Pre-Programmed

PRE-PROGRAMMED
by Megan (Pitcher) Young

As art imitates life (imitates art) and so on, my work is in that feedback loop running parallel with all human/machine interactions. Writing on the touch responsive system of my iPad is is just one example. It’s a far cry from my old desktop and certainly from my childhood Commodore 64, when punching orders in DOS seemed like magic. So what happens now? The software anticipates my actions. It teaches me, even. Every interaction strengthens the learning system and reveals more of the embedded coding. (Like autocorrect.) The programming action is still there, but it happens without me. Those decisions are made without me? How does it know what I want?

My art practice pounces on both the obvious and covert programming of our social systems. I hack those systems, question their purpose, and magnify their result.

From a generalized standpoint, we already engage in responsive relationships with clear and obvious reactions: If I smile at you, you blush. So, let’s try that. Every time, without deviating, I will smile and you will blush. Again: smile, blush. Then too many times later it is just too boring to stay in that limiting relationship. Sooner or later we try an adaptive deviation. We are more than our computational inventions, after all. We can think for ourselves, right? So, I smile and you move to sit near me. We have adapted the original binary.

Much as I hate to be reminded, so many actions are actually pre-set reactions. Each of us bear some too great resemblance to the acculturation processes of our surroundings. I offer myself as example: When you yell at me, I shrink. This is my response and, sure, yours may be very different. Nonetheless, nine times out of ten being yelled at I will tense every muscle and get ready to run, because I have been programmed to fear.

Now please understand how computers and logic based systems are viewed from a deeply personal, feminist perspective. Nine times out of ten being hit I will cry. Nine times out of ten being made to feel less I will accept. Nine times out of ten being forcibly penetrated I will wonder what I did wrong, because since childhood I have been conditioned to accept blame.

If not called on than unimportant idea.
If short skirt than boys distracted.
If vagina than less.
It’s a tired paradigm.
         I like when it breaks.

I return to interactive programming. This time late night breastfeeding mixes with style sheets and art installations. This is my new media. Responsive systems mature to expect and allow for adaptation. Thresholding techniques transfer a user out of one responsive environment into another condition. A viewer can trigger the Max MSP bang fifty times in response to their continued presence in a space. In so doing, they enter a new reality. But, no matter what, the rules and outcomes are already pre-determined. It is beyond your control, that is, until we position user as programmer – object as artist.

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Behind Breakwall

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#breakwallbodies

A new iteration of BREAKWALL will appear in ARTPRIZE 7, opening this week!  On the occasion of our West Michigan return, I am sharing a very short back story to the work. Sometimes, simple things are not so simple.

Breakwall describes embodied memories from my childhood in West Michigan, growing up one just sand dune away from the lake in Grand Haven. It also describes my chosen role as an artist.

A break wall is comprised of cut wood pilings driven deep into the sediment under the lake. Collectively, they form a barrier against erosion. I focus on the shared responsibility of each piling. Whereas individually, they would be unable to change the course of the tide, together they maintain a foundation (even if that so called foundation is actually an accumulation of shifting sands).

I have a visceral connection to the break walls of West Michigan: I enjoyed the beaches they protect and sensed their strength while jumping from one to the next, daring the waves to catch me.

I bring those sensations into this installation and performance piece. As with my larger art practice, Breakwall emphasizes individuality within an environment of collective action. During performances, dancers activate the space with their bodies as instruments. They build a symphony of sand and wood, processed through computational software and amplified back into the installation.The performers demonstrate how this rich visual environment is a place of opportunity.

Viewers are invited to explore the sonic experience through the interface of their own bodies. What does it feel like to be the lone sound in a landscape? How are leaders born? How are movements sustained?

Breakwall is a piece about patience. It lingers.

http://www.artprize.org/megan-pitcher/2015/breakwall

And Me In My Place : Wrapped Utility Boxes

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“Citizens Art Box”

I cannot get over how perfect this call for work is, so I spent way to much time showing the Downtown Cleveland Alliance that they needed my work (our work) wrapping the utility boxes on Euclid Ave.

Submissions sometimes take hours to prepare and if you are not chosen, no one sees them. I can’t have that. Here you are world. Imagine my art in you:

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Winter Residency: day 1

The cultural center studio looks different with the curtains drawn back. Last time we spent all of our time in darkness for interactive media tests, but it’s good now to notice the busy city. The Randolph square lobby is filled with people resting, visiting, and coming out from the almost snow. Outside the studio windows we see the park filled with games and goings ons.

This is life in a collection of transitions. It is the best reminder to stop trying to arrive and, instead, surrender to becoming.

WHED: Links Hall THAW

MegLouise presented a simple Adaptive/Responsive score for Links Hall’s annual fundraiser, THAW 2015!

