Diego S. Maranan

Kraftwerk Retrospective

New Media, Performance, Technology, The body, Thesis journal, Visualization

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I can’t stop watching.

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William Forsythe: Making visible hidden intentions

Academia, Dance, New Media, Somatics, Technology, The body, Thesis journal, Visualization

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The choreographer William Forsythe was very much influenced by Rudolf Laban in the way he treated the space around the dancer’s body. Working with a ballet company, he created a series of videos that used visuals to show some of the techniques he used to move in new ways. In these videos, he superimposes lines and shapes using  post-production editing to show how ballet dancers could think about the  space around them in a way that could help them break out of their  habitual patterns of moving. Those videos are part of a multimedia CD that was released in 2000, called Improvisation Technologies. I think that his ideas share many commonalities with the techniques that I’ve seen employed in EDM dance styles.

Someone posted many of his videos online. Here are a few of them:

Shearing space

Using lines to create organic movement

Axes and transforming/scaling axes

Following a curve to its logical conclusion

Rotating inscription with lines

Point-point extrusion

Transporting lines

Soft body part trajectories

And this is what some of his techniques, when ballet dancers apply them while freestyling, can look like:

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Constraining through fabric

Academia, Art, Dance, Movement, New Media, Performance, The body, Thesis journal

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Some very well-known examples of changing dancerly ways of moving come from the work of Loie Fuller and Martha Graham through their use of fabric.

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Loneliness, narcissism, and social media

New Media, Psychology, Social media

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I just read this article by Stephen Marche in the Atlantic about loneliness, narcissism, and social media. It’s wonderfully nuanced and reasonably well-referenced (I still wish that standards for journalistic writing about research would change and require columnists to include a full bibliography at the end of their articles!). One of the big takeaways here is that social media (surprise, surprise) often reproduces or magnifies what goes in our physical lives. We can’t place the blame solely on technology, although social media does expose and exaggerate existing phenomena–in this case the relationship between narcissism and loneliness, and how both have been on the rise for quite some time.

At least in North America. And there’s the rub. The studies quoted here–their underlying data and ontologies and cultural realities–are absolutely Anglo-Saxon in orientation. Marche cannot disentangle himself from the very American mythos of autonomy. And perhaps he doesn’t want to. The article begins as a criticism of how Facebook amplifies loneliness and concludes with a call for solitude. Solitude is not the same as loneliness, of course; in fact, Marche makes precisely this point near the beginning of the article. But one senses behind the writing a human being who seeks the pleasure of both. “We are lonely,” Marche observes, “because we want to be lonely.”

There are many quotable passages. I’ve highlighted my favourite ones in this Evernote clip:

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Computation and embodied experience: Talk at Fete dela Wsk!

Art, Dance, New Media, Talks, Technology, The body

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I’m giving a talk at the new media art festival Fete dela Wsk! on my research on liquid dance and the research of the Art + Performance Research Group. I’m scheduled to talk at the Ayala Museum between 4pm and 7pm with Thierry Bernard Gotteland [FR], An Xiao Mina [US], Bong Ramilo [PH/AU], and Kai Lam [SG]. Tickets are 350 PHP.

Computation and embodied experience

In this talk, I discuss some of the research currently being done in the Art, Performance, and Technology Laboratory at Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. We deploy digital tools to investigate some of the hidden cognitive processes that performers and audiences rely on; we develop artificially intelligent systems that explores questions around cognition, consciousness, and creativity; we investigate how the embodied experiences can be used to design and evaluate digital technologies. Finally, I talk about my particular research, which focuses on liquid dance, a genre of dance that emerged from the North American underground electronic dance music scene in the 90s. Liquid dancers have been cultivating a particular approach to human movement that is sophisticated, expressive, conceptually and corporeally well-defined, and deeply theorized by many of its members. (Translation: they are incredible dancers and you should come to this talk just to see the videos I’m going to show.)

