Interview with Thomas Dumke: On CYNETart and new media performanceby deborah on 01/28/2010
Back in October I spoke with Thomas Dumke about CYNETart Festival and performative arts in the context of new media art. Our conversation was possible thanks to Sonja Lebos from UIII.org, Association for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Research, based in Zagreb. Sonja’s organization is deeply rooted in architecture, urbanism and new media art.
Thomas Dumke with the background by Monolake Live Surround
Taken from ds-x.org
Thomas then gave a lecture in the net club Mama about the history of Festspiel Haus Hellerau, Trans-Media-Akademie Dresden and the festival.
Thomas Dumke studied history and sociology from 1997–2002 at TU Dresden, postgraduate in culture & management. Since 1999 Thomas Dumke is part of the international festival for computer based arts CYNETart in Dresden, in 2000 he initiated together with DS-X.org the »microscope session«, an event for audio-visual concerts, founding member of TMA Hellerau in 2001, from 2006 he has been the director of the CYNETart festival. He is a member of the artist collaborative DS-X.org.
Let’s start with the concept of your festival CYNETart… I find it very interesting and slightly different in comparison with other media art festivals, because you didn’t give up from the body…
TD: The Trans-Media-Akademie organizes annually the CYNETart Festival and we understand media art more as a research approach and within this we are focused more on the changes of our perception and self image of our movement or our body feeling in relation to ongoing mediation and mediazation processes.
We are interested even in our relation with the human environment. This is somehow our, lets say, scheme or issue. If we have this scheme for body and space relation or our body environment relation, the question is how we can use media technology to make us aware of this relation? There are also somehow rational aspects, because we are using objects with technology. It’s not esoteric, para-psychological or whatever.
Jacob Korn and his Harmony Universe (c)
Taken from ds-x.org
It’s cybernetics! It means that everything is provable. But we think that we can use technology to make things experienceable or sensible, what in normal case is not experienceable. We are trying to establish with our CYNETart Festival a platform to present a different kind of performative installation works or even stage performances. We have also workshops and club events for the younger audience.
So, it’s also a community oriented festival, because it seems that you want a reaction by the audience?
TD: Yes! This is also very important. We don’t want to be hermetically closed for the audience. That’s what we are really trying to achieve within Tele-Plateus project where we would like to establish virtual environments, interactive environments in the public space.
Tele-Plateus should function in that way with a public stage, or even something like a star gate for other cities. Virtual environments should be connected to each other, to give the citizens of these cities the possibility to interact with audio, sound and visual elements. Somehow, this is an abstract way, nothing like Skype connection or so. Today, you can make face to face connections like on TV.
Photo: mb21 backup taken from t-m-a
We are really trying to stay at some abstract level, because we know from previous experiences that when you hear and focus on one point, then you are able to activate your potential imagination. I mean, literally I don’t know you, but I have got the feeling of you…
If I have a contact with your shape or with your sound, maybe I don’t know you, but your are on remote and I have a contact with your generated sound. And you are interacting with my sound, too. This is this point, we meet each other on the sound level and the task for the audience or the composer is to give a set up of one environment, which should be easy going or just easy approachable to have this kind of experience.
Experience in which I am with somebody, but for instance three people with me projected in one space, of course this is hyperspace and it’s only in mind. It’s not for real, because all scales and environments are on different places and in that particular time, if you are active with each other, we are sharing one space, and this is sound space and the space in your head.
Mortal Engine by Chunky Move (c)
I’m glad that you mentioned just now this important aspect of hyperspace in the context of perception or mental space, lets say colloquially ‘in the head’…
TD: Yeah, yeah. Even the whole process that is going on at the moment, if we really observe the internet natives, these new generations that are going up… My experience was like this, if you met somebody offline. Let’s say it in terms of online and offline reality. There are totally different intentions in real life, a totally different way of perceiving things. That’s sometimes funny for me, but it does not have to be funny for other person.
