Unbecoming Human: An Online Screendance Festival

Curatorial Statement

This two-part online screendance festival explores the possibilities and abilities that “unbecoming human” creates. Screendances in part one if the program present unbecoming human through becoming creature. In these screendance pieces, humans perform animality or creature-ness, through movement vocabulary and edited or mediated imagery. While some characters in these films seem limited by their animality, others gain abilities. Part two explores unbecoming human through cyborg spectatorship. These pieces incorporate various interactive technologies to allow audiences the agency to frame their own view of the movement. In doing so, audience members gain technological enhancements, creating new cyborg abilities.

Unbecoming Human

Content: Becoming Creature

Rémanences (2010)

Conceived and directed by Thierry De Mey

This video installation, created by Belgium based composer and filmmaker Thierry De Mey in 2010, projects glowing bodies on screens throughout a gallery. Filmed with a thermal camera, the dancers’ bodies and the surfaces they recently touched glow white in an otherwise black frame. In her article, “Corporealizing Creations in Experimental Screendance: Resisting Sociopolitical Construction of the Body,” Sophie Walon explains that the dancers’ slow movement, high-angle shots, and the thermal camera distort the human body, creating “animalistic” images like a chrysalis or a crawling creature that leaves a snail-like trail in its wake. De Mey’s press kit likens these distorted bodies to the work of painters, Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Eves Klein (1929-1962), George Braque (1882-1963), and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Rémanences, like these painters’ paintings, creates imaginary beings by distorting bodies. In the 1990s and early 2000s, technology’s presence in video art and installation grew, and De Mey became familiar with using technology through creating an interactive installation in 2004. Through Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 film, Predator, thermal cameras, which were previously used mostly by the military, became known to the public. Then, De Mey conceived Rémanences after testing and deciding not to use a thermal camera to shoot Prélude à la mer, his 2009 collaboration with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.

Wallow (1984)

Performed by Eiko & Koma

Camera by Peter Yaple

Edited by Eiko and Jeff Bush

19 min version

11 minute version

Both originally from Japan, Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake worked with Japanese avant-garde artists and German modern dancers before moving to New York, where they spent decades creating dance and multimedia work together. In 1977, a year after moving to the U.S. they premiered an evening length piece for the stage, Fur Seal. In a New York Times Article from 1978, Anna Kissellgoff writes, “The meshing of human and animal images comes from the dancers’ gestures and movements. Each is particularly adept at stimulating a seal resting on the ground.” They adapted this seal-like movement for film in 1983 and shot it on one of California’s seal breeding grounds. In 1984 they edited the original 19-minute silent video. They also made an 11-minute version in which Eiko added the sound of waves. Wallow was Eiko & Koma’s second dance film, and while many of their live performances occurred outdoors, this is the only outdoor work that they created for video. With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Greenpeace forming in 1970, and awareness of global warming growing in the 80s, environmentalism likely influenced Eiko and Koma’s interest in seals and their immersion into the seals’ environment to create Wallow.

Les Loups (2018)

Choreography by Sarah Lefebvre

Directed by Flamant

Performed by Lou Amsellem, Emmanuelle Bourassa Beaudoin, Yasmine Chami, Justin Corbo, Jean Drolet, Gina Grant, Naomi Hilaire, Tessie Isaac, Andre Leon, Jason Martin, Misheel Phi Ganbold, Sovann Rochon-Prom Tep, Aude Rioland

Music by Guillaume Morin

Les Loups from FLAMANT on Vimeo.

Sarah Lefebvre, Montréal based urban and contemporary dancer, teacher, and choreographer, created Les Loups (The Wolves) with a Montréal based production duo, Flamant. Since Canada elected liberal Prime Minister, Justin Truteau, the Canadian government has invested in arts and culture, supporting dance and other arts throughout the country. As a performer, Lefebrvre danced for Dave St-Pierre, who pushes the limits of dance-theater. With palpable influenced from dance-theater, Lafabvre created this eight-minute tribute to her father after his recent illness and passing. The dancers represent a pack of wolves as they perform urban and contemporary dance in the woods. Canada is home to the second largest population of Grey Wolves, and Lafabvre’s father related his life with his daughters to that of a wolf pack. Wolves are social animals who live in hegemonic packs or families. Lefebvre’s choreography mirrors a study from 2015, “Impacts of breeder loss on social structure, reproduction and population growth in a social canid,” which found that the death of a breeder or alpha wolf preceded 77% of the cases in which a wolf pack dissolved.

