Ambiguous Devices: Improvisation, agency, dialogue and touch in technologically-mediated performance

Authors: Davis, T. and Stapleton, P.

Start date: 29 January 2016

In this presentation we will discuss the artistic processes behind the development of our ongoing collaborative distributed instrument research project, Ambiguous Devices. The project began in 2011 out of a mutual desire to explore non-linear and physically disruptive or resistive forms of networked musical interactions in an attempt to challenge and extend our existing practices as improvisers and instrument designers. Beginning with experiments in psychic transmission as well as simplistic technological methods of indicating copresence across different sites, we then moved on to develop an acoustic instrument that can be mechanically actuated simultaneously by geographically separated performers. The project has continued to develop through residencies, performances and installations in a range of contexts, including at and between SARC (Queen’s University Belfast), Bournemouth University, CCRMA (Stanford University), NIME2012 at University of Michigan, INTIME2013 at Coventry University, and RENEW2013 in Copenhagen. We will briefly present documentation from this earlier development stage, followed by an overview of several concepts that continue to influence our design and performance processes. These discussion topics include the productive potential of ambiguity and distributed control, a non-deterministic understanding of technological relationships, touching across the network, and “feedthrough” as a way of intertwining human-object-human communication.

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