Cie Greffe / Cindy Van Acker

Cie Greffe / Cindy Van Acker

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Corps 00:00, 2002

Phantom Body
by Laurent Goumarre

“We need a connection with technology. There is not better art that dance to carry it out” -declaration of John Cage in 1986. A few years later, his artistic partner the choreographer Merce Cunningham inaugurates the creative connection with data processing. Dance then, as the realization of the necessary connection with technology. One can question oneself on the need to pass by dance to connect itself to technology. One can advance that Cage requires there that the body implied itself, that it is necessary to pass trough the reality of the body, a need for incarnation.

First, let's precise the chronology: the connection of Cunningham is done in two times, two softwares of movements simulation in 3D: Life Forms then Character studio, used in particular for the sequence of virtual dance of Biped. The first, and more precisely the program Sequence editor, makes possible to work out on movements, to memorize them until obtaining sequences of the “forms and transitions impossible for a human body to realize”. A knee touches a shoulder, a pirouette becomes the starting point of a jump without dash... in short, bearings blow up as much physically as mentally. Cunningham there attends the explosion of the anatomical determinism of the body and its mental reflexes, the radical result of its work which already consisted in a writing to choreographies separately the movements of legs, arms, and chest and to randomly decide in which order they had to be connected. Character Studio - designed by Susan Amkraut and Michael Girad of the Company Unreal Pictures -imitates, models and handles the co-ordinates of recorded movements of real bodies with the so-known motion captures technique: photo-sensitive markers on the articulations, capture of choreographed displacements by optical cameras that keep a trace of them on film and translate the luminous impacts into data-processing code. If Life Forms tries “combinations of movements impossible to do for a true dancer, it is then a way to see something we have never thought about before”; with Character studio, it becomes possible to change structure of the model body: “you can abstract the co-ordinates of a rthythm -a real one, recorded on a part of the body of the dancer, lets say the right leg for instance-, and to transpose it on another element of the body, an arm for example. I think we could see other things then seen: no artificial things but possibilities really registered in the body but that we don't update because we don't know we have them [...] We could connect another pair of legs on Biped if we wanted. Obviously it is of a relative interest for the dance, but it is possible. “However it is precisely this possibility of the body which interests the dance in its connection with technology, and in that Cunningham is the more American of all choreographers, always pioneer of the New Frontier and of the liberal availability: “to see something of which one had not thought”, to bring update to a body which we can't have.

The dance is the actualization of this body, and this actualization is carried out in connection with technology. When the young Belgian choreographer Cindy Van Acker connects her body with the computerized electric stimulator that shorts-circuit her movements, it is what she questions: the birth of a dancing body, possible beyond its body form. Body grafted, connected, computerized: “Corps 00:00”(Body 00:00) titrates the choreographer for whom the dance becomes the shown-off practice of a real body, support of a possible body which exceeds itself. Worked by technology, her body does not seek the repair of the medical prosthetic devices, not more than it wishes a higher level of performance. On the contrary, invaded by the artificial stimuli, it becomes the spectacle of its own deformation: something exceeding it, which says that the body is not limited to its own form, that the body isn't a formatted data. Contractions, involuntary dislocation, external impulse which parasitizes as much as it takes part to the danced movement, Van Acker's choreography disappoints the integrity of movement as much as the body's one. The choreographic act defined in connection with technology exposes a floating body with impossible outlines: a real body doubled with its phantom. The organic body, its organization in a sculptural volume and a linear drawing is systematically seen while disturbed by a virtual body, involuntary, no more part of the visible world but of the perceptible one. The dance through technology realizes this phantom body, and in that exhibits the insufficiency - without it being negative - of the real body which the practice often tried to deny (the traditional virtuosity), to thwart (cunninghamian phantasm). Van Acker's body is incomplete; support of an invasive technology, it is not closed but on the contrary exhibits its gap.

In its connection with technology, the dancing body remain open; crossed by the machine, it sees its limits pushed back, that doesn't mean to gain in power, nor precision, nor speed but that means to try out its slough, to see its skin falling -perceived to that point as a meaning site, like an interface. “Surface, the skin was one day the beginning of the world, and simultaneously the limit of me. As an interface, it was formerly the site of the personnel and the policy's subsidence. But now, stretched and penetrated by the machine, the skin is not any more the smooth surface, sensual, of a site or a screen. From now the skin does not mean anymore separation, [...] but disappearance of the inside and the outside.” (Stelarc, Vers le post humain, Nouvelles de danse, n° 40-41). Then the technological connection realizes a choreography of opened bodies, controlled movements, constrained and involuntary -of internal rhythms and external gestures. Amputated people often make the experiment of a phantom-limb; the dance in its connection with technology is the actualization of this ghostly feeling of an additional, virtual though visual body, rather than a visceral one. The body is coupled in such kind that it mobilizes its phantom. From their interaction, it results a choreography of the formless, which is mobilized less in the quality of its gestures than in the act of presence of its possible bodies.

 

Credits

Concept Cindy Van Acker
Performer Perrine Valli or Cindy Van Acker
Sound design Frédérique Franke, Philip May, Denis Rollet the 3 musicians play live on stage
Light Luc Gendroz
Length 49'

Creation October 2002, ADC Geneva, Switzerland
Production Cie Greffe
With support from City of Geneva, DIP, Pro Helvetia - Foundation, ADC Association pour la Danse Contemporaine, Genève, AVDC Association Vaudoise pour la Danse Contemporaine
Administration and Tour Managing Tutu-Production, Véronique Maréchal, SImone Toendury
Photo copyright 1, 2 Sandra Piretti
Photos copyright 3, 4 Isabelle Meister