Arts as embodied Interaction?

Had some additional random thoughts and ramblings about the subject while in the shower. Like I said, I’m confused, so things would just pop in and out of my head…

So I was thinking…
I said that performing arts is all about embodied interaction in my previous post. Well I think I would like to correct that. Performing arts is about embodied communication. At the very least, classically speaking giving a performance is about transferring a message or expressing yourself. (note that I’m looking only at the ‘performing’ part of ‘performing arts’ now. I haven’t started thinking about what embodiment does for the ‘arts’ part yet). You are not theoretically ‘interacting’ with anything or anyone. So my initial impulse to say performing arts is embodied interaction, wrong wrong. Now, the new forms of performing arts that allow the audience or viewers to take part in the performance together with the performers can maybe be said to be forms of embodied interaction. But while interactive visual arts such as installations are rather common nowadays, interactive performances are much less so. This reminds me of something I read back in undergrad about Augusto Boal and his work titled ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’. If I remember correctly, it’s about a form of theatre back in Aristotle’s time where people can participate in theatre pieces that were ‘improvised’ by actors on issues that the play directors wanted to bring to the masses’ attention. I’ll have to look this up again. But at the time I read that for an interactive storytelling course I think.

So how do you transform performing arts from an embodied communication form to that of embodied interaction? And if performing arts are given the interactivity component (through technology presumably), what effects will it have? Is it a good or bad thing? In fact, I’ve been trying to collect papers on that out of pure interest because it’s just something that I’m really curious about. I would like to know whether research has shown anything conclusive on that. Sadly, I haven’t had much time to go through much of the literature I’ve collected on that so far.

One more thing that occurred to me in the shower is that performing arts seem to be one of the only (there could be others that I can’t think of right now – I thought about digital games and virtual environments but these lack the embodiment part, not the situatedness part. Context can be easily created in virtual environments I think.) forms of embodied interaction (ok communication if you would prefer to keep it at that) that does not have the situatedness link. Like what I said in my previous post, embodiment necessarily entails situatedness since bodies need to exist in a specific place, time and context. But in the way I view it, performing arts is carried out in very much of a ‘vacuum’. Yes, it’s performed in different kinds of environments and at different times but those have no impact really on the embodied communication that takes place, isn’t it? Whether you perform on an open-air stage, in an arena, on a theatre stage, it’s always a standard ‘performance area’. The performers may have to adjust their formations, and maybe their moves/steps, to cater to the space but that’s about it. So I wonder, how can we bring situatedness into the performing arts? Can technology help to create a specific context that the choreographer can fashion to help in communicating or expressing his/her ideas? And if it’s about performing arts as embodied interaction, how does the creation of the situatedness element change the whole interactive experience for both performers and audience?

Maybe these are all questions and points that have been discussed profoundly in the literature with already formulated answers. If so, please excuse my failure to peruse prior literature before writing this. These are truly random thoughts that came to me off the bat.

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