Once upon a time …
… in the kingdom of Myriorama, there ruled a king who knew the art of reading and bending the thoughts of his people over great distances, which rendered him famously powerful. One day, a wanderer enters the kingdom …
Taking a hint from Italo Calvino’s story A King Listens, Myriorama unfolds the world of one whose environment is all ears and all eyes; one for whom every whisper and rumour is heard distinctly, for whom every movement is watched and logged.
Today, equipment designed for a paranoid king has become the plaything of the people, part of our everyday gadgetry and woven in the fabric of the city. For this production, Luksch/Patel (London-based hub ambientTV.NET) and Montreal-based dance company kondition pluriel have repurposed location-aware mobile devices, motion sensors and audio-visual transmissions to fashion a responsive performance space that both extends beyond, and is concentrated in the venue itself.
The protagonist at the centre of Myriorama tracks his subjects, agents and avatars as they move through the city. The one in the place of the king watches, commands and interprets a mediated world, a domain of data, a screen of projected subjectivities in which inside and outside are entwined.
‘We have demonstrated the ability to selectively deny GPS signals on a regional basis, particularly when our national security is threatened.’ (Lt. Jeremy Eggers, 50th Space Wing, Schriever AFB, Colorado)
Myriorama explores position- and motion-tracking at widely different scales: across the city, and inside the venue. The wanderer’s location in the city is reported by satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS), and fed into the venue’s local network via a cellphone network (GPRS) and the internet. Inside, the data are manipulated and transformed in real time by the dancer’s gestures, using a wireless sensor system.
The emergence of cellphones, GPS, and other location-aware devices seems to favour the local and contextual over the global. However, most of the communication networks that these devices operate in remain centralised and closed.
The widespread availability of accurate position data has triggered a wave of media art and activist works focused on novel cartography; many of these are process-based or involve public participation. The term locative media encompasses all such works that use position-fixing mobile technologies. Some works are being appropriated by the ‘creative industries’, especially gaming. But locative media, as informed, for example, by the Situationist International, can also be a locus of resistance.
myriorama: a picture made up of several smaller pictures, drawn upon separate pieces in such a manner as to admit of combination in many different ways, thus producing a great variety of scenes or landscapes.
further writing in: Ambient Information Systems, ed. Luksch/Patel, London 2006. p224-236
performances: Project Market Silwex House, London 2004, ISEA Kiasma Theatre Helsinki 2004
credits and interview: click read more
concept& production: ambientTV.NET (Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel) kondition pluriel (Martin Kusch and Marie-Claude Poulin)
Dancer: Martin Belanger
Wanderer: Locally recruited
Tent: Camalo Gaskin
GPS/GPRS architecture, visualisation co-development: David Muth , Additional Max/Jitter programming: Alexandre Burton
London/live wanderer: Shane Solanki; Helsinki live wanderer: Gavin Starks
pre-recorded annotated walks by Pete Gomes, Christian Nold, Lottie Child, Diana Baldon
press service: Vargas Organisation video documentation: Mariko Montpetit additional photography: Gavin Starks, Anthony Auerbach
Special thanks to: Anthony Auerbach, Max Montana, Thomas Willomitzer, Gavin Starks, VisionMachine, Hanna Ylitepsa and all the wanderers
R&D: The narrative and technical framework for MYRIORAMA was developed through a series of work-in-progress, flipflop, and TRyPTiCHON 1.0 and TRyPTiCHON 2.0.
The story to be told as telematic performance piece featured a character that had two bodies: the present one inside the vennue, and his past / future persona outside the venue. Conceptual and technical investigations involved audio/video streaming over 802.11 wireless networks using wearable PCs (XYBERNAUT MATC), real-time video and audio manipulation and movement studies: breakdance (Ajay Naidu) and Capoeira (Michael Uwemedimo). [report pdf, 700 KB; 11/02]
During TRYPTICHON 1.0, which was set up at DMZ Festival London as participatory installation, the technical framework for the envisioned inside-outside live link using GPRS enabled PDAs in combination with GPS and data interpretation in MAX/MSP patches was developed (David Muth). [report pdf, 550 KB; 11/03]; The roamers coded their different emotional interpretations of their journey by tagging the GPS data. The tags were then interpreted and used to modify the traces on screen.
TRYPTICHON 2.0 was presented at the Kiasma Theatre in Helsinki as part of Pixelache 2004: Audiovisual Architecture [photos 04/04] and introduced the spacial mapping of the roamer’s narration and choreography (Hanna Ylitepsa) that dealt with three notions of space: I, You, They.
