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Chapter Two “His hands are free and he is not anchored” (Vannevar Bush)

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This wish to liberalise art through audience participation is in no way a new idea as Rubidge explains,

“Roy Ascott, Head of CAiiA argued as long ago as 1988 that "system, process, behaviour and interaction are fundamental to the arts of our time" Many hail interactive art as a revival of the artistic dream of the 60s, in which participation, and the democratisation of art became the raison d’être of many artists’ practice.” (Rubidge, 2001, online)

The dream to make art accessible came about as an act against the idealism and elitism surrounding the dance world. The ideas introduced by the post-modernists which embraced audience participation, open-ended work, the intricacy of everyday movement, and chance systems, were championed by choreographers including Merce Cunningham and Yvonne Rainer. In Rainer’s case she focused on presenting the mechanics of human movement,

“After Judson, she choreographed large group works using both professional and non-professional dancers in the late 1960’s, explored the relationship between different aspects of the performance process during the performance itself, and gave more and more freedom to her performers in regard to choosing the sequence of material in the dance.” (Banes, 1987, p.41)

Cunningham on the other hand experimented with structuring movement through chance ruled games and processes,

“…like tossing coins or dice or picking cards at random to determine the order of movements in a phrase, the sequence of phrases in a dance…Chance subverts habits and allows for new combinations. It also undermines literal meanings attached to sequences of movements or combinations of body parts…” (Banes, 1987, p.7)

In both these brief excerpts Banes discusses the very same features which form the underlining principles of hypertext theory, including the use of indeterminate factors to define sequence, the advocacy of non-professional participants in performance thus democratising the art and the subversion of habitual responses in search of new combinations. If Cunningham and Rainer paved the way for such companies as Palindrome and Troika Ranch, what lies ahead for this fusion of post-modernist principles and hypertext theories? In the next chapter I will discuss my own journey as an artist to investigate the answers behind this question and to explore the use of hypertext as a structuring principle in relation to digital dance.

Troika Ranch is a digital dance theatre company whose mission is to create live performances that hybridize dance, theatre and interactive digital media. Directors Coniglio and Stoppiello are widely recognized as creative leaders in the field of dance and technology, dubbed "interactive performance pioneers" by the New York Times.
Palindrome is a dance company which focuses on art works in which mensch and media can interact in real-time settings.


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