Digital Performance

Digital Performance

A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation

Steve Dixon

ISBN 9780262271806
832 pp.
April 2007

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Digital Performance

A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation

The past decade has seen an extraordinarily intense period of experimentation with computer technology within the performing arts. Digital media has been increasingly incorporated into live theater and dance, and new forms of interactive performance have emerged in participatory installations, on CD-ROM, and on the Web. In Digital Performance, Steve Dixon traces the evolution of these practices, presents detailed accounts of key practitioners and performances, and analyzes the theoretical, artistic, and technological contexts of this form of new media art. Dixon finds precursors to today’s digital performances in past forms of theatrical technology that range from the deus ex machina of classical Greek drama to Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk (concept of the total artwork), and draws parallels between contemporary work and the theories and practices of Constructivism, Dada, Surrealism, Expressionism, Futurism, and multimedia pioneers of the twentieth century.

For a theoretical perspective on digital performance, Dixon draws on the work of Philip Auslander, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, and others. To document and analyze contemporary digital performance practice, Dixon considers changes in the representation of the body, space, and time. He considers virtual bodies, avatars, and digital doubles, as well as performances by artists including Stelarc, Robert Lepage, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Blast Theory, and Eduardo Kac. He investigates new media’s novel approaches to creating theatrical spectacle, including virtual reality and robot performance work, telematic performances in which remote locations are linked in real time, Webcams, and online drama communities, and considers the “extratemporal” illusion created by some technological theater works. Finally, he defines categories of interactivity, from navigational to participatory and collaborative. Dixon challenges dominant theoretical approaches to digital performance—including what he calls postmodernism’s denial of the new—and offers a series of boldly original arguments in their place.

Contents

  1. Series Foreword
  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. 1. Introduction
  5. 2. The Genealogy of Digital Performance
  6. 3. Futurism and the Early-Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde
  7. 4. Multimedia Theater, 1911–1959
  8. 5. Performance and Technology Since 1960
  9. 6. Liveness
  10. 7. Postmodernism and Posthumanism
  11. 8. The Digital Revolution
  12. 9. Digital Dancing and Software Developments
  13. 10. Virtual Bodies
  14. 11. The Digital Double
  15. 12. Robots
  16. 13. Cyborgs
  17. 14. Digital Theater and Scenic Spectacle
  18. 15. Virtual Reality: The Search for Immersion
  19. 16. Liquid Architectures and Site-Specific Fractures in Reality
  20. 17. Telematics: Conjoining Remote Performance Spaces
  21. 18. Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance
  22. 19. Online Performance: “Live” from Cyberspace
  23. 20. “Theater” in Cyberspace
  24. 21. Time
  25. 22. Memory
  26. 23. “Performing” Interactivity
  27. 24. Videogames
  28. 25. CD-ROMs
  29. 26. Conclusion
  30. Notes
  31. Bibliography
  32. Index