The Broken Mirror
A conversation about Movement and Technology

During the "Analysing Movement" Workshop in Kienberg, Switzerland on Monday 11/09/2017

Transcript by Anne Dubos – 03/2018

In conversation were:
AD: Anne Dubos
BB: Bertha Bermúdez
FB: Frederic Bevilacqua
JS: Jan Schacher
SdL: Scott deLahunta
(Media file: kienberg_broken_mirror_transcript.mp4)

NB: See also time and keyword index at the bottom of this document

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00:00 – JS: I think it is an interesting question about the spatial sensing and the local sensing, and also the different types of the local sensing is interesting. So, you have dynamics which is the IMU (inertial measurement unit), then biophysical, pressure …

I am really interested in bio-signals, myography [measuring muscle-electricity], heart-rate, transpiration… , because I think affect is more to be found in the bio-signals than in the kinematic [data]. Just moving points in space are not really … conveying much affect, they are just shapes…

00:47 – AD: can you just develop more about that, because I think it’s a very interesting point.

You are talking about the affect, but what is the affect here?

01:06 – JS: So, affect of whom? is the first question. And in this case, I am talking about the audience affect, because that’s whom we communicate to. Expressivity is working on generating affect; that's what the performer does; the performer is shaping whatever they do, their movement, their sound, that can be expressive, without actually having an affect of reaction themselves, you don’t need to be affective to produce feelings, you do not need the emotion to produce the emotion, that is an old actor’s technique …

And I mean I think in the Kathakali, the kind of facial things, they do not feel the emotions, they just show them … and I believe also in the gestural work, apart from the physics and the shape, the mapping, there is also the quality. And the quality to me is the intention; and the intention can be emotion; producing emotion.

And emotion is a high-level effect; the very lowest level I think is the stimulus … we produce a stimulus in the other – you get a physical reaction: that’s the stimulus. And that can generate an affect which is preconscious, sub-personal (not conscious) and then it might generate an emotion which just comes conscious. So, there are these different levels.

And then there is this philosophical idea of affect: the Deleuzian concept of affect as a channel of action on your environment, which I think action complements it, so it is just a meta state of the same thing, and it’s being mystified a lot in the Deleuzian contex,t but I think affect for us, working in arts is essential; It think that is one of the key mechanisms of how the communication actually functions.

And so, the technical side does not actually contain that, because it is something that happens in humans, but technical elements are channels through which we transmit stimuli, on a very physical level, so … we still have to think about that …

03:46 – AD: I would like you to develop, because you were talking about two different kinds of technology, differentiating emotions and affect … you have been talking about patterns, and I think it has something to do with the kinesphere … you were talking about biomechanical data and patterns, and I would be interested if you could develop a little more…

04:20 – JS: I think what I said is that there is a difference between dynamic sensing of the upper body and kinematic sensing of the body … kinematic sensing means, I think, roughly said, points in space; and points in space do not give you any information except for like, speed and position; you can then start inferring from that, like velocity …

And there are some invariants in our bodies; we saw at MoCo [Movement and Computing conference, London 2017] a very interesting keynote about speed profiles, movement profiles, that are universal in a way to; because our bodies are made in a certain way like pendulums, and we have inertia and they provide the basis for expressivity.

05:15 – FB: And on that specific point I still think there are things to look at, for expert movements like musicians and dancers do not follow this pattern that has been shown to be very general …

05:38 – JS: And I think in my case as a musician, in my case with the double bass, I learned to optimize my effort curves: to produce for example a long bow stroke with an equal sound, this is an extreme optimisation of all the forces in my body; of the curved arm and the fulcrum of the string and the bow…

Expert training, the skill is actually obtained through adaptive feedback in my case; through body perception and sound perception coupled, I can start to optimize, this is a real learning circle. The same goes for all, let’s say martial arts or the yoga thing, you start to optimize your perception with your body control.

There is another aspect, you were asking about the kinesphere, Anna …

I think, no I believe that that one fundamental thing that we have is kinaesthetic resonance. So, every gesture produces a kinaesthetic resonance in the viewer … and that has to do with our body images, with our body schemata that we share to a certain extent…

07:00 – AD: that’s where I really disagree … but we’ll talk about it later?

