VCA Director's Dialogues: Creative technologies and intertwined innovation

VCA Director's Dialogues: Creative technologies and intertwined innovation

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Right. Good evening. Good evening everyone. Thank you for coming a warm. Welcome to you all and my name is Emma Redding and I have the privilege of serving as the current director of the Victorian College of the Arts. Let's start if it's okay to acknowledge. I invite you to acknowledge that we are meeting this evening on the lands of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and let's pay our respects to their Elders and Ancestors past and present and those who are yet to come. And let's remember that for thousands of generations people on this land have been singing their songs, dancing their dances storytelling, meeting, making and collaborating.

I'd like us to acknowledge all First Nations people here with us this evening including those who we have the pleasure of working with and learning from. So this evening is the third talk in a series of conversations that form part of the VCA's 50th anniversary celebrations. I joined the VCA because of the incredible creative and experimental place that it is and it's approach to art making and education.

As we contemplate the next 50 years of the VCA. We need to have conversations. We need to review our values, our place, our position and our purpose so we need to have difficult conversations and we need to listen. Tonight's topic is an important one. It's exciting and highly relevant. My background is in dance and science somewhat oxymoron.

Contradictory of terms, but not really, I'm really interested in the way in which science and technology can extend, push the boundaries and capacities of dancers. And the way in which technology and anatomical extensions in a way of our bodies can allow us to do much more. So what can the body do through science and technology that it couldn't otherwise do? Hello welcome. And how does technology and science realign or reimagine the body of the future? It's always a shame. I think when young people are asked to choose between history and geography or art and science or computer science and dance. Why can't they do those subjects together? After all, we know that a dance student these days some sometimes no longer needs a studio but a computer to make work in order to attract millions actually of new dance lovers through performance mediums such as Tiktok.

So thank you for showing up this evening. I think the fact that you've shown up means that this topic matters to you., it's important to you and we look forward to hearing your comments and questions later. We really do have an incredible lineup of speakers this evening whose work I greatly admire. They represent theatre, dance, film, performance art, artistic practice, education research.

and of course technology. I'll introduce each speaker and then I'll hand over to our chair Robert. Carol Brown, Professor Carol Brown is a dancer. choreographer, artist, scholar and director from Aotearoa.

Whose work has been presented globally. Her choreographic imagination straddles academic and professional contexts and to read that is renowned for its transdisciplinary and international reach. After completing one of the first practice-led PhDs in dance at the University of Surrey, England. Carol was invited to become Choreographer in Residence at the Place Theatre London.

Where she developed her company Carol Brown Dances Touring internationally and engaging in sustained collaborations with many different artists Carol has developed innovative choreographic methodologies in dance architecture digital dance and site dance. She has written extensively about her work and her approaches in books and academic journals. Carol is Head of Dance here at the VCA. Thank you for coming Carol. Adam Sutardy, graduated with a Master of Film and Television, Adam shot seven graduating films across 2021 and 2022 including co-shooting and directing his own.

Now working as a tutor and researching virtual production here at the VCA, Adam continues to write and direct. Develop further as a cinematographer and is planning to undertake projects based around the maintenance and continuation of indigenous knowledge in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere. Adam's current film work explores human identity through our connection between the material and spiritual worlds and our place within them. Welcome Adam. Stelarc is a Cyprus-born Australian performance artist exploring the intersection between the human body and technology. He is invited all over the world to share his work and has indeed just stepped off a plane from Japan where he was showing his work.

His work explores alternative anatomical architectures including a Third Hand, an Extended Arm, a six-legged walk walking robot, and an Extra Ear constructed on his arm. As such his work focuses heavily on extending the capabilities of the human body and the concept that the human body is obsolete. Stelarc's collaborative installation Anthropomorphic Machine is currently exhibiting at The Science Gallery, Melbourne. Welcome Stelarc. And to chair the conversation and speak about his practice also. I'd like to introduce Robert Walton.

Dr. Robert Walton is a conceptual media and performance artist and a director who's work includes theatre, choreography, installation, writing and interactive art. Robert trained in theatre at Dartington College of Arts in England and as a technologist in The University of Glasgow’s Master of Science in Information Technology (Software and Systems) programme. His PhD from the University of Melbourne explored the creative use of mobile computing in performance events.

He makes a wide range of experimental theatre, installation and interactive site responsive performance. Robert moved to Australia in 2011 to join the theatre department at the Victorian College of the Arts. Described by the times as an original and talented thinker and theater maker. Currently Robert is Resident Artist in the School of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne and is the new Dean's Fellow here at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. Thank you Robert. Over to you Thank you so much, Emma. Hello everybody. Now, we had a little, we're very full.

So some of the people who just came in, obviously we had to shuffle around a bit, but I think we might be settled now. So, it's exciting to be in a space with so many people again And we were just saying God, look how many amazing people are here, I mean it must be a really good subject. It must be You must be really cool to be here. So, I'm really I'm think

this we're going to have a really good conversation. I'd also like to acknowledge the Country which we're meeting on and pay my respects to Elders past present and emerging. The people the Wurundjeri people and the Boon Wurrung people. Tonight we stage an encounter that is unlikely to ever happen again between each of us on the panel. And many of whom we only met the first for the first time a few moments ago and you dear audience friends colleagues students and fellow travellers here in Melbourne on our journey from day into night through the pouring rain to get here.

