Radiant Soma

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Project Description

This project is a collaboration with Eugenia Kim and Alvaro Cassinelli at the City University of Hong Kong and will be presented at the Siggraph 2022 Art Gallery in Vancouver.

The human body has historically been a constant source of fascination in the arts and sciences. With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the debate over the virtues and disadvantages of physical versus virtual bodies has exponentially increased. One of the most difficult attributes of the human body to translate into other forms is the essence of human movement and, by extension, energy. "Radiant Soma" emphasises the ephemerality of human movement by visualising motion capture data with light. The installation of lasers and phosphorescent objects transforms choreography that the original performer can no longer perform into a constant stream of lively spirits. *Radiant Soma* began as a philosophical conjecture on how a machine might visualise its own body based on its understanding of human somatic movement practises. Lasers were considered to be the most appropriate method for translating from digital data into the physical realm as it is simultaneously tangible and malleable. A proof-of-concept to test the interplay between movement and light was then developed using motion capture data of the choreographic work *Oncheon*. The mocap data held special significance for two reasons. First, it combined the structure of *salpuri*, a traditional Korean shamanic dance to expel spirits, with contemporary dance and somatic movement. Second, *Oncheon* was performed and recorded despite triggering severe chronic pain and fatigue. It is unlikely that it can ever be performed again by the original choreographer/performer. To further reinforce the concept of spirits and embodied memories, we drew inspiration from stone tape theory for the projection surfaces. One interpretation of stone tape theory is that objects such as rocks are capable of absorbing and replaying the traces of human thoughts and emotions. In *Radiant Soma*, the emotionally-driven motion is projected onto phosphorescent “stones” that temporarily record and display the traces in a visible way. These traces slowly fade over time allowing viewers to contemplate the simultaneous beauty and temporality of movement and light. The process of recording and disappearing also recalls a key element of "salpuri", which is the expelling of negative energy. On a conceptual level, the stones help strip away the negative aspects embedded in the mocap data by retaining only the purest aspects of the movement.

Project Dates December 2015: Institut Fur Alles Moglich: Berlin, Germany, United Kingdom December 2016: Berlin, Germany December 2017: Lost City Festival: Adelaide, Australia
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