybe 3-D design, this process actually surprised us. We realized that with this creative team, the mobile app would play more of a leading role and more of a visual role than we thought. And Stephen, I don't know if you want to take it from there, but Stephen also was able to come overseas with us and continue work shopping the piece in its first phase. That I think speaks to the first part of George's question, and then maybe I'll just distribute this to others to talk about the other intersections of science and the arts. STEPHEN GARRETT: Well, first I also want to thank Nathan Weitzner and Anosh Daruwalla. Those are two other music technology students that did a lot of work within the app space on Maximus P which is a music programming environment, and then for the Android app. Nathan programmed that, and I basically took the lead role on the iPhone app and server side components. It’s been great working with Jonah over the course of the residency. My main area of concentration is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) here in the Master’s Program at Tech. And so, we started technical work back in August as a large part is part of my Master’s project for HCI. We spent a majority of the first semester really just getting the technical back end possible and working towards making connections to the service side and app components. Then really late last semester and into January we really started to see some experimentation with connecting to the lighting equipment and the choreography was starting to come together. Seeing the development of the app from an HCI perspective is really interesting. One of the first main goals was to get the app connected to the light board and change colors. Once we did it, it's like “okay this is nice,” but there's another component there. Once we started adding in more than one person interacting on the app, we examined the feedback to the audience and how it can provide meaningful feedback on what their creative input to the piece is, and sort of give them credit in a way. That’s actually something we're still actively looking into, but I'd say the intersection of art and technology is definitely happening. GEORGE THOMPSON: How did you two decide upon there even being an app? Where did that grow out of? JONAH BOKAER: We should definitely acknowledge Jason Freeman in this process who is the Assistant Professor of Digital Music in the College of Architecture here. And also to one of George's other points about how to form a deep and meaningful interaction with the campus here, visiting Judy Gordon’s architecture classes have been very fruitful. Three of the students are actually helping us in the Department of Scenography. There are so many points of intersection here. JUDY GORDON: Absolutely. It's been very fruitful and the class has been ever so grateful that they were able to come together with you and with Adam. Coming to our class was just amazing. I mean the breadth of your knowledge about what we do was terrific. The interaction we had to understand how dancers think was amazing. It has really affected their projects. JONAH BOKAER: That’s great. Well I thought that our project for the Ferst Center would go much more in the direction of 3-D space or animation, which often has its foundations in architecture, but actually with the mobile app, I realize that the area of this production that I was most confident in was the lighting. That’s because probably for seven or eight years our lighting designer has lit almost everything I've ever made. I mean Adam's been working with us since 2006, but Aaron Copp deserves recognition. His contribution to the piece, which hopefully you'll be able to enjoy, is so specific, but also the contribution is so strong that we felt we could open to change or to audience interaction in some way.
So instead of just letting things go wild, so to speak, we decided to limit the interaction just to the lighting. So, for example, we didn't go in that direction with sound. We kind of wanted to give Chris full creative authorship over his composition and just leave the beauty of that, but with lighting we saw a lot of possibilities for change. STEPHEN GARRETT: And I think specifically focusing on, you know, a mobile phone application sense, you know, Smart Phone technology is becoming so ubiquitous, especially on the Tech campus. And so thinking about a broader perspective than just FILTER, I think one of Jason's main ambitions was that to look at this and view this as an opportunity to enhance or excite experimentation in interactive works in general because one of the main roadblocks to interactive performances and artwork is that technical roadblock of setting up a system, making it work, debugging that. That can be up to a year process before you can even become creative. Through a variety of input mechanisms that general Smart Phones now allow, MassMobile can be configured within 10 or 15 minutes for a new project and immediately start taking in audience input for that. So we're hoping that in a broader sense using the mobile app platform will allow immediate experimentation into this type of work. GEORGE THOMPSON: I would love for Jonah and Stephanie to talk about your use of motion capture and what it was like in that space with him. It is my understanding that you used that data to send out the movement phrases to your company who would then rehearse on their own more or less. Is that correct? JONAH BOKAER: Right. Oftentimes I work that way. In this process, what Stephanie and I did was over the course of two weeks I designed 40 phrases. I performed each phrase three times in the motion capture studio here on campus and we collected all of that data, and then worked with [Georgia Tech undergraduate student] Erica Penk to calibrate and to clean up that data. That impacted the phrases that I built for this trio of dancers. With Stephanie in that motion capture lab is really where the core material for the dance happened. And from there, we collected the data in December, I kind of refined things, and then we created some of their meaning phrases and sections. But, perhaps we should explain, just zoom out a little bit and explain what motion capture is or what it does in case we're not all familiar with it. STEPHANIE CHERGI: It's basically a type of technology that captures movement using cameras little reflective balls on a suit that Jonah wore. The cameras send out infrared signals which reflect perfectly back to the cameras. So then from the cameras they can triangulate the location of all the little balls which can later be built into a human skeleton like a puppet, but its human skeleton. That’s basically the technology. I just want to talk about I guess my experience a little bit from you. It’s going to be so interesting because I've seen all these little pieces and I have no idea how they fit together yet. So I really look forward to seeing that, but I've seen all these pieces that are very interesting, and it will be more interesting to see them. DAVID BOTANA: I kind of have a question for you. STEPHANIE CHERGI: Sure. DAVID BOTANA: So, if he's making these phrases and you said like a puppet to play with, so does that mean that he's building the language for that particular puppet? JONAH BOKAER: I am the puppet. [LAUGHTER]
DAVID BOTANA: Right. I know. I understand, but after you have all these phrases, then you're saying you can manipulate them? You have all the dots but only within the language that he created. STEPHANIE CHERGI: He drives the dots which drive a digital space. DAVID BOTANA: But then that's all the information you have, just the movement he did? STEPHANIE CHERGI: That's all the information you have, and you - - you can tweak the information once it's in the system and sometimes the information is flawed depending on how well the cameras capture the information. You know, if he steps out of the space, if there's information missing. So that can change the information that's received. Sometimes you want perfect captures so that you don't have to clean up or so that he can do exactly what you want, and sometimes you just need the basic movement. I didn't even know what Jonah wanted from his captures exactly. DAVID BOTANA: Right. STEPHANIE CHERGI: But you get the information and then you can tweak it and use it to build something larger. GEORGE THOMPSON: I'd like to open a question for the entire panel here. When you were working individually with Jonah throughout our residency period on this project, were you aware or have any understanding of the other aspects of his collaboration with other people in this project? It's like we're bringing you all together here almost for the first time to talk about a shared commonality, the guy sitting in the middle. JUDY GORDON: Well I was aware of the motion capture and actually last semester that's what propelled us getting together. Jonah was able to come in at the end of the semester to a previous class I was teaching because we were both interested in bodily motion. Being architects we were always interested in body and space. So this idea of refining movement or capturing movement and what could you do with that information is very tantalizing. Now we didn't have that exact opportunity maybe to engage into what you were doing, but the idea of it was right there. So we were very much aware of it. We would, like to engage in something like that of course, but the way that we started to look at it was how can we think of the body and space and altered movements, and we actually looked to Jonah for his talent and background in film. So we were doing videos in this particular class, and we engaged Jonah to talk about those. So that's how we captured movement only through videos, but you were doing it through the actual body which is how we would like to do it. JONAH BOKAER: Speaking of video, one person who's not represented here today is Anthony Goicolea who is the scenographer and designer of the production. He played a very major role in the space that you'll see in the production. He also introduced Chris and me. And Chris, this is sort of a side discussion, but Chris uses a number of digital tools in his music compositions too which might be great to speak about. The dancers also participated in three video shoots with Anthony. I don't know if that relates specifically to the motion capture, but I think that the video that Anthony submitted does tie it all together. GEORGE THOMPSON: So, Judy, you were aware of the motion capture. Were you aware of MassMobile, the app being developed? JUDY GORDON: Yes we were.