And on our ceaseless voyage around our star the sun in the darkness of space we call our solar system Take a breath. We are all in this together. Letters entwine letters become each other's technologies for 60 Minutes. Who knows what we might learn. To begin, I'd like you to answer the following question. How is your imagination and creativity intertwined with technology? For two minutes, I would like you to turn to somebody nearby. Maybe someone you don't know

and speak. Ask yourselves. How is my imagination and creativity intertwined with technology? Please do that now. (laughter and chatter amongst the crowd) Hello everybody. Thank you very much. That's two minutes. Why doesn't time fly when

you're entwined? extraordinary. Thank you. And this event needs your voice and later. We will be having a fuller discussion altogether.

But it was really great to feel your power then and to feel your presence. In a moment, our distinguished panel is going to speak for about five minutes each. And we're going to introduce some of our preoccupations and some of our provocations for today about creative technology, and it's intertwining with technology, no creative arts practice and it's intertwining with technology. But first let me offer some opening observations to frame our discussion.

And then I'll speak a little bit about my own practice. The first is to say that art and Technology have forever been entwined or as Chris, Chris Salter put it: entangled. And since moving to Australia and working in this place, learning from Elders and Indigenous colleagues, I've learned about Indigenous cultures, where songs, story painting and weaving are interlinked through culture and Country. And not divided into silos of expertise, separated from each other or the sciences maths or other forms of culture.

Take for example Budj Bim located in Gunditjmara Country along the coast near Warrnambool. One of the world's most extensive and oldest aquaculture systems of channels, weirs and dams developed by the Gunditjmara in order to trap store and harvest Kooyang short-finned eel. The productive aquaculture system provided an economic and social base from Gunditjmara society for six millennia. Imagine that a sustainable, harmonious, cultural landscape comprising place, culture, technology; woven from life itself and sustaining society for six millennia. The kind of intertwined innovation and creative technology I am interested in.

The ongoing dynamic relationship of Gunditjmara and their land like so many other Nations and language groups in the continent now known as Australia, is carried by knowledge systems and retained through oral transmission and continuity of cultural practice. Some stories are 32,000 years old. Story itself must therefore be considered a technology, a cultural memory device indistinguishable from its art and performance. Spanish. Spanning several thousand human generations. Now, of course as a theatre maker, I'm bound to say that the stage itself is a technology. One that is perpetually reimagined and bound up with the lives of all those involved with it.

Tonight we are entwined in this one. Using it for our special gathering. A kind of meta performance about creativity and technology itself. Look again at this theatre. The chair you're in. The view it permits.

We are within an immersive technological environment. It is purposed towards a kind of auditing, listening. That's why it's called.

An auditorium. How comfortable is that seat? Not too bad. No quite uncomfortable. Yeah, what can you see in terms of technology from your seat? Do you think of a theatre as technology? Yes, you do. Well you do now. So all, so all this is to say we are suffused with technology, ancient, emerging and everything in between. And all these technologies if they are living exist both inside and outside of us. They blur our edges and are bound up in our habits.

Remember some fingers know how to type without really thinking about it. Think about where your phone is now, I'm aware my phone's right on the table there. Is it in your pocket? Is it on silent? Who might be texting you? What email is waiting for you? What are you missing? How do you feel now does me even just mentioning your phone kind of bring a certain kind of tension into your body? Well, that's because the phone, of course for some people it doesn't. So, let's just remember that these technologies don't,aren't just outside of us. They're absolutely part of us and suffusing our, they actually change the shape of our brains.

And and all kinds of other cool things and also not cool things. We'll be talking about that. So smartphones are a little vessel of our souls we carry about with us.

A lamp for trapping ourselves as genies. But that's another story. And with that introduction, let me briefly tell you about three projects I'm currently working on and introduce everybody to the clicker. And we'll see how we go passing this around tonight. It's a bit like The Conch. And whoever's got the clicker gets to speak it's over to me and So over the last few years, I've been coming interested in ancient and emerging technologies.

Next week I open a pop-up show at The Science Gallery with a version of these Stone Robots. The project combines ancient standing stones from every continent except Antarctica, with emerging swarm robotics. In this performance you discover how to move with a swarm of 13 moving stone robots and connect to their sense of deep time. Please come down it's on at The Science Gallery from next Wednesday, just till next Saturday. Details are on my website. That was the advert out of the way.

Next Let's see, here we go. So in December, I'm installing a 10 meter heart in Melbourne University's so-called smartest building, Melbourne Connect. The heart is connected to every sensor in every room of the building it it's pulse increases and decreases as the building works to maintain the optimum environmental conditions for human creativity.

It will beat for at least 42 years and using artificial intelligence compares all its previous sensations from that time in the day with what it is currently feeling. So it's got a long memory this heart. It can be surprised. And after the work days over, it dreams, it plays and then it rests.