07:05 – JS: Ok, they are culturally shaped, they are individually shaped, so there is a huge variation but I believe there is some basis underneath, which we share, otherwise we would not be able to have kinaesthetic responses.

07:18 – AD: but we have kinaesthetic response with horses

07:21 – JS: Well, because they are still four legged with a head and ears; so, they are still quite close, but can you have a kinaesthetic response with slime mould?

07:32 – AD: it is more difficult but you can try …

07:36 – JS: But these are different degrees of the scale of related morphologies; I think they are really important, for example if you see robots in the shape of humans moving. You perceive expression…

but it is actually a machine, it’s all of you. And so, the kinesphere, that’s also a different aspect, that’s the movement analysis world …

For me as an instrumentalist am very interested in having an instrument inside the space, so for example, the double bass is a 108 centimetres of string [length] plus the bow space, that’s my space. Everything else is …

Fred [who is a pianist] has 88 keys plus two pedals and (showing hands moving as on a keyboard) so that is that space, the affordance space, it’s a movement space. And the dancers, you don’t have that, but you have the floor, and you have gravity, and you have your physiology, so that is a different type of …

And the kinesphere belongs rather to the dancer's instrumental affordance space. And I really like comparing I really like comparing the two, because I think dance and music are mirrored twins… like a black-and-white, unequal twin as well… there are some aspects you cannot reconcile

Music always go to an instrument to produce sound.

Dance always is movement. The body is the material, so that is something that you cannot reconcile…

And … the patterns you were asking about Anna, …

maybe also goes into the communication theory of sense unit we transmit, and the gesture is a sense unit… a meaningful unit that we transmit.

That’s also why I am so obsessed about definition of gesture, because I think, if I press a key on a piano, what’s the meaning of the movement? It’s actually my intention connected to the sound; the movement is purely functional, but if I press the key with emphasis, like in the 19th century in the romantic pianist's style, then that emphasis is actually the meaning, becomes the gesture, becomes the meaning of the semantic context…

And then what happens with new instrument? When I perform with gloves, 90 percent of these (hand movements) are instrumental actions … I am also really aware that I am actually producing [shrugs].

10:26 – BB: Potential semantic

10:27 – JS: Potential semantic. But they are actually occurring in the viewer and not in me, so it’s again the same thing about …

10:33 – BB: Are you sure they are not in occurring you?

10:35 – JS: They are occurring in me, because my body reinforces itself but I am…

well it’s a multilevel focus and … I'm on one level just preoccupied with just playing the instrument.

And on another level, I am preoccupied with what is my body doing, what is my presence.

10:50 – BB: Yes, but since now at that point, your instrument has become the gesture, the intention of you moving that gesture … it is in one level

11:00 – JS: Well, in my case, I also have parametric control, so it’s not a gesture, it’s a parameter. I know if I do this (moving his hand to the floor and rising it up) this is the volume control. So, I am not thinking of the gesture, I am thinking of the parameter…

11:16 – BB: Yes, but how you do it …

11:18 – JS: Yes, that is the expressive aspect of it…

11:20 – BB: Yeah, for me that’s intention …

11:23 – JS: Yes, Intention, expression, affect, I think that’s the chain.

11:26 – BB: Yes, so then in that sense, that’s why you are aware of that, in the way you are changing a parameter …

11:32 – JS: But it's the same if I play a long note

11:34 – BB: But it has more layers and at least you are aware of two layers

11:38 – JS: At least two layers, at least two; because you have different temporalities, a spatial, a tension [curve]…

so yes, intention – expression – affect, that’s one chain, but then also, body control – temporal awareness – spatial awareness, that’s another chain …

12:04 – BB: Yes, that I put normally under the mechanics of movement that is actually things you need to train to be able to … and they normally come through repetitions or in systems through training … and then, of course, it is something you can differentiate at the moment when you apply intention … when you do it from beginning, always with intention, it is the best training … but you can also separate it, you know…

12:37 – JS: What happens when you use technology, because I think that relates our topic here, you get a broken mirror, as an instrument. In a sense that it breaks your relationship to material: it becomes un-intuitive or more difficult to grasp; and the broken mirror is super interesting because it exposes some of the basic mechanisms, basic functionalities of … I mean if I am a singer and I come up and I start singing …. You don’t see these mechanisms, because they are completely integrated … cultural, evolutionary, really, really integrated.

