Artistic Research and Performance

Bodyscapes is an intermedial dance solo piece which has been realized by Valenina Moar (see photo below) (choreography, dance), Gerhard Eckel and David Pirrò (composition, live electronics, interaction design and software development) in a total of 7 days during two working periods in December 2008 and January 2009. The research and creation work was carried out at the EGM Aesthetic Lab installed in the CUBE studio at IEM in Graz. The piece was also premiered there on January 20th in an OpenCUBE concert. A documentation video of the concert is available online at Vimeo. The work-in-progress has also been presented in a later stage of development at the BEEM symposium.

As an intermediary result of an ongoing artistic research process, Bodyscapes contains first answers to the particular question driving this process. The question was, which are the simplest and most fundamental ways of linking bodily movement and sound and how can they be used to relate dance and music in radically new ways. Each answer given in the piece appears as a space of possible relationships between movement and sound (a bodyscape), every one baring a particular recognizable characteristic and aesthetic identity.

What is a Bodyscape?

A bodyscape is constituted by four aspects: (1) an artistic idea driving its composition, (2) a sound model developed according to the artistic idea, (3) an empirically determined motion mapping connecting sound variation to bodily movement, and (4) the dynamics induced in the dancers movement by the behaviour of the resulting sound. One of the results of producing Bodyscapes is the realization that the fourth aspect is of eminent importance in the composition of the body/sound relationship. Each of the four bodyscapes has been composed in a collective process in the EGM Aesthetic Lab involving dance, choreography, improvisation, composition, as well as sound and interaction design. In this process the criteria for a successful composition have been defined in the following way. A bodyscape can be understood as a kind of “sound costume”. In this sense, a successfully composed bodyscape has to be “wearable” by the dancer. Wearing the sound costume will – similar to a real costume – highlight certain features of the movement and it will suggest to move in certain ways, to use the sound-extended body in a certain way. 

The sound costume may also constrain the movement strongly, which may or may not suit the artistic idea. Usually, dancers can also judge with precision and confidence if a sound model and its motion mapping fit the movement or not, i.e. if the change in the sound feels appropriate for a particular movement. Each bodyscape also modifies the proprioception of the dancer, extending the dancers body into the sound in a particular way. To what an extent this extension is experienced as appropriate by the dancer in order to realize a particular artistic idea determines the successfulness of its composition. Composing a bodyscape is an empirical process aiming at establishing a particular dynamic between body and sound, matching the artistic idea.