And this is a video of a man making the neon core of the heart, which is the where the pulse is visible. Let's move on to the next one. So for my project child of now I'm making 14,400 holographic portraits of the people of Melbourne as they imagine the next century by performing as a child born today.

To look forward to the next Century. They first have to look back over the last 10,000 years of the Birrarung and this land of survivors of climate and colonial catastrophe. This is a short clip from the video that prepares the audience for the moment. Their portrait is taken. It is written with Claire G Coleman and contains Uncle Jack Charles's voice that we recorded at the beginning of the year. I'll just play a few just two minutes of this.

Thank you. The video is out as a giant which is the giant child of now standing over the Birrarung and this is what they see. Welcome to the future. 2063.

Your Love. All I ever was not enough The words were empty. The actions weak. The child of now is your age there. This is our future. The ancestors are crying.

How you act now impacts future lives, You must choose. To avoid what will happen if we do nothing. We must turn and face it. Look at what is coming for the child of now. Or if you want to continue with how things are at the expense of all others. Turn towards the future you and your children will never see. Okay, it's better to leave it there. So just

in closing for my section. Cop 27 is happening in Egypt as we speak. Two weeks ago a UN Environment Agency Report found that there was no credible pathway to 1.5 degrees in place and that woefully inadequate progress on cutting carbon emissions means the only way to limit the worst impacts of the climate crisis is a rapid transformation of societies.

Two days later. They reported that current pledges for Action by 2030 even if delivered in full. Would mean arise in global heating of 2.5 degrees c. A level that would condemn the world to catastrophic climate breakdown according to the UN's Climate Agency. We are at an inflection point, the global pandemic, global conflict and out an ongoing culture wars quickly distract and occlude the climate emergency in the popular imaginary. We are all intertwined and we are all in this together.

We need to imagine differently and the stakes have never been higher. But how do we do this without despairing? Today we share ideas, lifetime obsessions, practices for doing things differently with our bodies, imaginations and art And Carol, I'm going to hand over to you. You may have the clicker. Thank you so much. Thank you, Robert. Thank you. And hello everyone and thank you Emma as well for that that warm introduction and setting up what I'm going to say and but first also to acknowledge that we're meeting on the unceded lands of the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung people of the Eastern Kulin Nations and to pay my respects to their Elders past present and emerging and to all the First Nations and Torres Strait island people who join us this evening and who are our colleagues.

And I'm going to talk about this technological imagination in relation to dance and architecture. As you articulated a so beautifully Robert, you know, we are in this black box environment, which is very much a 20th century Paradigm of theater technology. It's also if you look around to the edges of the space, this is also a motion capture studio. So we have embedded within this studio both 20th Century technologies and 21st century technologies of motion capture. So were those cameras to be on at the moment and we were geared up in a suit with markers on us. We would be capable of being captured and

360 dimensions of space and we could, our skeleton could be then exported to create any number of avatars or animations or have all sorts of effects in the world. So just to sort of say that here at VCA we are really bringing together the deep knowledge that we have from different histories and temporalities of what theatre as performance means but that dance is a practice has always had a bit of a preoccupation with the idea of the machine dance. And indeed in 1939 Gertrud Bodenwieser's dances were arrived here from Vienna bringing The Demon Machine, which was one of the early and one of the most successful dances which were about reproducing an image of what a machine dance looks like how does the kinetic movements of the the nonsenseient life of an industrial machine translates into the sentient life of an embodied body, and how does that stimulate choreographic operations. So I think this is not a new area. This is I want

to sort of say that that's something we've been, dancers have been exploring for a long time but the affordances of new technologies are always transforming the ways that we can work with the body and through the body and and compose relationships between bodies in different spaces. And with the non-human. And one of the ways that I like to to characterise that is through the creation of spaces that are dance hyphen architectures. So this is a an image from Shelf Life, which was one of my first experiments working with the idea of proposing the body as an interface of technology and I'm suspended on a glass shelf in an art gallery for a four hours at a time interacting with a series of projections of anatomical skeletons taken from X-rays of different joints in the body that are floating and doing different things around me. But at the same time, and they're on all on a loop, and I'm dealing with the notion that the the body itself is subject to growth and decay and that my body gets tired across the four hours so sort of playing with that That relationship between the the digital is having its own time frame its own loops of possibility. It's reproduction and the body is always in a

state of growth and decay and decline. So that project actually led on to a series of other dance hyphen architectures that really look at that space The hyphen between the idea of embodiment and the idea of space and how we reconstruct that through the affordances of the digital. And I just to give it a sort of way that this interpenetration that you in the way that we diffuse by technology. As a woman I'm also very mindful of the fact that our bodies have been the subject of technology as well. And I

draw on the analogy of being in labor for my second child and unlike the the tradition of a midwife who might be coming to look and check on your eyes and look at how you going. And seeing of the cervix is dilating by just reading your body through direct approach. The Midwife for my second pregnancy was actually outside the room the birth room the whole time watching a screen monitoring fetal heartbeat until the moment of birth. So just to sort of say that extension of technology has really opened up the space between the immediate. Like we have now this beautiful real time, we're all present together in the space. But we've opened up the space of potential where that risk of technology can be to draw an immediacy a kind of palpability and presence of the body.