If I come up and I start gesture to generate songs through technology, it starts going like (makes a sound: crook) disjunction and that’s where you start seeing this …

So that’s how I come to consider technology in terms of creative potential.

13:31 – BB: And for me I think it is very valuable when you start talking like … If move this … (?) or these practices, most of the time, the question is: what is the value of engaging technology, we don’t need it? But the answer is what you are saying now: it is that the value, because you have this realization of these different processes we do, but sometimes you just are not even aware… and I think being critical and understanding actually what is the process… that you need to achieve, especially when you are in education being trained, I think the use of technology there is really important …

14:12 – JS: And in a way technology has always been used, but now we have a tool, which is more fluid than analogue kinds of things, so that makes it really interesting.

But, of course, it has its own problems, it also has its own agency...

When I hear Anna saying that she does non-technological work with technology because that is the agency of technology, imposing itself on the process, and that is something I am really aware of and working on an art project now … but yeah, it’s a negotiation between: technology gives you what you want from it, and what is imposed on you by using that.

The same with the pianist hands or, really imposed upon by the shape (of the instrument)

15:04 – BB: yes, they are always constrained, but normally the constrains become creative

15:09 – JS: Yes, I mean, we need resistance to create, otherwise there is nothing.

15:14 – FB: Then, the way we are talking is about the way people perceive but I mean, maybe it’s a broken mirror, but after a while, for you, it’s a mirror again, you know how to use it … and you could reach a point where you would be, … I think, in the same state as when you play bass, but for the public it is different, the public has not seen the glove thing, so they are surprised …

15:50 – JS: I know what you are saying, first of all, we are our first audience. Yesterday we were talking about the stage not being the whole thing. So, the big part of our process is what happens before the stage; so, there we are our own audience…

16:05 – FB: Yes, in the process. So, when you are comfortable enough to go on stage …

16:11 – JS: But, not everybody [in the field of new musical instruments] would play the same instrument for thirty years, on the contrary. The problem of technology is the great thing but also the problem is … the great thing but also the problem is that it is fluid.

So, it always slightly changes so you can never reach the same skill level (than on a traditional instrument), I mean, my gloves are 15 years old and I am really reluctant to change something about them, for that reason…

16:40 – FB: So you want to reach this state? [of instrumental expertise, as in a traditional instrument]

16:42 – JS: Well because I have the same experience my physical instrument, I now have a new bass, it is slightly different and it goes like … (moving his body to show the bass place)

16:51 – FB: So that you can think that for the public after all… maybe in ten years, when they will see somebody with gloves they won’t be that surprised… this play will not be heard anymore …

17:11 – JS: Well, I would think of Minority Report: it becomes a part of the pop culture. It’s like, I did not choose it… yes, I chose to work with that tool but I did not choose to connect to that narrative…

The same with the mobile phone. In German there is a term called " cultural techniques " I don’t know if you are familiar to it, but cultural techniques are the way things get disseminated, and how you get familiar to it. With object-use and technicity of objects; a 'Simondon' kind of agency of technology …

17:46 – FB: So, there is again something here that is very interesting and I want to speak about, where sociologists talking about pop-art, which was a kind of reaction to pop culture. But then pop art has been so integrated in the culture … like every teenager has been somehow become aware of (a Warhol)… then the pop art was a kind of a reaction to popular culture, it became in itself integrated popular culture; so, I want that … I like that same thing, because technology you say is a kind of a break … at some point it starts to be totally integrated and then so … I wonder about the status of the type of art that is being performed now?