Even if you are in the relationship with somebody who is not online, she or he can’t understand what you are doing all the time. This is a thing in our cognition process, what Marshal McLuhan have postulated in the 60’s. This global village metaphor which is now happening… From the mental point of view, the fact that we are all coming together is based on television, online life and social media thing. This got somehow real, this webness and activities…
Of course, and this urge to be connected… and the feeling when you are offline that something important is happening online, and you are not there to see it or try it… sometimes it’s haunting… How do people react to you concepts?
TD: We have got mostly positive responses to what we do. I think, it’s always a decision of their own, if they got it right, if they understood this abstract level of sound and visual aspect. Somehow, we are all conditioned by Hollywood and totally illusionary media worlds that have to be colourful and more real then real in details. What we are doing is totally opposite. We use the senses with sound with an aim to make an impact, but a real one. Also, it gives you a chance to put there your own stuff according to things you actually perceive and receive.
Jacob Korn Live AV with hypecycle (c), taken from ds-x.org
For instance The ‘Schlamp‘ installation by Frieder Weiss and Emily Fernandez has opened pretty interesting discussion on computer games, does it make a difference if I’m shooting on a real person or ‘real character’ that looks more like a real body? Or maybe I’m only shooting on black square or an abstract thing. I think that in a psychological way or mentally it makes no difference. Our neurons and brain have the same neuro-electric processes whether we are shooting digitally or for real.
We had interesting experiences while presenting installations where people were projected on the street or on the floor. After some time passers would start to jump or trying to hit digitally projected people. They just kicked them out and showed that they don’t have respect for the virtual re-presentation because it’s not real. I think, this case shows the current issues even if you look to finance market. It’s raising up on the virtualization of the world.
Chunky Move (c)
Why the market has collapsed? Because there is no relationship to the real world. Like in the past we had the relation to the material world, like gold used to be in the past. It was like a never ending game. How we are dealing with this virtual reality thing? Is it a quite similar world? For instance, we are jumping faster but in the music industry, actually everything is the same, there are terms like sharing, copy right and so… The question is what is this virtual world? Why we are sharing so simple, because we can digitally re-produce things quite simple. We do not care about copyright anymore.
Photo: tma (c) taken from bodynavigation
I’m still buying vinyl, because I are really like music, but I can’t share or copy this vinyl. So, it’s something that has this aura thing which I think is increasingly present lately, to experience things in our real environment. A good aspect of virtual environment is that you can’t reproduce a video, a record or a CD, but you have to experience it by yourself.
In the same category we can discuss on watching interactive dance, because dancer can experience this interaction but the audience not. Dancer is inside and the audience is not. This is one quality aspect and it has some kind of aura. This self experience can be in local virtual environment or in networked virtual environment. This is new, it could be development and comprehend.
Photo: Zeitgeist by Hjørdis Kurås
But the whole story is pretty much based on performative aspects, dance…
TD: It’s based on performance. Actually, we don’t like to work with dancers, we have a local school in Dresden and there are lots of dancers. The thing with dancers is that they are educated somehow in the direction of the quality of movements, release techniques, different dancing techniques and so. You know, it looks like Forsythe or it looks like something else. Of course, there are different types of new students coming to the new repertoire and they would like to test generated sound and visuals.
Usually, they are coming with all the movements they have learned in school and they don’t listen to the sound or just react to this base, which is a mistake. But, what is happening during this processes? If you have a feedback effect or closed circles you are inside this instrument, and inside this environment you have to react to each other.
Do androgyns dream of electric sheep by An Kaler, dancer: Gregory Holt
Sure, it’s not important what dance technique you’re using, but the way you comprehend movement as it is…
TD: It doesn’t make sense if you make a ‘William Forsythe movement’ because the instrument and your environment don’t know that. Hence, it doesn’t recognize that. The instrument recognizes your movements, intensity or something like jumping. But, it doesn’t recognize the special quality of typical dance forms. I don’t like to work with professional dancers because you have to push away this conditioned way of how to move through space.
There is no sense to do some technique in such environment. This is our approach. You have to experience by yourself and you have to use it like an instrument. Even piano players use different interpretations, especially in comparison with Jimmy Hendrix and the way how he used electric guitar.