But can also open up a gap a sort of sense of maybe misreading the body or you know, is is that digital reading more accurate than the face-to-face embodied perspective? So asking questions about that. And so the space of the present is both actual and virtual in nature and we live inside the set of relations that movements in both these spaces give rise to but we're all the time involved and somatic modes of attention that a tune our body to our situatedness in the world, and we're all embodied differently in relation to that in terms of our abilities in terms of our races our genders our sexualities our ages. Stages of life development and our locations but as a performer trained in 20th century performance techniques. I'm all the time looking at how we can extend our choreographic relations into these symbiotic interdependent relationships with technology that also acknowledge our corporeal specificity and our differences.

So since this time of the late 90s, I've been experimenting with these. Different ways of staging these relationships. Here's an image of me in the Colab and AUT in Auckland in Aotearoa working in a motion capture studio with Gibson / Martelli And we took this work out to a remote landscape in Aotearoa where we moved from the the technological studio out into the raw landscape, but sort of extracted the ways that we were moving with the motion capture suits into that environment. And and re sort of cited. These suits are actually designed by a woman called Nina in Canada they're bespoke motion capture suits that we then wore in the site specific performance in Central Otago New Zealand, and here's another experiment working with a 360 camera in a A telescope which is receiving data from a NASA satellite that's flying over the top of Lauder which is a weather station in Central Otago in New Zealand and with two dancers we worked inside that telescope to create a 360 degree filming that was part of a performance installation. And this is from REVOLVE which was a performance using wearable

wearables to alter a series of binaural beats to try and draw audience into a state with me as a performer working with Chronobiologist Philipa Gander to explore the sleepweight cycles and how we can use technology to really tune to audience and brings audiences into the body into a sort of state of awareness of circadian rhythms. Is that seven minutes already Tracy? Okay, I'm gonna whip through this is, I'll just finish my slide. So this was the piece I was going to talk about it's called SPAWN and it is a virtual other which was designed by computer scientists in London Chiron Mottram. working with the digital architect and you can see the silhouette of a dancer is embedded into this virtual architecture, which was projected into a performance environment on multiple screens and the dancers are interacting with this virtual other in real time. And I guess the thing I wanted to get to back to the

the metaphor of the the different ways that we experience our bodies and out what loose the rigoré calls our sexual subjectivity that we were really interested and not an immediatic relationship to technology but something other that the sort of otherness of the of the technology that can manifest a sensuous encounter that in elaborates and engages Us in an embodied sensibility brings us back to the body but takes us out of the body in a way that is attuned to our experience of our physicality, so I'll That's a development of it with a digital seagrass. That was also interactive and finish there. Sure, there'll be some discussions Thanks everyone. Pass to Adam Thank you Carol. So first, I'd like to say thank you to Emma Redding for asking me to join this panel tonight. It's a huge on for me. And I'm also honoured to

be here amongst all the guests as well. So yeah, it's it's totally not usual for me on a little bit nervous, but you know, we'll be all right. So I just first want to say also thank you to Emma Redding for taking us through acknowledgment. The country tonight the land that we sit upon at this very moment, always has and will continue to give us so much. And every day I'm thankful to

live and breathe upon it, it offers me conversation every morning when I walk to work and every afternoon when I travel home. The land and trees are as alive as we are they speak and they have memory as we do. There's so much to listen to if we give ourselves the chance. I'd like to say I'm of Indonesian, Indigenous, Scottish and English descent and I honour and love each part of my ancestry with that, what was before, I wouldn't be here today. So yeah, my name is Adam. I'm a filmmaker and I just graduated from VCA Film and Television last year and to come in and tutor other students.

I love my job and the opportunity it affords me to learn collaborate and share with so many brilliant people. As my time here studying has changed my life in so many ways now working here is doing the same. Earlier this year an amazing opportunity was offered to VCA to be part of something that very recently has been changing film production namely a partnership to develop an LED virtual production volume and to upskill the local film industry and our students who will be connected to Victoria's biggest ever screen production and UTV series.

Based on film created in 1927, which is nearly 100 years ago called Metropolis. So I've got a few Stills there from Metropolis. Some people might know it, some people might not. So down at Docklands they're going to also be developing a huge virtual production studio, which you know, we we can't quite mirror in terms of scale. But in terms of workflow, this is what we're

aiming to do here at VCA. And as a year goes on next year, we'll be working very closely with them. So of course our film the TV head of school Andrew O'Keefe jumped at the chance and then looked at me one day and asked and do you know much about virtual production? I replied not much, but I'm very interested in it, which you which was followed by something like well, we're getting it and you're doing it now. So you better learn. And very quickly I had to learn I was forced to learn and you know as we found very quickly as well in Australia, especially it's you know, it's in its real infancy whereas, you know in the US. It's you know, they're about two three years ahead of us. And so as I started researching this year it was it was incredibly hard to find out anything and anyone who was working on any virtual production stuff here in Australia was tied up with either contracts all the time.