GEORGE THOMPSON: You were? JUDY GORDON: Yes. [Ferst Center Operations Manager] Jack had told us about that. That was very interesting because, again with audience participation, we always think of our clients, so when we were discussing the idea of theater and how the audience is viewed from the stage and vice versa, what the interaction could be, that's when the idea of the app was presented to us. I think the students were very interested in being able to contribute. Not control, but contribute to the idea. GEORGE THOMPSON: And Stephanie, you obviously knew about the motion capture, but what other aspects were you aware of? STEPHANIE CHERGI: I knew the app was being developed. And I knew there were other dancers involved in the production, and that's all I knew. [LAUGHTER] GEORGE THOMPSON: And Stephen? STEPHEN GARRETT: I did know about the motion capture and watched some of the videos online on and read the blog. GEORGE THOMPSON: But you got to actually preview the piece in Avignon. STEPHEN GARRETT: Right. GEORGE THOMPSON: So you had an insider’s view there. And Chris? CHRIS GARNEAU: I actually wasn't aware of too much that had been going on here during the last few months. I was introduced to the project this past summer, and then schedule and time didn't really allow us to really come back to the project altogether until just two months ago at the end of January. For me really arriving in France was the first time I was aware of the app that Stephen was creating and of the past history here at Georgia Tech. So it's all actually quite new to me. JONAH BOKAER: Chris is also being very modest. I think that one of the real honors for us is that your touring schedules to France and to China are epic on their own. And so we've been really glad that you can be such a part of the work and such a part of this piece and be here with us, so thank you. CHRIS GARNEAU: It's been wonderful. GEORGE THOMPSON: I know the dancers have worked with Jonah before so you have an idea. He's doing things all over the place simultaneously. When did you start seeing perhaps a greater picture of this piece? ADAM WEINERT: Yeah, I consider myself pretty close to the core of Jonah I guess. But I still just had not and do not fathom when all of these things happen. [LAUGHTER] ADAM WEINERT: So there's still a mystery there. I don't know. JAMES MCGINN: We had been hearing about all these different tools and elements and it seemed that Jonah would come in, looking like a kid on Christmas with the computer with new information or new imagery or just bringing to each day a new set of things to play around with for the work. Getting to France for a three week residency in Avignon in the theater is where we were watching everything being
built around us in the best of ways. We were really living inside of this set for 12 hours a day. That's when it was really, really real. GEORGE THOMPSON: For this audience, Avignon happened in January, right? JAMES MCGINN: February. GEORGE THOMPSON: February. So this just happened in February, just so we have a perspective for everyone. JAMES MCGINN Right. DAVID BOTANA: This is my first time working with Jonah, and yes, Jonah always comes in with a lot. He always shares bits of information. Sometimes more than you can really understand. [LAUGHTER] DAVID BOTANA: Not that you can't understand, but it's always a lot of information coming from a lot of angles. Images, or something that you have to apply to, or that you would want to apply rather to your movement and/or your focus, and so I think what struck me most was this motion capture thing that I'm kind of interested in but I have no idea about. He showed us this one program of just little dots and space that you can clearly see are a person, but you can mess with the gender of it or the feeling and the dots just simply move. Like, maybe where the hips would be they'd be wider for a female, and then you can change the behavior or the feeling one is feeling, one is sad and happy. And really these dots just kind of move, so that in itself is a lot of information. But then watching somebody dance and go through all these modalities and focuses and emotions that are sometimes not really easy to control, especially when you have adrenalin running through you. I think Jonah has, like Adam said, his tentacles dabbed in many different pools and to really bring that all together in one thing is quite a bit, but FILTER has a lot of different angles and projections. Not necessarily projections, but emotional and/or spatial projections. JONAH BOKAER: David that point that you bring up, the way that it relates to George's question as well as Stephanie's practice in motion capture, is what these programs allow you to do, is also why a discussion like this is very valuable. What these programs allow you to do is look at human presence without the person there. The dots that David is describing, you can change gravity. You can change anatomical makeup. You can change the state that the person is in or the behavior or the feeling or the speed. DAVID BOTANA: Which kind of leads my question to Stephanie. After someone goes in, you know, if he's on a good, happy day, is that the only information that you have? STEPHANIE CHERGI: Well usually when I work with motion capture I'm relying on the actor to convey the emotion. So I honestly don't usually try to change the emotion that much afterwards. DAVID BOTANA: So you do it with actors too? STEPHANIE CHERGI: Yeah we have actors come in, put on the suits and act out different parts for different emotions we need our characters to play. ADAM WEINERT: You know one thing I've gotten out of this motion capture use and seeing these data pools is how you can get rid of gravity. You can say that the center is over here and there are all the limitations you can take away. It's really exploded by a sense of what's possible. I know that in this
physical practice you can kind of get bogged down in habit or what's comfortable or movement patterns, but this way of working really challenges you to go beyond the norm. DAVID BOTANA: Yes, it changes your approach because if you see something that's not possible you can probably try to do it, which kind of relates to - - I mean it's really off the wall, but Jonah took me to the Youth American Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago and the show opens up and there's these children, these kids doing these amazing ballet things. These kids have been studying and, they're 11 or 12, and do these things that are absolutely amazing. Then the adults come out, which are professional working dancers, and they are just as amazing but in a different light. These kids really can only do this because they're fearless. Ultimately, they're fearless and they have someone telling them yeah you can do it, do one more, or, a little bit higher or try it one more time. JONAH BOKAER: And for context, we watched an 11-year-old do the Don Quixote variation of Baryshnikov. DAVID BOTANA: And it was just - JONAH BOKAER: We just said [Laughs] how is that - - how is this going on? DAVID BOTANA: But you can tell that they're not only proud, but there's no fear, you know? I mean there's no fear in it. So when you see something like this, a computer doing it, you say maybe I can do it. Adam's solo for instance, the speed of it is amazing. If you can see that it's possible, then why aren't you going to try it or why aren't you going to try to get as close to it as possible. GEORGE THOMPSON: It seems like this leads us into another point about the experience of the dancers on stage. I'd love for you to briefly speak about this piece of technology, MassMobile, invading your space so to speak. I mean I remember being in a Merce Cunningham piece Duets in which the stagehands were allowed to adjust the volume of the electronic music so when you were onstage, you really had no idea what you were going to hear, and you had to develop your own rhythm and visual cues and such like that. Here we have a different piece of interaction. How does this affect your experience as a dancer? I think all of the dancers have worked with Jonah's pieces, and how does that affect you? If you think also within the other piece, REPLICA, there's this constant film interacting and stuff like that as well. ADAM WEINERT: I mean to be fair, you know, we haven't tried it yet with a real audience. [LAUGHTER] ADAM WEINERT: My hope is that it would bring us closer. That’s my personal goal, celebrating this exchange energetically with the audience. Now there's this kind of - - I don't know if it's more or less tangible actually because this technology actually boggles me to be honest. My hope is that it's another tool to strengthen that relationship for an audience. DAVID BOTANA: I'm really excited by it. There's a possibility that it could interfere and completely disorient me and make me forget what I'm doing. I welcome it with open arms. But I’m kind of obsessed with failure and improvisational states of failure, so I'm really excited about it. And the app in general for what it's going to do for performance I think is really exciting. GEORGE THOMPSON: I know that Jonah in the past has had 5,000 ping pong balls invade the space where the dancers were. I don't know if any of these dancers were part of that.
