Project Status: ResearchContributors: Nuntinee Tansrisakul

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Exercise for training dancers to move without sight.

In Blindness, a story of an unexplained epidemic of blindness in an unnamed city that leads to complete societal collapse and moral degradation, the Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a blindness that is light rather than dark. Blindness as an impenetrable “white wall,” …so luminous, so total, that it swallows up rather than absorbs.

Blindness as a state of excess rather than lack also describes the sort of psychological blindness where we seemingly choose not-to-see what we can plainly see when confronting something that is too much for our sensitivities and sensibilities to handle. e.g. When we find ourselves amidst a crowd.

The crowd absorbs us, burying us in its indifference to the individuals that comprise it and we respond in kind.

Crowds induce a sort of prosopagnosia (face blindness) in us all, making strangers of us all.

In turn, we hope to induce prosopagnosia in others with respect to ourselves.

La reproduction interdite by Rene Magritte

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Like the man portrayed in Rene Magritte’s “La reproduction interdite” or “Not to be reproduced” we turn our back to those around us, we present a poker face, an anti-face. We wish to assume the identity of the default because the default is invisible. The more people there are around us, the more we wish to retreat into such anonymity.

So then who or what is left to be seen when we look out into a crowd?

Can we shift who and what you see by adding to and taking away from our senses?
By removing sight and adding language, sound, movement and touch, can we overcome our instinct to blind ourselves to others and see-what-we-see?

Blindness and Choreographing The Crowd

How are we exploring these themes of blindness both physiological and metaphorical?

We are developing choreography for dancers trained to move without sight.
Dance is a form of confidence expressed through movement. Without sight, that confidence is replaced by fear. Fear of injury and fear of absurdity, running into walls, running into each other, falling down.

On the other hand, without sight, our only recourse is to rely on each other to navigate space, through sound and touch. Our only sense of where we are is our sense of where others are in relation to us. Without sight, there are no longer individual dancers moving in space, but a crowd negotiating space together as a single organism.

Moving without sight with just 1 or 2 bodies. Our intent is to expand to 5-10 dancers.

We are experimenting with participatory walking choreographies for audience.
Walking improvisation at Danspace in St. Mark’s Church. Instructions: Walk backwards towards each other to form a clump. (Don’t turn your head to look behind you.) Keep moving through each other (backwards) and move towards the corner.

What happens when we are dropped into a crowd with no purpose in mind?

Where do we go? becomes Whom do we approach? Perhaps we don’t move at all, frozen in place, paralyzed by a lack of purpose and an apprehension of getting too close.

We are asking people to come together to move as a crowd not for any reason other than to negotiate space with a group of strangers…to orient themselves in relation to others.

They will do so through the simple act of following verbal instructions. Some of the instructions can be interpreted literally, “walk in a straight line.” Others will require coordination, “walk and make a circle.” Others will require choice, “walk with someone, then walk away from someone else.” Still others will require judgement, “follow someone you think you could love, follow someone you think could love you.”


To support these 2 approaches to Choreographing the Crowd , we are engaged in 4 areas of technical exploration.
One | Position tracking.

- Tracking performers using indoor positioning.
- Tracking participants with a live stream from a drone camera and computer vision.
Two | Spatialized sound-based feedback to communicate the position of other bodies in space relative to your own position purely through sound. We are experimenting with 360-sound that simulate sound in space as well as pitch-based systems that map physical space to pitch space.

The 7 notes of the diatonic scale are mapped to orientation. Someone directly in front of you will sound like the tonic (do) of the scale. Someone directly behind you will sound like the dominant (sol) of the scale. A drone of the tonic is ever-present to orient you. Try it here. | Watch a demo here.

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Below we applied the pitch-space code to a scene from the from the 1933 film “Footlight Parade” directed by Busby Berkeley. You are hearing from the perspective of someone who is in the center of the formation.

By contrast, this is what a soccer game sounds like. Or try creating your own walking composition.

Three | Capturing first-person perspectives of moving through space using 360-cameras and binaural mics.

Four | Building interfaces for navigating those first person perspectives. We are visualizing how people are moving through space, what aural feedback they hear and what instructions they are being given. We think the ability to both direct the choreographies from above as well as “drop in” on individuals participating in the walking choreography and experience it from their point of view will be an interesting way to experience the work from an outsider’s perspective.

What will this turn into?
We’re not yet sure how this research will be presented. A collage of live performance, remote experience and participatory installation. We hope to find novel ways to connect people.

Selected Works

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