Panel: An Alembic of Transformation: Virtual Reality as Agent of Change
Computerized/Virtual reality (VR) technologies allow us to manipulate, extend, distort and deform information as well as experience of the outer and inner body/world. They are vehicles that enable us to extend and color work in many different ways, some of which are not possible in the physical realm and/or by any traditional means. They offer a way to augment and expand the magic of performance, thus introducing new possibilities creatively, experientially, spatially, visually, sonically, and cognitively.
VR technologies tend to blur disciplinary boundaries by changing the nature of what and how artworks are created, realized, and performed. Because one must create a computerized ‘world,’ open to user intervention and experience, the work necessitates a non-linear, open-ended, almost fragmented like compositions.
The process of creating a work in VR led my collaborator Diane Gromala and myself to far more questions, and opened a great deal of artistic possibilities. For instance in such an interactive environment that is contingent upon the interaction and preferences of others, how is the notions of creator and audience blur? Is the very nature of art, design and dance altered by these new possibilities? Just where does the performance occur — within VR itself, in distributed sites, in cyberspace? Is some of the participants relegated to being passive audience members and others took on the challenge of becoming ‘co-creators’? How does one determine who gets represented in the VR environment? How can this technology be accessible to larger audiences capable of interacting directly with the simulation? When do the multiple cause-and-effects of user participation become mere chaos?
- Yacov Sharir is a choreographer, dancer, technologist and innovator. He is a Professor of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas-Austin, and Artistic Director of the Austin-based Sharir Dance Company. After graduation from the Bezalel Academy of Arts, Professor Sharir studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, the Bat-Sheva Dance Company School, the Stuttgart Ballet, and the Ballet Theatre Contemporaine in Paris. He has performed under the direction of Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, Jose Limon and Anna Sokolow, among others. A dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, Sharir is the founder of both the American Deaf Dance Company and the Sharir Dance Company, a professional dance company of the UT College of Fine Arts. As a multiple recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Choreographic Fellowship, he has choreographed for such companies such as the Bat-Sheva Dance Company, Hartford Ballet, Dallas Ballet, the Kibbutz Dance Company of Israel and the Utah Repertory Dance Theatre. He was a recipient of an “Arts And Virtual Environments” two year fellowship awarded by the Banff Center for the Arts and is engaged in extensive international lectures and workshops directly related to the issues of virtual environments, cyberspace and computerized choreography. He is considered one of the pioneers in the field of dance and technology, and recently been involved in numerous research and cross-disciplinary productions, including a collaboration with intelligent textile designer Barbara Layne (Hexagram, Montréal). He is currently completing his PhD at the Planetarium (Plymouth).