JONAH BOKAER: CC and Adam were a part of that. GEORGE THOMPSON: I guess that’s a different type, a less technical invasion of the piece, but nonetheless all probably the same effect I would think. JONAH BOKAER: Well to your question and also to the points you guys are making, every performer here, Chris, and CC and David and James and Adam, everyone has in these productions a solo that I think is at least three minutes. I think that that's where a lot of very special choreography is written which usually has had input from you all. But then you guys are talking about the performance experience, and Stephen, it's something that we're just sort of now, literally a few hours ago, taking a look at. For example, where the angles of the light are going to be, here's what all of the options are, and looking very painstakingly at all of the options and kind of plotting all of that out, and then giving a lot of time to the performers in space to orient and adjust and kind of space things out. Stephen, I don't know if you want to mention the structure that we have laid out, but there are three chapters of the dance where it's opened for these kinds of interruptions. STEPHEN GARRETT: I think one thing to mention too is that in the most recent residency we ran a sneak preview demo session with the app to demo the range of different inputs, and one of those was sort of actually controlling some of the choreography. Adam was dancing, and I don't know if you wanted to say any words about how that affected you or how the app was coming into the actual physical space at that point. ADAM WEINERT: Sure. Yeah it's funny I forgot about that. [LAUGHTER] ADAM WEINERT: For me that particular exercise activated a very specific kind of brain space, if you will, because it made everything very immediate whereas in more traditional performance it's often something you've done dozens, maybe hundreds of times and it's a struggle to keep it new and fresh every time. That was not the case in this situation where they were keeping you on your toes. Also I think that they started developing a relationship with each other which was kind of another element in the room. JONAH BOKAER: That the audience developed? ADAM WEINERT: Yes, because they'd have a preference and try to convince each other to make me do a particular phrase again. STEPHEN GARRETT: What’s interesting to say about that is, again, talking about the audience feedback, when we were closer to the end of the demo session, that’s when collaboration between the audience members really seemed to spark. Previously to that, we were running some demos with onedimensional sliders and we were projecting feedback on a screen onstage. Nobody would see their individualized effect on what was happening, but when we moved to the voting mechanism, we displayed just a simple bar graph, but even based on that people could see when they switched to a different choice. They could see the movement there and it was really interesting to see the audience begin to collaborate. For some reason everybody started on choice one and then after a few seconds, one person moved to choice three. And then the next person also moved to choice three. They didn't go randomly. There was some pattern they maintained to produce a certain effect which was to make some lighting cue change. It was really interesting to see that interaction.
JONAH BOKAER: One thing that Stephen and I learned over the course of this Georgia Tech school year is he and I have something in common which is not what we thought. We actually both study behavior in different ways. I think that Stephen has what I would call a real mastery that's forming of understanding how people will behave with digital tools. I've certainly learned a lot with him. It's been fascinating. GEORGE THOMPSON: I wanted to lead us into the next thing which we seem to have almost organically touched on it, but now that you've gone through this process of this residency, have other questions or additional things come up that you wish you had gotten to explore? JONAH BOKAER: My first instinct is to say yes because for the app we chose lighting, but also music visuals, the structure of the choreography itself is not something that we fully tackled, but the app can be applied in other ways too, so. STEPHEN GARRETT: Right. I think with that demo that we ran with Adam, we had talked about choreography interactivity throughout the school year, but to see what is really possible could be really interesting. JONAH BOKAER: I know that there's also a college of digital music here and, Chris, your score is structured in nine parts, some live, some prerecorded. As far as digital music, I've learned a lot from you as well. CHRIS GARNEAU: Most of my experience has been in acoustic music, but for this particular project, I've started to go out of my normal world and try to use tools and instruments and gadgets and things that I've owned for a long time but always been kind of scared of. While I was recording all of this material digitally on Pro Tools, I was also starting to use digital delay pedals and digital reverb pedals and things that are very standard and that actually have been around for a good amount of time, although they have been changing quite drastically, especially in the last 15 years or so. I will start making something and have a digital delay pedal, for example, and want to use it in such a way that I'd know what the result should sound like or how I might want it to sound or maybe I'll be surprised by how it sounds and enjoy it from there. Unfortunately I don't know what the process is that that pedal actually does. You guys probably understand it a lot better than I do. I really only understand the beginning and the end. The whole middle is a pretty big mystery to me, but it's really fun. Working on this project with Jonah's choreography is my first time working with dance at all, and I was excited to work on the project, but I also didn't really know what I was going to make. Relying on building a world digitally and acoustically as a first-timer was really scary and really fun. [Laughs]. I remember sending the first things to Jonah when he mentioned he and Adam were here in Atlanta and I felt very nervous to send them. It wasn't just like I sat down at a piano or guitar and recorded something. I made things that were very out of my world. I also thank you for that experience too because it really was a new one for me. JONAH BOKAER: Well thank you. After receiving the music that day, we were awestruck for a couple of days. It was so beautiful that I realized that we needed Chris to have a presence in the show and there was such a vocal role in the music that we knew that there was a live component certainly, but the funny thing about working with digital media is that it oftentimes has the association of being sort of removed or cold or distant from the human or physical experience, and I find the more of these productions that I make, actually the closer it brings, me anyway, and I think these performers, to kind of instinctual and very present physical experiences. So with Chris performing live today, we were looking at the pedals, and timings and reverberation etcetera, but I think that some very powerful live performances have come
out of the digital research. So it's funny how this highly technological process has brought these four or five people closer to a live event. GEORGE THOMPSON: It seems like this ought to be a good time to open up to any questions that anyone may want to ask. Yes? MALE SPEAKER: I'm curious about the app and how it controls the lighting. I heard it was mostly adversity to color. I'm wondering if you control angle, color and intensity or is it just a couple of those things or all those things? STEPHEN GARRETT: Sure. Almost anything that the light board can do is possible. The actual architecture of it is that the app is connecting to our MassMobile server here on campus, and then we have a laptop in the lighting booth that's connected to the lighting board. All we're doing is querying the server for new data and then making some action on the light board. So anything is possible artistically, it's just how it fits into certain productions and how we want to apply it. MALE SPEAKER: I guess I'm wondering does the audience know what's possible as they sit there with their iPhone and do they know that they can bring the front line up? JONAH BOKAER: There are three parts of the piece where the audience can interact. One is before the show. We would call it preshow. There are nine trees on stage and the app says pick a tree, any tree, and you can touch which tree you want to light up and it will light up. To Stephen's credit, it illustrates for you and it's very legible. And then in sort of the third section, because I don't want to give everything away - [LAUGHTER] JONAH BOKAER: You can light the scenic element from one of eight angles. STEPHEN GARRETT: So it's not like there's all of the lighting board controls on your phone. We're presenting it in a certain way - MALE SPEAKER: You're giving them choices. JONAH BOKAER: You can't turn off the lights. [LAUGHTER] MALE SPEAKER: Right. That was my first thought. Everybody wants to do that. STEPHEN GARRETT: We’re giving them a set of choices or we're giving them a space to draw in or touch or text or whatever. JONAH BOKAER: Right. And also Stephen used the word architecture in his explanation, but also if I could just speak to Stephen's artistry too because the architecture has taken nearly a school year to research and to build. There's a 300 page manual for the app development, and so narrowing the scope to three sections of the dance, people have to get this in under a second, so that's also to the credit of the designer here. GEORGE THOMPSON: Any other questions?