Photo by: Matthias Härtig/TMA Hellerau taken from flickr
It’s different and at the other hand it’s the same in performing arts and in fields where you have to think on how to move. Even sometimes children or common people are much better for that, because they are free minded to do it. They don’t think something like Oh, I’m not doing this right or I don’t act like this! But, because they do spontaneous things and even then, slowly and by listening, step by step they can get the felling on how to move or to figure out the environment. It’s very important to get the feeling how it is inside. What is happening when I move and what’s the feedback I got. ‘When I’m shouting in the wood it always come back to me’ principle is similar to electronic interactivity.
You mentioned before William Forsyth… He is very connected with the city of Dresden…
TD: Since 2006 he has his residency in Dresden. Something like a special cultural policy contract among the cities of Frankfurt and Dresden with the states of Hessen and Saxony. These four partners finance the Forsythe Company. Three or four times per year he comes to Hellerau in order to work with dancers.
Synchronous Objects by William Forsyth
What do you think about his data visualization project Synchronous Objects? I was really surprised when I saw it…
TD: Oh, you mean his improvisation project… His method is more about archiving. His technology DVD is more about how the Forsyth method is working. He chose one of his performances One Flat Thing to show it on the internet. It’s totally complex documentation, notation and interpretation of his choreography and performance. It’s amazing, but it’s archiving.
The other aspect that I haven’t experienced yet is the use of technology in his stage work. I mean, I saw what he was doing with the sound manipulations. He was influenced by neuro-science and he took the idea of what is going on in neuro science to re-adapt it into his dance pieces.
Cynetart 2009, Automatic Clubbing taken from flickr
Where do you see CYNETart festival in comparison with the similar European festivals and what kind of opportunities artists can have within your framework?
TD: I would say that we are really unique because we are really focused on this concept of performing arts combined with new technologies. We are not doing only exhibitions and public events like workshops, screenings and so. We are interested in the working processes not only in single, produced and ready for the market art piece.
We want our guests to demonstrate their working processes and stuff like that, but at the same time to get in contact with the audience.This is really important. We like when these sides, artists and the audience exchange their position. That means, that we really like this participatory approach in installations, as well as the younger audience within our clubbing programme. OK, we have this unique location, die Festspiel Haus Hellerau where we can use these big halls for dance pieces or bigger installations. There are also small stages and smaller halls where we usually organize meetings, smaller exhibitions and so…
Johannes Birringer (c)
Our Call for Proposals is internationally recognized, it usually starts in December right after the festival is over, and what is also unique is our scholarship for new media art with an amount of 6.000 Euros. We also have a big grant project supported by the Ministry of Art and Science with an amount of 10.000 Euros. Of course, for our contests and awards we have a grant of 5.000 Euros. So, that means that we have a lot of money to spend, and we want to spend it on a quality programme. I mean, in comparison with the mayor media art festivals in Germany and Europe, like Transmediale, these sums are not so big…
Cynetart 2009, Automatic Clubbing taken from flickr
What do you think about low budget technologies, DIY technologies in the context of media art?
TD: When you compare different motion sensing systems, you can find among them many really low budget projects, especially compared to motion capturing system which is really expensive and needs very sophisticated equipment. You can work with an average computer, the only thing that you need of those special equipments is a TV card or an observation cam, but if you spend maybe 5000 Euros, you can have it by your own.
This is somehow the middle level, this DIY level and it will be used more and more, because technology is getting smarter and cheaper. We will have a generation that will be capable to do everything by their own. I think this will be the future!
Language Game by Kobakant (c)
Even in the context of Internet, the so-called digital culture or internet natives… I think there would be more and more projects specially designed for this kind of audience, also taking place only on the internet which would know to differ real present activity in the future. Then E-tribal art, and of course this RFID thing…
I know that Johannes Birringer from Tirier University is doing infrared sensitive clothes. This is quite interesting from sevelar aspects, one thing is this possibility of connecting everything, but then the author must ask himself, what can we do with this multiple connectivity?
Thanks a lot, Thomas!