Recipients of an Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology 2018 Commission, Aurie and Steven Kemper premiere our new collaborative piece, Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? for sensor-equipped belly dancer, robotic percussion, and live sound processing. Schedule TBA.
Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? for sensor-equipped belly dancer, robotic percussion, and live sound processing, explores questions of intersectionality and fluidity between organism and machine as raised in Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” In a broad sense, these intersections between human and machine suggest hybrid bodies, raising questions about embodiment in our contemporary techno-culture where the lines between organism and machine become indistinguishable.
This performance enacts Haraway’s idea of a “cyborg world” consisting of “lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship between animals and machines.” Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? realizes the capability of the hybrid body in performance, sonically connecting mechanized human movement and humanized robotic action. Robotic percussion surrounds the dancer, serving as a visual and sonic extension of the dancer’s body. The RAKS (Remote electroAcoustic Kinesthetic Sensing) system, a wireless wearable sensor interface, translates the dancer’s movement into activations of the robotic percussion instrument CADI (Configurable Automatic Percussion Instrument). Through the RAKS system, the dancer also controls computer-generated sound processing and synthesis.
The interaction between dancer, CADI, and sound processing is modeled after the drum solo, a Middle Eastern musical form consisting of a fast-tempo virtuosic improvisation where the lines between leader and follower are indistinguishable. The piece reflects this blurring of roles in the relationship between human and machine, creating a feedback loop between the dancer’s movements and CADI’s mechanical actions. The choreography reflects the mechanical nature of robotic movement with isolations and body locks, while CADI produces a visual and sonic echo of this movement through rhythmic and sustained textures.