Our research has taken us through a number of creative iterations. Each new creation has not only seen developments in our artistic practice and in the technology we use, but also developments in our critical analysis and theoretical ideas. This page walks through this history, please click links to expand on the detail.
We began with a basic stage setup and performers, who would appear to merge into a projected image covering the whole stage in a manner that to the viewer, the onstage performers would appear to inhabit the diegetic world of the projected imagery.
Our technological development has centered around the method of generating and controlling the projected image. Our first creation NT_001454 was a highly filmic narrative that used pre-rendered video. At this stage we called the environments we created onstage "Virtual Worlds". Our second creation, VRIP, used Director to control the animation of the projection in real time (read more). Rivan, our third piece used Director to control many image-elements including pre-rendered video and stack frame animation (read more). Director allowed us to combine the flexibility of real-time control with the realism of pre-rendering. However, there was significant difficulty attached to creating this sophisticated presentation and the technology became overloaded and unreliable making it ill-suited to theatrical touring. (The performance in september 2002 almost had to be abandoned!).
In reflecting on Rivan in late 2002 we realised that the agreement between the animation of the virtual environment and the physical onstage choreography was vitally important. Just as is the agreement between the sound and vision in cinema where an extended impression, a diegetic world, is created in the vewer's mind. A diegetic imaginary world of the film inhabited by the characters can be created by our animated virtual scenography, but for this world to be seen by the viewer there needs to be significant agreement, both temporal and spatial with the choreography of the live performers and this agreement is vital for the emergence of a new creative dimension, a magic that we sought in our original vision.
The creative process that we had used to develop both NT_001454 and Rivan had been technologically driven. In the case of NT_001454 the initial animation had been done entirely onscreen and only drawn together with the performers in the final stages of production. The technology used in NT_001454 and Rivan was proprietary software used for video production or CD authoring and as such was unwieldy when used in conjunction with the fluid fast process of artistic creation. It led to a separation between the technology and the human elements in the process of creative production, which inevitably led to their separation in the final production.
We needed to develop a technology that could participate in the creative process of the stage production. In early 2003 we started developing VOS , and continued this development through initial research for an MA at the University of Chichester. Not only was this technology part of the artistic creative process, but the artistic creative process allowed the development of the technology, the two were Co-Creative.
During the MA several concepts became very important including Presence, Deleuzian Time-Image and Hypertextuality. During the first MA project research (Pre-Flux) we developed theory that saw the technology as a performative entity in it's own right (see Computer as Performer). At the end of the second project, Flux, Curson critically reflected on the ongoing technical development of VOS in 'Towards An Understanding of 3D Virtual Environment Software Development and the Choreographic Process' This led to Spider that was co-created with the final project Rhizomes.
Spider was designed as a prototype and in late 2006 we started working on the next software generation a:Live. a:Live would include much of the functionality suggested by the Co-creative process of Spider that was incapable of being implementing due to its limited programming environment. In mid 2007 we critically evaluated Spider in 'A Duet of Cyborg and Dancer: Creative Autogenesis'. In this paper the concept of the Computer as Performer was expanded to become the Cyborg. The VcObjects within the Spiders Plex were viewed as thoughts in the mind of the Cyborg. The paper critically analyses the process that created and connected these 'thoughts' and compared it to processes in the human mind and in the natural world, especially micro-biology. The paper suggests the factors that are important in this creative process, a process it calls Autogenesis.