Dark Matter -- Cluttered Interiors-- Minimal Interiors-- Interior/Exterior Stills--Interior/Exterior Sequences--Black on Black-- Final Sequences



The necessary journey began in the fall of 2006. We left behind the barely achieved comfort of Landing Place with its archetypal imagery and concept of a place, with motion capture as a platform for developing animation.

In exploring the idea of necessary beauty Bebe Miller's intention was not to recreate a particular beautiful experience or find a theatrical formula for triggering one, but to use this idea as a framework for developing choreography. In the context of her multimedia collaborations choreography is the principle of managing all elements, not just the physical movement. The logic of this approach is not narrative, but has elements of story that seek to create emotional engagement without presenting the literal motives of action.

The multimedia elements of the collaboration were dance, text, sound, video and animation.The logistics of coordinating development of these components meant  working on movement and engaging in direct dialogue during the company residencies.  Media development happened during the months between. The final performance was slowly crafted from the patterns that emerged during rehearsals. So the whole process started as multimedia improvisation and ended in editing the material according to a principle that is rather hard to formulate. But I think  Roslyn Sulcas of NY Times has put it well as "physical thinking out loud" to which I would only add that all media components fell into same category as dance and the whole piece was edited as a temporal structure of a thought.

Animation Development 

Most of the visuals posted on this site are concept sketches. In dance  body, the visible element, is always a given, so the focus on a quality or qualities is not distracted by the object’s concept.

Introduction of any other element such as images or words inevitably brings in layers of additional meaning. While there was a need for a certain degree of context, sufficient to create what Bebe referred to as “storyness”, there was also a strong desire to stay at a universal level. The balance between archetypal and contextual often became a challenge, especially with such heavily “made” elements as spoken word and animation imagery. It was also the case with video and sound, but these media seemed to benefit a bit more from the art practices of “found” object and sound as well as phenomenology, which are very familiar and accepted in the experiences of these media. The viewer has easier time shifting focus towards quality of the object when it is undeniably real, perhaps spontaneously caught on video. It takes a lot more to create such spontaneity in the presentation of an animated object.  

Photorealism of 3d computer animation could certainly be a solution. Going this route seems a redundant in collaboration that includes strong video presence. In the context of rapid brain storming during residencies it is simply impossible. Developing animation ideas between residencies, when they can only be experienced in isolation from other elements, does not give a good sense of whether the time spent crafting the looks is worthwhile for something that will not become part of the show.  

On the other hand the tradition of storyboarding and animatics that is essential in animation production did not work so well during the two collaborations with Bebe. I think that the focus on the nuance qualities, and especially subtle changes occurring over time is a very hard thing to pursue in a format dedicated to blocking out a story… and yet they are the focus of improvisation and performance art, particularly Bebe’s.

So what emerged in place of this practice were short animation clips, visual sketches of production quality focused on creating a minimally acceptable level of believability. By the standards of 3d computer animation they are closer to a 3d animatic then a finished film. Working in this format I often pondered what it means to "look good" vs "look right".  

In the context of the entire performance the visuals turned out somewhat as a parallel conceptual line, occasionally converging with the dance and text, creating opportunity for necessary beauty or synergy to be experienced in juxtapositions of meaning or performance and projected spaces.

Dark Matter, Unseen Influence, Fleeting Clarity.

Beyond an idea of the magical moment that is NB, another big theme that inspired Bebe was phenomenon of Dark Matter. After several conversation Ain coined two qualities that NB and dark matter had in common - unseen influence and fleeting clarity- that became parameters for improvisation. First stems from the fact that dark matter is NOT VISIBLE and can only be observed through gravitational effects it produces on surrounding  environment. Fleeting clarity suggests instability of magic and scientific understanding alike, constant shift redefining these states as new forces join in and offset the balance again and again.

Beginning visual development driven by the themes of “fleeting clarity” and “unseen influence” the subject matter was still open to many possibilities. My desire was to set some sort of duality in the image so that it would be possible to animate (explore in time) teetering on the edge of two possibilities, to be in the place where clarity shifts back and forwards, and one side influences the other. Such was the theme of exterior/interior which carried from an earlier exploration of Landing Place in which for the most part we found ourselves in just one of the realms, the outdoors.


Another more humorous take on duality was an image of a snail. The crawling metaphor of soft/hard, amorphous (body)/precise(shell), moving/never leaving, all of these things have always been for me an odd source of inspiration.

Working with dark matter we were also curious about other cosmological theories, ideas of multiple dimensions and their coexistance. The idea of "turtles all the way down" is just not going to cut it for this day and age...

Trying to get a feel for how the animation and video combine we experimented with some of Maya’s videos with common quality of movement: in the street of a city, during a parade, on the beach, in the midst of moving night traffic.

Some animation movement was still driven by mocap data from Landing Place in these earlier sketches. On the left an insect made out of an army of one runner.
Invisible influence of mocap movement affecting the environment like finger painting.
Another animal teetering on the edge of real: a quick test for changing scale of the terrain: from parking lot pavement to mountains.