18:55 – JS: I think the one aspect is that, there are tech demo pieces … that work about what is the technology and they get obsolete … and that’s a bit like …

When you say, pop art got integrated, I think it is a sedimentation, continuous, and everything always gets sedimented, and, of course, you have capitalism, but in terms of music technology, I think, those works that actually have an artistic vision or a kind of narrative on top, or beyond, technology, that survives that can continue developing, and those [works] are only tied to the technology in terms of fascination effect, because they are really tied to the actual … thing…

19:48 – BB: But my question is: are you trying to say something like … let’s say, the artist has a proposition, at a certain point he may not be understood, or may not be comprehended by the audience, because it’s not on the same level of interest of expertise, but since we are using technology and that these technologies are more spread out and people would understand better; are you trying to discuss on that level, like that the affect would be different for the audience when they know more about this? Or… what were you meaning…?

20:30 – FB: Yes, I think so …

20:35 – BB: Do you think that maybe in few years, if you keep using this technology, that actually it is also technology that people use for something else outside, people are going to bridge better to your performances?

20:47 – FB: Now I am kind of wondering if this is going to be something public; I mean either it’s going to disappear, a little bit like pop art disappeared, because it does not make sense …

21:05 – JS: Well, it has lost its significance …

21:06 – FB: I mean, pop art is still recognised as an important reference … In terms of art history; so, of these art pieces with technology might remain at some point, like a moment in time where experimenting with technology, was having, had a certain meaning … of this broken mirror … and then it would be regarded just as one moment, and then we will move on and this … and so what …

21:41 – JS: I think I agree with that in terms of…

21:45 – FB: It’s a question

21:47 – JS: I have a feeling of what you say … Think of internet art: CD ROMs, internet sites, etc. They [archivists] have a problem with that now because it is disappearing… I think there is like status shifts when we move on; I think there are shifts not because the technology shifts but because the context shifts, not because the technology shifts but because the context shift… That is what we are referring to …

22:14 – AD: Considering performance with technology I would add that; as I told you I was a resident last year at Stereolux [cultural venue in Nantes] and they invited me to watch all the performances of different kinds of people using technology.

And I saw a performance of a beatboxer, Ezra, who performs with gloves. And he had staged something interesting, with a guy doing visuals in real time, it was like an " object theatre " in real-time performance, and the artist was all using very refined technological tools, but nobody explained anything about what they used … and if you are not an expert, you do not understand anything of what is going on stage. I was with a friend, and he did not get anything about it.

23:12 – JS: Did he get the objet theatre?

23:15 – AD: No. I explained to him after a while. The setting was not clear at all. The mediation for these kind of art pieces is also very interesting for these kinds of pieces when you are talking about archive and communication … what are you looking for when you have the intention of creating an art piece in the audience? and what kinds of tools we are giving the audience to understand what we do? Because there is some kind of technical … if it’s more about a creative process than about a performance in itself so how do you explain the process so that the audience understands what you do and get anything about it? How do you map the process so that the audience can follow?

And I think it is really obscure. My cousin is a musician composer trained at IRCAM, and I have to say I do not get anything about what he does, and when I see his concerts it is very obscured to me. Even if I do follow his work, come and visit him when he is working on his pieces, and if he shows me the way he uses technological tools.

I think there is a very strong gap between people who are using technology for art performances and the audience. My question is, are you doing art for yourself or do you intend to share? And if you share, what kind of language do you use?

24:40 – FB: So, it’s not that different from any other contemporary art process.

24:44 – BB: No, it’s the same.

24:47 – FB: When people go to a contemporary art exhibition, they think it’s nothing because they have no clue how to understand it.

24:56 – JS: I think, what is interesting for us, is what role does the technology play, when you are also present, what is the balance between the physical artist being present and then the tools being used…

25:08 – AD: The difference to me is the black box of the algorithm, you were talking about it yesterday … I mean, if you look at Jeff Koons art, you don’t understand anything unless you have a thick enough background to understand the weight of his pieces is completely bizarre comparing it to the shape of the object.