MALE SPEAKER: Yes. So, to me the whole piece seems like this integration between the natural and artificial or digital world because the music, the set design, the interaction with the audience, and I was just wondering for the dancers if you found yourself being completely natural or do you find yourself reacting to all the music and the settings and everything in a more futuristic or mechanical way? ADAM WEINERT: It's funny you bring that because a lot of the feedback I got on my solo is it does look very mechanical or inhuman or something, but that's not at all my experience of it. My experience of it is very experiential and human in a way. I find it very difficult to distance myself from the work. I find I'm a terrible judge of things like that on the inside, but maybe James is better. JAMES MCGINN: I'm four feet from you so I'm not that far away, but - [LAUGHTER] JAMES MCGINN: I would say as well the solo material that I have is very much drawn from my own experiences. There's some information from Jonah, but I always create some sort of weird thing in my head when I'm dancing anyway. Especially in that sort of material, it's these shifting and dissolving states of presence, between more human or more artificial presence or states of being. DAVID BOTANA: For me it's hard to think about. You’re performing and then there's the practice of performing, but it's kind of like there's a really big difference between the practice and actually performing because a lot of different things happen. For me what's most important right now is always trying to be myself or just be me that particular day within a piece or while I'm dancing. So, the set is always going to be there and there's some kind of funky thing that happened that I realized while we were in Avignon. My sight was something that I did not pay attention to or hadn't been paying attention to for 10 years. Just me, my ability to see or needing glasses but then I just realized after being given copious notes that if I just realized what's in the world around me, it just makes it easier. So I think I'm always, to answer your question, I think I'm always trying to be as humanly me as possible, but I'm also reacting to what's going on. That doesn't necessarily mean physically reacting. That also means me reacting inside my head. Now I see these trees leafed in gold all the time, but I don't always see the same branch all the time. JONAH BOKAER: Nathan, because you've been working so closely with the set, I know that a big theme of Anthony’s is definitely how the natural and the technological overlap, and as a photographer, as an installation artist, Anthony will often take material from nature and digitally alter it. I think that we definitely looked at that and then, just to be very descriptive; the set involves nine trees which was a surprise to us. They just kind of showed up one day in New York when we were preparing, and they are being taken over with a gold metal. So that was fascinating. That gave us a lot of information. Because you all were speaking so much about performing, just to give you a sense of the range of sort of direction that we're holding onto here, Adam's solo was definitely animated. It involved a digital tool to animate it. James generated probably 70% of his own material that had been directed and staged and scored and spaced and worked with him from December to March. David's solo is purely based on a relationship to the set design, and we've been working together for a while and I tried to bring out certain strengths of David's that he had, especially with floor material. For CC, the material that she has in REPLICA is copied almost entirely from videos of rehearsal footage. Chris's solo and staging is based on his lyrics. So there's sort of a span--some of it’s digital, some of it's just very natural I think. But this kind of gives a sense of every inch of how we're thinking about our performance. GEORGE THOMPSON: Any other questions? We have time for one more short question.
MALE SPEAKER: I was wondering, Jonah, could you talk a little bit about your philosophy of collaboration? It just seems like so many people are working on the project. It seems like you were so open to so many different visions. JONAH BOKAER: Thanks for asking. For a long time I worked in the Cunningham Company and there were these kind of silos of interaction happening. Very, very strong physical danced choreographed aesthetic going on, and then really the last day of the work, music, light, sound and costume would be added almost just on top of the show in a way that involved chance. I thought how that's fascinating, but I wish we could have seen more of these artists and talk to them, and exchanged with them. I feel like I sort of work in the opposite of that these days, which is to have the designer, the composer, the lighting, and really a creative team that's involved with the production. I feel like I'm steering towards a central idea, but also working in opera, definitely working on four different operas sort of gave me a sense of how to fuse things. Then I'm difficult. [Laughs] I'm difficult. So sometimes you have to steer. You have to steer. We could question the gold trees but, you know, you also have to compromise with people definitely. That's a big part of it. GEORGE THOMPSON: Well thank everyone for coming. Thank you to all of the ARTech collaborators. I hope everyone in this room is able to be part of the post Q&A after the performance. We're all looking forward to this great work. We're all excited.
Jonah Bokaer’s “FILTER,” merging the live and online worlds in Georgia Tech’s ARTech by Cynthia Bond Perry | Mar 14, 2011 Cell phones will remain on at the U.S. premiere of Jonah Bokaer’s “FILTER” on April 2 at the Ferst Center for the Arts. The integrated media production, to be shown alongside Bokaer’s 2009 National Academy of Sciences commission “REPLICA,” is the culmination of the Ferst’s ARTech residency series, a new program designed to explore ways that art and technology (or art and science) intersect in creative process and in life. Composed through a collaborative process over the course of five residencies, ARTech’s first commission may show that people’s relationship with technology isn’t easy or simple. Bokaer, a choreographer and media artist, is creating a buzz in New York and Paris. Washington Post dance critic Sarah Kaufman recently cited him as one of the forward-thinking innovators who is furthering the art of dance. That speaks well for Ferst Director George Thompson’s foresight in commissioning Bokaer’s newest work. Thompson’s mission is to better link dance with technology — and better engage Georgia Tech with the Atlanta arts community — and he will lead a post-performance discussion with Bokaer and the dancers. In a recent interview at the center, Bokaer explained that the title, “FILTER,” helps put into the foreground an unseen part of the artist’s process: the use of digital media to alter image, sound, light and movement. The word also suggests filtering out what is irrelevant to reveal something pure. Such purity was evident during a recent rehearsal on the Ferst stage. Understated and elegant, dancer Adam Weinert made complicated movement phrases seem simple. With absolute clarity, to the sound of soft chimes, he glided effortlessly from one body shape to the next — each like a sculpture, or an emblem, subtly articulating the joints to create surprisingly beautiful and new configurations of limbs, torso, head and hands. Eyes, face and skin were physically present, imbued with an inner focus so strong that he seemed to glow from within. The purity, abstraction and inventiveness of Bokaer’s work is influenced partly by Merce Cunningham, in whose company the 30ish Bokaer danced for eight years. But unlike Cunningham, whose artistic collaborators worked independently, Bokaer synthesizes media throughout the creative process — in this case, native Atlantan Anthony Goicolea’s art installation and set design, Chris Garneau’s newly commissioned score and longtime collaborator Aaron Copp’s lighting. The technological component is layered on top — as part of the ARTech residency, Georgia Tech graduate student Stephen Garrett will introduce “Mass Mobile,” an interactive mobile phone application that enables the audience to control lighting cues during the performance. The 13-month creative process included yet another element, one of the main reasons Bokaer was chosen to be the first ARTech artist: the use of video projection obtained through motion capture technology. Bokaer was introduced to the digital technique when he saw Cunningham’s “Biped” in 1999; he performed that work the following year. He has since become known for integrating motion capture into his own work, notably “The Invention of Minus One,” with dancer Holly Farmer in 2008, and “REPLICA” with Judith Sanchez Ruiz in 2009. The latter involves dual video projections onto a white cubic structure, designed by Daniel Arsham, and plays with human perception. In residency at Georgia Tech, Bokaer spent hours working out movement sequences in the motion capture lab for use in the new commission. But collaborative processes are often unpredictable. The strongest elements came from human sources, and the motion capture technology was filtered out.
