Marie-Claude Poulin and Martin Kusch
To investigate potential interactions between the body in motion and the digital image, artists Martin Kusch and Marie-Claude Poulin are developing a project that combines dance, performance and new digital media. The choreographic work schème, which has premiered at the 2001 Festival international de nouvelle danse, sets up relationships between the cameras, projection surfaces and performers so as to multiply and intermingle material and immaterial spaces.
Catherine Mussely © 2001 FDL
This project is the first put together by the company kondition pluriel, which the two artists founded in the spring of 2000 to focus on the potential dialogue between the body and the digital environment. The duo has each participated in several multidisciplinary projects (Kusch has created media installations and Poulin choreographic works), and so their current association leads to a symbiosis of practices of different origins.
The project funded by the Daniel Langlois Foundation, first titled //.digital./.perform./.research.//, underwent an initial stage of research and development from April to June 2001. The objective of this phase was to produce a methodology for elaborating a hybrid vocabulary from the different disciplines concerned so as to allow all the disciplines to contribute equally. Bodily, electronic and computer elements are brought together in a common language that prevents one medium from dominating the others. All the participants in the project must therefore adapt their expertise to the technical and conceptual realities of the other disciplines involved.
For schème, the final title of the work, Kusch and Poulin called upon other artists known for their interest in experimentation. Line Nault, whose credits include dance, theatre and film, has helped to develop the choreography and performed it with Poulin, a regular partner for about 10 years. Alexandre St-Onge was responsible for the sound installation. Originally a bassist, St-Onge has been in several different musical groups, including Klaxon Gueule, and is involved in audio-related improvisation and research. In 1999, he released Image/Négation, a CD of experimental music on the Alien 8 label.
Kusch and Poulin have created an experimentation laboratory where they work with various protocols and software programs, with the help of programmer Alexandre Burton. A large part of the project is based on MIDI and TCP/IP protocols, which allow analog information to be translated into digital language. The data is then interpreted by software such as BigEye, and modified by Image/ine and Opcode's MAX. The three-dimensional visuals are produced with Softimage|3D, while the real-time application uses NATO.
Besides the programs already available, the project requires the development of specific tools, like a flexible positioning system for two video projections allowing images to be projected in layers on screens placed behind one another. With electronic engineer Glenn Silver, the team has also created an accessory to transfer the video signal between three cameras using motion detectors.
With this equipment, a close interaction is established between the theatrical elements of schème, whether human, mechanical or computerized. The position, speed and acceleration of the performer influence, in real time, the speed and direction of the movements of a previously filmed character. The process involves evaluating and organizing the data that is captured and analyzed by computer and then manipulated by the random physical events that make up the choreography. The filmed scenes are transmitted to a computer that processes, transforms and then plays the information. The dancer reacts to the retransmitted image so as to establish an exchange between herself and the machine.
Despite the imposing number of technical devices, schème is attentive to the aesthetic effects of the installation and to the emotional presence of the actors. The work features imaginary places (three-dimensional spaces projected on screens, which the performer manipulates and travels through in real time) presented as extensions of actual sites. The concrete and the simulated overlap to produce a repositioning in relation to the familiar conventions of everyday spaces and representation.