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Yu Hasegawa-Johnson

University of Illinois
Illinois, US
Hummingbird: Multi-Reality Art

Artist Statement: “Hummingbird” is the live, on-stage dance performance, in Los Angeles, of two people 2000 miles apart. This film is the documentary record of the performance and of the technology behind it.

Chih-Chun Huang dances live, on-stage in Los Angeles, dressed as a wood nymph or a Shakespearian Puck. Cho-Ying Tsai is “dressed” only in computer animation; her physical body is 2000 miles away in a motion capture studio in Urbana. Cho-Ying's movements are recreated in real time on stage in Los Angeles by a fully articulated animated avatar; an avatar capable of morphing from baby to robot to fairy as the performance progresses. The avatar is projected on a custom silver sharktooth scrim, in what Ella Thompson (co-artistic director of the Internet2 performance event) described as “stellar use of layers of light, revealing a subtle local dancer in stage light under the luminescent projected avatar.” Dancing to the piece “All my hummingbirds have alibis” by Morton Subotnick, the performers dance over, under, and through one another. The live performer alternately jumps over the virtual performer, or, at will, passes through her, as if passing through a ghost on stage.

Our goal for these performances is to combine all of the advantages of film (unlimited locations, unlimited view angles, freedom from restrictions of space and time) with all of the advantages of live performance (audience interaction, audience response, the awe that the audience feels when a performer can accomplish something really special in person on the stage in front of them, and also, the nail-biting possibility of unexpected real-time failure). We achieve our goal through a unique combination of motion capture, real-time internet-enabled computer animation software, internet2 data transmission, and custom display on stage together with live performance: we refer to this unique ensemble as “Hummingbird technology.”

Virtual reality is the ultimate expression of multimedia technology. Hummingbird is more than multimedia: it is multi-reality, a new model for the delivery of art. Physical-world performers dance in the virtual world; virtual-world performers dance in the physical world; the two perform together without respect for limitations of space and time, fusing physical reality and virtual reality into a watershed audience experience.