Lucy M. May, Lysandre Coutu-Sauvé and David Birnbaum created the interactive dance-sound performance PlayStation #9 for Nature of State, an interdisciplinary art exhibition that took place in 2006. The dancers are directed by audience members by way of a soundscape : the spectator/defacto composer manipulates the audio through a PlayStation controller.
Video Still. Dancer: Lucy M. May.
“In this interactive improvisation, sound is used as the language of translation between spectator demand and the acted choreographic response. A videogame controller is used to control synthesis software written by David Birnbaum, allowing the audience to manipulate live sound samples, which in turn will inform the dancers how to move. The resulting instant choreography will be the product of the spectator-director’s choices, and the individual dancers’ interpretation of that sound. They will draw on their unique movement vocabularies and impulses, as opposed to socially codified movement from the moment we walk upright to the bathroom in the morning, to the hours we spend in ergonomic chairs with hands outstretched over a keyboard, to the late hours we spend trying to look our best inna the club.
The process becomes a metaphor for how individuals adapt to their responsibilities in society: to perform well, to “save face” or to “get away with”. These are new behaviors particular to living within a hierarchical city structure. Human nature has changed to suit its context.
We invite you to put our new instincts to the test and to witness movement unleashed from social norms.”
–Lucy M. May
“This interactive dance system plays on the triple-reliance among body mover, sound, and active observer. My goals were to preserve a fluid progression of interaction, but above all to cull a sense of beauty from both the sound synthesis and the movers. The goal is the opposite of confrontation – rather, the observer is presented with a familiar physical interface (a videogame controller), with which he soon discovers apt control of real-time sound synthesis; and immediately after, realizes physical control of a duo of female dancers, gracefully employing the observer’s suggestions with improvisational movement.
There have been dancer-control interfaces that have relied on rule- and knowledge-based reactionary behavior. This system, on the contrary, relies on skill-based improvisational interpretation of signal-level control messages. This shift toward immediacy and freedom comes with a necessary detriment to precise, accurate correlation between the mover’s gestures and the observer’s whimsical directives: the experiment is thus in the ability for the observer to derive meaning from an action-reaction system that is held together not by explicit rules but by the tastes and biases of the “inter-actors”. An additional point is the question of whether any perceived correlation (if indeed, there is any at all) is genuine, or manufactured by the observer’s natural tendency to connect abstract stimuli in two simultaneous modes of perception (vision, sound), compounded by the element of perceived control.”