The SEAM symposium was a three-day gathering exploring Architecture, Performance, and Film, and the shared ground between them. It was organised by Benedict Anderson, Margie Medlin, and Sam Spurr. Below are my notes on day One. Alternatively you can download the SEAM Day Two Notes in PDF format.

Structuring Possibility – Dance for the time being
Russell Dumas

Working with language.

Europe: Postmodern dance comes out of performance art, and not traditional dance.

Ballet body is based on and posits social stability, hierarchy.

Dance and sexuality: Sydney Dance Company is soft-core porn for the middle-classes.

Forsythe using the ballet body; stabilize torso for virtuoso/fast movement, i.e. not break-dance.

Russell looking at the “quotidian”, everyday body.

Standing, walking, running – social positions.

Movements to make audience Look and sensing relationship to own bodies.  (As I discussed with Marten the day before; dance to show people what their bodies can do) Instead of just watching people do things you cannot.

Interest in Japanese No theatre; the performers hold hips forward in a running stance.

(Interesting to experiment with the “rehearsal” advantage based on vicarious learning/watching.  We know going over it in your head leads to advantage.  How about watching sport, activity?  Or playing a computer game involving it – I think this part has already been done.

Mårten Spångberg

Revolution – Bump into something.  To be a revolutionary you must have a revolution.  Che was lucky to have something to go against.  Duality – easy.

Now everything is commodity, brought into institution.

Nun-crossing-the-road joke as event-space.  Interstition – “between tissues”

Diller & Scofidio Blur Building does not deterritorialize.

Work should force us to negotiate our performance within it.

Parthenon = performance (moving through), sunset = architecture (we sit with arm over shoulder, and we are creating a space)

The Body is a Wall: towards the bio-construction of topological bodies across Architecture and Performance
Michael Hornblow

Within contemporary architectural discourse there has been a reformulation of the human body away from historical models of proportional measure and architectural interiority, towards a far broader biological paradigm.  My doctoral research attempts to refold this analogue relation between urban and biological bodies through some very particular states of embodiment constructed within dance and performance art, with a focus on Butoh and Grotowski physical theatre method.  This research by project seeks to develop a bio-constructivist praxis across architecture and performance, through a series of diagrammatic studies, dance training methodologies, performance events, art installations and moving image works (both mine and those of other artists). 

In this paper I focus on some key concepts underpinning the research, with reference to a few examples from the project work.  My point of departure is to argue for a common shift within certain contemporary and avant-garde practices in both Architecture and Performance, away from the historical canonisation of idealised bodies in terms of proportional wholes, fixed typologies and formal symmetry, towards an understanding of biological and urban bodies as dynamic assemblages comprising intensive differential forces undergoing continuous internal deformation in dynamic relation to the external influence of their surrounding environments. 

If there is a connection between the intensive bodies of certain performance practices, and contemporary architectural reformulations of the body, and if this connection lies deeper beneath the skin of how bodies are usually constituted or even though about, what potential or futurity might this comparison allow?  Do we really know yet what a body can do, or architecture for that matter?

Butoh:  Urban vs biological body.  Diagrammatic studies.
Focus on moving away from canonization of body.

Differential calculus brought a change in conception of body from Vitruvian Body. 
“Body-without-organs” of Deleuze and Gottari. Starting-point of Butoh is the body-without-organs.  Self is transient membrane. Extensive field.

Study of the “Sponge body” -> porosity.  Involution and enveloping, and the act of taking a step within itself once this has been achieved.

Biogram – Brian Massumi

Study of the “Senile hand” -> unhinging, forgetting what you were doing, and finding body already positioned, without intent. 

“You tube my Pink batts”: Physical body constrained to produce excess affect (on tip-toes)  Producing “Dilated body”

Using technology to poetically extend the dynamic moving body
Danielle Wilde

Extending the body with technology affords a re-examination of the body as a dynamic system by magnifdying underlying, often overlooked, mechanical processes and relationships. Technological extensions can provide an experiential bridge between what we see, hear or feel and what we believe we know about the body in time and space. The can also provide a platform through which to exmine how our physical presence might impact space, and how the different parts of our bodies interact with each other (and others) through gesture and posture. Whether the extension is mechanical, gestural or sensorial, the resulting body-technology-environments re-render our embodied existence to be seen and imagined anew.