And if you’re wondering what wasak/wsk is, join the club. I see it as a contemporary, Filipino relative of Dada. Lourd de Veyra would probably disagree.

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Stuff to see in Vancouver

Advocacy, Art, Blog, Communities, Dance, Food, Movement, New Media, Performance, Technology, Vancouver

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As the social events coordinator at the GSA SIAT, it’s my job to organize events for the grad students. It also give me a chance to advertise cool things being put on by friends and colleagues. Here’s a few of them.

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An apple in a truck of tropical fruit: Some thoughts on Vancouver and new media art

Art, Blog, Communities, New Media, Technology, Vancouver

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My friend and dance colleague Melanie Kuxdorf recently filed a report on OpenFile.ca (a “collaborative local news site” which assigns reporters to stories that are suggested by the public) about the informal dance+theatre+technology meetup that I recently organized. The article accurately highlights my motivations for organizing the event, and I have nothing more to add to it that I haven’t mentioned elsewhere, but I did want to comment on one section from the article:

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Wiremap/Lumarca construction update 3

Blog, Dance, Learning, Movement, New Media, Performance, Technology, The body

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(Background: I’ve been building a half-sized version of Lumarca/Wiremap, an open source, low-cost, low-resolution volumetric display, and hooking it up to motion recognition systems as part of the research that I’m doing at SIAT. I posted an update a while back. Here’s the latest one.)

I’ve been able to get an older project (a Wiimote hack) to integrate with my implementation of Lumarca. I can control the size of a “3d diamond” in the display using the distance between my thumb and middle finger, and control its color based on the speed of my fingers/hand. It’s still pretty simple right now, but I’m excited to have finally gotten it to work. I’m beginning to appreciate the need for a lot of forethought in designing Wiremap visualizations (as I outlined in a previous post), because in a dark room, it can be hard to really appreciate the 3D-ness of the visualizations.

Much thanks for helping me understand some of the more technical parts of designing the display and coding against it goes to Albert Hwang, who managed to come out to Vancouver last week. I showed him around SIAT and I got a chance to introduce him to some of the grad students, who talked about their research here. It turns out that Albert is also a dancer (in a different genre than mine), and we spent a lot of time showing each other YouTube videos and websites. I hope he enjoyed his short trip here!

Anyway, here’s a (rather poor quality) clip that explains where I’m at!

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Lumarca/Wiremap construction update

Blog, Dance, Learning, New Media, Performance, Technology, Underground


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I’ve been building a half-sized version of Lumarca, an open source, low-cost, low-resolution volumetric display, and hooking it up to motion recognition systems as part of the research that I’m doing at SIAT. Lumarca’s creators, Matt Parker and Albert Hwang, have already hooked it up to a Kinect, which is great:

Here’s a couple of short videos of what my Lumarca system looks like.

Lumarca is a wonderful tool with so many subtleties. I’m realizing a few things about it as I’ve been replicating it.

Given a certain combination of distance between the strings and the projector and distance between the viewer and the strings, what may appear to be smooth movement by the graphics on my monitor is revealed to be quantized when projected onto the Lumarca strings. That is, pixels become more obvious. This isn’t a big revelation; we see this all the time when we project onto traditional, larger screens. One solution to adapt anti-aliasing techniques from 2D graphics to motion graphics projected onto Lumarca.

I’ve also been thinking about how visually striking the string I have been using is, and how it really can’t be ignored. A viewer can’t pretend that the strings are “not there”. We need to consider the materiality of the display, and doing so would open up new possibilities. For example, one could really play with the architectural properties of the strings. I think it should be possible in theory to build a variation of Lumarca that uses strings that cross each other at different angles or clumped in different ways.

