This ultra-interactive performance space is dance’s version of the New Aesthetic. Created by Taiwan’s Anarchy Dance Theatre in collaboration with the avant-garde new media creative firm Ultra Combos, the blank performance stage becomes a canvas for a series of optical-illusion projections that animate according to dancers’ movements, turning a white box into a reactive environment.
Anarchy Dance Theatre’s performance, seen here, is called “Seventh Sense,” a name that seems fitting for the mind-expanding possibilities of the enhanced space. The projectors provide a variety of different effects. Motion-detection and projection-mapping software is used to create blobs of color around the dancers that stretch and contract as they do, re-emphasizing the visual rhythm of the choreography. In another segment, the performance space is filled with a vast swath of lines like an abstracted corn field. Each line sways, stretching toward the single dancer who flits around the stage.
The most dramatic part of “Seventh Sense” comes when the blank box turns into an endless gridded cube etched with an infinity of boxes. It’s a minimalist, dystopian vision of the inhumanity of technology. As the dancers move, they seem to call up three-dimensional mountains of cubes that look real but are actually just tricks of the projection. The dancers become protagonists in a harsh digital world that feels oppressive and claustrophobic, a representation of our anxiety in a fully networked world.
That last dance segment also shows how “Seventh Sense” speaks to some of the ideas of the New Aesthetic. Ultra Combos’s dance space places the digital and the physical into a single integrated realm, allowing the dancers to physically respond to the digital visualizations around them, and have the visualizations react right back. The project hints at some future possibilities to how technology could be embedded into our environment and change how we experience the world around us.
In this way, “Seventh Sense” has a lot in common with interactive, projection-based work like Camille Utterback‘s responsive paintings that generate themselves according to viewers’ movements, Chris Milk’s powerful, body-morphing “The Treachery of Sanctuary,” and Brian Knep‘s biology-inspired “Drift” series of installations. But “Seventh Seal” alone creates an immersive physical-digital environment that puts no boundaries between real and virtual space.
Check out a video of excerpts from “Seventh Sense” below.