22 September – 2 October 2021
Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, South Bank
What happens when a computer has creative control of six dancers?
The theatre darkens and the lights come up on a performance that is completely unknown – for not just the audience, but the dancers too. Welcome to Forgery, where a complex series of algorithms and cutting-edge technology dictate each performance, resulting in a show that is different every time.
Developed by award-winning Australian dancer, sound designer, choreographer and creative coder, Alisdair Macindoe, Forgery explores the potential for decision making to be relinquished to a computer in the creative process and live performance situation, to pose questions about creative agency in the digital age. Six Australasian Dance Collective performers will be fed instructions live on stage and the program’s algorithms are also in charge of lighting, costumes and music. For ADC’s artists, it’s dance without a safety net.
“Standing in front of hundreds of people who are expecting a performance, with no idea about what you are going to do is probably one of the hardest things a performer can do,” Macindoe said. “That’s probably why I find Forgery so exciting and challenging. But I have always felt that contemporary dance lends itself well to processes that ask the artists to grow and flex around a concept that expands on what dance can be. I think there is a shared love and hate for the idea, as it presents as simultaneously freeing and completely impossible at the same time. The ADC dancers are exceptional artists, who literally are able to create new works on the spot. I am baffled by the flexibility of their minds, their ability to intuit a collective intention and their skills as trained movement experts.”
Macindoe says it will also be an adventure for Brisbane Festival audiences. “There is a thrill in knowing what you are seeing is genuinely and authentically being created in front of you. But even if you didn’t know or didn’t care, there is an unexplainable beauty in the observation of human reactivity. You could put it down to our innate need to empathise with other humans, I don’t really know what it is, but I get the same feeling watching a good game of tennis,” he said.
Forgery was developed in late 2020, while Melbourne-based Macindoe was enduring more than three months of lockdown. However, with the algorithm in charge of the choreography, the ADC dancers only needed a computer in the Brisbane studio with them – Macindoe watched rehearsals via Zoom and let the computer do the rest.
“Forgery invites you into an experiment, where the outcome of each show becomes part a bigger picture, and the more shows you attend, the bigger that picture becomes,” he says.
About the Technology
Forgery has been created by a computer algorithm designed in collaboration with the ADC dancers. This algorithm harnesses Macindoe’s most recent venture into computer generated dance using his custom website designed as a framework for socially distanced collaboration. The site, built in collaboration with software developer and dance artist, Josh Mu, houses Macindoe’s method for generative dance technology and has allowed for the recent contactless development of Forgery. AID (artificially intelligent dances) uses context free grammar maps written in Backus Naur form, with additional functionality Macindoe developed to generate sentences that are spoken using text to voice (computer voice), to guide performers through a performance. Put simply, AID is a computer program that creates sentences, and then says them out loud to a group of performers.