Also, although 3D objects can be represented using Lumarca (as evidenced by Matt and Albert’s Kinect video above), I don’t exactly see 3D objects in the display, especially if a viewer stays in one spot with respect to the display. In the real world, we perceive 3D through a combination of strategies, including motion parallax and shadow+light perception (which is difficult in Lumarca because the audience sees only light and no shadows). There are a few potential solutions to this problem of creating a more 3D look in Lumarca graphics if applied for live dance/theatre performance:

  • Set up the performance so that the audience can shift perspectives. If you look at the Lumarca videos that Matt and Albert have online, you’ll notice that whenever the camera is moving around the display, that’s when Lumarca’s 3D-ness becomes most apparent. If that isn’t possible, have the display (or the audience) shift positions (either once in a while or constantly) to generate motion parallax. This isn’t always possible, of course, but it would certainly make a big difference if implemented.
  • Position the audience so that they are looking at Lumarca somewhat from above or below, not parallel to the projected light.
  • Create motion graphics that somehow give the illusion of shadows. This might be tricky given the nature of the display, but it’s an interesting challenge.
  • Simulate depth of field by simulating “blur” in the strings furthest away from the audience. I’m not sure how that would look like exactly, but it might be that the further back the strings are from the audience, the less saturated or less bright they are. Not sure if that would work, and you probably don’t need to do this a lot. Also, this approach means that the audience can’t shift positions, else the illusion would fail.

I’ve also been beginning to think of how one would build an immersive version of Lumarca where one can actually step inside it and play. Holes and pulleys and climbing rope figure in my designs. :)

Back to tying strings to nuts!

Update: I should point out that Lumarca is largely based on Albert Hwang’s project, Wiremap. It turns out that what I want to build is actually closer to Wiremap than to Lumarca.

Albert got in touch with me recently, and he’s thinking about visiting Vancouver and SIAT. Sweet. It turns out that 3D technologies for the stage are among his interests.

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First VTDT meetup

Art, Blog, Dance, New Media, Performance, Technology


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The (first) Vancouver Theatre + Dance + Technology meetup took place last night at the Birmingham Studio of the Dance Centre. There were sixteen people in the space altogether, and though it would have been even better with slightly more people from the theatre/dance community, it was the perfect size for the focused and interesting discussions we had:

  • Melanie Kuxdorf reported on the project that the group she was involved in was doing with other artists from Winnipeg and NYC, related to the idea of information loss through transmission.
  • Sara Coffin is putting together an evening length dance work based on themes taken from social networking.
  • Nita Bowerman talked about her work in costuming and her interest in incorporating digital technology into her practice.
  • Chao Feng mentioned an implementation of a swarm of particles that a live performer could interact with during his previous course of study/practice in China.
  • Aaron Levisohn talked about his research in using technology to share the experience of the moving body.
  • Greg Corness explained his work creating an artificial musical agent that would interact with dancers by audibly breathing in order to cue the dancers on how the next musical phrase was going to sound.
  • Kristin Carlson was one the few present who lies right snack on the border of technology and dance; she talked about the process of exploring the creative processes underlying the act of choreography by applying genetic algorithms to various formal aspects of movement. She and visual artist and technology specialist Vicky Moulder are actively looking for participants for their projects; Vicky has a link to her fabulous body of work on the VTDT website.
  • Two of the group are actually more UBC affiliated, which was great: Even is a recent PhD grad who is seeking to build computer vision tools that will make it easy for artists to use this very useful technique, while Dan Anderson has worked on kinetic sculptures such as a large scale rotating windmill-like structure with LED lights that create interesting patterns. I wish I could restate all the other things that people talked about! We had many and long discussions among ourselves in groups of various sizes.

The website for the event is here (access by invitation only), where people can post short profiles of what they do and are interested in. We also set up a Facebook group.

(For people who would rather not join the FB group but would like to be informed of postings, there is a read-only Google mailing list that they can subscribe to which archives the posts on FB. To announce something to the group, please log into FB using vtdtmeetup2011@gmail.com with a password you can obtain from me.)

One last promotional thing: Sara Coffin is performing with her collective, SINS Dance, as part of the Vancouver International Dance Festival, so check it out!

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