We modified what has become known as the “controller” score to include subtle elements from the upcoming Waist Hifh & Elbow Deep production. One performer leads another around by the neck, expressing near full control. That connection is extended beyond the physical connection into manipulation of the performer through the use of a hand as a type of controller. The obedient dancer is eager to fulfill all lead actions. They move toward the hand, wherever it leads.

This updated excerpt of previous controller scores ended up having a strong similarity to techniques developed for Theater of the Oppressed (Columbian Hypnosis). [ http://youtu.be/B0r9MmTgsuk ]

   

     

Quick Choreo: Identity

 

WORKSHOP // MOVEMENT & CONVERSATION

Non-dancers participating in a survey course of dance history concepts are introduced to basic Labanotation and possibility. This is part of their “Dance & Identity” unit recognizing a shift from large group (cultural/national) identifiers toward individual identity.

Method: Introduction of notation system and basic symbols (high, mid, low, left side, right side, forward, backward, and combinations); Practice instant choreography methods using symbols and simple scores as prompts; Work in groups to develop a movement chorus based on a given score; Exclude any codified movements (*in this workshop students requested three exceptions: cartwheel, worm, arabesque).

Results: Some participants show hesitation in choosing their own movements. They say that it would be easier to be given movements to master. We discus the range of reasons why they feel more comfortable doing what they are told. We relate the conversation to modern dance icons including Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Ruth St. Denis. We consider the expectations of individual choreographers today.

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Special thanks especially to Adelle Gribou, Cita Strauss, Madeleine Scott, and Mary Williford-Shade for sharing their generous approaches to LMA, notation, and movement development during my formative years.

Born an Oak Tree

I searched to find and hold onto a truth I thought alluded me. I never had it growing up; felt the absence as a knotted question.

Anytime I thought I landed on firm territory, my investigations revealed erosive flaws. Was it truth, even if intentions wavered? Was it truth, even if it couldn’t be sustained? I poked holes in paper windows.

We argue about storytellers telling stories, because we want better disguises. Now we demand that food be labeled without deception, still generally shying away from conversations about what food is anymore. Is it even sustenance? Have I been filled or am I being emptied?

My daughter renames herself several times a day. I’m Rainbow Dash; I’m Aerial. I can be her daughter and she my mother, brushing my hair. It feels real. We cuddle in her bed (or is it mine?)

A good friend was going through a divorce some time ago and I watched her wrecked over the horrible truth that she maybe had known without wanting to know. That transitional time was not even so much of discovering the truth as discovering that she could not live with the truth of him for another moment.

I realized where my truth had gone. It had not gone, but been buried. I left my house, my room, my family and went everywhere else. I even had a special method so that the transition would be more reliable. After lying down to bed, I would pull the cord in the ceiling. A hatch would come down, followed by stairs. Before climbing, I could decide where they led.

I really did grow up on Oak Hill court. There really were big oak trees outside a bay window seat and I watched them in too long sittings. I learned how to float off a branch like a leaf, a skill I used later in life to avoid any harsh fiction on my body.

Getting older means watching friends cope with parents entangled in Alzheimer’s. That’s a new and abstract outlook on existence. Is it a curse of the mind to imagine alternative possibilities? How many people are still stuck in that truth search; how many learned how to float or sift like sand through children’s fingers on the beach.

My sister and closest chronicler of truth to my childhood is gone but not gone. And, I no longer care what happened or even what I was told. My mother always used to say, It’s true if they believe it to be. I’ll waste no more time parsing.

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Open Offer

Part of the Waist High & Elbow Deep ruptural bodies project #WHED

Score //
– initiate get to know ya chat. . . I have some things I’d like to share with you
– offer chocolate
– place body into desired location. . . Come (over here) by those already initiated
– introduce hug, extra long
– stay here while I invite a few others to join us
– repeat and end. . . thank you for sharing

Variations//
* encourage/allow conversation of “the initiated”
* possibly: give those waiting a task?

Goals //
– Carving intimate space from out of the public/social sphere
– Maintaining and reinforcing intimate personal space through intentionality and contact
– De-sexualizing the female body in public/social spaces
– Contextualizing the female performer
– Offering opportunity without dictating actions or reactions

Presented at Feverhead for Love, Magic exhibition and performance event; facilitated by Megan Pitcher & Lindsay Phillips

Extended Considerations //
http://saulezuk.com/Hug-performance
http://animaproductions.org/hug/about/project-history/

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Stop Dancing

I remind everyone about the internal monologue during training. How we talk to ourselves in classes is important. I credit the astute Shelly Senter (my Alexander Instructor) for reminding me that how we talk to ourselves in life is important.  So then, here is my manifesto.  I want to change the conversation in my head and I want to move beyond the bounds I had previously allowed myself.

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