Act of Love (2016)

Campaign creative direction by Koichiro Tanaka

Film directed by Greg Brunkalla

Music by Mad Planet

Choreographed by Russell Maliphant, features Kiraly Saint Claire, Sarita Piotrowski, Grace Jabbari, Karl Fagerlund Brekke, Maria Fonseca, Matthew Sandiford, Adam Kirkham, Flora Grant, Estela Merlos, and Georges Hann.

Act of Love is a commercial created to advertise Sagami condoms. Koichiro Tanaka, the advertisement campaign’s creative director, conceptualized the project, and Greg Brunkalla directed the advertisement. Brunkalla’s films, music videos, and commercials tend to combine humor with convincing character performance. While the characters that the dancers in this commercial perform are flamingos, crabs, and foxes, Brunkalla’s humor peaks through their mimicking of various animals’ courting practices on the busy streets of London. As dancers perform in public, the ad also shows confused and delighted faces of passersby, echoing the content of T-Moble’s 2009 “Life is for sharing” flash mob advertisement, filmed in a London train station. Like T-Mobile’s viral ad, Sagami’s name does not appear until the very end of either the one-minute or two-minute version of this ad. Therefore, Sagami likely designed this video to be shared virally across social media platforms. The Sagami Original video now has 1.3 million views compared to the 41 million views on T-Mobile’s train station flash mob.

Henka Dance (2012)

Directed and Produced by Ollie Murray and Rohan Wadham

Choreography by Fukiko Takase and Megan Saunders

Composer Jessica Dannheisser

Fukiko Takase is a London based contemporary dancer, choreographer, and movement director who was born in New York and grew up learning to dance from her mother in Japan. Later, she studied at London Contemporary Dance School and currently dances in Wayne McGregor’s company. Takase dances in Ollie Murray’s and Rohan Wadham’s film, Henka Dance. Henka, which means change or transformation in Japanese, is the theme of this screendance in which Takase emerges and transforms into a winged creature. Neither Murray, a film, commercial, and music video director, nor Wadham, a director and animator had made a screendance prior to this project. Vice, a Canadian-American digital media broadcasting company, commissioned their first screendance endeavor for Channel 4’s Random Acts. Channel 4, Britain’s public TV station, founded Random Acts in 2011 to support experimental and innovative short films. This film, which was in the making in 2011, was one of the first films broadcasted on Random Acts.


Spectatorship: Becoming Cyborg

Conspiracy Archives (2018)

Choreographed by Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir

Videography and editing by Jeannette Ginslov,

Programming by Keith Lim

Conception and planning by Susan Kozel

Susan Kozel, a scholar and artist who researches dance, digital technologies, and philosophy, created an interactive installation to archive the Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir’s unique choreography. From Iceland and currently based in Berlin, Guðjónsdóttir’s somatic based work emerges slowly, and video footage fails to convey the live experience. Attempting to transfer the affective quality of the performance, they decided to create an interactive installation with still images of the dancing throughout the space. Users with a tablet or smartphone aim their device’s camera at the still image, and an augmented reality (AR) image of the moving dancer appears on their screen. Therefore, in order to see the moving image, the audience moves their device, creating their own corporeal experience as they watch the choreography. This piece comes to a head as AR burgeons. Since QR codes were first used in 1994 and the first iPhone came out in 2007, AR has become common with games like Pokémon Go and stores using AR to display products in people’s homes before they buy them. Conspiracy Archives used AR to allow the audience to create their own corporal relationship with Guðjónsdóttir’s choreography.

SwanQuake (2007)

By Igloo (Bruno Martelli and Ruth Gibson)

SwanQuake:House from Gibson/Martelli on Vimeo.

SwanQuake: House – Computer installation with sound 2007 from bruno martelli on Vimeo.

