Digital Dance Body and the Grotesque”
30 April 2020
SESSIONS: Companion Talk to Exhibit by Rachel Maclean Dazibao Gallery, Montreal, QC
“’Who Moves?’: Dance as Posthuman Contagion in Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits”
22 November 2019
RIRH Regards Hybrids Screendance Symposium Edifice Wilder, Agora Danse, Montreal, QC
How might a posthuman theory of dance be defined, not as a highly technologized output, but rather as a particular philosophical or ethical attunement to other bodies and subjectivities, teased out through gesture and relation? American director Anna Rose Holmer’s debut feature film, The Fits (2015), approaches the dancing body as posthuman-yet-embodied by transforming the “conquering gaze from nowhere” into a situated, feminist gaze, capable of joining bodies through affective contagion. In The Fits, the act of looking is intrinsically tied to the act of dancing so that the gaze, such as Haraway advocates, not only becomes embodied, but energizes a conduit between the looking-body and the watched-body. The film demonstrates dance as posthuman, not in a high-tech or prosthetic sense, but in the way that dance technique becomes a technology of knowledge and relation.
“Animating the Kinetic Trace: Embodiment and Relation in MikuMikuDance”
15 November 2019
10th Annual RéQEF Masterclass: Feminism and Technology
Organized by Alanna Thain and Alexandra Ketchum IGSF, McGill, Montreal, QC
My research explores dance as a field and practice that can help articulate the desires of a feminist approach to technology studies. In emergent media applications and the narratives that design them, the figure of the girl has long been associated with plasticity, malleability and dematerialization (examples today include CGI Instagram model Lil’ Miquela, Apple’s digital assistant Siri and fembots from films such as Ex Machina (2015) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017).) While Donna Haraway predicted the feminist potential of the cyborg as a “boundary rider” (1985), the pervasiveness of these disembodied women perpetuates anti-feminist stereotypes about which bodies are most easily manipulated and erased. Rather than propose organic flesh as the ultimate site of feminist agency, however, I embrace the digital (and in particular, digital dance) as a space in which to, in Anne Anlin Cheng’s words, “work the edges” and “make discernable the [presence of the] peripheral” (2019: 156) in order to explore lively new ontologies. My recent research-creation project, which uses MoCap alongside choreographic interface MikuMikuDance to dance with and through the avatar-marionette of Japanese popstar Hatsune Miku, sees digital dance as a method of situated “intra-action” (Barad) that expands posthuman taxonomies of feminist embodiment.
“’Why Humans at All?’: Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet as Precursor to Digital Mo-Cap Choreographies”
7 November 2019
MilieuXbauhaus Festival Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology Concordia University, Montreal, QC
A 1923 review of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet critiques Schlemmer’s material enhancement of his dancers' bodies through the use of costumes, stating that in concealing (or congealing) it under grotesque garments, the body is “deprived of its best in dance…making it into a soulless machine.” My presentation imagines Schlemmer’s fantasy of body extension and the dancing puppet as a precursor to today’s computer choreographies, where motion capture technology is used to mine lively movement from the human body in order to animate avatar dancers and their CGI-prosthetic bodies and digital “costumes.” In putting Bauhaus-era representations of the body in conversation with digital-era embodiments, where “life” is often contingent upon mediation, I explore the historical link between the practice of dance and the concept of “soul” to consider how dance might articulate cultural ideas about agency, control and embodiment.
“Dancing Automata”: Pre-Show Talk for BESIDE
17 October 2019
Montréal Danse and Maribé – sors de corps BESIDE pre-show Talk Theatre La Chapelle, Montreal, QC
The word “automaton,” which comes from the Greek term for “self-mover,” can mean both a machine capable of independent motion and a person incapable of independent action or thought. The conflict at the heart of this uncanny definition maps well onto binary tensions such as animacy/mimesis, freedom/control, order/chaos and slavery/revolt. This talk examines the role of dance—in which the body is both a “self-mover” and an entity mechanized through repetition—in relation to histories and theories of automation, with special attention paid to choreographies of work and mediation.
“Dance Against Transcendence: Politicizing the Cyborg Body”
17 December 2018
Montréal Danse Choreographic Research Workshop Edifice Wilder, Montreal, QC
Both dance and technology are processes, and as such can offer non-stasis as a relational means for change. How can we balance dreams of technological progress with a situated politics of the body that respects difference, especially in relation to gender and race? This talk examines posthuman fantasies of disembodiment as they relate to intermedial dance, seeking to politicize the spectacle of the technologized dancing body.