If you are a physicist, you understand it immediately and you say, ha, wow, this is a beautiful art piece, and you can measure the amount of work to make it, and this is why you are interested in it, but …

25:36 – FB: But you can understand Jeff Koons as a post-pop artist perspective…

25:43 – AD: But you also need some kind of background, which is obviously an art background, but when you are going into the field of digital arts and technology, you cannot get anything about coding and algorithm, it’s a complete black box: This point makes a real break.

26:00 – FB: To this point I agree; I'm wondering what will happen in 10 years …

26:05 – JS: It is already happening now

26:08 – FB: We can assume the point that algorithm, data and machines will become much more in the …

26:18 – SdL: The data-ification, what is happening socially and culturally with data is moving in a different direction … Don’t you think it’s interesting that this particular "work" has always lain at this intersection of engineering and sciences and electronics and art, music, sound, material? … because it seems that this has been one of its defining features. It does not have a pop-art dimension to it in terms of art history, but it has this kind of interesting overlap, and an interesting history journey: cybernetics, lots of thinking and philosophizing, mathematics, engineering … which are obscure topics to a larger public, and yet they have been topics of material fascination, so our interest in technics is phantastic and but it’s kind of great, but it does not … and it is presumable that it would sustain itself…

27:26 – JS: My issue with that, and where I'm trying reach, is that there is an inside and an outside face to these things. For an insider, you have this techno fascination and all these networked layers are really necessary and are what brings it forward … and there is the outside layer which means: how it is perceived, what does it do, in terms of impact or changing the environment, and … of course, we have these cultural techniques – you know if someone is up on stage and is doing this (showing DJ gestures) and you get a lot of sounds then it is probably him doing this; that’s kind of an iconic thing, it is becoming iconified.

But the level you are saying, this whole differentiated history, I don't think this actually becomes present; there is an inherent change …

28:19 – AD: No but I think it is more than that, because we are changing culture … We had really long talks about that last year: We were at the institute for Advanced Studies and Jean-Pierre Dupuy came from Stanford; we had long talks about engineering culture and I think we are entering in the world of engineers now…

And Bertha you were talking about dance education and about getting "skilled", and most of the Indian students and Chinese students are going to engineering schools; so they are just learning so many things about mathematics and physics and that’s a new culture, it’s a new pop culture.

Last year we had 6 masters working on our Rock Art project, and they would understand what is technic, but they do not know anything about the world, and they have no clue about what is happening out of their own boundaries.

When they buy a computer, they do not even understand it comes out of the earth. It is also a very important matter, doing art as artists: what kind of language you want to use to connect the people and how you connect the thing you do with your environment; I am not talking about your material environment, I am talking about the living environment…

29:55 – BB: I think that’s in a way the responsibility of each artist, and this is what it is … and how things are communicated and further understood by society is something else. What I find fascinating is actually … you were saying that there is something that might not be there in those who are busy doing this, you said, as practitioners, you said something about being an expert, using technology that is now changing, you are getting new skills, in actually being flexible, so that is something that does not belong to your practice as a musician, because you do play the same instrument, so that is a huge shift in your own practice.

So that we can maybe in ten years say that the musicians that are engaging with technology have an extra skill, which is actually not in the technology in itself but being able to deal with the flexibility and it is changing in time … of creating new parameters for being able to change this … which is a complete difference to the relationship to the instrument, which it is something very, I find, amazing, something you can develop a complete different sphere within your own practice…

31:19 – AD: That’s why Charles Tijus says (from the Lutin-Userlab a neuroscientist in Paris), develops what you say: If you look at the online teaching now: the skill is not about how to know, the skill is about how to learn; and it is called "externalization" …

31:50 – JS: Yes, this is what Michel Serres develops that in Petite Poucette.

31:52 – AD: It is also interesting to understand that because of the swipe on your mobile phone, your fingers became so sensitive, as much as those of a violin player; they made brain tests to demonstrate the sensitivity augmented with the use of mobile phones; so, we are also changing our motor-neuronal skills, just using technology.

32:20 – JS: And Serres is talking about the thumb-skills and freeing brain-space.

32:30 – BB: I don’t know if you want to predict future you imagine that there could be a tuning between the perception of society to this kind of work, maybe, maybe not, but let us say the skills and the difference of craft at this point is very big, but maybe in 30 years, will not be, and then the way we will perceive these works would be completely normal…

33:04 – JS: But unfortunately, what we see with students now is that they have no memory of the past.

