Troika Ranch

The dance troupe Troika Ranch will be crowdsourcing its latest production via computers.

Think of as the latest attempt to crowdsource art via technology. Troika Ranch, the experimental dance troupe, has taken the links between technology and art to the next level. In its latest work Troika Ranch is using technology not just to enhance art but to create it spontaneously via crowdsourcing. The dancers are real, but neither they nor the choreographers have little control over what happens.

This is how it works: Kinect sensor devices, sensor motion cameras, will capture the motion of individual audience members. Yes, using the same Kinect sensors used by Microsoft’s Xbox 360. What’s captured by those cameras will then be fed into a computer. The computer will then select short segments, in essence creating a mashup, and send them to the dancers on stage via head mounted video screen or multi-media eyeglasses. The dancers won’t know what’s coming. The sequence, the number of repetitions, the speed, etc. will all come as a surprise. The dancers will have to perform the crowdsourced moves immediately.

The human choreographers Dawn Stopiello and Mark Coniglio plan to have their work, which they call “The Swarm” finished this year. This is not the first time that Stopiello and Coniglio have experimented with computer choreography. Their 2007 work “Loopdiver” created taped loops of a short performance that the dancers then replicated in a live performance.

Advertising poster for Winsor McCay's film Ger...By now we are used to seeing technology and art interact on the same screen or the same place. In fact, the first interaction between live and filmed characters was in the 1914 silent film short Gertie the Dinosaur (which you can see below). You may also recall the dance routine from the 1945 Anchors Aweigh performed by a live Gene Kelly and an automated Jerry Mouse. Of course, things have advanced since then to a point where it’s often not possible to distinguish between live and digital elements. Think James Cameron’s Avatar  or Peter Jackson’s Hobbit.

Jerry and Gene Kelly in the 1945 musical film ...

One of the most interesting aspects about the development of technology in media and the arts is the compression of the distance between artist and audience. In “The Swarm” audience movements will be almost instantly translated into a performance. It’s the ultimate expression of crowdsourcing in art. For a few years it’s been possible to effectively and efficiently crowdsource books, films and videos. Yesterday we wrote about how the decision to “green light” a film has been essentially crowdsourced. Troika Ranch has presented us with perhaps the first case of immediate gratification by crowdsourcing in the arts.

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