When paint dances

This project aims to investigate how the medium of fine art and digital technology can contribute to choreography and performance practice, and what possibilities can it offer in terms of aesthetics? Initially inspired by the water element of this research explores qualities of water, such as fluidity, playfulness, softness, and power through the use of movement improvisation and paint. This creative research is documented and presented through digital images and video montages, and a live online performance.

Although the element of water offers many possibilities for movement since it appears in so many forms, I initially focused on its qualities such as its fluidity, which I embodied through circular movements, figures of eights, and waves. I rolled out and fixed two 1x3mtrs paper rolls on the wall with tape, and I dipped my whole palm and fingers into the blue paint. It was surprising to notice that the paint was gone from my hands after just a few strokes, so I had to dip them in again and again, which is the main reason I had to cut my video into so many parts. First I focused on movement across the wall moving in circular motions with smaller circles, with figures of eights horizontally and diagonally, and also on creating big expansive circles by moving my right and left hand in opposition. I also explored ways of moving across the wall through various forms of barrel turns, simple rolling, and through chasses. I was surprised by the simplicity and beauty of the first phase of artwork that I created through movement improvisation. I liked that it was minimalistic and interesting with all the blue swirls, waves, and circles. When I started my aim was to create something out of the fully intuitive movement, keeping in mind at the same time my initial idea of embodying water through movement. I also wanted to explore water qualities away from the wall, by embodying the waves, through undulations and fluidity in my body.

My inspirations

My mother was a professional painter, but since she couldn’t raise me, she hasn’t thought me how to paint properly. I always regretted that I did not have enough time with her as a child to learn at least half of what she knew. When I lamented this later in life, she told me that she never actually wanted to teach me, because she thought that art must be explored individually rather than taught.

In the last semester of Technology and Interdisciplinary Performance with Dr. Paula Guzzanti, I was inspired by one project we did with charcoal. We fixed a big sheet of paper on the floor, listened to music, and projected our sensations and emotions that were evoked by the music on paper. Then, inspired by the shapes that were drawn with charcoal on paper, we created a short choreography projecting the elements of the drawing through dance. This semester as I researched ways of digital performance presentations I came across some videos that featured artists stepping into paint and creating artwork while dancing, and also I watched Meghan Currie‘s (2017) performance as she created art with yoga.

Another source of ideas came from a task we did in class based on a score that made us relate to and move across the wall. Thus, I thought if someone could create art through movement improvisation by dancing with their feet, I could try to do the same on a wall. I was also inspired by Alexa Meade (2016) who created moving paintings by painting on the dancers as if they were oil paintings while also applying paint to the environment they were in.
Regarding modes of presentation, I was inspired by the idea of cloning, mirroring, and other video effects that could offer new ways of online dance art.

Following my first attempts, I decided I needed another color, so I decided to use gold as a contrast to the deep blue paint. The golden color and its combination with blue reminded me of the color of streams and rivers, which is not always pure blue but a mix of colors. On my second attempt, I also focused on the quality of water power, and I brought in new movements, that were bigger, like smooth waves washing over the sandy shores, whirlpools tossing around, and also rolls across the canvas, like streams that toss around pebbles.

Following a few attempts of staying clean, I decided that paint doesn’t only have to be on the canvas. I applied paint to my body and to my clothes, which I feel made me more part of the painting rather than just the maker of it. I noticed the reflection of the wet paint in the camera as I got closer to it, and explored movement from a close-up. I must admit, that I detoured a bit from my original idea of embodying the fluidity of the water element, and in the attempts that followed I focused rather on reflection and playfulness. I kept discovering new possibilities which made my research exciting. These were the reflection and smoothness of the wet paint on my palms or the interesting look of the blue paint as I caressed one palm over the other hand reminding me of water washing over something. My hands and fingers became characters of the scene themselves, they reminded me of little water creatures.

Through this project, I discovered so much potential in how the medium of fine art can become an important contributor to performance, and also, through the process of video editing I discovered how digital media inspired by fine art can contribute as the visual aspect of a dance performance. I choose to transform my improvisation videos into digital art through the use of a video editor program that allowed me to create new works through layering and mirroring. This video is like the reflection we see of ourselves when looking down at a lake. I tried to embody the qualities of fluidity and playfulness by focusing on movement in my upper body, including shoulders, elbows, wrists, head and fingers.

I was fascinated by the possibility of having three moving characters within one image through video editing, and how one dancer could create a story with different characters. Also, the music choice for my videos was first something connected to water sounds, such as waves, oceans, water Koshi bells, singing bowls, and music boxes, which in my opinion remind of the water element.

In my last experiment, I brought in the element of light, using my daughter’s color-changing night lamp. I recorded it at night when the dark blue lights could create a special effect of the golden shiny paint. The element of light created a different ambiance and added the element of shadows which performed an additional layer. This new mysterious and creepy look took me in a different direction, into a new topic of exploration. In my live performance presentation, I decided to include the three elements of my research, movement research inspired by the element of water, fine art research inspired by movement, and digital art as an end product constructed from the previous two elements. My performance presentation will guide the audience through my process of creation, thus it will include a live performance demonstrating the process of painting and movement improvisation, and also video projections demonstrating the potential of these three mediums.

In my performance presentation, I initially planned to share the end result of my research projecting all the videos above on a white canvas. After the projection, I demonstrated a short part of my process through movement and painting. I had technical difficulties since the sound of the projector did not work, thus I needed to use a third device to play the music, which was too much to juggle. For this reason, I decided to make a backup, using only one musical background, this second time the presentation went a bit smoother…

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