Archiving hybrid-reality performance

This summer I have been working with Henry Lowood at Stanford University to create an archival collection for a hybrid-reality performance. Mr. Lowood’s experience in archiving virtual worlds and understanding of the complexities of archiving machinma, and other artists creations using company software has been necessary for guiding my project.

I have explored reasons why virtual reality technology and virtual worlds are an important aspect of performance, especially when it relates to creativity with dance projects in other blog posts. Several of Mr. Lowood’s publications have described the challenges involved in undertaking the endeavor of preserving and documenting this culturally significant history of computing. The approach collecting items for archiving a hybrid-reality performance collection is two-part. The first part includes the documentation, ephemera, and traces of the performance. The second involves creating a library of the computer software. The documentation of information around an event may prove to ultimately be more important, as it provides context for the event or object and why it is significant within a particular point in history. These archiving activities allow information about hybrid-reality performance to be selected, evaluated, organized, and preserved. The nature of the work being preserved means all the items I am collecting are digital, and most of it is born-digital. Other archival work processes downstream of ingest and imaging into a digital repository are still being developed in this new field. During my summer study I have read articles in just the past few years concerning metadata schemas and ontologies for games and software; options for modelling objects in virtual worlds when they are found in repositories; and the significant characteristics of hybrid-reality performances, namely their interactive and kinesthetic aspects. The proposals to meet challenges in these areas deserve their own blog posts.

I reviewed a breadth of creative performance work: operas that include streaming to virtual worlds as a broadcast medium, performances created for the proscenium stage that include technology objects as “players” on the stage as interactive agents, creative groups in Second Life who have choreographed set performances using scripts and controls, hybrid-reality events or games in real life where people go around cities on quests, and performance installations in different sites that include real-time interaction of real people and virtual world avatars.

The kinds of work I found particularly interesting were ones that included physical involvement on both sides of the reality line: performers who utilize motion capture devices to affect movement on their avatars, and the inclusion of audience members to participate physically during an event. After all, if we are stretching the bounds of art by exploring new platforms like virtual reality, why would we expect to sit still in front of a computer? As a dancer, I enjoy that virtual reality allows physical inclusivity from audiences. Although I appreciate the different perspectives of art and dance not requiring movement to be valid, responding to movement and affecting response from movement is unique to dance, and carries over to hybrid-reality performance.

In addition to performances in Second Life, There are artist collectives, artist creative spaces, and artists resident in these spaces. Senses Places, is “a dance-technology collaborative project creating a playful mixed reality performance environment for audience participation. Generating whole body multimodal interfacings keen to a somatic cross-cultural approach, the project stresses an integration of simultaneous local and remote connections, where participants and environments meet towards a kinesthetic/synesthetic engagement.” I reached out to Isabel Valverde, one of the principles of this collaborative, in order to archive one of her performances. I am fortunate to work directly with an active artist to discuss what is important for archives, and collaboratively proceed in selection and evaluation of objects for an archival collection. This is the current stage of my archival project; more will follow.


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