What is “touch” in the third space? How does it feel to “touch” without physically touching? How do our digital representations in the third space connect to our corporeal bodies during the “touch”? How has the “virtual embrace” transformed the way in which we engage in social media and digital communications?
To get better answers to these questions, we have been explicating the concept of “touch” in the third space throughout the first half of the semester by exploring such topics as “the virtual body,” “distributed presence,” and the “third space.”
The objective of the collaborative project Touch is to investigate critical concepts and fundamental artistic concerns inherent in the emerging form of live networked performance in the third space, through creative dance movements, interactive wearables, smart textiles, audio-visual arts and the Critical Response Process (CRP).
This collaboration between School of Art, Design & Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the School of Arts, Media & Engineering at Arizona State University is happening on Thursday, April 21 (SGT) in a third space where the artist Angeline Young and students of ADM will perform as a collective body. And the performance will be live broadcasted over the Internet to expand the experience of the networked performance to the global audience despite of the spatial divide.
Virtual Embrace in the Third Space
“Virtual Embrace” can have many interpretations. It is an entirely new way of negotiating proximity, of sensing the other person, of coordinating the actions, of balancing the scale. As a dancer, I interpret these interactions between artists as an exchange of personal histories, experiences or aspirations expressed through movements and the creation of live audios.
I discussed in one of my research critiques the idea that the dancer, instead of dancing to the music, became a composer or musician playing the music with her body/costume/space as a musical instrument. The wireless dance costume powered by Arduino Lilypad and motion sensors puts the magic of live musical composition in the hands (body) of the dancer, who can explore and improvise new shapes and structures within an otherwise free musical environment.
As a result, the virtual embrace will mainly happen in the form of a collaborative dance performance. However, it is still unique because the music created by Angeline will be heard by us through the third space. Each of us will react and move differently to the sound based on our own personal experiences and feelings, at the same time creating new audios which add on more layers to the current sound track. Both sides of artists thus are able to “touch” each other through generated sounds. As the process unfolds in time and space, Angeline and we will build a sense of affiliation and mutual understanding. Our dance movements although not pre-choreographed will look in sync and the audios we create through dance will eventually become a harmonious blend of personal narratives.
Dance in its Most Pristine Form
Without the fixed constraints of a pre-composed piece of music the artist’s personal narrative is embodied through pure movements – dance in its most pristine form.
In my research critique of dance performance, Eiko & Koma’s iconoclastic work combines slow and nuanced movement vocabulary with bold theatrical design. Whether performing in a theater or in natural sites outdoors, Eiko & Koma often move as if they are not human. Although this is not exactly what I imagine our movements will look like, I do like to borrow the simpleness and directness from their dance. Essentially, dance is a way of communication.
Touch is not fundamentally about technology. Nor is it an attempt to define a new genre of art practice. It is about what we have been researching for half of the semester which is called “the virtual embrace”. We hope through this experiment of telematic collaboration, we could have better answers to the amorphous and intangible nature of human communication in the third space.