So very very slowly as we needed to build this thing. We were just getting little skerricks of information. But at the same time it's it's been an amazing learning process. And you know, we've met so so many amazing people as well. And yeah, I'm very much looking forward to it the future. So virtual production. What is it? You know, it's kind of it's an ever-changing kind of. let's just say it's always moving and developing. So.

You know this year it'll be one thing and then it'll slightly change the next but basically I guess some early examples come from days of Charlie Chaplin as you can see here. And where they were developing in camera virtual effects using miniature models trig photography and matte paintings as you can see here with Charlie Chaplin this frame at the bottom is what we're seeing through the camera of the top. It's kind of skewed the perspective to show you that the shooting through these huge bit of glass with painting in front of it that's made to look like the set and where he's leaning back.

In fact, it's just, you know a solid floor. So this was kind of like the birth of you know, what can we do in camera and and how can we explore this space? So since then we've come some way. Well, there's another example there you can see looks like hanging for building but there's a little bed just below him. Yes. So since then

we've come some way I think Avatar, Star Wars and all it's later spin-offs like the well known Mandalorian series. The most recent Batman film and so many more The examples you see on screen in particular are using massive LED screens to display real-time 3D environments that can change perspective in response to camera, shift light, sceneries and whatever you want without changing location or building an entire set. Locations can be recreated day-to-day rather than bringing in an entire crew to who knows where all this development. All this

developed in what was originally a gaming engine that has now been adapted to suit film-based production. So I'll take you through a few slides here. Here's an example of just some these are basically LED panels that emit. It's basically big screens really and it's not like big screens haven't been part of Film Production in the past. But now with the, you know, Advent of

real time changing environments based on this. Quite impressive and realistic gaming engines and the kinds of environments and models you can make in them. It's changed quite a bit in terms of where we think. the set and might actually be so as you can see there. That's like that's a huge LED volume, you know, we're definitely not getting something as big as that, but the workflow is is equivalent on just on a small scale. Okay. Yep, so just to

kind of wrap up as well. I guess this whole virtual production thing as well. It's you know, it's in it's in its infancy in Australia. It's it's a beautiful thing. It's coming to our school and you know, it's going to change things in our school. But at the same time,

you know after having discussions and thinking about what it is that it actually is and what it means to the school and us as filmmakers, you know, we kind of don't really want it to change too much because VCA and you know, what's created there and the kind of filmmakers and artists that are developed there. You know, we're storytellers we're directors. We're creators at heart and we don't want technology in this sense to take over what it means to make a film. So, you know the start of the Year. Oh, wow, this big huge LED virtual production is coming. Let's do this. Let's do this. Let's do this. But as we've come

along we've really figured out that you know, let's really keep that to the side and all that. It takes huge resources to develop it. Let's kind of keep it as just a tool and not a fully changing perspective on what we think, you know cinema and production is because I think you know, if we if we dive too far into it as I have in the last six months or so, it's taken me away from for instance my original journey which is to make film and to tell the story through film that's connected to so many other places that are emotional or connected to spirit or ancestry. And you know, I think I'll leave it there and thank you very much. So the the digital age is not simplistically virtual. It can generate and construct new materialities alternative embodiments and diverse subjectivities.

Here the body is this extended operational system of human metabolism. A machine musculature and computational programming. The body's position orientation velocity and trajectory could be precisely programmed.

Exoskeleton arm engineered for the rewired remixed performance where the body is literally in three places at once two virtually in London and New York one physically at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art. So for five days six hours every day continuously, you could only see with the eyes of someone in London only hear with the ears of someone in New York. But anyone anywhere could access my right arm and remotely choreograph it's movements. So this possibility of distributing agency and sharing visual and acoustical senses with people in other places becomes plausible.

A minimal but full body exoskeleton. This was a five-hour continuous performance where the body's algorithmically actuated by the exoskeleton, but in a more recent iterations, we engineered a mini Stick-man where the audience could insert their own choreography by manipulating the limbs of the mini Stickman pressing play a kind of electronic voodoo. A 9 meter long, 4 meter high stick figure robot actuated pneumatically continuously rotating on its axis projecting anamorphically stretched Shadows on three walls in the ceiling of the gallery.

And in a five-hour continuous performance, the body was positioned on the Torso of the robot able to animate the robotic limbs with a pair of pneumatic joysticks, but improvising with both local interaction and remote agents online. So you have to imagine these pneumatic rubber muscles expanding in girth, contracting in length or exhausting and extending. So there was this composition of sounds from the choreography of the movements when I first imagined this performance, I imagined it as a kind of, as a kind of contemporary Pietà. A small human body in the clutches of

a large robot body. But Nina Sellars more astutely observed that here the body is merely a human strap-on for the robot (laughs) And the Anthropomorphic Machine presently on displayed The Science Gallery in in Melbourne. And this is a an 8 metre high, 7 metre diameter robotic installation. Anyone who approaches the installation depending on their proximity depending on their distribution and dynamics. The vision

and computational system analyses and then responds with glitchy swaying breathing behavior. In fact, Carol will perform on the 19th, I believe and perform interacting with this installation. You can see the pneumatic lung which is effectively the valve configuration the circular valve configuration, which are regulates the compressed air and you can see the scale of that that's placed beneath the central column of the installation. So, thank you very much. Thank you very much Stelarc. And what we're going to do now is we're going to start to move into more dialogue. But before we do that, we just need to redo a

little rehearsal. So what we're going to do now is talk to somebody near you again and just rehearse. What the right question to ask these people is today. This is this like I said at the beginning this event is

only going to happen once. This is the only time in the whole of human history the whole of the universe all these people are going to be in the same room at the same time. We really wanna know what the right question is. So please have a, talk amongst yourself two minutes about what some of the interesting questions might be for the panel. Okay. Picking up themes of what we might have talked about. two minutes.

