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Encountering danse macabre:
Negotiating Mortality through Viscosity of Time
Direction: Jiayi Young in collaboration with medievalist, Seeta Chaganti
Choreography: Sara Phelps
Dancers: Mahogany Smith-Christopher, Ruby McCann, Victoria Casas, Sara Phelps
Participants: Netta Schwarz, Sonia Garcia, Brontë Blanco, Kirstyn Carroll, Jessica Bautista, Makayla Stump, Sally Tseng
Phase I: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Performance Center, UC Davis, April 6, 2016
Phase II: TBA
The project leverages public participatory responsive environments to provide access to experiences that resonate between seemingly disparate points of intersection. I am interested in the role public participatory environments play in contemporary culture as social acts or popular practices that shape cultural beliefs. In this interdisciplinary project, I seek to make connections across the humanities, from historical literature to contemporary art and dance, to design and craft a large-scale environment that is a hybrid of an interactive art installation and a stage performance to understand the significance of public participatory social act in the medieval aesthetic past, in turn, to examine the socio-historical and cultural framework of past cultural traditions in relationship to the present. This project enlists an exemplary medieval performance tradition of the danse macabre (“the dance of the death”), as a case study, to probe the relationship between performance oriented social participatory act and the inaccessible. Medievalists have long lamented the limits of historicist methods to reconstruct a far distant aesthetic past. Using danse macabre as a starting point, the project aims to construct such a hybrid environment to reenact a contemporary interpretation of this medieval tradition.
Leveraging the ability of sensors and mobile cameras to configure visual and audible information, the responsive environment will provocatively engage the participants to negotiate spatiotemporal distance and provide an experiential window into the past. This project furthers the inquiries of sensor-driven multi-dimensional human participatory environments in contemporary art practice; at the same time contributes to the ongoing discussion of the Humanities and its changing landscape in the context of digital culture. The work began in January 2016 as a collaboration with Professor Seeta Chaganti (English and Medieval Studies, UC Davis). Generously supported by the Mondavi Center and the Office of Research, in the spring of 2016, we successfully completed the first technical testing of the project (video documentation above).
Real-time motion capture, light, multi-channel projection and sound will be used to create the responsive environment in which dancers as well as participants trigger, activate, configure relevant visual and audible composition. Here, dancers serve as temporal points of departure to ignite, connect, and thus provide opportunities to construct a sensory experience to extend imagination in order to gain access to reconstruct a far distant aesthetic past. This project experiments to intensify medial juxtapositions to generate complex and dimensional temporal vectors to produce multivalent construct experiences.
Mondavi Center, UC Davis
Office of Research, UC Davis
Professor James Housefield and his DES40c class, spring 2016
Backstage technical support from Jonathan Hawley Peters
Photo by B.R. Molloy and Copyright UC Regents 2016