EChO’s objective was to design and produce a digital tool to demonstrate the intelligence and working processes behind Wayne McGregor’s choreography.
It had become clear from the research undertaken in EChO that, while the CLA had achieved the aim of representing the image manipulation undertaken by choreographers and dancers when generating movement vocabulary, in its abstraction and in its physical form the CLA did not fit easily into the embodied processes of studio creation.
What emerged from analysis of that research phase of EChO were some parameters to guide the design team. These were presented to the choreographer and the digital artists, and the formulation of a proposal for a new digital object was facilitated.
It was suggested that an ‘enhanced’ version of the CLA required a compelling presence in space. It was important that it engaged the viewer in a manner akin to the way other bodies affect, and effect movement. The notion of kinaesthetic as well as aesthetic elicitation proved central to how the CLA was to be transformed into Becoming to capture something of the character of studio creation in this genre.
Becoming is a live artificially intelligent installation in which an abstract body tries to master aspects of the movement and feel present in an iconic 1980s science-fiction film. The film was not chosen at random, but provided the tone and colour palate for McGregor’s creation process for a new dance piece. Becoming is displayed in portrait mode on a 6 foot 3D screen, so that the virtual body has the height of a human body.
Each of the film’s 1240 shots was subjected to a battery of computer vision techniques to extract their geometry, colour and movement. The abstract agent then enacts an heuristic search through the space of all the configurations and muscle activations of its own peculiar body to match the movement of each shot. It works out its approximations through a series of iterations, stopping only when satisfied that it has come as close as it can. The instructions it issues to itself are made visible in captions; these are commands such as “Increase trail,” “Into emptiest space, move to side,” and “Torque (long) and parachute.”
[INSERT Sketches by Nick Rothwell and Marc Downie – currently awaiting feedback]
The installation was adopted by the choreographer Wayne McGregor as a central part of his creative process in making a new dance work called Atomos. It was part of the Thinking with the Body exhibition that was commissioned by the Wellcome Collection in London.
This combined outcome demonstrated that the knowledge created in choreographic process can be successfully presented and made available through appropriately designed digital media.