Bokaer explained that technology isn’t what defines his work so much as artistic synthesis through collaboration, based primarily on visual components. Since 2008, he has choreographed four operas directed by Robert Wilson, who Bokaer says has influenced him more than Cunningham. Wilson is a trained architect, and in his work, Bokaer explained, the arc of the production is based in design. Sets, lighting and other visual elements come first; choreography is constructed within that framework. In other words, visual design shapes the performance. This approach has paid off. Last fall, New York Times critic Roslyn Sulcas described Bokaer’s “Anchises,” which featured contemporary dance elders Valda Setterfield and Meg Harper, as “a subtle tour de force.” In December, Sulcas included “Anchises” among the top dance works of 2010 and The New York Times Magazine named him one of the “Nifty 50″ of America’s up-and-coming talented people.
The set for "FILTER." (Photos by Anthony Goicolea) Bokaer explained that “FILTER” creates a visual landscape that shifts as four individuals navigate through it. Goicolea’s set pieces, photos, videos and drawings help create a world of childlike wonder. Bokaer described it as a childhood scene, a wintry landscape of trees, snow and candlelight that creates a curious play of inside and outside spaces. Within this magical realm, he explained, four male performers, who strikingly resemble one another, journey through a changing world that brings together natural and technological aspects and conveys a sense of youth … and youth’s passing. Bokaer said he drew from experience as the oldest of four boys, each of whom struggled with growing up; each underwent a rite of passage. But the four individuals, he explained, could be seen either as brothers or as aspects of one person. As the young men navigate the world, they encounter a three-level plank structure that is used at different times as a raft (shades of “Huckleberry Finn”?), a table, a roof and a small wall. The structure rotates, rocks and revolves. It destabilizes the figures, challenging them as they struggle to regain balance and orientation. By its end, Bokaer hopes “FILTER” will leave audiences with a sense of wonder, awe and, finally, resolution. Of his decision not to include motion capture video, he said, “I realized that this could quite easily have become a three-ring circus.” Motion capture was one design element too many. At one point in the process, Goicolea sent video that included motion capture images: a constellation of data points, gathered from the body, which looked like stars, “as if the sky was dancing,” Bokaer said. “It was fascinating, but it also took things in more of a literal direction, and suddenly a lot of the imagery was very hard to resolve. So we decided to scale it back to the performance itself, to ‘Mass Mobile.’ Rather than broadcast the technology, we said, well, this will be evident in the app, and in the movement itself.”
So if the motion capture results were folded into the choreography, and “Mass Mobile” is the main technological component. How does it work? Please do not turn off your cell phone during the performance. Once audience members have downloaded the app to their phones, they can vote on lighting cues during a pre-show set and in short interludes during the hour-long piece. These elections go to a server at Georgia Tech, which connects to the light board, which controls the lighting on stage. A bit of a gimmick, perhaps, but that’s beside the point. Bokaer believes it’s important to find new ways for audiences to interact with live performance. “As a society we’re faced with questions about how live performance stays relevant when so much performance is occurring online, and also because moving images are supplementing so much of our interaction, day to day,” Bokaer observed. “What is at stake for creating a show these days? Continuing to have people remain interested in seeing choreography that’s designed and having a connection to that is something I’m very invested in. So, the more ways that people can connect with that, the better.”
On movement, motion capture, and mobile apps Posted by Andrew Alexander on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 10:01 AM
Even as a kid, Jonah Bokaer was something of an artistic prodigy. After leaving home at 15, he was recruited into the prestigious Merce Cunningham company in 2000 at the unprecedented age of 18, becoming the youngest dancer ever to work professionally in that ensemble. Since leaving the company in 2007, Bokaer's work, which integrates digital technology, interactivity, motion capture, echolocation, projection, and 3D animation into live dance performance, has placed him firmly on the forefront of the world art scene. With the recent passing of so many of the 20th century's great choreographers, including Cunningham in 2009, some have even touted him as contemporary dance's heir apparent. He's been called a researcher who uses the dance studio as his lab, a choreographer who has expanded the definition of dance, and even an artist who represents “the future of the art world.” They're broad declarations that Bokaer seems too modest and far too busy to make much fuss about. Among his many simultaneous projects, Bokaer is currently the first artist in residence at Georgia Tech. His residency culminates April 2 at the Ferst Center with a performance of his work FILTER for four male performers, including live music by musician Chris Garneau, scenography by artist Anthony Goicolea, and various technological elements subtly integrated during the creative process.
“There are precedents for working with technology and dance,” Bokaer says when asked about his impulse to integrate the two.“The precedents really go back to the invention of photography, how to capture motion, how to capture a portrait. I tend to think of that in terms of image and light, how to capture an image, how to work with light to highlight a subject. I think there's actually a long dialog about how the body and media have intersected.” Beginning in September, Bokaer took part in a series of four one-week residencies over the course of the school year, working with Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing, the College of Architecture and the College of Music Technology. He began by creating intensively in Georgia Tech's motion capture lab, developing movement and rendering it as computer animation with a motion capture suit. “We resorted to virtual rehearsals,” explains Bokaer. “I created QuickTime files of the animated choreography, so that each performer could practice their roles independently. This saved an incredible amount of time. Cast members were able to rehearse autonomously.” The resulting digital images will not be seen in the performance itself: The integration of new technology into Bokaer's work is often subtle, so subtle at times it can even escape the audience's notice. Bokaer says he wants to avoid creating a “three-ring circus.” The work is not intended as a tech spectacle, but FILTER does make slightly more prominent use of a new mobile application developed at Georgia Tech during the residency. “We decided to release a little bit of compositional control with the lighting,” he says. Stephen Garrett, a graduate student at Tech, was among those who worked on the mobile app during Bokaer's residency along with professor Jason Freeman and students Nathan Weitzner and Anosh Daruwalla. Dubbed MassMobile, the downloadable app they designed allows for various forms of interaction with a performance in real time through the use of the touch screens on audience members' mobile devices. It enables artists, composers and designers to gather and incorporate input data from an audience into a live performance. In February, Garrett flew to Avignon, France to give the app a test drive at FILTER's world premiere at the Les Hivernales winter dance festival. When the audience entered the theater, they had their first chance to give the interaction a shot. On stage was artist Anthony Goicolea's opening set for FILTER: a sparse forest of nine barren, gold foil-covered trees scattered across the stage, each lit from above with its own special spotlight. “Each tree's light was set at about 10% when the house doors opened,” Garrett says. Audience members who downloaded the app could select a tree from a list on their touch screens and enable that tree's light to raise to 50% for a few seconds before it would fade back to 10%. Garrett says that this simple interaction was surprisingly beautiful, a subtle pulsing of light that was clearly linked to on-going human choice. “It was like the set was breathing in a way,” he says.
Chris Garneau leaves his comfort zone Posted by Andrew Alexander on Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 8:01 AM
Musician Chris Garneau wrote the score and will perform in FILTER at Ferst Center April 2 High school seniors don't pick a “Boy Least Likely to Dance on Stage” in their yearbooks, but if they did I bet Chris Garneau would have won. Like a lot of contemporary singer-songwriters, there's something very still about him. He performs seated at the piano, songs so intimate and personal that his not-unpowerful voice often fades into a whisper or lifts into a childlike falsetto. He's known for bringing a vintage lamp to place on the piano and light the show, forming a small, warm, protective bubble: stationary, homelike, fixed. He seems to suggest the opposite of dance.
