Sufferrosa is an “interactive movie” by Dawid Marcinkowski. Here’s a video about it. It’s quite extensive, as these things go. And it looks like some money was spent in the production of it.
Fascinating, and technically very well done, though I find the “clue” driven structure to be a somewhat tired. Someone who has tried to expand the nature of “interactive” beyond just clicking on narrative options: Toni Dove. Toni began thinking about interactive movies well before the technology was even available — she is a true visionary, and an outstanding artist. Here’s a brief tidbit from her work, but I highly recommend a peruse of her excellent website.
I had a good first look at http://tonidove.com as well as viewing the video you mentioned, Gregorious. Many thanks for pointing out the work of Toni Dove. It would be great to be able to see her show coming up in December at The Kitchen in New York. Apparently she’s doing Spectropia then. Have you seen it? Are you going to see it in December? The other piece she’s working on, Lucid Possession, looked fascinating also.
The programmer of Spectropia was one of the lead programmers of Jitter, which is a very well-known tool for interactive video and um i think also bitmap manipulation that’s part of Max. The programming is top notch.
The interactivity she is using is that of the performer, ie, Toni and a small set of performers/users are manipulating the software like musicians play instruments. The audience is simply as an audience for a concert or movie: they sit there and take it in. Which is cool. But when I think of ‘interactive movies’, I first think of something that’s interactive mainly for the audience, not just for some of the performers.
However, the interactive video instruments they’ve developed, and also the sophisticated video content played with the instruments, are nonethelesss fascinating.
Though one thing I’m curious about is what sort of range those instruments have. For instance, are they um improvisational? In the sense that on two different nights, one might see vastly different versions of the movie? How different would they be? In what ways?
I agree that the interactivity in Sufferrosa by Dawid Marcinkowski is rather tired, Gregorious. My feeling is that when you are providing interactivity for the small screen, where the interactivity is necessarily via the mouse or keyboard, it’s important to make the choices meaningful and diverse. In Sufferrosa, we can choose to continue or go deeper into a character’s narrative or go back. That sort of thing. Narrative choices, as you call them. But we aren’t given the option, say, to kill someone, or inject them or save them from injection…we aren’t given juicier choices. The choices should be meaningful and dramatic. Currently, the choices we are given are those of a ‘glorified page turner’, which is what the interactivity in a lot of works amounts to.
But, nonetheless, it is quite an unusual piece for the web in its extensive production and number (if not nature) of interactive choices.
Jim, “glorified page turner”: that is exactly what I find so restricting/boring in prevailing concepts of video/net interactivity.
Plus, there is considerable narrative pleasure in the experience of pure unbroken flow, and too often the loss of flow pleasure induced by the page turn overwhelms whatever small bit of fun there might be in contemplating the (limited) choice, leaving me thinking, oh come on, get on with it, just tell me the story, svp! This sort of interactivity also makes me feel patronized, that is, giving me the illusion of being involved in the creation of the story, even though everyone knows the juicier bits remain the exclusive province of the auteur.
I believe that Toni’s work permits a more nuanced interactivity with a viewer when experienced in an installation context — I am hoping to lure Toni into the netartery to address these issues herself.
Hi Jim – Just got a heads up from Gregory about these posts! Thanks to both of you for all of your comments. My work with interactive structures has cut back and forth between player driven interaction and performer or instrument based interactivity. I’m more interested in the performance and instrument model lately as it allows for a learning curve and complexity in the instrument which installation doesn’t as easily. The performance model could also be ported for home use with a user learning curve as in games – development/dist etc. is a challenge if you’re off the path with a machete – so to speak. Out of the box.
