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2007 – Performance at ZKM 

JULY 5, 2007 

On the occasion of Herbert W. Franke’s eightieth birthday, Hommage à E. M. was performed once again in the historical setting and the videosizer by Fairlight as part of the event series art meets science in the Media Theatre of the ZKM | Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe. 

The dynamic moment of movement is of fundamental importance in many forms of art – not least in dance. Through the use of modern media, dynamic processes can be grasped from a new perspective. Hints of this can be found in the works of Eadweard Muybridge (“E. M.”), which have long since become classic, who used photographic methods newly developed by him to obtain phase images of motor processes in humans and animals. The possibilities of analytical examination of the phenomenon of “movement” are considerably expanded by modern electronic devices. This results not only in scientific knowledge but also in considerable aesthetic moments. 

This performance is particularly concerned with the resulting new artistic territory. Simple elements, such as phase recordings and trace images, can be integrated into sequences that juxtapose the model – the movement of a dancer – with a new kind of image sequence, an “electronic mirror image” as it were. 

Digital ballet has the character of an experiment in which not only the designers but also the audience are involved: The divided field of vision – dance stage and projection screen – also corresponds to a bifurcation of attention, which is not arbitrary, however, but rather suggestively predetermined by the contexts given in terms of design and technology. 

The main technical devices used are a video camera, an image processing computer, and a video projector with a rear projection screen. The video camera records the dancer’s movements, which are then processed in real-time by the image processor and simultaneously displayed on the screen. 

In the development of “Hommage à E. M.,” a deliberate decision was made to forgo a narrative level. The performance is intended to have an impact through a canon of visual and auditory processes that merge into a higher unity with the help of electronic tools, much like classical free dance. 

The performance is divided into four parts, characterized by the keywords Motion Analysis, Motion Abstraction, Motion Synthesis, and finally, Motion Painting. The video on the right depicts this last part, the Motion Painting. 

Motion analysis: Based on a series of pictures by Eadweard Muybridge, the simplest movement sequences are documented over the factor of time. 

Still image from motion analysis
Still image from motion analysis
Still image from motion analysis

Motion Synthesis: The optical tools previously used for analytical purposes form the aesthetic material for the creation of a choreography in which real dance scenes and electronically transformed visual sequences interact with each other. In this process, the previously abstract sound matrix also transforms into a melodic soundscape. 

Still image from motion synthesis
Still image from motion synthesis
Still image from motion synthesis

Motion Painting: Ultimately, the newly acquired repertoire of choreographic design themes leads to the possibility of creating moving images through dance. “In-the-space-written” and music-choreographed images emerge. 

Idea, Concept, Visual Design: Herbert W. Franke 
Composer: Klaus Netzle 
Dancer: Gabriela Lang 
Dance Dramaturgy and Direction: Susanne Paech 
Technical Supervisor: Christoph Gruener