THE DIGITAL SLANT

New communication technologies, such as Internet2 and Skype can be appropriated to allow artists to perform together and create stories from different parts of the world like no other time in human history. Performers are virtually stepping through open portals to shake hands…dance…dialogue…and discuss new ideas with their extended communities in fresh and exciting ways, colleagues are establishing new cultural exchanges world-wide and into space.

New distribution technologies, like podcasts, streaming media, and cloud systems allow sharing and broadcasting of stories and experiences in the form of music, videos, and performance, and living books.

Conceptually, new tech allows stories to branch off and reveal the hidden (or, lost) dimensions of a character’s mind by hyperlinking across forked paths, forcing a new perspective of dream-like realities and multi-linear, multi-layered pathways to discover new worlds.

Like quantum physics for storytelling.

These are exciting times for the digital arts as visionaries continue to explore how to extend their artistic and scientific reach into — and across — the virtual world — conceptually, literally, and beyond. Not only in television and cinema, but in literature, theatre, and new forms of media, such as virtual reality.

Coming soon to a headset near you.

TECHNIQUE + IMAGINATION
Though the avant-garde lends itself to exploring alternative conventions, oftentimes the audience walks away dazed and confused. Take Richard Forman as an example. Crazy stuff. I love his open-minded thought-portal. An acquired taste, for sure. Adding digital technologies to the mix, as he has, only increases the confusion — the word WHAT is often used.

However, spinning doesn’t have to leave you feeling dizzy.

MY WORK encourages digital tech as a subtle tool to support a hybrid of language & light & sound & gesture in the para-theatric sense.

When used judiciously, subtle micro-gestures of technology can be quite lovely.

I’m not referring to soft lighting, or basic projection, but the smart integration of tech into a story’s mise-en-scene. Robert Lepage comes to mind. The Québecois director known for abstract technical circus work has proven the subtle use of digital effects can successfully tickle the imagination and support a cohesive story, while remaining avant-guard.

In his play, La Casa Azur, which chronicles the journey of artist Frida Kahlo, Lepage uses projection techniques and the language of film in a variety of ways to create parallel worlds, those which exist beyond the surface-reality on the stage in front of the audience.

For example, during a scene set inside the Office of Naturalization, while examining Frida’s citizenship, an old black & white film is projected beyond the office window bringing our focus away from the actors’ dialogue toward an alternative story unfolding on the street below.

In another scene, tech is used differently to extend the reach of Frida’s husband, artist Diego Rivera as he paints a masterpiece with strikes and strokes of an invisible brush, his colorful mural appears on the canvas with each swipe.

These are examples of subtle ways digital technology can represent a modern aesthetic; the layered, cut and paste universe our world has become.

THE DIGITAL SLANT
It’s my opinion that a performance can communicate a modern experience WITHOUT relying upon technology by utilizing what I call, The Digital Slant.

By integrating digital aesthetics into a performance using appropriate rhythm and structure an author, director, creator, playwright, performer can convey contemporary thinking by bending core story elements: Structure, delivery, and language without tricky gadgetry or special effects. Two people on stage can communicate a digital sensibilities without projections, midi sequencers, nodes, modular components, or any electronics, presuming they tap into the digital slant approach.

In other words, what Lev Manovich calls the language of new media; the techniques of cut + paste, copy + edit, layer + render can be used intelligently to shape the structure, atmosphere, and voice of a story into a modern narrative:

MODERN NARRATIVES
Multilinear, immersive, and interactive environments, virtual reality, mixed-reality, simulations, parallel worlds, artificial life, dreams and hallucinations.

Theatre-makers can represent the impact of everyday technology by imbuing the concept of digital into the mise-en-scene using a variety of techniques to ultimately make statements and raise questions about human behavior, relationships, communications, faith, identity, education, art, sexuality, politics, philosophy, etc.

When a storyteller approaches a story with a digital slant and new ways of thinking exciting creative approaches are introduced. The results can be playful, enticing, controversial, provocative, dreamlike, and wonderful.

My primary interests reside at the intersection of performance, poetics, and new technologies; how new technologies encourages new ways to create (and experience) narratives. Specifically, new methods of approach to collaboration, and experiencing stories from within.

Immersive technologies, such as virtual reality, in particular open new doors of perception to allow story-makers to reconsider what types of experiences can and should be manifested. Virtual reality headsets, motion-sensors, GPS, and mobile technologies reveal new dimensions and possibilities.

Digging deeper: Cognitive science, emotions, and psychological elements intermingle with quantum physics, string theory + game theory to introduce a crazy salad of options.

At the same time, traditional theatre arts and acting methods, such as physical actions and psychological gestures support an entirely different set of tools for the human actor; anthropology, archetypical studies, psycho-drama, playback theatre and performance studies place layers upon layers of intrigue onto a field of study that is burgeoning before our eyes.

-j.2u