"Imagine that a computer is given the ability to control electronically all of the media of the stage, and is able to sense and understand in an abstract way what is happening in that space. Furthermore, suppose that the computer is given the ability to reason about what was happening and could construct abstract responses through media. What would be possible for the computer to do? In an analogy to the human body, the theatrical space is the computer's body… The space that holds the performance becomes an environment generated from behaviors of the computer, responding to and shaped by performers, designers, and technicians." (Lovell, 2000:1)
Figure 1 - the structure of the Cyborg and its place in the Performance Laboratory
Lovell’s analogy inspired our early MA research. We see the movements of the virtual camera (see Computer Models Explained), which we term the virtual choreography (Vc) as becoming the expression of a performative entity composed of the cyber-dancer and the virtual environment control system (i.e. both the software and hardware involved) (see Figure 1). We refer to this entity as the Cyborg, and see the Cyborg as analogous to a human performer.
The word cyborg instantly engenders images of Terminator and Robocop, yet the word has come to mean any system that is comprised part of human and part of technology (Calleja and Schwager, 2004:3-4). We found that conceptualising the complete assemblage of cyber-dancer and technology as a discrete entity, the Cyborg, focuses our interrogation of the evolution of our technological art.
A dancer on stage has: consciousness, aware of her/his environment and of the performative choices open to him/her at any time; a mind in which movement material is remembered; and the ability to experiment creatively with choreographic ideas. In the analogy between the Cyborg and the human dancer, the cyber-dancer is the Cyborg’s consciousness (figure 3); the Plex, its mind; the virtual camera of the computer model (the object that is moved in virtual space) is the Cyborg’s body, and the projection of the rendered image onto the stage (the visible manifestation of the Cyborg) is its skin.
This analogy does not stop at the Cyborg’s structure but continues to its workings. The VcObjects (constructed by the cyber-dancer) in the Plex of Spider or a:Live can be thought of as the Cyborg’s Ideas, and the web, in which the VcObjects are connected, forms the Cyborg’s understanding. VcObjects that are visible at any time to the cyber-dancer are Ideas in the Cyborg’s mind that are visible to its consciousness, i.e. conscious ideas. Hidden VcObjects are the Cyborg’s unconscious Ideas. The process that connects the VcObjects together can be thought of as the Cyborg’s intelligence.
The Cyborg is effectively the dance partner of the Dancer(s) onstage. Together they create a duet of the Cyborg’s movement in virtual space (virtual choreography (Vc)) with the Dancer’s movement in physical space (physical choreography (Pc)).