I am a researcher, currently writing up my PhD research project carried out at Falmouth University, within the 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training and with the support of the AHRC. My PhD research is concerned with the potential and affordances of AI and motion capture technologies to intervene in choreographic practices in ways that disrupt habitual movement patterns in improvising dancers and catalyse the emergence of new movement material with its own choreographic agency.
At the heart of my practice-based research sits Tools that Propel, a digital interactive installation and choreographic tool co-developed by Adam Russell and myself. Developing and using this system has opened up a number of cultural and philosophical enquiries about the way that new technologies can shift our perceptions and invite us to see our relationship with the world we inhabit differently. Interrogation of how this occurs with Tools that Propel feeds back into further understanding of how the system affects choreographic thinking and bodily knowledge.
This section of my website forms a space where I can explore and share my research. There are links to my published articles and pictures and videos of research workshops and artistic use of Tools that Propel.
Photography: Ian Kingsnorth
Tools that Propel
Confronting the interactor with a life-size projection of themselves and other bodies, Tools that Propel blends live ‘mirror-like’ video and recorded fragments from the recent past that resemble their current movement. The computational system compares what it sees in real-time with movements it has previously tracked, recorded, and categorised, and models the likelihood that the real-time movement might be a re-performance of any of these. If this likelihood is above a certain threshold then it plays the recorded footage (‘memory’) blended with the real-time projection of the dancer on screen.
The interactor improvises with ‘ghosts’ of themselves and others tracked by the sensor before them; this entanglement encourages breaking of habits and mining of memories, exploring subtle variations.
Tools that Propel can be used as a training system, an improvisational partner or tool, an interactive installation and in performance as collaborator, agent, performer or scenography. I have used it in all these ways with dancers, undergraduate dance students, workshop participants, and members of the general public in a gallery space.
Body of Memory
In September 2019, I led the creation process for Body of Memory which used two versions of Tools that Propel set at right angles to each other within a black gauze installation. This piece was created in collaboration with Tools that Propel, dancers Yi Xuan Kwek, Maria Evans, Zach McCullough and Euan Hastings, lighting improviser Jess Smith, and composer/sound designer Matthew Collington.
Body of Memory is an improvised dance performance which unfolds in dialogue with Tools that Propel. It is created anew each performance through many entangled agencies acting on each other: those of the dancers, the gauze, the lights, the lighting improviser, Kinect sensors, projectors, computers, algorithms, a gesture recognition library, sounds, music, sound designer, instructions, dramaturgy, concept, and more.
Body of Memory was a moment in time in a research project and also a stand-alone performance work: in both ways, an invite to look at and through our looking glass. It is also a folding of past and present and a curious, playful exploration of memory: in our bodies, in our extended (human-computational) bodies, and in the (re)performance of dance. Body of Memory is built from a series of questions. Some of them might be: what is memory, whose memory, our memory, its memory, the memory of and in this architectural, technological, computational, fleshy, moving, material, immaterial, choreographic meeting?
Further development of this performance work will happen after completion of my PhD thesis, working with partners to support its production and presentation in gallery and warehouse spaces.
Levinsky, S. and Russell, A., 2019. Agency in dialogue: how choreographic thought emerges through dancing with Tools that Propel. Presented at the AISB 2019 Convention: Movement that Shapes Behaviour, Falmouth University, 8.
Levinsky, S., 2017. The Performance of Leftovers. Performance Research, 22 (8), 68–76.