Concept and Implementation: Frieder Weiss
Concept, Choreography and Dance: Emily Fernandez
Downloadable version: Shadows.wmv
Emily Fernandez´ website: Emily Fernandez
Concept (program notes from 2003)
This dance performance uses the age old theater technique of a shadow play, combining it with the possibilities of realtime digital media. In the performance piece we see the dancer interact with her shadow. But those shadows are of special kind. They are actually projected from a computer output and thus allow digital processing like delays, speed changes, translation, mirroring, coloring, video overlay.
Since the development of the human consciousness people know their ‚virtual’ companion, the body shadow. It’s following us quietly. We can’t really catch it. The shadows are somewhat spooky, they belong to our person, without being part of our body. It’s always darker then ourselves. It belongs to an emotional world. In many cultures the shadow is described as the home of the soul and the life. Whoever doesn’t have a shadow is regarded to be dead.
After many years of a tremendous hype about ‘the virtual’ we experience a big disillusionment. We understand that we can’t live in a world that is disconnected from our physical and emotional reality. Shadows make us remember the organic connection between the body-image and reality.
Nowadays we are also leaving abstract data shadows in the computer world. They are somewhat connected to what we do and are, but might be extremely distorted, ambiguous or outdated. We might experience this as threatening, but we could also start enjoying the play with our databody by shaping it free and with full consciousness.
The shadows performance and installation makes those ideas it’s theme: the shifting border between body and mediated virtual body image. What would happen if we could release our shadow image, follow it like in a dream, multiply it or face it. A caleidoscopic play with the facets of our permanent companion.
The performance plays along a subtle border: if the delay of a shadow is below a certain delaytime, the dancer considers it as part of her 'now', if the delay time is turned above a certain value, the shadows become own individual entities. The threshold seems to be in the 2-3 second range, which is the same time-span which neuro scientists found to be the integration time of our senses for the perception of 'now'.
In one corner of the space we put a light source which is throwing the shadow image on the large projection screen. This shadow is actually invisible, because all the visible light is filtered out. Only the invisible infrared light reaching the screen and throwing an invisble shadow image of the dancer. A special infrared sensitive camera is picking up the shadow image from the screen, feeding the digitized image into the computer where it is processed. A connected video projector makes the processed images visible.
This performance was the beginning of a new era for me in multiple ways. For many years i was focusing on ´movement to sound relationships´ which led to the development of 'Eyecon', a system for motion sensing which is retrieving abstracted information from moving bodies. Most of that time i was working with the Nürnberg based dance company Palindrome. For the shadows performance i started developing a new software project called 'Kalypso', focusing on visual translations of camera images. Development goals were low latency, realtime processing of camera images, contour processing capablities and a scripting language for smooth transitions between paramter settings. Kalypso became my main software project up til now and has been used for most of my newer works. The driving inspiration for all that development has been my ongoing colaboration with australian dancer Emily Fernandez.