Speak Okay everybody. Thank you very much. Nice also again to hear your voices once more. And please hold that thought and think did you come up with a question come up with that, hold that thought that's good. I get to ask you a question though first because I am the chair. My question something that struck me about what Carol said.

Was this particular connection when Carol was saying, you know, I was trained in a very particular 20th century dance mold. and it made me think about how much were how much are we locked into where we come from? And how important is that and is there a kind of genesis moment that you're always trying to get back to. Or because I think about my own practice and I think about shows that I saw when I was first when I was training including Stelarc's work and I was very inspired by that work in those works are still the most important works in my imagination. And there's something about how much are you three a product of The moment of when you started making things, are you are you constantly asking the same questions in your work or if you're like me you keep thinking you're asking different questions, but then you realise it's the same question over and over again.

So what is this about this moment of coming into being if that even is a question. It is a question who'd like to start. Do you understand what the question is? Yeah, I didn't rehearse this question. Do you? Yeah. Yeah, I guess

I could say the whole moment of coming into being for me was not a creative, wasn't attached to creative practice. It was part of why I came into creative practice though. As I was saying at the end.

You know where my stories really come from is are places and times and you know dimensions before I even came here, so and that's how I connect with ancestry and the spiritual world and then you know this whole temporal space as well. Being only temporary and just sliver of my time. You know, you've got all these choices to make while you're here it's like what do I do? Where do I spend my time? And where do I take these influences from? Where do they originate and what are they going to feed again later? And it becomes that whole circle of life thing and what part are you gonna play in it? And when and it's like when you make those choices to me I kind of defined as you know they start, they become your contracts.

And they start becoming attached to things and where you strengthen those contracts is where good or bad things might happen to you depending where you're going to feed. So yeah, in terms of like birth of creativity, the creative journey for myself. Yeah it Creativity wasn't spawned from like a moment, I guess for me, but it's just being a developing thing. But I am always going to tell the same story in a way like you said. And I think I'll explore that to the end of my life because in many different ways whether it's through documentary or film or writing or whatever because the story is so much bigger than myself that I think it'll be that time to explore all the different parts of it.

Well, I began doing performance when I found out I was bad painter in art school. But I think I've always oscillated between the the physical the machinic and the computational so there hasn't been a kind of a linear progression from the from the physical to the technological to the to the computational. It's really been always an oscillation. So the first things I ever did was construct helmets and goggles that altered your binocular perception. That split your binocular perception. So you wore the helmet walked around and your perception was scrambled.

Then three films of the inside of my body which led to the idea 20 years later to design a sculpture for the inside of my stomach. So so the body was no longer this surface of skin, but rather this internal structure of empty spaces of tissue of circulatory systems. And then you know there was a desire having you know explored the physiological and psychological parameters of the body a desire to kind of augment the body in some way.

The third hand was the first such augmentation. as sophisticated enough at the time to get an invitation from the jet propulsion lab in Pasadena and the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to demonstrate the The Third Hand to the extra vehicular activity group they were interested in controlling the a mechanism using the electrical signals from your muscles. So. But since the mid 1990s I've done performances where the body's been remotely activated by people in other places or data, data information.

Or we did a parasite performance where we customised the search engine that scans the net, selects anatomical images from the web, displays them to your head up, head up goggles. And those images are and analysed and depending on the complexity of those images your body moves accordingly. So the that data is mapped to your body's muscles in milliseconds from milliseconds on. So there's always been a concern about alternative anatomical architectures and exploring these different machinic couplings with the body or computational extensions of the body's perception and sensory experience.

That's kind of a snapshot but you know, I think each project as Carol would know. Each project generates an iteration of a further projects where you explore and elaborate and you know for a performance artist ideas are easy what's difficult is to actualise those ideas. And of course the problem is that slippage that occurs between your intention and the actual outcome. But in fact, that's what art is that slippage where you can incorporate the accidental the unexpected and generate a much more ambivalent outcome.