It's somewhat surprising then to find Garneau a central figure in the dance performance FILTER on-stage at the Ferst Center this weekend. The world-renowned choreographer Jonah Bokaer chose Garneau to create the score for the work, and as the piece evolved, Bokaer began to incorporate Garneau's presence more and more, even bringing him out from behind the instruments and onto the stage. It's an unusual and challenging change for any musician whose performances don't normally incorporate a lot of movement. We caught up with Garneau to talk about composing his first score for dance, navigating a multi-disciplinary collaboration, and stepping outside his comfort zone to move around on stage with some of the world's best dancers. How did you get involved with FILTER? Did you know the choreographer Jonah Bokaer beforehand? I didn't. I've known Anthony for a little while. [Artist Anthony Goicolea designed the set for FILTER]. Anthony and I met through a mutual friend about four years ago, and then he did some really beautiful work for my second full-length. Just this past summer he called me up and said he was starting on this project. They were rehearsing the beginnings of FILTER at the time in upstate New York in this church where they had residency. So I went up and hung out for the day and met Jonah and the dancers. I'd never worked with dancers at all so it was a really new world for me. It was really just a very brief section of FILTER that had been created at that point, it was probably less than ten minutes, but I was really moved by it. Did Jonah tell you what he wanted the score to sound like? It was pretty open-ended. There was never any specific route or plan that was laid down. They had some music they were working with and because they'd already confirmed a preview of a short portion of FILTER at the Guggenheim they had to start working with something. (I opted not to hear it so they were performing in silence for me). I started working on some compositions in late summer and fall. It was very challenging and very easy at the same time. Sort of a weird dichotomy because I didn't know what I was scoring to. I didn't have any DVD or any footage or anything. After the Guggenheim, they sent me a DVD of about nine minutes but still I was composing about 60 minutes of music. I just kind of went out of my normal hemisphere and went into outer space a little bit. I tried to experiment with some things I hadn't really done previously. I got to make whatever I wanted. That was great, but on the other hand it made me feel very vulnerable. I liked what I was doing, but I also didn't completely trust what I was doing. I sent them things and was like “I have no idea if this is something you can even work with.” But everything worked out.
Chris Garneau (far right) performs in Jonah Bokaer's FILTER You'll be playing instruments on stage? I will be. What we ended up doing in France in February, Jonah became really interested in interweaving me within the dance piece. I'm kind of a musician disguised as a dancer for a lot of the piece. I'm mostly
using keyboard and pedals and microphone and I'm mixing from stage. But I come and go. I'm actually more on stage with the boys than I am at the music station. About two-thirds of it is recorded music I scored for the piece, about one-third is live. It's across the board, but it all blends nicely. You're moving around on-stage for the show. Isn't that outside your comfort zone? Yeah. It's definitely not something I'm used to. When Jonah started talking to me about physically being involved, I was pretty happy to get down and try it out and start doing it. I just felt more like, “Hey, Jonah, are you sure you want me, ME, moving around?” and then I talked to the dancers and was like, “Are you guys okay with this?” Everyone seemed pretty happy. I'm having a great time and I'm happy to get away from the instruments for a little while, too and get into this other world of abstract contemporary movement. It's really been such a pleasure to work on this project. I think for everyone it's out of their normal field of comfort or what we're used to. It's new for everybody. I think that makes the whole experience unique.
Review: Jonah Bokaer merges dance and technology in “FILTER” and “REPLICA” by Cynthia Bond Perry | Apr 5, 2011 People walked out of Merce Cunningham’s concerts for decades. His choreography defied conventions and required audiences to experience dance as abstract art, without narrative or emotional motivation. Jonah Bokaer’s “FILTER” brought out some of the same response as his mentor’s work Saturday at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center of the Arts, though Bokaer’s approach to integrated media is completely different. But if Cunningham had been in the audience at the U.S. premiere of “FILTER,” he probably would have approved, watching with his impish smile.
Bokaer, a talented young champion of New York’s downtown/Brooklyn experimental art scene, is developing design-based integrated media performances, influenced by avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson, in which movement comes second to visual elements. Atlanta dance audiences’ taste has been shaped by Atlanta Ballet and by seasoned touring companies that frequent the city, such as Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey and Pilobolus. These troupes offer consumers what they expect: dance is the primary focus. It’s accessible and easy for audiences to connect with emotionally. There’s often narrative or appealing lyricism, recognizable steps and some degree of technical virtuosity. Bokaer’s highly abstract and dreamlike architectural world defies such conventions. But, whether one was absorbed or put off by its unfamiliarity, the work was masterfully performed with courage and vulnerability; thoughtfully conceived, its elements were fully integrated and meticulously layered. Bokaer, just 29, was chosen to inaugurate the Ferst Center’s ARTech residency program, created to encourage artists who blend art and technology, because he integrates choreography, lighting, set design, sound and video images, some obtained through motion capture and computer animation. The program’s second work, “REPLICA,” exemplified this approach and was a highlight of the evening. In this piece, dancers Bokaer and C.C. Chang moved with fleet speed, hypnotic and visually arresting, in front of, through and inside of artist Daniel Arsham’s giant cube structure, as holes in each of its faces were broken through. Video images on the cube’s faces replicated dance images to create enjoyably puzzling tricks of the eye. “FILTER,” the new commission, focused on Anthony Goicolea’s set design, Aaron Copp’s lighting and Bokaer’s choreography. Chris Garneau sang and played some of his score live and appeared on stage as one of four boys who resemble one another. With a natural grace, he blended easily with the trained dancers, navigating a changing landscape as they journeyed from boyhood to manhood.
Garneau’s soundscape set moods, blurring lines between nature and technology. Electronic sounds oddly evoked childhood memories — white noise like roaring wind, randomly struck chimes like a music box that’s slowing down, just before it stops. A soft melody played on a metallic-sounding keyboard that recalled a toy piano. Near the end, somewhat fearful knocking sounds evoked an old steam radiator beginning to heat up. The visual landscape suggested winter: eight leafless trees lit in cool shades of purple and white. The boys were dressed in winter sleepwear: simple cotton, button-front long johns, two in black, two in white. Gold light often gave them a crystalline luster, and strangely, after a time, they no longer looked like boys but appeared as men. The four performers’ movement was often slowed and dreamlike, sometimes uncomfortably static, then weightlessly fast. There was a sense of boyhood and brotherhood, with resistance and dependence, mirror images and flip sides: different aspects of the same person, duplicated. One pair walked as if contained and contemplative; the other sliced the air around their twisting, turning bodies. At times, an individual would meander as if the head were being pulled through a gyrating wind tunnel, as if venturing into a turbulent, unpredictable unknown. On the floor under a soft white spotlight, Adam Weinert ran through a complex solo with weightless speed. Limbs bent at sharp angles. Lying supine, he clasped an arm across his solar plexus, pulled it away with the other hand, then braced the arm against the floor and angled his body upward like a plank. He swiveled around, crossed one leg behind the other, and folded his limbs into complex configurations that looked like a succession of symbols, without organic body logic or emotional line. They flashed by like a video recording on fast-forward, or as Bokaer suggested, a dream. Each dancer held in his mouth what looked like a thermometer, recalling the connection a child has with his mother when he’s sick. Garneau’s high-pitched singing intensified the love. His lullabies gave way to a sense of yearning, loss and letting go as he repeated, “It’s not that bad… I will miss you… and we’ll see.…” It was a passage, a transition, a journey, a sad parting, a venture into the unknown, a meandering exploration of self-discovery. A mobile phone application that enabled the audience to vote on light board controls broke down not far into the performance. Fortunately not integral to “FILTER,” it was another paradox that would have made Merce smile.