The resulting shifts in perspective provide new ways of thinking about potential transactions between body, imagination and environment. They allow us to enter and experiment with pre-verbal relationships to space as they render accessible our gestural engagement with the world.

By considering these aesthetic and evocative qualities intrinsic to notions of poetic, an emergent definition, relating phenomenology, poiesis and extension, is elaborated. An examination of the poetic potential of body-worn devices is then undertaken. To facilitate this investigation, a series of interactive, wearable artefacts, augmented garments, and body-technology-environments have been created.

Each provokes or provides gestural, mechanical and/or sensorial extension by literally extending the dynamic, moving body with a different media. Results suggest that the different extensions afford different opportunities for examining our embodied relationships to space. Through light we can see, literally, how our gestures might touch the world; sound affords an explorations of rhythm and movement-based flow; and mechanical extension invites new ways of viewing the body as our eye is drawn, through planar and structural extrusion, to consider the body from alternative perspectives. These outcomes suggest that our being-in-the-world can be poeticised through technologically augmented engagement with space.

Using technology to poetically extend the dynamic moving body.
Role of artist from Pipilotti Rist

Poetic in science is important. Emergent definition of Poetic: Non-linguistic language outside prime meaning..?

Image reference to Rebecca Horn

“Making strange” -> dada, surrealism

Clumsy design is valid, the process is performance

Light arrays (lasers extending down spine, and other arrangements) similar to motion capture.

Douglas Wright’s Forever: seamless, seamy, unseen
Keren Chiaroni

Seamlessness is one of the signs of perfection. A seamless performance is one whete movement and visual effects blend and merge without visible effort. Classical haute couture decrees that the garment worthy of the ultimate sartorial accolade should be innocent of seams. Madeleine Vionnet in early 1920s Paris, like Issy Miyake in the late 20th century, experimented ceaselessly with the construction of garments without seams. Other couturiers join and connect edges of cloth with blind seams and beading, transforming what Chanel insisted was a craft into an art. The art of haute couture.

The most sacred, and disputed, garment of human history, is surely not the Turin shroud, Christ’s burial cloth. But his robe. The seamless garment for which the soldiers cast lots, after driving nails through the joins of bone and muscle on the cross. “Woven in one piece from top to bottom”, we are told this garment was too valuable to tear apart. The garment was perfect, whole, and entirely covetable. Yet the body of… (incomplete)

1993 “Milk”

Body understood as texture.
“Strands of flesh that bind us to the world become ‘wingbeats of longing’”
“playground” -> “mirror” -> Lacan’s mirror phase.
Excellent; read paper.

Panel Discussion
Michael Honblow, Danielle Wilde, Keren Chiaroni

Pumping body to reach authentic emotion through affect.

Considering reflexology in relation to producing affect/affect that is produced.

Movement interruption, Parkinson’s into “Senile hand”

Movement not from and to coherent body.

Body without organs is non-structure. End of organisation.

Perforating and leaking
Petra Gemeinboeck

This paper introduces the collaborative, performative installation work ON TRACK and develops parallels and identifies metaphors that characterise both the work’s bizarre, messy context and the indeterminable, floating production ground between disciplines.

ON TRACK is an installation involving a pendulous mechanical system, trapped robotic brushes and spilling viscous fluids. The work looks at human endeavour, its overly complicated mechanisms and procedures, and their vulnerability to a slipperiness already build in. Four systems, one mechanic-repetitive, another one robotic-agitated, a viscous liquid, and an abrupt precipice, interact and interfere with one another. A disaster-prone scenario unfolds as the protagonists – apparently set to clean – spill, interrupt and hinder each other, creating an ever more slippery mess in intricately choreographed ways.

With respect to SEAM’s theme of permeability/transformability of boundaries, the work’s most pertinent aspect is its performativity, and how it emerges from a messy mix of mechanic actors, choreographed movements, programmed instructions, entrapments, and slipperiness. The work’s articulation strongly relies on the collision of the precise-mechanic and the slippery-messy. Another shaping force comes from the unres9oved encounter of movement and space: entrapped and constrained, meticulously choreographed movements begin to stutter, teeter and to slip.

Friction, perturbation and interference, with their production of noise, become the agents of evolution and heterogenisis (see Maharaj). The significance of discipline-transforming and boundary-mutating work emerges from the same provocative, performative politics that are so bizarrely performed in ON TRACK.

