DISEMBODIED: Dancing in the Datascape, Molly Bremer, UG '22 and Niara Hightower, UG '22 (2307137)
In the COVID-19 pandemic, we encounter staggering statistics daily. But can disembodied headlines and graphs convey the tragic, human reality behind them? How does data disconnect us from each other and from the tragic reality of this moment in history, especially given our already distanced Zoom spaces? Our performance bridges distance between the tragic realities that COVID-19 data represents and our socially distanced selves. We transformed COVID-19 death count datasets into a sonic and visual landscape, an immersive performance space we call the “datascape.” First, we sonified COVID-19 death count datasets, turning numbers into melodies using software like TwoTone and MusicAlgorithms, later layering on orchestrations and voice recordings in GarageBand for richness. Then, by plugging melodies into and playing with the code of various techno-artists’ incredible audio-reactive MAX/MSP “patches" (see video credits), we transformed our sonified data-melodies into visual landscapes. We developed choreography to move within and with this virtual environment. Finally, to place our dancing bodies in this datascape, we used various recording methods – Cubemos’ Skeleton Cam, Unity’s Blob-Tracking/Depth-Kit Package/RealSense Depth Cameras, and Gustavo Silveira’s Audio-Reactive MAX/MSP Webcam Mesh -- translating our bodies into digital “ghosts”. Disembodied: Dancing in the Datascape embodies disembodiment, questioning the numbed zeitgeist that social distancing and digital life encourages. We hope our performance opens space to process and grapple with loss, both the loss of embodied interpersonal connection and the literal loss of human life. We ask: what happens when we quantify human lives, especially when human relationships occur almost exclusively from a screen?