Review: Jonah Bokaer builds troubled, dreamlike universe in FILTER Posted by Andrew Alexander on Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 1:05 PM
Photo by Arbnore Ramadani The kids in Harry Potter had the ability to tap a wand to their heads and pull out a troubling memory, like a long wispy strand of spider web, put it into a dish, look at it, contemplate it, and show it to other people. This neato ability could, I suppose, be used as a metaphor for almost any artistic endeavor—it's a superpower great artists have—but it seems an easy and apt way to describe choreographer Jonah Bokaer's work FILTER, which had its American premiere at the Ferst Center at Georgia Tech on Saturday, April 2. Harry Potter's memories always played out like a movie—crystal clear for the viewer, with a beginning, middle and end—but FILTER was more genuinely like something pulled out of someone's head, yours or mine, extracted not in a single, pretty, gossamer thread but in the long, complicated, looping, linked, branching and recursive networks that comprise our real thoughts, dreams and memories. FILTER is a work for four men, performed on a set designed by visual artist and Atlanta native Anthony Goicolea. Goicolea rocketed to art-world fame in the early 2000s with his self-portraits, enormous Dargerlike tableaux, digitally-manipulated photographs in which the preternaturally youthful artist placed himself many times, as multiple adolescents, often in situations and settings tinged with eroticism, nostalgia and violence. His opening set for FILTER was comprised of nine barren trees, partially covered in gold foil, and a single raft-like gold plank. The four performers looked enough alike to be brothers, if not closer, so,
as in Goicolea's earlier work, the ideas of repetition, doubling, mirroring, brotherhood, reproduction (of/by men) were threaded throughout. Movements were likewise mirrored or doubled: Movements that were slow and deliberate were often reflected directly, as in a mirror, by another dancer. But more complicated, flowing movements were also echoed. Graceful rotations using various vertical axes and extensions were repeated, emerging at different times or seen from different angles. Even movements which seemed free, improvised, rounded, and idiosyncratic seemed to have echoes and reflections elsewhere. One of the most impressive segments came when the opening arrangement—with three dancers facing the audience at the front of the stage, one in the back facing away—was repeated in the middle of the piece, as if rotated on an axis: the dancer at back-left was now facing us at front-right, and so on. We saw the same movements and arrangements repeated, but flipped now: the same circles went in different directions etc. It was surprising how chilling, compelling and suggestive the simple rearrangement was.
Photo by Eric Boudet The dancers were dressed in old-fashioned sleepwear which brought to mind children's books, nursery rhymes, lullabies. I thought especially of Little Nemo in Slumberland, an early twentieth century comic strip in which a little boy has surreal adventures and explorations in his dreams. In the final panel of every strip, Nemo wakes up and is reminded that he lives in the real world, not the dream one, but no such clear lines between the sleeping and waking worlds existed in FILTER. From the opening moments, we seemed to be already in a dream: though the performers lay down to sleep, were urged to sleep and dream by the lyrics of lullabies, or even seemed to be making some effort to awaken, they only found themselves deeper in a dream. The set changed, the platform raised, the trees were removed or—as at the end—turned upside down. Waking reality is persistent, but FILTER seemed to suggest an even more persistent and inescapable layering of dreams. Reality was totally inaccessible from the get-go, and even the less-disintegrated dreams seemed to recede from reach, like the raft-plank itself, ultimately raised high above the heads of the dancers. FILTER was set to a haunting score by musician Chris Garneau. Garneau, while not a professional dancer, performed in the piece, occasionally playing an instrument or singing along with his recorded score, but mostly moving right along with the other dancers. Garneau was called upon to do a great deal, but I don't think anyone would pick him out from the others and say “that's not a dancer,” which is most impressive. Above and beyond, Garneau's sublime voice—like the set's central plank— could set itself at different levels and octaves, or was echoed in the recorded score in various manipulations. There was a falsetto lullaby that seemed to be falling apart inside a dream, first in English and then in French, then a wordless couple notes like a cry. His voice put me in mind of Nina Simone's (who also occasionally sang little deconstructed lullabies and nursery rhymes) in its intimacy, in its almost sculptural beauty: the voice as space, as a created space for the listener.
There was tenderness in FILTER, but there also seemed to be a suggested inability to connect, which became adversarial. One performer stroked another's face, but the object of his affection remained inert, in another state. The same two dancers later walked in a wide, repeating circle, intent, linked by their arms, but now both depersonalized, as in a dream. Others became linked in locked, mirrored wrestling poses. Each of the dancers had an impressive solo, but Adam Weinert's at the center of the piece, a floor-bound sequence, thrashing but also measured, controlled and determined—suggesting fitful sleep or an effort to wake—was especially beautiful, voluptuous and detailed. A server crash caused a planned audience interaction with the lighting to malfunction, which must have been frustrating for the artists, creators and any viewers who arrived eager to give the new mobile phone technology a shot. I don't own a cell phone, and the people around me seemed unaware or unconcerned about the technological aspect of the show, so it was no big deal in my neck of the woods, though I was disappointed not to see it in action. In the end, when all the servers in the world crash, FILTER—beautiful, haunting, surreal—will still work. A gorgeous piece about inescapable repetition, which ironically, sadly, we won't get to see again.
It was a long tough week slugging through kids, work, the schedule, and the 5ams to the 10 pms, the emotional ups and downs and getting ready for a house guest. I was a little stressed out and frazzled but being the dance junkie I am, I had a performance to look forward to. Saturday night I made it out again to one of my favorite Theaters in town, The Ferst. This time to Jonah Bokaer the recipient of this year’s ARTech Residency at Georgia Tech. It has been a long time since I’ve seen someone new and fresh and I was really looking forward to it. I also did something I’ve never done before, I took my mother. There have been many times where she has seen me perform, but I don’t think we have ever sat in the audience together. I have to say she was a good sport to leave her grandchildren behind and accompany me. The evening started out the moment we arrived at The Ferst. In the side galleries there was video footage playing on the walls. One was of dancers in a tent lit from the inside, another looked like a computer generated cardboard cutout of a dancer linked to other cutouts rotating around and around. The last image was a couple of moving animated figures. This was nice foreshadowing for what was to come. As we entered the house the curtain was up and the stage was bathed in blue light. There was also a gold platform set up in the center surrounded by little winter trees. Yes, my friends, trees. Needless to say, I was excited and the tone was set. Jonah Bokaer is a young choreographer out of NYC, with a very extensive pedigree. He attended Cornell Univ. and got his degree from the N.C. School of the Arts. At a very young age he was recruited for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. With his long arms and legs and his perfectly arched feet I would have guessed this without looking at the program. He has the quintessential Cunningham physique. He went on to get a visual media degree from the New School and studied media and performance at Parsons School of Design. He also dabbles with digital media and 3-D animation on his own. He has worked with the likes of John Jaspers, David Gordon, Robert Wilson and many more. Now at the ripe age of 25ish he is touring his choreography internationally. Before the show began we got a little tutorial from the choreographer and were told that we could interact with the performance. “Please Turn ON your phones!” was announced at the beginning which is contrary to what one usually hears. Music technology master’s students Stephen Garrett, Anosh Daruwalla and Nathan Weitzner, under the direction of Professor Jason Freeman, developed an iPhone app called MASS MOBILE. As audience members we could download the application and light up the trees and control colors on the set. I do not have an iPhone but my seat neighbor kindly let me see his. It was a pretty cool feature. The concert consisted of two pieces. The first one was the US premier of FILTER. Four dancers in union suits, two in navy and two in white, slowly, liquidly moved throughout the space. The movement was very
