Displacing Visibility Through the Blink of an Eye: Hybridity and the Art of Seeing
Klare Lanson, April 2019 (1)
There’s only one place in the world where light and sound affect each other equally in a way that moves beyond any physics or technology—human perception. This is where the synaesthesia of sound and vision lives. This is where it becomes a creative and lived experience, a state of audio-visual elation.
Punctum’s latest Seedpod residency winks an eye at such delight. Parallax was a captivating hybrid reality experience at the intersection of live dance, 3D stereoscopic animation and sound art, driven by performance artist Megan Beckwith, with on target soundscape design by Jacques Soddell. The project was developed through Beckwith’s recent creative practiceled PhD research into 3D objects as an actor of choreography alongside the body, and how this relationship can transform the more traditional aspects of the theatre space for both viewer and performer alike.
From an audience perspective, the 3D glasses we were ushered to wear on entry set the stage for playful scientific trickery. Walking into the Phee Broadway Theatre, the polarised clip-ons I wore made me think of Andy Warhol’s work in the early 60’s where he experimented with screen-printing in three dimensions. As the performance started, I began filtering my visual perception differently for each eye, perhaps as metaphor for multiple ways of seeing, or being in the world.
Beginning with a white ball of light, the projected animation began to unfold slowly, where visual and sonic abstraction was experienced simultaneously alongside repetitive body gesture and movement of the performer. Fractal geometry, colour, light and sound performed together to construct a collective and theatrical space for co-existence. The feelings of immersion enabled a multidimensional experience of self, both externalised as the viewer, and also internalised through slightly different perspectives based on physical location of audience members.
Transmedia digital storytelling enables poetic forms of transformation and the way Beckwith integrates dance and 3D animation is hypnotic. In the case of Parallax, the body exhibits cycles of repetitive movement, in dialogue with technology, and in doing so becomes weirdly two dimensional, where instead the screen becomes choreographed as body. The ‘Alice-in-wonderland’ role of the dancer reorients us into a fantastical existence of altered reality. This flip between screen and body not only boosts the capacity of movement within space but also questions our relationship to technology itself. How can this intersection of subjectivity and technology enable more emotive experience? What does this more-than-human assemblage make visible?
Perhaps the most important aspect of this project is the empowerment of the artist as both dancer and animator, controlling body and screen, in some ways as an act of intersectional feminism, not just about women or gender but more importantly about power. The distortion and expansion of the house into ‘home’ (as the fractured sound anticipates) is an intimate space that—with more and more female technology use—is becoming increasingly public. This Blackbox artist delves right in; by creating the 3D animations from scratch as well as performing as body within the space. This not only exposes the ways in which women’s technological work has been ‘blackboxed’ as unimportant in history, but also amplifies the DIY culture that makes visible a discussion of the different forms of female labour.
This performance also paid homage to art history in compelling ways, a nod to various forms of Geometric Abstraction with its morphing cellular structures and symmetrical shapes that slowly shatter back into the linear. And then, in the blink of an eye, the geometric forms shift into abstraction, then realism, shape shifting into slowly floating organic petals augmented by the amplified green and liquid sounds we hear; vibrations in the air.
The ball of white light appears again, signalling closure. We have come full circle—moved through the cycle and come out the other side with altered sensibilities and ongoing questions about the different ways we can think about visibility.
This project has amazing touring legs, especially with its mobile and easily mountable restaging requirements, and its ability to adapt to different performance spaces along the way. I hope it travels far and wide, so all and sundry can experience Parallax as the kaleidoscopic entry point to where the illusory art of visual data meets the body.
1 Klare Lanson is poet, writer, sound artist and editor. She is a member of Punctum Inc, Undue Noise media art collective, and a creative practice research PhD candidate at RMIT’s College of Design and Social Context.