33:08 – BB: Yes, and that is something that education needs to develop and change…

33:12 – JS: Yes, that is a societal problem with education, what is also the media environment, this kind of shortening of the time span and attention span …

33:19 – BB: But we are becoming aware of that so probably something will happen…

33:23 – JS: Yes, in the general culture you have this problem, but then those that really push, they have this other attitude.

33:32 – JS: I would like to stop here, just so we can get the full afternoon.

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Time and keyword Index:

0:00 – JS Affect, Expressivity, Emotion, Quality, Stimulus, pre-conscious

3:46 – AD patterns, Kinesphere, biomechanical data?

04:20 – JS dynamic sensing, kinematic sensing, movement profiles

05:15 – FB expert movement, skill

05:38 – JS effort curves, expert training, optimized learning, kinaesthetic resonance, body images & schemata

07:00 – AD disagrees

07:05 – JS culturally, individually shaped,

07:18 – AD kinaesthetic response with horses

07:21 – JS morphological commons

07:36 – scales of related morphologies, robots, kinesphere, instrumental spaces (double-bass, piano), dancers floor, gravity, instrumental affordances, dance &music as mirror twins, semantic units, gesture as a meaningful unit, gestures vs. instrumental actions

10:26 – BB potential semantic

10:27 – JS, in the viewer/audience/public

10:33 – BB not in you?

10:35 – JS where does potential semantics occur? multilevel focus, presence

10:50 – BB instrument, gesture, intention

11:00 – JS parametric control, not gesture

11:16 – BB the 'how'

11:18 – JS expressive aspect

11:20 – BB intention

11:23 – JS intention–expression–affect chain

11:26 – BB awareness

11:34 – BB two layers

11:38 – JS body control – temporal awareness – spatial awareness chain

12:04 – BB mechanics of movement, training, intention in training

12:37 – JS the 'broken mirror' instrumental relation with/through technology, intuition, disjunction

13:31 – BB value of engaging technology, critical understanding of process, education

14:12 – JS fluid tool, technological agency, opportunity and constraints of technology

15:04 – BB constraints as creative impulse

15:09 – JS resistance as force in creation

15:14 – FB assimilation of 'new' technologies

15:50 – JS fist audience, off-stage processes

16:11 – JS persistence in new technological instruments, reaching expertise

16:40 – FB reaching expertise

16:42 – JS physical instrument (double bass)

16:51 – FB assimilation of new instruments in time

17:11 – JS pop culture, 'cultural techniques', object use, agency of technology

17:46 – FB pop-art as example of reaction becoming assimilated into pop-culture, status of art now

18:51 – JS obsolescence, sedimentation of practices, narrative on top of/beyond technology

19:48 – BB artistic proposition, accessibility of technology, knowledgeability about technology

20:35 – BB: general technology use, as help for understanding performance

20:47 – FB disappearing significance of a practice

21:06 – FB art history, moment in time, moving on

21:47 – JS context shift

22:14 – AD beatbox, object theatre, no explanation, the public not understanding

23:15 – AD mediation, intention in creation, mapping the process, sharing, language use

24:40 – FB no difference to contemporary art

24:56 – JS role of technology in shared presence with artist

25:08 – AD black box of algorithms, prerequisite knowledge for understanding

25:43 – AD black box as a real break from art appreciation

26:08 – FB in the future, more powerful data & machines

26:18 – SdL data-ification, intersection & overlap of disciplines,

27:26 – JS inside/outside perspectives, fascination, impact, iconicity of gestures

28:19 – AD engineering culture, ignorance outside the own boundaries

29:55 – BB artist responsibility, new skills of adaptability

31:19 – AD neuroscience investigation, new skills through technology use, externalisation, adaptive, elastic brain

31:52 – AD changing motor-neural skills

32:30 – BB future tuning of perception of society

33:04 – JS shrinking memory span

33:08 – BB education

33:12 – JS societal problem with education, media environment