Perforating and mutually transforming the boundaries between disciplines, we however need to refrain from creating new ones, classifying the hybrid and fixating the emergent. The luxury is in the unanchored, indefinable (messy) that resists the already known, fixed. Theorists and practitioners who constantly reconstruct this unstable ground may be inspired by Calvino’s “true literature machine” that “feels the need to produce disorder, as a reaction against its preceding production of order”.

“On Track”: leaking. Emergent behaviour through heterogenic programmed. Impossible assignment to clean; leaking industrial buckets of viscous liquids. A cross between Sisyphus and Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Tiller Girls of 1960s as poster-girls for a serialized, rationalized US industry.

New form through Transducive Media
Jason McDermott and Joanne Jakovich

Transduction is the process of energy conversion from one type to another, through the interaction of energy in a device or system. Transducers allow continuous real-time translation of physical events to digitals signals, which can be used as data or information.

Through transducers typically static components of architectural construction (structure, skin, fenestration) are now able to incorporate real-time feedback between a space and its’ inhabitants. Form and content of transducive media adapts through the designed mappings and experienced interaction – gesture, movement and personality have a capacity to inform physical space. “Transducive media” is the term we have given to the design operations and techniques that deploy any combination of digital transducers in the creation and articulation of architectural space. This paper examines he qualitative and generative formal capabilities of transducive media in the design of architectural space. We propose that transducive media generates signal patterns which define and inform the real material articulation and experience of architectural space.

This paper will include research and design work by the UTS Master of Architecture design studio “Computational Environments”, with a specific focus on the form, performance and experience of transducive architectural design. We will present findings of spatial interaction and augmentation experiments in physical spaces, designed for and experienced as a response to human inhabitation.

New forms through transducive media. : UTS kids.


SkinForm work. FiltrationFields. Bluetooth phone tracking at 10 points.

Carlo Ratti uses long-distance phone-call information, for real-time visualization

Italian Futurism and Bauhaus: Dancing Across the Divides of Art and Technology
Alexandra Kolb

This paper examines the unification of arts, crafts and technology in two utopian constructs of dance in European modernism. Representatives of Italian futurism and the Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer were key figures in developing processes of abstraction and mechanisation of the human figure in dance, whose (potential) implications for dance aesthetics have been much underestimated.

In theoretical texts by Marinetti, Depero and Prampolini, dancers are gradually transformed into (mostly mechanical) objects, resulting in a fusion of the actor-dancer with the setting. Some texts further radicalise this notion by theorising a complete abandonment of the performer in favour of kinetic, dynamic décor and plastic constructions. Schlemmer conceives of the human figure in mathematical or geometrical terms in his quest for the perfect anatomy with ideal measurements. Like the Futurists, he is searching for a Kunstfigur (“artificial figure”) who is free from human restrictions, in the attempt tot create an Imago Dei (Image of God). His best-known realisation of mechanical laws in dance is his paradigmatic Triadic Ballet.

I shall argue that these interdisciplinary approaches which enshrine art and technology result in a renegotiation of binary distinctions such as the expressive and the abstract, vitalism and technology, and rationality versus instinct. I shall further address how such stage reformations, and the aesthetics of conceptualising the human body in architectural terms, might have impacted on or reverberate in more recent dance tendencies; such as New Zealand artist Daniel Belton’s dance film After Dürer.

Italian Futurism – Combined film, architecture, dance, and technology.
Good video of Triadic Ballet – watch.

Interactive Video Installations Addressing Architectural Space
Bert Bongers

The aim of the work presented in the paper is to investigate and demonstrate the potential for sensitive, physical, and spatial interaction, bringing together the electronic and physical environments in an ecological approach. Through the research and design processes in the Interactivities Studio such electronic ecologies (or e-cologies) as spatial audiovisual environments and developed in which the audience co-creates the final result through their body movements. An open design approach is applied in the Studio; the audience participates in the development process at any stage. This can lead to a more refined result when the work is implemented in the final exhibition or performance. The paper presents a media framework to place interactivity and time based material in a context. Several recent pieces are described, interactive video environments such as Trainflow and Facets. This includes a discussion of technical factors, and a reflection on the process and final outcomes.

Bert Bongers – UTS, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building.
Spatial Interaction. Projecting into spaces.