ANDIAMO: analog-digital instrument for visual performance

ANDIAMO is the name of the live visual performance instrument I’m currently developing as a central element of the nauté project. The name is an Spanish acronym for ANimador DIgital Analógico MOdular (Digital-Analog Modular Animator), but it also means, in Italian, “let’s go”. I think that this meaning is particularly apt for a live performance instrument or tool, since during the occurrence of a live performance things just “go” and “flow” in the present moment. When the performance starts, there is no other option but to go ahead and completely engage with the instrument, the senses and the environment where the performance takes place.

Writing a software tool is a creative process by itself, and here I’m coupling this process with the “raw” experience of live visual performance. Both processes go hand in hand, informing and affecting each-other. This is specially relevant when considering the instrument as an extension of the performer’s body and his or her expressive means. Such a tool cannot be designed and implemented in the abstract, separated from the performative experience. Often times this type of software projects involve a collaboration between the performance artist (the “final user”) and the programmer who creates the tool.  The programmer, even though has the skills to define the characteristics and functionality of the instrument, doesn’t have a direct experience in order to gauge the specificity and “materiality” of the instrument. This fact doesn’t preclude of course the possibility of successful collaborations and the creation of successful performance tools. However, in the nauté project both the performer and the programmer are the same person, and this allows the performance element of the project to directly determine the specificity of the tool, and not the performance being dictated by it. The iterative process of writing and refining the software instrument will be, in some way, evaluated and directed by its potential of creating unique aesthetic moments during the performances.

Golan Levin talks extensively in his thesis essay about the “idea of an inexhaustible, infinitely variable, time-based, audiovisual “substance” which can be gesturally created, deposited, manipulated and deleted in a free-form, non-diagrammatic image space“. ANDIAMO serves as a platform to explore such “substances” (and potential transformations and recombinations). Although I will investigate to some degree the formal and visual possibilities of these substances, my interest is mostly focused in the narrative aspects of live gestural manipulation, specially in conjunction with the layered use of video (live and pre-recorded), live drawing and animation, and real-time image filters. I will also explore how this substance, together with the interface elements provided by the tool itself, can augment and extend the expressive means of the performer as a live narrator.

There another area of conceptual importance in this project it is somehow suggested by the dichotomy Analog/Digital that is part of the name of the tool itself. Laptop-based performance has well defined conventions by now, and in this project I’m following most of these conventions. The digital image and the digital transformations of its constituent pixels are the basis for the aesthetics of live laptop performance, and these aesthetics are particularly consistent in a performance practices such as VJ’ing. How to break from the purely digital aesthetics and access wider spaces of expression? One possible answer to this question is to engage with the analog, physical world and bring it back into the digital in new ways. The inspiration for this direction of research comes from works such as Living Cinema by Bob Ostertag and Pierre Hébert, Sue C.‘s video improvisations, Takashi Kawashima‘s Seasons, Drawn by Zachary Lieberman and Pardon Kimura and Diapositives from Julien Maire, which are also specific relevant to the context of live narrative and improvisation. ANDIAMO will not only mix digitally generated visuals with physical, analog inputs, but it will literally “tie” the digital to the analog by means of techniques of computer vision and object tracking:

This is a project with two complementary sides: the singular and the iterative. The singular refers to the performative practice with its unique, singular moments. The iterative represents the tool crafting and its progressive refinements. I chose these words instead of “artistic”  and “technical”, since they are not only quite generic, but also unfair to the intrinsic aesthetic and creative elements of tool crafting and development. Each side has its own blog: this one for the singular, and this other one for the iterative.

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