Window of Time is a collaborative performance between dancer and choreographer Lê Anh Tú and visual artist Alex Serpentini that examines time, relationships, and self reflection through dance, videos, and interactive projections. In this four part series, the dancer explores self-awareness, experimentation, conflict, and acceptance, all through a movement style called Contact Improvisation, making each performance unique.
This performance was created as part of Holding Common Ground: Pathways to Cultural Exchange in Vietnam as a diplomatic effort to strengthen the relationship between the USA and Vietnam.
As an experimental collaboration, my partner and I wanted to share honestly with one another and investigate our own progress in conceptualizing time and relationships in a visual, tangible way. It was built off of many conversations that would be dissected and explored through multiple creative interactions with one another, including photography, videography, digital manipulation. This ultimately culminated in a 15 minute interactive performance.
In this performance, Tú embodies the character of time itself and improvises his movements against visuals that slowly transform from 2D to 3D and become increasingly abstracted. As he experiments more with his newfound self awareness, he attempts to manipulate the visual projections himself, and the imagery “escapes” him by mirroring his movements in an inverse way. After this failure, he wrestles with amnesty and acceptance, ultimately coming back to himself as a single individual in the end.
Continuing in similar veins to my other works, it is absolutely inspired by ordinary, everyday interactions paired against big sweeping ideas of space and time.
+ Use only imagery from previous iterations of the project to reference time, interactions and gravity
+ Increasingly abstracted visuals that don’t overshadow the dancer’s movements
+ An interactive component
+ Experiment wildly but keep it simple enough that the audience can understand it
Window of Time was developed for both Vietnamese and American fans of contemporary dance and experimental movement. Regardless of language or nationality, it is meant to convey relatable themes of self reflection in a way that is beyond words. It was specifically developed to invite curious thinkers to analyze their own timeline and history.
When we perform Window of Time at different events, our goals are to provide movements and visuals that inspire audiences to: question and re-examine how they conceptualize time; become curious about their own selves in relation to time, take a moment to sit with the piece and reflect afterwards, utilizing their own time.
It’s meant to offer a surprising and engaging experience that is both ordinary and extraordinary, tangible and intangible. The grounded, emotion-filled physical movements by the dancer provide references that are understandable and familiar enough to anchor oneself to as you explore abstracted, fleeting concepts. The movements are the guide while the visuals are the lens for the audience to look through and interpret their own unique meanings.
PRELIMINARY PHOTO / VIDEO EXPERIMENTS
USER TEST & FEEDBACK
Aesthetic: The visuals that work best are overlapped and abstracted. As the person behind the lens documenting my movements, don’t be afraid to get up close and personal and interact with my performance yourself.
Interactivity: It feels like the particles are “chasing” me instead of me chasing them. Also it’s so small.
• Follow up video: Re-film and use camera as a “second character”who is not just observing but also interacting with the performer.
• Follow up interaction: Particles: enlarge swarm, apply “inverse” tracking so movements are mirrored in opposite direction as tracked position.
SESSIONS 2 & 3
Aesthetic: We need a way to create a “waking up” feeling that also is a recognizable transition from a 2 dimensional experience to a 3 dimensional experience. Experiment more with visuals.
Interactivity: Much better. Still need it to be less spherical and understandable, and more of a large, amorphous form.
• Follow up video: create an equalizer at the beginning of the film that splits into 2, and somehow goes from a single 2D line to a 3D concept
• Follow up interaction: Make particles “pulse” in thickness and have their origin and termination points attach to both hands to create a longer distance traveled in their lifecycle
Aesthetic: Perfect, just make the transitions smoother. Oh, and maybe add a distortion effect on the drum beats
Interactivity: Exactly what i’m looking for. Just add a delay to really hammer home how not in control I am over these particles.
• Follow up video: Lengthen transition time and overlay rippling, glitching video on drum sounds.
• Follow up: Add delay to Kinect input in position tracking.