Thank you. And Carol would you like to answer? Yeah, it's interesting Stelarc because I also you know reflect back on your suspension works and how those radically reconfigured how I thought about gravity, performance, the body the place of the body and relation to performance of staging in relation to site and I guess you know the And the way that we always fold in whatever current technologies are happening and they kind of operate, offer us choreographic potentials like to stage differently to assemble differently to sort of offer different perspectives on the body or different ways of entering into a relationship between bodies, but I guess for me that the radical shift really happened working with live interaction data, you know, the non-human agent coming into the performance frame really shifts the dancer's proprioception the sort of how we perceive ourselves in space. When the agency of the choreography is not just driven by a human body, but it's also driven by non-human agent that is impacting on the on the body and I think that is a big change, you know, whereas you know, The Demon Machine represents the machine it's representational in a theatre paradigm. The potential of the morphology being changed by the the digital the technologising of the field of Performing Arts is really changing what we can do in terms of in the same way. You showed that with the virtual production. We have we can now

be dancers can meet from different locations in the world without having to tour and travel there, but we have the you know, the motion capture studio, we have dancers dancing and Switzerland dancing with dancers and Melbourne meeting in a virtual stage now. So we have things that we can do that our augmenting our potential as performing artists, but at the same time they're requiring us to relearn embodiment all the time. We're having to relearn how we enact space how we enact our presence how we enact our relationships in those contexts of the virtual stage. Yeah, I think the body as an object of desire now becomes an object that needs to be reconfigured, you know using these these different approaches with with technological and I like Marshall McLuhan's definition of technology as the external organs of the body, you know, we've evolved as these soft biological bodies with internal organs, but now inhabiting a technological terrain, we need to engineer additional interfaces these additional organs that allow us to better operate and perform in such a in such a world. And can I just say, I think it's really important that artists have a role in that design because otherwise we're going to be solicited by a lot of off the shelf, you know algorithms that are doing things to us that we don't necessarily wanna be apart of I was just going to say, so rather than tech rather than technology as anatomical extensions of our body like a phone in our pocket or wearing glasses rather than technology is the supplementary, you're sort of suggesting Stelarc that the body becomes the extension to the technology, but it makes me wonder then it's quite a simple question really that probably none of us can answer. But what will the body of the future look like and it's interesting that even though we've been on this Earth for thousands of years our bodies haven't changed that much even with technology. So we still have all

these flaws. We're still all going to die. We're all going to get wrinkles. We're all, you know and you know we all need six to eight hours of sleep a night. That's so inefficient and unproductive. Why hasn't technology helped us not sleep as much and we'd be able to get get a lot more done right? But but we still have to sleep. And so I just have questions around what

yeah, what will the body of the future look like? Oh actually will it just die out. I think there's you know, whatever we suggest or imagine has to be contestable. And and of course, we'll always have to factor in contingency. So there are going to be unexpected inventions unexpected changes of human mentality that will generate you know, the unpredictable.

And a future is not a future if it is not of the unexpected who you I mean, it seems to be an oxymoron predicting the future because there's always going to be contingency, contingency factored in so nothing happens of necessity. So yes, the singularities as seductive idea may be AI and machines take over in 2050, but that's one contestable possibility. Nonetheless a very seductive one. I mean all all living things are destined to vanish and perhaps we need to make an elegant exit or plan for an elegant exit.

We do have time. You remember the exercise? Remember you all had to think of a question, now is the time. Now who's got the best question. How do we do that? We need some technology to organise. Maybe lots of people should ask questions Maybe we should all ask questions at the same time. I don't know, should we let's hear all the questions. Let's hear the questions and then we'll see what the answers might be. Let's if people have got questions say

just have some questions put them in the air and then we can have something in the air, please. I had a question led to some work that *inaudible* about enhanced humans and disability. and Stelarc and *inaudible* Said it was kind of about. How do you see this as a way of integrating disability into the arts culture and also are there ethical questions that spring to mind Stelarc? Given that you work with other people having control of enhancements. Yeah quickly about that issue of control. I don't see that as as the issue. In fact rather. There's an

attempt here to construct more complex operational systems of multiple people peoples in multiple places interacting equally contributing to a particular, you know, creative or performative task. So the issue is not of of control. I think we've gone beyond the Master Slave mechanism metaphor of early robotics. Because if you have adequate feedback loops that are sophisticated enough, you know, you become the end effector of the robot the robot becomes, you know, your your agent in a hazardous location elsewhere. So I would say the issue is not about control but about constructing distributed and complex constructions of operating bodies.

Let's have some more questions up into the space. So we might not answer them. That's the caveat. We're just going to hear the questions. Yeah.

What are you interested in doing next? Okay. Hold that thought. I just want to have the more voices in the room, please. My question was going off Robert's early comments about the climate catastrophe. Nobody yet talked about sustainability in their practice and not only the hardware but the power of technology is significant, so I would just my question is about what people are thinking about in the future about sustainability and the environment in their practice? What next and sustainability. I guess mine is just a continuation of that as well. Thinking about the Paradox. There's so many paradoxes embodied here as well. When we talk about human and Technology. I was wondering like how I know

we won't be able to get to this but the sanitisation of the mess and the discomfort of human and the sanitisation that happens through technology and just an observation Emma to something that you were saying before about sleep, and I wonder if the point of technology is to perpetuate this, I guess a Capitalist notion of productivity. Is sleep something we need to give up, you know, so I just wanted to bring that up? You know? So yeah I just wanted to bring that up. There's someone at the back. Yeah my question was simple, which is. If for some reason you had to take all the technology away tomorrow

what would we learn from having it? Yes, and also what would our practices be? Out of a job. Back to the hooks. Yeah. and Any more questions? Yes. Yes, please. I has a question about your heart.

