Towards the Post-Digital Condition in Dance

We first became aware of the term post-digital as TaikaBox presented one of its works at the Digital Futures in Dance conference in Bournemouth in 2011. The term resonated with us, although we couldn’t quite grasp what this meant in a dance context.

The term ‘post-digital’ is a relatively new term. Many see the beginning of the post-digital age starting from Nicholas Negroponte – academic, architect, computer scientist and the founder and Chairman Emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab – declaring the digital revolution being over in the late 90’s.

American composer of electronic music, Kim Cascone has been recognised as one of the first artist to use the term ‘post-digital’ in relation to contemporary computer music. The term has since evolved to ‘postdigital’ by artist and educator Mel Alexenberg and in 2012 artist Theo-Mass Lexileictous began advocating the term #postdigitalism in relation his work (Makris, 2013).

Alexenberg (2011) seems to have more philosophical perspective on postdigital, comprising art, science, technology and human consciousness into a fusion of spiritual and technological realms. Whereas, Theo-Mass Lexileictous appears to support the idea that #postdigital is ‘…whatever is extracted from the digital world into the physical (Makris, 2013).’ The essence of post-digital, postdigital and #postdigital seem to be the movement towards blending digital tools and services with analogue ways of life – mixing the real with the virtual in an organic and seamless way.

In his article: The Aesthetics of Failure – Post-digital Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music (2000), Cascone explains that for him the most notable key aspect of the post-digital music is ‘‘failure’’. Accidental discovery or intended technique of overwhelming the digital systems, causing errors appear to be the focus for post-digital work in oppose to clinical and smooth operation of the technologies. These failures have resulted in new artistic work to be created in music with glitches, bugs, distortion and system crashes. The post-digital movement appears to reject the purity and perfection of the technology.

Media artist and theorist, Ian Andrews in his article: Post-Digital Aesthetics and the Return to Modernism (2002) expands on the description of post-digital aesthetics and includes the importance of process for the post-digital work. The process itself becomes the artistic outcome. Andrews also reiterates that the process needs to be explicit to the audience in order for the audience to identify the mechanics of the process and to appreciate the uniqueness of each performance. Postdigitalism Collective, on the other hand, refers to post-digital technology ‘…as a humanly embodied and interdependently constructed means of artistic and philosophical expressions.’

According to Andrews (2002) the post-digital movement hasn’t only influenced the development of computer generated music, but has also effected video art, net art and graphic design and can be seen as a reaction to media saturation.

What is our take on post-digital at the moment? We are interested in exploring how post-digital tendencies might manifest in a dance context. Our aim is to use technology in our work in a dynamic and organic way as if it had a life force itself instead of using it as cold and clinical contrast to the softer human body. We often use software called Isadora, which is developed by media artist, composer, and programmer Mark Coniglio. Troika Ranch, founded by Coniglio with choreographer Dawn Stoppiello, is recognized as a pioneering dance company in the integration of live performance and interactive digital technology.

In our 2014 research project – Please Switch On Your Mobile Phones – we created a hybrid choreographic and digital system that enabled the audience to create short dance pieces with us using their mobile devices. The end product blurred the boundaries between digital and human, the audience becoming an integral part of the creative process and of the system itself. The act of co-creation with the audience became ‘‘the art’’.

We are also shifting our focus towards exploring spiritual aspects of the human being in the digital realm, integrating technology with ancient wisdom within the body – as viewed in shamanism, craniosacral therapy and other body-mind practices.

 

References:

Alexenberg, M. (2011). The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness. Chicago Press.

Andrews, I. (2002). Post-digital Aesthetics and the return to Modernism. http://www.ian-andrews.org/texts/postdig.html

Benayoun, M. (2008). Art After Technology. http://www.benayoun.com/projetwords.php?id=114

Cascone, K. (2000). The Aesthetics of Failure: ‘‘Post-digital’’ Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music. http://subsol.c3.hu/subsol_2/contributors3/casconetext.html

Makris, M. (2013). #Postdigitalism Explained in 1000 Words / An Essay Based on Theo-Mass’ #Postdigitalism. http://theo-masstimes.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/postdigitalism-explained-in-1000-words.html

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