tribe: When did you first come up with the concept for Digital Tattoo?
Digital Tattoo: The concept for Digital Tattoo is an idea that I have been working on for quite some time. Whilst at university, I originally came across a Ted Talk of the same name by academic Juan Enruquez, in which he warns of the permanence of our online information. This set the wheels in motion. Having written a dissertation on ‘Spectating, existing, remain: An investigation of the relationships between choreographed body and choreographed document’, I was very interested in creating work and researching around authorship and documentation. I was also experimenting, at the time, by working with projection within my film work and with other dancers as a way of superimposing documents from different times. It was then just after I completed my degree that I began experimenting with the idea of projection on the body and how this relates to both the individual and society within our increasingly digitized world.
t: Can you explain the process of how the performance came into being?
DT: Applying for a different project at Otherplace Productions this time last year, I met Nicola Haydn, a director of Otherplace Productions at The Basement, who was instantly interested my concepts. This led to her offering me support and encouraging me to apply for Arts Council funding. Whilst awaiting the outcome of my application, I auditioned dancers, whith whom I spent three days with researching and workshopping ideas. I continued to develop myself as a digital dance artist, securing a place on the world renowned artist group Blast Theory’s volunteer programme as an archivist and receiving and completing an Ignition Random Acts Network Commission, which I hope to eventually tour alongside ‘Digital Tattoo’.
Now that we are back in the theatre space, I am working intensely with my dancers and collaborators to complete the work. As a choreographer I enjoy working with people and seeing what their experience brings to the work. I therefore create choreography by giving my dancers set material that I ask them to learn, and also by setting tasks, which I then select and shape material from. Throughout this process I have been lucky enough to receive time with dramaturge Lou Cope from South East Dance who has helped me shape the journey of the work, and to receive mentorship from digital dance collaborator Nic Sandiland in order to enable me to work with new software (within my rrepertoire) Isadora Troikatronix.
t: How has Digital Tattoo transitioned from and idea, into a visual performance project?
DT: Before coming into the studio with my dancers, I created short experimental videos along with videos of my searches around my dancers personal online information. During the choreographic process, I worked on a range of tasks with my dancers. Sometimes I just gave them a feeling or a word to work with, sometimes I asked them to respond to imagery or touch.
I also created choreography through games, which is something I have never done before. In one section of the piece where the dancers are passing information or digital signals between each other, as an example, I initially asked them to throw and catch a ball using different body parts. We then took the ball away and worked with the movement that was left.
Isadora Troikatronix is also a wonderful software to bring my idea of digital tattoos to life, allowing the projected film to fit upon my dancer’s bodies or to appear in response to a touch.
t: How do you consider your personal online identity?
DT: This is a question without a simple answer. I believe that it is a collection of self- documentation (I unfortunately do not store my photographs anywhere else than Facebook), a connection with long distance friends and mainly as a professional platform to showcase my work. Having an online presence allows me to create an identity or a self which can interact with a much wider field of people than I could in the flesh. As an artist I am not against the digital, I believe that social media has contributed massively to the development of my profile as an artist, I just believe that it is important to think about the constructs that we become a part of and the possibilities that putting this information online creates for its future.
As far as I am aware, there is nothing that I regret about my being online (apart from perhaps a few young pictures), but I am sure there is information about me online that I am unaware of and I find that a disturbing fact.
t: How did you research online identity and perception?
DT: I have done a lot of reading, had a lot of discussions, looked at and read about other artists work and instrumented interviews. Due to the constant development of online sites, we are always being left behind, there is constantly new ways of gaining information and communicating; people hold many different relationships to the internet. Thus, I feel that this is something that I am always going to be researching and learning about.
I am interested in people and the real, honest affects that this digitalization is having on society as part of my research. For or sound design we have gone out and interviewed a range of people about their thoughts on the Right to be Forgotten.
I am also currently delivering practical and discursive workshops with both digital immigrants and digital natives (people who were born before and after the digital era) to look at how people’s relationship to the digital and online perception has changed over time and how it changes with age, as well as to create further opportunity for people to engage with my work. Of course, every time I go online, I am also learning more about self projection, both through myself, but also through the world of communication and information at my fingertips.
t: Online identity is a hugely visual thing. With this in mind, how important is sound and how closely did you work with the composer?
DT: The sound for Digital Tattoo is very important because it brings the movement and the film projections alive, helping to convey the mood for each section and to take the audience on a journey. Moving between sound design and musical sections, the composition allows the audience to understand locations and emotions, and to introduce thoughts on the Right to be Forgotten; living within an increasingly digitized society through real interviews.
For this piece I have chosen to work with a composer called Tom Sayers, who is new to composing for dance performances (he works primarily as a sound designer for film, for which he has won a BAFTA and has been nominated for an Oscar). This is therefore a very exciting collaboration for both of us. Our relationship is one similar to between the dancers and myself; we discuss the stimuli for the choreography and then he responds. We then come to a mutual agreement. Tom then has time to work on his composition before I give further feedback, or we look at it in relation to the choreography and the dancers in rehearsal.
t: Could this project have been possible without support from the Arts Council and South East Dance?
DT: Although I appreciate it is not always possible (I have done and am still doing my fair share of free and expenses only work), I believe that people should be paid, when possible, for the work that they do. Being a supported artist at Otherplace Productions was important. Without the funding, the show would still have gone ahead on a much smaller scale. The outreach programme of workshops and opportunities to help learn how to use Isadora Troikatronix through mentorship would not have been possible, for example, as well as the additional outside support and the help I have set up for the future of the work. The funding is essential in this project to develop me as well as my collaborators within our chosen fields at an important stage of our careers.
t: Has this project been a challenge?
DT: Yes, on a number of levels. I find challenges are exciting and open up new ideas and opportunities. There have been two main challenges. The first one is time. We have only had eight rehearsals to make the piece, carry out photography, document it, work with the composition and for myself and the dancers to learn how to use Isadora Troikatronix, which is new to us all. I am thankful to the team of committed and open collaborators that I have been working with for taking on this challenge, as without them this timescale would not have been so easy.
The second challenge was privacy and rights to information, which is obviously a big question for the work. If there were no laws and regulations for where and how we can use online information, I would have choreographed and then filmed a continuous search around my dancers real online information (which I have received permission to do). However,
I had to get clearance permission from all images that appeared in the work from both the people in the images as well as those who took the images and then design my own social media site for this very reason. Although, for live performance, the rules about personal data are not as strict as it is in the context of my other work, I have still had to come up with a creative, yet honest way of representing the online which has been an interesting challenge, one that has informed and shaped the work.
t: What do you want people to take way from the performance?
DT: Although I hope that all ages can get something from the work, it is particularly aimed at those regularly online, mostly those who are frivolous with what they post. I want them to go away having not necessarily changed their approach to their online presence, but just to consider it every now and then. “If I post this, where might it go? What consequences might it have now or in the future? How does it represent me?”
t : What would be your one word of advice to people who use social media to share their lives online?
DT: To think more about what you are sharing, where this information will go and who will read it. Embrace the online, it creates opportunity for things that otherwise would not be possible. But also be aware of the consequences of this. After all, your digital self which you are not always in control of, can be considered part of yourself, just like a Digital Tattoo.
Source – Tribe Magazine