Yes. I wanted to know. He doesn't have a heart. Yeah. I want to know whether your heart had a heart. So you did mention that it would be beating

and that it would be, we would be able to see it feel but that might have just been caught up in your language But I did wonder to what extent your heart is, yeah feeling? Oh feeling. Yes the question. The, do you mean the beating? Yes you mentioned that it would be beating for certain periods of time, 48 years I think And then we would be able to sense it's, or observe it feeling. Yes. That word feeling was mentioned, Yes. And I though oh what does it mean. Exactly And how does it feel? Well, we can talk about that after this.

And was there was there. There were some more that's a good question about feelings. And senses. Yes. I've just got one question. Yes.

for Stelarc and it's really about the term that you use Stelar or and you've used it for a long time about obsolescence of the body, and how does that actually. I mean because we talk about extensions and fragmentations through technology in a way But I'm sort of interested. I'm sorry. I forgotten your name from Film and Television. Adam. Right Adam. Yeah, I I quite loved the way Adam jumped between you know contemporary time and other sort of parallel times or something and I'm wondering, does your idea of obsolescence of the body still stand? Okay, and there was another question. These are great things to just bring into the air this one at the back and two at the back.

Anyone on this side? Hi and thank you for your chat today. I've got a question about dance and dancer's bodies. Bodies are amazing and they age they are exquisite and I guess what I'd like to know is the amount of reflection that you have as dancers in expressing yourself because as your body changes with even if it's pregnancy, even if it's aging even if it's disease we get diseased. How can technology or the idea of technology help us to keep expressing ourselves as dancers? I'm not a dancer. I'm music, but musicians have dance in them as you know, and so understanding how much you how much you might think and feel around the use of that technology to be able to continue to express yourself? There was somebody else in the back row. I think

just there look. Thanks we're just moving the microphone around then we we can record things and then we've got one down at the front. Yes. Yes, please. Oh, hello. Hi, so Stelarc. You wrote about the obsolete body a number of years ago and your work it always appears the body is so central. Is the body going to become obsolete? and Robert Yeah. Is the algorithm a performer? No, the computer's performing the algorithm. That was the quick answer. I

know we're not doing things quick, but that was the quick answer. And there's this question down here. I don't know what people feel and I just really like having the questions. I don't know what

people people when we want that. We want an answer to all of them right? But we can't so we have to have the questions. We need more questions. We've been searching for the right one. Here's one now.

I wonder if any of you is working with artificial intelligence, if and if you see it as a collaborator or as a tool? The quick answer is both. Is that right? Depends how intelligent the artificial intelligence is. And is it still artificial when it becomes intelligent? So any more questions? Keeping going. I just wanted to connect Adam and Emma you asked the question what about the body of the future? And Adam talked about the impact that technology might have on spirituality and how it might present a threat to that? So my question would be what do all of you see is the spirit of the future or the spirituality of the future? And is that a concern for any of you? Good question. Not sure about the question so much as I was umm said it wasn't a question but discussed it for about two minutes. But I was thinking I was

delighted by how much you laugh Stelarc and you know that it's an infectious giggle and it makes me wonder. It's a nervous laugh Well, it's infectious whichever way it goes. But the the thing I'm curious about is that how playful can technology be or is technology in some way a kind of playful way of thinking or being an adult does it sit in that space where it becomes a kind of thing that we are used doing to squash boredom look for things that we don't understand whatever it is but a fun place space as well as a serious space of kind of technological knowledge? I'm just curious about it.

There's a quick question quick answer that too. I think we can be sort of serious about our work our art, creative practices, but we shouldn't be serious about ourselves. I'm so blown away by the gamut of the artists' work on the panel and I think it feels like writing a science fiction for choreography or a new language that's yet to evolve and we don't know so much about but I was curious mostly for actually all of you that the principles of movement still ballet in the historic form of court dance or we can journey back as far as being folk together still plays a role in entering a relationship with what you do. I feel quite overwhelmed now, all those questions. I know it's it's like we've kind of like opened up this massive void you could I just felt it then for a moment. I will say. A void of possibility. But we're inviting everyone for drink,

we could carry on answering and responding and question Do you want to invite them for a drink? Would you come for a drink please. You're all invited for a drink. So we're over at The Old Police Hospital which is just next door, but I'll let Robert actually finish off. Yes well, I just wanted to say we just because we've got this kind of strange setup doesn't mean that we have the answers and we've rehearsed something together today, which is asking each other questions and please meet more strangers and ask difficult questions of them.

And have those conversations. But please So I've got to stop doing this. I'll pretend I'm not blinded by the light and just speak. We are going to go for a drink now and we would invite you all to come with us. You don't have to drink there

will be soft drinks I imagine as well but there'll be other people drinking hard liquor. So think about that and whether that's a technology that affects the body. What does Deleuze and Guattari say, 'Drunkenness is the eruption of the plant in us. And so that is another form of technology isn't it? Fermentation. Anyway, we're going to go now. The conversation

is going to continue. I'd like to thank our distinguished panel today. And Emma Redding for hosting and having this great idea.

Thank you.

2022-11-29 04:01

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