[LIPP week 4] Surface

HW: 3 Minute Live Performance

  • Your first live performance! You will each create a user interface for your video playback systems and create a 3 minute live video performance. You may choose a song to accompany you or even create your own, although audio is not required. Performance should be a single channel video and focus on abstraction, although narrative elements are acceptable as well. You have 2 weeks and a bunch of new tools for exploring video so I expect these performances to be thought out and considered. Each student must perform in class and be ready to go with minimal set up time. Depending on class size we have will have feedback after each performance or a collective feedback after all of the performances.
  • Document one of the final rehearsals of your performance and create a blog post explaining your performance and how you approached it. Talk about what was difficult or exciting about it.

For this performance, as I’ve been doing in the past few projects, I wanted to explore geography, culture, identity and body. My first idea was to have two layers: a background image of my parent’s farm, and a foreground with personal memories in shape of textures that would only make themselves visible when I drew into the screen. I wanted to project those images on me, as letting people see through my skin.

When the details of the assignment were given, we were presented with the constraint of having to use a TV as the output, which doubled with a challenge for me to translate my concept into a new format. After thinking about it for a while, is seemed more and more like a good solution to shoot images of myself, and manipulate them in different ways to juxtapose those textures. That resulted in a shift in my concept, that was leaning more to body and presence, and my idea of identity – that comes from the body as a space – showed itself more clearly.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with a patcher that uses [jit.brcosa] as the main effect. But it seemed to me like that was distancing the visuals from the human body and organic textures. So, I added two layers of [jit.chroma] on the images of myself, making it so that I could fill the screen with human surfaces. The only other texture, still using [jit.brcosa], was the one that appeared through the drawings.

After some tests with different textures on the foreground, this issue persisted, and my main concerns during this process were related to my role as a performer, and my direct relation to those images, so I switched to all layers coming from the same set of images

How do I make it so that my presence has meaning in this? What differs my video output from being pre-recorded? What is my physical relation to those images?

At this point, my system was composed of three layers, all being images of myself on a sort of plain background:

• a first layer using [jit.chroma] + the zoom property in [jit.rota] to expand itself into the screen;

• a central layer using [jit.chroma], having as the keyed image either itself or the previous layer;

• a foreground layer that only shows through drawing using [jit.lcd] + [jit.alphablend], and having as input a [jit.xfade] of the two first layers;

Here’s a video of a rehearsal I did with that setup:


I thought I wasn’t using the drawing tool in any way that was adding to the concept or the visuals, so I spent some more time exploring that, and got into a point in which I would show details such as my eyes or mouth in the hidden layer, or outline the output image. Still, it wasn’t great, but I felt like only the two first layers were not enough, so I decided to use the drawing anyways, just limiting it to two interactions.

For the sound, I tried a few songs, but everything seemed to dictate the rhythm in a way that didn’t speak to my idea. The visuals that I ended up with matched a poem that I wrote some time ago, so I thought that that could work better. I recorded myself reading it once, and it was exactly 3 min long, so I recorded it a few more times until I got a better interpretation of it, and started rehearsing through the images that the poem evoked. I feel like it brought awareness to my body both on the screen and in presence, which was good, since I wasn’t really sure how to relate those layers, but it was a whole new layer of information that I didn’t have a complete picture of its implications.

Here is the poem:

What is body today? What is presence today? What is encounter today?

Your body does not exist.
A body that belong does not exist.
A ruled body does not exist.
There is no kingdom over the body, the bodies live.
Is it possible, yes, to change the course of a body,
compel a body,
silence a body,
extinguish a body,
but not control.

One must choose to move. Either for the vilest reason, one always have to choose to move.
And they move.

By hunger, by fatigue, by loneliness, by shelter, by another, by the time we have created, or that was created.

The direction of the sight or action is the decision not to see or act in other ways,
and again the choices,
and so many,
and so fast,
and are already so part and so all,
and already swallow everything they can,
and there is no longer time for the decision,
and there is no longer time for the present,
and there is no longer time for the presence,
and there is no longer any time,
and suddenly

a breath.

Memory expands into the intangible space, time expands, body-other becomes image, sound, and meaning. In the same way, we are image, sound, and meaning. You can exclude mistakes, erase what you do not want to remember, edit what happened, destroy bodies without them even noticing.

The encounter definitions are updated. Little is known, everything is perceived.

The presence fragments into infinite packets of information that shoot ubiquitous in the shared space. Still, bodies exist, and they continue to decide for themselves, move by themselves.

Here we are: creatures inhabitants of the border between atom and number.

Living human body.

After a few rehearsals, this was the structure of the performance:

• Starting with upside down footage of my back;
• Playing the sound recording of the poem;
• Key out the background of the image, and zooming the background layers to fill up the screen with the skin;
• Slowly adding a right side up image of my front, keying out the background to merge it with the previous layer;
• Playing around with drawing;
• Resetting to an image of my face very close to the camera;
• Layering an image of my legs on top, keying out my skin to show the previous layer;
• Resetting to the background layer having it’s background keyed out with noise, and the middle layer having all the darker parts, including the background, keyed out to see the previous layer;
• Playing around with fade until I get the whole screen with indistinguishable images of skin;
• Drawing to show my eyes in the foreground image;
• Step out of where I am, juxtapose my body with the image on the screen;
• Give the audience time;
• Add some light to my body;
• Pull the HDMI cable;
• Wait for the poem to end;
• Turn off the light.

Unfortunately, I forgot to document my performance in class, but what I can say from my perspective on stage is that I certainly tried doing more than I had time to, making it so that I didn’t manage to consistently explore the whole system that I’ve created during such short performance. I felt like the drawing system ended up not contributing at all, not even in the specific moments that I restricted it to. I believe that, since that was the starting point of the whole performance, I fell in love with that idea and couldn’t handle letting it go when it wasn’t constructive to the creative process anymore.

I also had some technical problems caused by not having total appropriation of the system that were also very critical for the results. I thought the [preset] object would save the [jit.lcd] object status, and I don’t know why I didn’t see that during the rehearsals, but it not only kept a shape that I thought it would delete, but it also didn’t start the video that was supposed to be playing, so I had a huge dark space of nothing on my screen for a certain period of time.

From my perspective, my performance misses a lot from the last layer – my present body – not being as exposed as the one on video, but two classmates gave me feedback that made me rethink this topic. The first one was a relation with my presence with male gaze, which refers a lot to moments in which I feel vulnerable. The second comment said that it was interesting to see my visually exposed body in juxtaposition with my emotionally exposed body from being in performance, which made me think about how visible were my feelings at the moment. I guess the vulnerability in this case also has systems that I can’t control, which served my concept in a way that I didn’t anticipate.

Later on I received feedback on the relation of the text with the other elements, which I also feel like I haven’t given enough thought, and that showed through the text outgrowing the other elements and contributing to the chaotic aspect of the performance, which was not my intention. In general, I feel like I created an instigating system and visuals, but I could not achieve an execution that showed that in the time I had to perform. So, for this assignment, it would have been better to stick to fewer elements, so that I could consistently explore their potentialities.

Still, I really enjoy the visuals, concept and system that emerged from this process, and I am looking forward to finding new purposes for revisiting it.


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