For MYRIORAMA, ambientTV.NET (artistic directors: Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel) formed a partnership with kondition pluriel to bring in their long-standing experience in choreography and responsive environments.
A range of cross-disciplinary practices and interests converge in the collaboration between ambientTV.NET and kondition pluriel. For London-based ambientTV.NET , the techniques and effects of data transmission provide theme, medium, and performative space for projects spanning installation and performance, through documentary, dance, and gastronomy, to real-time sound and video composition.
kondition pluriel was formed in 2000 in Montreal out of the collaboration between dancer-choreographer Marie-Claude Poulin and media-artist Martin Kusch. Their contemporary dance pieces, performative installations and responsive environments explore the possibilities of interaction and transformation between the physical environment and gesture and the electronically mediated re-presentations of movement and space. Both companies highlight models of networked and collaborative practice.
Arts Council of England, Austrian Cultural Forum London, Austrian Embassy Helsinki, BKA.Kunst, Conseil des arts et des lettres Quebec, Future Physical, QuÈbec Government Office, London; Silver Server
Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel in conversation with Anthony Auerbach.
AA = Anthony Auerbach MP = Mukul Patel ML = Manu Luksch
AA – Is Myriorama a new departure for you, or do you see it as a convergence of the various activities you’ve been involved in?
MP – Myriorama deals with movement in live data architectures, with spatial narration and serendipitous street encounters, with facts and fictions, the local and the global, empowerment versus surveillance. Technically, it uses various position- and motion-tracking and data communication and manipulation technologies: satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS), cellphone networks, the Internet, and, inside the venue, a motion sensor system and the Max/MSP/Jitter programming environment.
ML – Some years ago, we experimented with the possibility of happenings at a distance with the Telejams. There, we linked up parties in different cities with online streams (and fed sound and images back and forth between them). But we’ve also worked with networks and data flows in other contexts. For me, a key moment was June 18, 1999 – the global ‘Carnival against Capitalism’, in which protests around the world were linked through live online reports and streams. I filmed on London’s streets and biked tapes over to media lab Backspace for immediate upload.
MP – Expansion of the performance space through live data links is one important aspect of Myriorama. And my experience as writer, sound artist and composer for contemporary dance companies feeds the narrative, sonic and choreographic facets. But there are also new departures. We’ve only recently started working with responsive environments – live video/ sound manipulation systems that can be controlled by inputs such as environmental data, or a dancer’s movements. So there are many strands, old and new, coming together. At a stage the challenge has become to reduce, to make it less complex: ‘less is more’.
AA – You mention ‘locative media’. What does that mean exactly?
ML – The term encompasses art and activist works that use position-fixing mobile technologies. Although ordinary GSM mobile phones can fix position, approximately, by triangulation from phone masts, the trickling down of GPS into consumer technology (such as handheld and car navigation units and 3G phones) has triggered a wave of innovative cartographical projects. Some of these projects are being developed within the ‘creative industries’ sector, especially gaming. But locative media, as informed, for example, by the Situationist International, can also be a locus of resistance.
AA – You talk about using data transmission to create a narrative. Will there be a strong narrative content to Myriorama, or is it more like an image, an ambience?
MP – Myriorama is inspired by the figure of the King in Italo Calvino’s short story ‘A King Listens’. Calvino describes the inner world of a king who is initially omniscient and all-powerful, but then gradually realizes the vulnerability of his position (the only place to go from the throne is off it). Exactly because he has spies everywhere, and exactly because his palace is designed to bring all whispers and murmurs to his ears, his omniscience gives way to paranoia and he turns into his own prisoner.
ML – We have access to tools and gadgets and services that turn us all into kings. We can overcome time and distance (travelling without moving, literally this time), and we can live in ‘imagined communities’ of choice – communities of shared interest rather than geographical vicinity. What many forget is that most of these consumer technologies are spin-offs from military developments, which weren’t invented to empower people, but to control and track them.
MP – The recent craze for locative media seems to point to a return of the local and contextual over the global and general; however, most communication networks remain centralised and closed. And even without these technologies, we leave traces – when we use email or mobile phones to reach out, we leave logs on mail servers or records of cells between which calls were placed; traces that can be perused by governments in their fight against ‘terrorism’; traces that can be used to reach back to us.
All of us are promised the opportunity to be kings, if only we buy this or that service or piece of technology: the Consumer is King. The plot and dramaturgy of Myriorama will encourage the audience to reflect on such promises.