Artificial Changelings, an installation documented on my web site, was a single user driven installation – and works for small groups – kind of a chamber music interaction strategy. I’ve been working with motion sensing for years – an embodied interface that allows a player/performer to “haunt” the movie. Their motion moves characters bodies onscreen and so there is a uncanny physical sense of being connected – a remote doubling. Spectropia amps this up to two performers – but it could work for desktop/internet at some point for home use. I’m always thinking of all kinds of future possibilities – not always easily implementable ie: budget etc. I’m going to put up a blog in a few weeks on my web site and will blog about Spectropia leading up to the Kitchen shows Dec. 9,10,11. I’ll release a few episodes from the 10 episode podcast version of the piece (linear). Stay tuned!
Spectropia is like a possessed feature film – it’s always more or less the same story – although you can inhabit it and change point of view depending on whether you stay in 3rd person or inhabit different characters 1st person thoughts – so you could get a story with a very different feel and a different accretion of info. Up to 6 streams of video are navigated and scrubbed with control being passed back and forth between characters. Kind of a cubistic multiple personality interface. I don’t do the multiple endings thing. It’s more like making a movie and turning it into a building and then swimming through the building.
Lucid Possession includes stage controlled robotic screens, lighting, fans, multiple projections scrubbed by a vj, a violin which is controlled by an accelerometer glove that can bow and alter foley and voice and video characters that learn performers voices and lip synch live. It’s very improvisational in the sense that it only really comes together onstage in the moment. The story doesn’t change radically, but it’s performed differently on the micro level. It has a living poem quality.
I find most of the performance pieces evolve and change fairly radically in the beginning and then stabilize some so by the end of a run the changes are more in mood or atmosphere. But the liveness of them creates its own suspense or tension against the more fixed and linear idea of cinema. I think if they were available on desktop different users would cause them to change more radically – it’s what happened with Artificial Changelings – it never felt the same no matter how many times I saw it.
Hi Toni and Gregorious,
I can see your work is exceptional, Toni. Along various dimensions. The programming. The stories; the drama. The visuals. The multi-player performativity that is a ‘movie concert’.
Where would you situate your interests relative to ‘database cinema’? Mind you, the notion of ‘database cinema’ is quite broad. But the typical notion of it involves video clips sequenced and sometimes layered on the fly in response to either audience or performer activity or even, say, stock market activity (or whatever).
I can see how the performance aspect, with the wonderful instruments, is fun for the performers. How does it contribute to the audience experience?
I was watching the Ken Burns series on jazz the other day. Marsalis was talking about how jazz can’t really be recorded with different players playing at different times; they have to be playing together. Performance more than the recording is emphasized. Is yours the jazz of ‘interactive cinema’?
Hi Jim -
Sorry it’s taken me awhile to respond. Fall hit like an avalanche!
Thank you for your comments on my work.
Any system that manages a complex set of data with a program is in some sense a database system. My work uses embodied interface behaviors that trigger media – it’s not random and differs I think from much database work in that the media itself is designed to be manipulated – scrubbed, looped, layered dynamically, etc. – and the central stories are more and more defined by a through line around which POV changes. More recently I’m controlling characters across screens on 3D robotic screens also controlled onstage – so it’s moving in a more performative direction. I think the real challenge that often isn’t discussed as much as it should be is that any programmed system is only as interesting as the depth of the authoring of material to it. In other words each system requires evolving a vocabulary for authoring to it for it to be effective – and this takes tremendous care and thought. Just because you built the piano doesn’t mean you know how to play it well.
I think the sense of improvisation and “liveness” definitely adds both magic and suspense to the audience experience. The new piece I’m working on really only exists onstage in the moment. I’m trying to figure out a desktop version but we’ll see how that works! Sometimes the story or experience changes radically from performance to performance – but sometimes it changes in the way watching the surface of the ocean manifests change – it looks the same but it’s always moving – and that breathing or affect is actually profoundly different from a frozen or still surface. Or-if you know something will be different every time it’s performed but you only see it once – does that impact the experience? I think it does.
Your work sounds very interesting–I wish I was a couple thousand miles closer to attend a performance.
Me too! I’ll keep you posted if I’m in your neighborhood.
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