News & Events

Fly-By Takes Off

January 22, 2014


I am so pleased that artist/thinker/netizen (and Practice Based Re/search founder) Vanessa Blaylock has joined our project, “In the Dark”. She will be collaborating with the principal artists: choreographer Donna Sternberg, media artist Kate Johnson, and I, in the first section to be staged called “Fly-By”. Composer David Raiklin will be writing original music to accompany Donna Sternberg’s dancers, in this site-specific work.

“Fly-By” will take place in an outdoor parking lot with projection surfaces ranging from inflatables to building walls utilized.

The “In the Dark” project began when University of Michigan physicist, Professor Gregory Tarle, approached me to work together on an art project which would involve the subject of dark energy. Greg and I had known each other in high school, back in the Stone Age (or should I say stoned age?), but we had not been in contact for decades. When we discussed a potential project together, I suggested that my two-long time collaborators, Donna and Kate, come in also as principal artists.

For the last two years, Greg, Kate, Donna, myself, and postdoctoral fellow Dr.Brian Nord (now at FermiLab) discussed both science as well as art and narrowed down a number of possible site-specific concepts for a large-scale and site-specific immersive multimedia performance. Challenges of ‘accessibility’ (in terms of potential audiences) and understandings of today’s complex theories in astrophysics were taken very seriously in developing the project.

This preliminary “Fly-By” section from what will ultimately be an evening-length work will be staged on April 12, 2014, as part of ONE Night-EZTV, SIGGRAPH and West Hollywood Digital Art, an evening of part retrospective screenings of 1980’s era digital projection art, as well as part new work and performances. In addition to “Fly-By”, Kate Crash (LA Weekly’s favorite collision of art and music) will also appear. The possibly of also having the Venice Symphony Orchestra perform is also seriously being discussed.

When I first wrote “Fly-By” and presented it to Kate, Donna, Greg, and Brian, I took very seriously some notions that Greg had spoken to us of. The idea that scientists were first and foremost ‘tool makers and tool users’, measuring the physical world and from those measurements making calculations and then theories of the very nature of time/space, made a deep impression on me. I imagined a piece where humans and their tools danced, just as metaphorically as they do in science. I realized that much of what science now ‘sees’ is remotely viewed. Not remotely viewed in the metaphysical sense, but in the literal sense. The Hubble Telescope, the Large Hadron Collider, electron microscopy, the Mars rovers, etc., are all really drones which expand our sense of sight. Without them, the universe is a much smaller place.

Tools are, therefore, not separate from ourselves but are intrinsically extensions of ourselves, expanding our senses and our perceptions, and even developing new senses which biology did not provide us.

I approached my collaborators with the idea that one or more of Donna’s dancers should do ‘duets with drones’, small flying drones equipped with wireless cameras which could ‘beam’ images, remotely, to projection surfaces. We began development along those lines and inducted long-time EZTVer, artist/filmmaker/physicist (and newbie drone operator) Nina Rota to get involved. She began working with Donna and her dancers in developing drone movements and techniques, which may ultimately translate into choreographic vocabulary.

More recently, I suggested that Vanessa’s avatar performances could be an opportunity to further develop the notion of remote viewing. Vanessa’s writings and statements showed me that she also had realized that tools, such as cyberspace, were extensions of self and not separate from it.

As a trained dancer as well as media artist, Vanessa, could dance with Donna’s dancers remotely from The Hague instead of West Hollywood. Vanessa will serve not just as a remote viewer/dancer but metaphorically serve as a visual reminder of the various scientific theories of multiple universes, in which other equally complex universes may exist simultaneously all around us. This creative opportunity was immediately of great interest to Donna and Kate, who see what all our art-practice experiments together might create.

Vanessa has suggested that several other avatars, in addition to herself, might be possible as well as an avatar of a drone.

The word ‘drone’ now, understandably, has a very negative connotation to many people. I therefore have suggested we adopt the term ‘flying camera’ to better introduce, conceptually, what we are experimenting with.

I am sure that Donna and her talented dancers (who will also help develop choreographic vocabulary), Kate, Nina, the scientists and now Vanessa, will conceptually evolve my initial idea into something that they can all work with creatively to truly result in a collaborated effort. Collaboration is both the most rewarding form of art practice, but equally, the most emotionally-charged as one’s initial concepts must understandably morph into new directions in the capable hands of others. And, of course, David’s music will tie it all together into something I believe we will all be very happy with. I am so very proud to be part of this team of artist/thinkers.

Many more details about “Fly-By”, “In the Dark” and “ONE Night” will appear here as they develop.