Bruno Martelli and Ruth Gibson are London based artists who bridge performance, installation, and virtual realities. Their work, SwanQuake uses motion capture to combine 3-D video game design with avatars performing contemporary dance in order to create an installation in a video game environment. Users move through the animated London environment and watch partially transparent avatars perform slow ghostly walks and athletic turning, running and kicking. 3-D video game art first started in 1994, and the first-person shooter game, Quake, was first published in 1996. Quake invited users to modify the game by allowing them to download level editors and programming language. Therefore, Quake modifications (also known as mods), were common. The popularization of Quake modifications likely inspired Martelli and Gibson, and they named their video game-cum-dance installation SwanQuake, combining the first-person shooter game with Swan Lake, a famous ballet. Collaborative game design was not new to 3-D video and computer games, however. Early computer and video game magazines from the 1980’s even provided basic coding for people to create their own games, and SwanQuake’s followed the trend. Its user guide provides beginners with the skills they need to create their own environments.

Through You (2017)

Directed by Lily Baldwin and Saschka Unseld

Danced by Joanna Kotze and Amari Cheatom

Through You is a screendance about intimacy and mortality that take place between 1970 and 2046 and was created with a 360 camera to be watched in virtual reality (VR). After dancing with notorious New York choreographers such as Tricia Brown and Doug Varone, Lily Baldwin began making dream-like screendances. Her co-director, Saschka Unseld is a film director and writer. In 2014 he cofounded Oculus Story Studio where his groundbreaking work explores VR storytelling. In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Baldwin and Unseld share that their inspiration for this film came out of the polarized political landscape and the need to locate bodies in an increasingly tech driven world. In the years leading up to the 2016 election, social media driven news outlets allowed users to read information that confirmed already held biases, many of which pertained to the first black president of the United States president, Democrat Barack Obama. Republican Donald Trump won the presidential race in November of 2016, shocking many white, liberal voters. In addition to social media’s presence in politics, VR has been burgeoning throughout the 2010s. By 2016 and 2017, many companies were developing their own VR products. Therefore, Through You aims to use technology to recenter bodies.

Anarchitextures (2016)

Concept & Direction by Ariadne Mikou

Video performance by Katja Vaghi

Camera by Tom Medwell & Ariadne Mikou

Click here to visit Mikou’s website and see more images.





Ariadne Mikou is a scholar and artist who researches installations, mediated dance performance, and dance made for the screen. She also holds a degree in Architecture from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. Her installation, Anarchitextures, creates an interactive architectural environment in which boxes become movable projection screens. Mikou’s installation invites spectators to transform the space by moving the boxes throughout the space. In doing so, they alter the projected image by moving the projection screen. Mikou explains her relationship to art installations and the screenic medium in her article, “Anartchitectures: Intermedial Encounters on the Screen” in the International Journal of Screendance (2007). She works within the context of Allan Kaprow’s “environment” as opposed to installation art and the more recent use of “environment” to mean “immersive.” By categorizing the work of bodies moving boxes through the space, Anarchitextures is in conversation with other artists who have explored “non-human choreography,” such as Mette Ingvartsen. Mikou’s understanding of Anarchitextures as a “choreographic event” also takes Bernard Tschumi’s definition of architecture as “both the space and what happens in it.” Therefore, through this work, Mikou argues that the audience becomes a choreographic agent in Anarchitexture’s environment.

VR­_I (2017)

Choreography by Gilles Jobin
Dance by Susana Panadés Diaz, Victoria Chiu, Diya Naidu, Gilles Jobin, Tidiani N’Diaye
VR Platform & Immersive Technology by Artanim

Gilles Jobin’s VR_I

Gilles Jobin’s VR_I is a groundbreaking immersive virtual reality performance in which viewers and performers use motion capture to interact live in a three-dimensional digital environment. Jobin, an independent choreographer in Europe, made a three-dimensional film prior to collaborating with Aranim to create this immersive and interactive performance. Founded in Geneva by motion capture experts in 2011, the Artinam Foundation uses motion capture in medical and artistic research. Motion capture technologies have been on the rise for a couple decades with the first video game animated using motion capture in 1995, the film Avatar coming out on 2007, and bringing back the character of an actor who had passed away in Rogue One in 2016. In the dance world, while SwanQuake used motion capture to create a dance performance in a video game environment 10 years prior, Jobin claims this 2017 piece is the first to combine motion captured dance and immersive virtual reality.

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