REPLICA: "Dancing at the Edge of the World"

©Miriam Woodburn

©Miriam Woodburn

In interdisciplinary collaboration with scientists, designers, creative coders and new media artists, REPLICA imagines and rehearses future societies with their folklores. And they prototype new tools and rituals. 

REPLICA is an interdisciplinary performance collective and laboratory for embodied experimentation with digital tools, new media and speculative design. They envision the dance-theatre of tomorrow — playful, subversive, interactive, underpinned by new emergent cultures and social change — and explore how technologies permeate the collective unconscious to generate new aesthetic codes.

Artistic Research

A speculative performance piece exploring the intersections between the body-based practices promoted by Grotowski’s theatre laboratory and Haraway’s feminist theory, "Dancing at the Edge of the World" is based on a multimedia non-linear narrative that shifts the locus of knowledge production for AI-design by rooting it in the experience of the body.

Haraway and Grotowski both share a resistance to the perpetuation of ideologies and practices that reinforce the mind-body dualism, and place emphasis on embodiment and physical ways of knowing. They believe that “knowledge is a matter of doing” – “what is known first in the body can only afterwards be articulated in discursive form” Wolford (1996, p.31). As such, the body is an archive for personal and collective memories: an embodied sensory system in Donna Harway’s feminist discourse; a social artefact for Grotowski, who incorporates various rituals and spiritual traditional practices such as the Eastern traditions of vigil. If the boundaries between self and others are being blurred, how can this archive inform the learning schemes of an artificial intelligent entity? What is group intelligence when a group is composed of both human and non-human agents?

Following the observations of REPLICA’s practice-led research project The Shape Of Things To Come, the notion of embodied intelligence is considered key to informing new, more appropriate paradigms for the creation of artificial intelligence. The theatre laboratory becomes an anthropological site for human and non-human actors to express and negotiate agencies, systems of values, exhibit dysfunctions and moments of tension in safe environments. It functions as a space governed not by the domain of official or dominant culture, able to promulgate values that fall outside of the purview of the establishment, and to build bridges between the arts and sciences, between the past and the present, with an eye towards the future.

Digital Toolbox

Featuring in this project, and developed in collaboration with Mika Satomi, is a capture wearable aaatechnology: a collar, with bend sensors that can be attached to 8 points on the body. The sensor data is processed and gathered locally on a Bela board attached to each item, and can be streamlined in real-time to a central unit through a wireless network. A speaker sits on the front of the collar, emitting sounds that can react to the position of the sensors — to how the performer moves their body. 

These sensor data are lists of numbers, which can be sonified or visualised in various ways, creating aural or visual cartographies of movement captured in flight. It’s a hyper-simplification of the reality of movement, yet it has something essential: it’s the beginning of a digital body-language, which the performer is able to connect to, understand and alter through her physicality.

The sonification of movement for this performance was realised in collaboration with kling klang klong. They have developed a sound aesthetic for the sonification which balances a human and artificial identity, and tried to remodel aspects from the human speech system through the vocalisation of the five vowels and the various phonemes of the English language, through Pure data patches reactive to the inputs coming from the sensors. 

The visualisations of data are made by Meredith Thomas. Using unsupervised machine learning algorithms, Meredith searches for emergent patterns of movement in latent spaces and explores the predictive  possibilities of generative techniques.

Communication and support by Hybrid Platform.