Cunningham-like with a release edge to it. Subtle and quiet, I felt I was watching four campers sleep walking through a snowy forest. This strong image was a constant for me throughout the piece. There was a nice moment when three dancers lifted one in navy over their heads like a log. At this point I noticed he was the only one in long sleeves, a detail which would be significant later. Another element to this piece I thought was really smart was the way Bokaer used the platform to cut the space. I like a choreographer who is willing to define the performance area in different ways. Obviously, it lay on the floor and dancers were on top and around it. It was tilted up and a duet of mirrored images occurred in front, like a man having a conversation with his own shadow, as the other duet hid behind. It was used as a balance board, and it tilted as one dancer fell and was supported by another. At this point, the platform was attached to ropes held by the other dancers, like a sleigh during Christmastime. My favorite moment in the whole show was a stunning floor solo. The choreography was refreshingly faster here. Wiggly and sharp the dancer reminded me of a worm squirming after a rain storm, or a camper having a disturbing dream. The curtain dropped behind him after he settled into a comfortable fetal position. He laid there for an awkwardly long time. The next time we see the performance space, the gold platform was suspended from the ceiling at table height, revealing another raised area upstage. It took this audience member a minute to realize that there was live music coming from this area, and the dancer with the long sleeves was the musician. The other dancers were now able to go under the plank and use it like a table. The three gentlemen move gesturally with their upper bodies, like architects looking over blueprints. The forth dancer in his new role as singer, emitted eerie notes as he walked forward. They all rolled off the stage into the pit to sleep for another uncomfortable amount of time. I do love it when work extends past the parameters of the stage. The piece moved on at the same pace until the end, past a section with no set but smoke lingering in the air. The audience could interact and light up the smoke in different colors from their iPhones. REPLICA was the last dance of the evening. We were greeted with a giant block with crushed sides as though it had been hit with a hammer or body parts. This cube was a vehicle for many things, one of which was a surface to project images on. Retrograde was a choreographic manipulation used a lot in this piece. Video was played backwards, phrases were done backwards, but it was subtle not obvious which seems to be a strong element in Bokaer’s work. All the great ideas and high production were amazing, but they did overshadow the fact that there were two beautiful dancers on stage, one of which being Bokaer himself and the lovely CC Chang. On the videos we saw the dancers emerging from or submerging into the box. We also got to witness jagged holes being produced live on the prop by a third party. This image added and interesting topography for the stage. The evening was thought-provoking, it was chalk full of genius ideas, but it wasn’t for the average theater goer. Jonah Bokaer is an artist who tiptoes the perforated line between dance and performance art. I respect trailblazers and inventors, artists who are willing to make an audience feel uncomfortable and awkward, but I felt a smidge beat up. The concert was very slowly paced and long. It clocked out at twoand-a-half hours for just two pieces, which is indicative of a protégé of Merce Cunningham, but I felt it needed some editing. Having said this, Bokaer has accomplished so much at such a young age, and I’m so happy to have seen this work. So many brilliant images and ideas stayed with me and reverberated in my mind. I am looking forward to the future work of this emerging choreographer.
Looking Ahead: 2011-2012 ARTech Residency Selected as the 2011-2012 ARTech resident artist, pianist Jade Simmons will explore rhythm as vital to efficiency, productivity and communication. Artist Biography Known for her musical creativity and electrifying stage presence, pianist Jade Simmons is committed to expanding the boundaries of classical music. Simmons released her debut CD in March 2009 for E1 Music entitled Revolutionary Rhythm, praised by Allmusic.com as "a thought-provoking, entertaining, and fun debut that easily establishes Simmons as a major talent." A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Jade completed her undergraduate work at Northwestern University under Sylvia Wang. While there, she cofounded the immensely popular percussion and dance ensemble Boomshaka!. Simmons also became Miss Chicago, Miss Illinois and ultimately first runner-up at the 2000 Miss America Pageant where she performed Chopin's Etude in C-sharp minor, Op. 10, No. 4, before a live television audience of millions. Ms. Simmons holds a Master's degree from Rice University, where she studied with acclaimed pianist Jon Kimura Parker. Jade Simmons is a Yamaha Artist. Ms. Simmons has toured the US extensively, highlighted by concerts on the Ravinia's Rising Stars series, the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, the University of Washington World Series in Seattle, Merkin Hall and repeat engagements at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Her performances of Guggenheim Award-winning composer Tania Léon's piano works alongside pianist Ursula Oppens was named one of the Best Concerts in 2005 by ARTFORUM magazine. ARTech 2011-2012 Residency: The Creative Impulse Through the ARTech Residency, Jade will explore the ways rhythm is integral to music, technology and human interaction. Using Urban Remix, the university’s cutting edge sound capturing software program, participants will gather sound bites and video clips of rhythmic machinery and technology, powerful speakers, rhythmic human interaction and examples of music known mostly for its rhythmic drive. The sounds will be analyzed to determine what makes them riveting and why they are effective in their purpose. Jade will explore the captured sounds and examine how they can be reproduced on standard instruments, newly created instruments, the human body and found objects with the goal of creating the same powerful rhythmic impact means other than their original sources. Residency Events The residency will begin in October 2011 with a symposium led by Jade Simmons titled “The Implications of Race and Gender in Classical Performance.” The residency continues in February 2012 with an Arts Connection panel discussion featuring Jade Simmons and other ARTech collaborators. The panel will examine the assumption that a “Creative Impulse” exists within everyone. The culminating concert on February 18, 2012 will include the presentation of a piece of musical art created during the residency with the collaboration of ARTech participants. Jade will be joined by Collide, her eclectic trio made up of saxophonist and electronic musician Jonathan Sanford and percussionist/composer David Skidmore. Throughout the residency, further connections to campus and community groups will be made. Follow the progression of the residency through the Ferst Center’s website and Facebook Page.
Credits Ferst Center for the Arts Staff Director Business Manager Marketing & PR Director Marketing Specialist Arts Education Coordinator Administrative Assistant Operations Manager Technical Director Master Electrician Audio Engineer Stage Manager House Manager Client & Patron Services Manager Box Office Assistant Manager Box Office Supervisors Box Office Team
George Thompson Dedra Hemphill Stephanie Lee Jenna Knight Virginia Sheppard Shani Howard Jack A. Rogers Paul Cottongim Graham Hurt Joe Davis Rich Clarke Mary Holloway Chris Dreger Kristen Campbell Brian Adorno, Dee Blakey, Jake Dapon, Jared O'Neal, Naushad Amlani Melanie Dreger, Samuel Kim, Ryan, Madura, Josh Neal, Stuart Smith, Kayla Stokes
Advisory Board Sonny Seals (Chair), Steve Chaddick, Nick Gold, Trudy Huger, Genelle Jennings, Crissy Klaus, Ivenue Love-Stanley, Duke Mewborn, David Mills, Val Porter, Al Trujillo, Edward Underwood, Tom Ventulett , June Weitnauer Georgia Tech Ex-Officio: Nelson Baker, John Carter, Joe Irwin, Dr. William Schafer, Michael Warden, Trish Wichmann Campus Committee George Thompson, Philip (Phil) Auslander, Alan Balfour, Raziya Chapman, Stephanie Lee, Ken Marek, Paul Neitzel, Colin Potts, Dr. William (Bill) Schafer, Paul Verhaeghen, Michael Warden 2010-2011 ARTech Campus Collaborators Jason Freeman, Assistant Professor, School of Music Stephen Garrett, Graduate Student, School of Music Judy Gordon, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture Dr. Karen Liu, Assistant Professor, School of Interactive Computing Erica Penk, Computational Media Student, School of Interactive Computing
A digital version of this document can be found at www.ferstcenter.gatech.edu
An indepth look at the 2010-11 ARTech Residency program of the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech.