Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Portraits in the 21st Century

The portrait I described in class is Merce Cunningham, with Shelly Eshkar, Paul Kaiser and Marc Downie: Loops

and here is the project again and if you click on the link where it says "Loops is opened up completely, you get the information for open source code, creative commons copyright liscence, all the motion capture data etc. You can build on the project, if you can code...:(

Public release of Merce Cunningham’s Loops Choreography
Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 6:30 PM
Merce Cunningham Studio

New York, NY—Merce Cunningham Dance Company and The OpenEnded Group present the public release of Merce Cunningham’s choreography for his signature solo dance Loops, and the accompanying digital artwork created by The OpenEnded Group, on Tuesday, February 26 at 6:30 PM in the Merce Cunningham Studio. This event is co-hosted by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The evening will include a presentation of the choreography and of the digital artwork, remarks from Merce Cunningham as well as Paul Kaiser and Marc Downie of The OpenEnded Group, and a reception. The choreography for Loops will be made available under a “copyleft” intellectual property license (in the form championed by Creative Commons). This will permit anyone to perform, reproduce, and adapt this work for non-commercial purposes. Simultaneously, the digital artists of The OpenEnded Group (Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar, and Paul Kaiser) will release their digital portrait of Cunningham, also entitled Loops, as open source software. This artwork derives from a highresolution 3D recording of Cunningham performing the solo with his hands. The artists will also unveil a completely new realization of the work, now in color. The open source release will give digital artists and scholars the freedom to study the artwork in detail and to adapt or remix the artwork creatively. The release will also constitute a kind of “living will” for the artwork so that it can be recreated long after current technology has been superseded. This open source release goes beyond Loops itself, for it includes the complete multimedia authoring system, Field, that underpins Loops as well as other of the most technically challenging artworks made to date, spanning realtime graphics, interactive performance, and digital music. The open source release of Loops is made possible through support from the Cunningham Dance Foundation with major support provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. All the original materials for Loops will become part of the Merce Cunningham Archive at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. The Merce Cunningham Archive was created unofficially by David Vaughan when he was hired by Merce Cunningham as studio administrator in December 1959. In 1976, his job as archivist was formalized by a National Endowment for the Arts grant for a two-year pilot project. At the end of that period, the Cunningham Dance Foundation asked him to remain as the first archivist in the history of American dance companies. The Merce Cunningham Archive’s works on paper include a virtually complete set of programs of performances, posters and flyers, Cunningham's personal choreographic notes from the 1930s to the present, books and periodicals of writing by Cunningham and Cage, as well as books and periodicals about Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The electronic media works include Cunningham's personal choreographic notes, dating from 1991, constituting some 50 hours of computer files; original moving camera recordings related to Cunningham's film/video collaborations; master films and videotapes; and recordings of performances and rehearsals, recorded interviews, documentaries, and newscasts featuring Cunningham and his work. There are approximately 1000 still images, approximately 200 hours of audiotapes and phonograph records of music relating to the repertoire; and sound recordings of music and of interviews, lectures and symposia, and oral histories. Merce Cunningham Studio is located at 55 Bethune Street, 11th floor, in Manhattan.

Cunningham created Loops as a solo dance for himself in 1971 and continued to perform it until 2001. Though he originally danced it with his full body, Cunningham soon started channeling its intricate movements entirely into his fingers, hands, and arms. In this form, Loops became the signature solo work of Cunningham’s later career, often inserted as a cameo into Merce
Cunningham Dance Company Events. Cunningham eventually set Loops on an artificial “performer,” a software intelligence embodied in an abstract body coded and created by The OpenEnded artists for a virtual version of the work. This digital version of Loops was commissioned by the MIT Media Lab in 2001 and derives from a definitive recording of Cunningham performing the work in a motion capture studio. This recording preserved the intricate performance as 3D data, which portrayed not Cunningham’s appearance, but rather his motion. Cunningham’s joints become nodes in a network that sets them into fluctuating relationships with one another, at times suggesting the hands underlying them, but more often
depicting complex cat’s-cradle variations. These nodes render themselves in a series of related styles, rendered to resemble gesture drawings. The Loops soundtrack has two elements. The first is Cunningham reading carefully compiled diary
entries from his first three-day visit to New York City in 1937 at age 17, a marvelous evocation both of the spaces of Manhattan and of the young Cunningham. The second is a musical response to the sound and semantics of the narration as well as to the structural changes occurring on screen. This work draws upon sounds from the prepared piano of long-time Cunningham collaborator John Cage and, like the visual elements, creates itself in real-time. Just as the Loops imagery constructs a set of interacting processes that observe and recast the motion of Cunningham’s hands, the new score takes a set of interacting musical processes that listen to and restate the sound and language of Cunningham’s narration. Like Loops the physical dance, Loops the digital artwork is always "performed" live (computed and rendered in real-time), with no two performances the same. As a live performance it suggests the immortality of a dance that would appear to be fleeting and ephemeral. As a subject for creative reinterpretation, the digital work offers something radically new. Since the internal structure of Loops is revealed completely in its visibly open source, re-implementations of it can go far beyond the present-day practice of “remixes,” which operate only on the surface rather than on the structure of the original work. Merce Cunningham, born in Centralia, Washington, received his first formal dance and theater training at the Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in Seattle. From 1939 to 1945, he was a soloist in the company of Martha Graham and presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in April 1944. Cunningham has choreographed nearly 200 works for his company. Cunningham's interest in contemporary technology has led him to work with the computer program DanceForms, which he has used in making all his dances since Trackers (1991). In 1997 he began work in motion capture with Paul Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar of Riverbed Media to develop the decor for BIPED, with music by Gavin Bryars, first performed in 1999 at Zellerbach Hall, University of California at Berkeley. Another major work, Interscape, first given in 2000, reunited Cunningham with his early collaborator Robert Rauschenberg, who designed both décor and costumes for the dance, which has music by John Cage. In the 2002–03 season MCDC celebrated its 50th anniversary, beginning with performances at the 2002 Lincoln Center Festival in New York City and ending in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in October 2003, when a new work with music by two rock bands, Radiohead and Sigur Rós, Split Sides, was presented. The décor was by the photographers Robert Heishman and Catherine Yass, with costumes by James Hall and lighting by James F. Ingalls. Merce Cunningham: Dancing on the Cutting Edge, an exhibition of recent design for MCDC, opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, in January 2007. The major exhibition Invention: Merce Cunningham & Collaborators at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts closed on October 13, 2007. Cunningham’s most recent dance, XOVER, was presented at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in October 2007, featuring décor and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg, music by John Cage, and lighting by Josh Johnson. The Company also performs regularly at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries as part of the Hudson Valley Project, a series of residencies continuing into 2009.

The OpenEnded Group ( has its roots in film, dance, drawing, writing, computer graphics, and artificial intelligence, creating digital artworks like no others. Artists Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar, and Paul Kaiser have created numerous acclaimed works for stage, screen, gallery, and public space. Prior to Loops, their most notable collaboration with Cunningham was BIPED (1999), a tour-de-force of dance and technology that remains in Cunningham’s repertory. They have also worked with two other choreographers, Trisha Brown (how long does the subject linger on the edge of the volume... [2004]) and Bill T. Jones (Ghostcatching [1999] and 22 [2005]). Other OpenEnded works include the public art installation Pedestrian (2002), which has been extensively exhibited around the world, and two public art commissions from Lincoln Center: Enlightenment (2006) and Breath (2007).

# # #
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Merce Cunningham Studio, 11th floor
55 Bethune Street, New York, NY 10014
tel: 212.255.8240 x14 fax: 212.633.2453