Part 1: Becoming self aware. The dancer starts walking onto the stage from a seated position in the audience, and paces around becoming increasingly aware of his surroundings. His walk begins very slow and steadily speeds up while his gaze becomes less and less fixed forward. Visually, the projection begins with a flatline that transforms slowly into an equalizer that responds in real time to the soundtrack. The equalizer line transforms into a “crack” in spacetime, signaling a transition from a 2D concept to something that is more 3D and tangible, with light flowing through the “rift” that signals to the audience that it’s something they could delve into, if desired. The imagery duplicates and becomes dual equalizers, one less bright and dense than the other to convey the same moment but a different space and gravity, or rather, an alternate timeline to be analyzed differently.
Part 2: Experimentation. Now that the performer has become self aware, his movements become experimental, testing and exploring the limits of this new existence. Visually, a film plays of the dancer exploring these movements previously in a different space, but with an increasingly erratic chroma delay, creating a “tracked movement through time” effect. The visuals get more experimental as the soundtrack intensifies and the dancers movements become more erratic. Conceptually, we’re exploring the feeling of “trying to understand,” “getting excited about new things and new relationships,” “rushing around,” “exploiting,” and “seeing imprints of yourself or consequences of your actions”
Part 3: Failure. The intention of this part is to convey the feeling of losing track of time, or trying to control time and failing. It’s that feeling of trying to hold onto something fleeting. The visuals transform into a particle swarm that combines to create a video of a previous dance session. However, the dancer’s movements are tracked, and as he tries to “catch” the particle swarm,” it mirrors his movements in reverse. If he goes left, they go right. The only way to become one with the swarm is to center yourself back in the middle. As this is projected on a series of translucent silk sheets, the dancer can move in and out of the imagery, and try to “sneak” up on it. Ultimately, he fails.
Part 4: Acceptance. As the dancer moves behind the projections, the visual transitions into a single, low opacity video of the dancer running away from the camera, trying not to be caught. The dancer in realtime tries to mimic the movements of the video, but gets increasingly frustrated by it’s unpredictability. As the video fades into a transparency, the dancer stops trying to mimic the movements of the past and just exist in real time, and find harmony with himself in the present. In this section we explore multiple concepts, including amnesty, moving forward, not holding on, and acceptance. Eventually the lights fade to black and you can only hear the movements of the dancer, as he no longer needs to perform for anyone but himself, and finally, in the silence, you hear his loud, steady breath as he prepares to start again.
I adore this piece for two reasons.
1.I have always wanted to learn TouchDesigner and node-based programming, and this finally gave me a reason to dive in. I am tremendously proud of how much I was able to learn and produce in the single month we had to conceptualize, develop, and complete this piece. It gave me the opportunity to also familiarize myself with the Microsoft Kinect and tracking specific parts of the body. I had a great deal of fun exploring different body parts as a start and end point for the particle life cycle, and different shapes that form within the swarm itself. There is a lot of similarities but also a lot of differences and considerations you have to make between the tracking of a VR headset and the tracking of a body in relationship to a projector. Once you dive in, the possibilities really seem endless. My next step is to continue to exploring tracking gestures, but also having the Kinect recognizing gesture patterns and displaying footage from a database of videos with similar movement.
2. My MOST important lesson here was to let myself go and experiment wildly. As a social practice artist and empathetic listener, I often need to make sure the stories of others are conveyed in my work through thoughtful, intentional, and curated ways. I still incorporated listening sharing the stories of others, but in a much more subtle way. And with this project both my partner and I were able to learn together and improvise every part. There we no “mistakes,” only things that worked or didn’t work with our concept. At every stage we each took a step forward together, analyzed what we’ve done, and discussed how to move forward. Especially with our limited amount of time, I learned to let go of my old ways of thinking and got to think completely outside of the box conceptually, spatially, and creatively. It was so exciting and educational both professionally and personally, and honestly? It was all just a lot of fun.