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Digital Cultures Lab


I. Overview of Workshops

1. Movement Research - (1a) The local and the global - (1b) Moving through Mental Postures

2. Dance and Science/Choreography and Cognition - Moving Ideas /The dancing mind - Cultures and Tools - Dancing Intimations of Soul; The Machine in the Garden - Primitive Robotics and Cyberspiritualism.

3. Performance and Motion-Capture: Real Time 3D VR and Digital Worlds, Transformations of the Body.

4. Cross-breeding between media-based and choreographic performative elements, interactive technology and the spectator's physical actions.

5. Body Weave: Contemporary mediated art and its relations to the concept of self-organization

6. Color Blind Interaction between Light, Projections and Dance Movements Architectures of Interaction intermission: Liquid Time

7. Dance and Wearable Computing: Cultures, Fashions and Design

8. Unstable Landscapes: Dance improvisation within Cognitive Systems (Bottom-up architectures of performance and multimedia design)

9. Dance and Virtual Motion: Capture Derived Work - Immersion and Dispersion

10. Dance and distributed collaborative real time composition (Telematics): Shared Embodiment

11. Digital Archives & Sampling: Kinesthetic Theatre of Memory


12. Artists in Trance: Art and Anthropology, Revisited

New Writings by Abdel Hernández San Juan


II References and Pathways

Opening context: Digital Cultures and Body Knowledges:


The East and the West. Nation States and Worlds.

Dance Cultures and Dance Technologies. Modernities and Alternative Postmodernisms.

Un-Reifying the disjunctions: The West /developed /developing / underdeveloped. First / Third; High/Low

Stage dance/Social dance; Ethnic / modern; TanzTanz / Konzepttanz; Modernism (medium specific art) and art making after conceptualism (post-medium condition).

Ananya Chatterjea, at the outset of her critical study of "resistive choreographies" in the works of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Chandralekha, points to the common prejudice of western histories of dance and performance: historical narratives about the development of dance in the modern and postmodern genres in Europe and the United States are primarily constructed through tracing the innovations and contributions of individuals whose work appears to have been phenomenal in the cultural arena of the times. Arguably, the same can be said of histories of "new dance" and technology-based dance forms that are considered radical, avant-garde or cutting-edge. A perception is generated retaining focus on the ways in which white artists have shaped cultural development (in the West), development here also understood to mean modernization.... At the same time, the discourse on modern and postmodern dance is inevitably built on notions of progress and radical inventiveness, operating in discussions of "global cultures" primarily to reify "difference" and fix ideas of what is cutting-edge as the prerogative of the white west.

Looked at from other lenses, other sets of relations between others or of "the other" to the west become visible, For example, says Chatterjea, at the 2001 CORD conference on research in dance, African-American scholar Carl Paris, talking about the limited black presence in the early postmodern scene, refers to Sally Banes's observation that postmodern dance comes to mean differently in its later phases, accommodating some of the very features that Judson Church artists had rejected as antitehtical to postmodernism. This then, coming to revert the earlier rejection of musicality, for instance, made way for black artists to enter the work. In fact it could be argued that the influence of black dance and black music, and of black artists working in innovative ways, brought about changes in the postmodern aesthetic, and this reconceptualization in turn allowed for their work to be considered postmodern.

Examining the work of Chandralekha and Zollar, Chatterjea also refers to debates among black artists regarding the problematic notion of "black dance," and here she cites Bill T. Jones as arguing against sanctioned mainstream black dance and the contemporary need to claim a black heritage or a staging of unmistakable "difference." Rather, Jones suggests, there is an urge among contemporary choreographers to claim the complexities of their African-Americanness, revealing the many contradictions, complications, and the differences that the characterize black communities, as well as the possibilities of diverse alignments along lines of sex, gender, and class differences within these.

According to this argument, which has been elaborated by cultural critics (Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha, Paul Gilroy and others), the postmodern and the contemporary are characterized by recognition of continuity and rupture, and the marking of differences between diasporic cultural formations and aesthetics, images of "tradition" and images of "new technologies." Diasporic cultural identities can hardly be understood through models of unitary or uniform experience ... Zollar proposes that many African American choreographers resist categorization of their art in racialized terms. How then is cutting-edge work of artists from other or from "hybrid" cultural contexts acknowledeged? Why has the experience of cultural specificities and differences (for example in Afro-Caribbean or Southeast-Asian cultural practices) and the reformulation of these specificities in diaspora and - given the context of our Digital Cultures lab - in the settings of new-technology-art practices, rarely been addressed in the discourse on dance and technology?

How do the practitioners coming to our Lab regard the notion of "digital culture" or "technoculture" in view of the brief outline sketched from Chatterjea's critique? To adapt the opening definition of René T.A.. Lysloff/Leslie C. Gay's anthology Music and Technoculture, technoculture denotes "communities and forms of cultural practice that have emerged in response to changing media and information technologies." Within the area of ethnomusicology, this concept generates research on how technologies implicate cultural practices involving music and performance, and recent studies, using the subjects of technology and technoculture have complicated certain persistent assumptions about the opposition between technology-based culture practices and some more unmediated forms of culture. For example, the editors of Music and Technoculture propose analyzing technology along three methodological lines: the ontological (addressing what technology is); the pragmatic (involving how technology is used); and the phenomenological (emphasizing how technology is experienced).

