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computer screens

in the words of the creators

Visual Artists for 22

We began with the instinct to avoid duplication. Clearly there was no need to create a virtual double of the live performer, for the physical presence of Bill T. Jones on stage speaks powerfully for itself.

Instead we would evoke a presence just the opposite of his: a silent child, who watches and explores and teeters overhead. When first introduced into the collaboration, the idea of this child guided Bill in his choice of the two stories he tells. And the nature of these stories led us in turn to evoke another figure as well, a man: not the agile dancer we see on stage, but a slower-moving cumbersome figure who remembers, who photographs, and who does hard labor.

The strict structure of Bill’s dance, with its clockwise repetition of successive poses, inspired us to create a parallel (but not identical) form. It too runs through a set order, but with 7 rather than 22 elements. These elements are what we call “stations” rather than poses, from which they differ in two ways: they unfold over time rather than freezing into place; and they repeat only their themes, not their pictures. Thus TABLE first materializes as a desk at which the man sits to write, but returns as a bed on which the boy lays himself down to rest.

Bill T. Jones weaves his way through the rigid choreographic structure he has imposed on himself, finding room to move and to readjust in between the fixed poses he has to hit. The artificial intelligence running our projections must find a way to match that flexibility. And so it peers out at the stage through the infrared cameras trained on the dancer, looking for times and for places in the dance for it to witness, to reframe, or to interpose.

We project scenes that find no exact equivalence in Bill’s stories. He has no tightrope walker, no boy pushing through a hinged labyrinth, no man shouldering a ladder. But he does have boys perched precariously on the edge, and souls lost in fear and perplexity, and men bearing the heaviest of burdens. His protagonists and their situations intersect and interact with ours ambiguously, leading you to draw multiple, uncertain, and unnerving connections between them.

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The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Art and the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University.
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