Interestingly, a focus on technological artifacts that dominates much writing in technology studies is here diverted to issues of performance and experience, categories which should be of primary interest in our examination of dance and digital cultures as well -- how do practitioners make creative use of digital technologies in compositions and interactive works projecting particular (culture-specific) sensibilities, memories, fantasies, or gestures relating to particular constructions of gender and social experience, etc? And the question might address such projection both on the level of incorporating new technologies (sampling, real-time synthesis or other performative technologies) into "local practices" or "use", and on the level of a flattening of difference presumed in globalization rhetoric which pronounces the proliferation of a seemingly uniform commodity culture in urban centers.

The commoditization of technology-driven art is rarely addressed in the dance technology community, nor has there been any sustained analysis of the relation of the digital to choreography, or of the effect of "rapid prototyping" in interactive work on the notion of "work" itself. At the same time, the flattening of differences mentioned above is contradicted by our experiences of the burgeoning of diasporic communities and hybrid identities in the urban centres of the world, as it was quite poignantly described recently in an article on the club scene and the DJ's in Istanbul ("Think Globally, Tinker Locally"), outlining how musicians, producers, DJ's and rappers (Orient Expressions, Burhan Ökal, Baba Zula, Ceza, Mercan Dede and others) continue to reinvent and transform various ethnic and postglobalmusic forms [Die Zeit, 17.2.2005]. The postglobal is the current practice of mixing the forbidden and the incongruous, and the article coins the curious term "soft sufism" which is of course a pun on the proximity of pop art/pop culture to the clubs and the dance floor. Some conceptual artists in film, dance, and sound art have also spoken of "deproducing" and of de-animation, and these terms take us closer into the core of current "laboratory" processes of digital creativity in the age of what DJ Spooky calls mix-tape culture of "endless recontextualizations" - and thus to one of the questions formulated by our encounter (which features quite a number of artists who work collaboratively and whose collaborations are transcultural): what are the particular ways in which technological mediation shapes the transmission of cultural meaning (under conditions of globalization).

"There are innumerable ways to arrange the mix. In the 21st century stories disappear and evaporate as soon as they're heard" (DJ Spooky).


Interactive art and intelligent context, Architecture of interaction (shift from expert performer to participant audience).

Shift from expert artist to autodidact dj.

Rhythm science. "Black" dance and diasporic communities of color. Genealogies.: Forgotten dances.

Recovery and retention of cultural specificities (and differences to hegemonic aesthetic norms) (Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus) ("Mastery of Form / Deformation of Mastery" [Houston Baker]

Jayachandran Palazhy's NAGARIKA project (presented at the Lab)

"Alignments": Dashanzi Art Festival 2004 (Beijing, 798 Factory, the "Soho" of Beijing):


"Aligning" contemporary art practices in China with an "advanced culture" (implicitly Western) and thus another step in the official progression towards China’s modernization. Contemporary Chinese artists caught in a liminal space: not only do they sit on the fringes of the postcolonial world awaiting judgement from the "modernist" centres of Europe and the US, they also must conform to the modernist discourse that is generated by the Party.


Latin dance / Latino/Chicano art. The "Latin dancer" stereotype. Tango and Coco Fusco, Samba and Luiz de Abreu. "Samba do crioulo doido". "As Cinzas de Deus" (Zikzira) and Sufism. Ecstasy and Catharsis.


The current popularity of 13th century Persian poet Rumi in California and the West (through the arousing translations by poet Coleman Barks) and the paradox of Whirling Dervishes (the Mevlevis in the museum). Turkish Sufi dervishes are not officially allowed to practice as the modern Turkish westernizing policies (under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk) banned the dance. Discrete expressions are only slowly tolerated again today. It adds up to an archetypal but unusually poignant case of east-west misunderstanding: a west earnestly looking eastwards for an ancient spiritual wisdom and mysticism, which it now receives through the filter of sexed-up translations that most Persian scholars regard as seriously flawed, and which recreate a Rumi wholly divorced from his Islamic context (Rumi was a classically trained Muslim scholar who taught sharia law in a madrasa in Konya, which now belongs to Turkey). While in the east, a Republican Turkish government anxious to integrate Turkey with Europe bans Rumi's Sufi brotherhood (Mevlevis) as part of its attempt to embrace a west it perceives as rational, industrial, intolerant of superstition and post-mystical.

Hybrid: Living in Paradox?

The global circuits of capitalist commodification, and the complex collusions of internal/national and external /multi-national hierarchies created by "globalization." How commodified is contemporary technology-based dance, or how do new-media dance works move beyond or/and maintain deep roots in long-standing cultural practices ("embodied traditions"). How is movement manipulated?

How do we evaluate Dance-Technology as an interactive artform (genre) or new-media practice (hybrid, transcultural)?

a) Spectrum of cultural political perspectives on dance and technologies & technology based manipulations of movement practices (movement images), b) and approaches to the investigation of where dance-technologies have moved, and how we articulate our various perceptions of "digital culture."


The library has listings of publications and includes online publications available here.


Workshop 1. Movement Research :

The Local and the Global.

Tradition and Technology/ Hybridity. Moving through Mental Postures and Alphabets.


Workshop series

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12



coordinated by Johannes Birringer (London)



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