Interview by Eva Campos Suárez to Elke Reinhuber
It’s the first time we try to make experience people the 360º vision of a screendance, and I have to say that when I watched your film, quickly I used my virtual glasses to enjoy it completely. How come the idea to create it like this? Have you already done this before?
Yes. Well, sort of. I was working with panoramic photographs and multiple projections already earlier. As I was working on my PhD thesis about the abundance of choices which we might face, the difficulty to make decisions and the retrospective considerations of alternatives, I was fascinated by the iconography of Hercules at the Crossroads, who had to choose between the easy path of vice and the steep and rocky road of virtue.
Therefore I was looking at forking paths and found an impressive array of intersections in the garden of Versailles in France. However, presenting it as panoramic photographs (with multiple vanishing points to add a choice in viewing directions), did not feel sufficient.
As I discovered the panoramic laboratory at ZKM (Centre for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2012, I simply fell in love with the form of presentation: it felt like I was back inside the gardens and I could even animate the intersections, to open up and close again the diverse pathways to new possibilities. However, the most interesting aspect of DECIDOPHOBIA was forcing the audience to decide in which direction to look – just like in the real garden.
The visual representation was completed by voices which expressed their confusion in eight different languages, coming from all directions. Since then, I worked on several projects specifically for the immersive cylindrical 360° environment, also exploring the physical impact on the audience. Though, it was difficult to present the work in any other format.
After I started working in Singapore, I discovered the Yunnan Garden: the forking path structure and the pavilions which provide a view in all directions were just the perfect setting for a new piece and I embraced the possibility to work with spherical videos immediately.
What is the most difficult thing to do with a 360º film? Did you have any problem during the shooting?
We were able to record several test shots with a consumer camera (Ricoh Theta), which offered a preview and also the ability to render the files much faster. For our choreographer, Susan Sentler, it was a real challenge as it was the first time she had to work for a non-existing audience without the constraints of a stage or cinematic frame – everything was visible, no suggested viewing direction, no centre! During the shooting, we were hiding behind trees and had to rely on the judgement of the dancers, if a take was satisfying.
I was really amazed by the landscape…
The Yunnan Garden is on the campus of NTU (Nanyang Technological University) in Singapore where I currently research and teach. It was created in 1955 and as it is right now undergoing major redevelopment, I had the desire to capture an impression of being inside the garden. But also, it felt like the ideal environment with the forking paths and pavillion for 360° video.
Can you tell me a little bit about your key cast and the choreographer?
Susan Sentler has a long experience in teaching and choreographing in an arts-related context. As we did not know how long the garden will remain in its back then state, Susan selected four of her experienced dance students from LaSalle College of the Arts and started immediately to rehearse in the studio. The garden is remotely located in Singapore so we did not have the chance to rehearse more than once in the garden itself.
Inspired by the layout of the garden, the four dancers are representing the cardinal directions and are dressed in vibrant colours, relating to in Chinese mythology: North is symbolised with a white tiger, East an azure dragon, South is represented by a vermilion bird and West by a black tortoise.
What is screendance or videodance for you? Will you experiment new ways to show dance on a screen?
I was collaborating earlier with German choreographer Tim Plegge on a ballet production for the enormous platform of the Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe and I hugely enjoyed how the projected image and the dancers on stage complemented each other. My aim would be to engage the audience in a 360° environment to start to perform and move – to encourage a seated audience to get up and become a mobile spectator.
Secret Detours has also been displayed on a large panoramic video-wall on which the dancers appear larger than life-size. It is a pleasure to see passers-by walking next to the screened performers.
We have tried many different forms of presentation so far and in my opinion, the cylindrical environment still works best, followed by the dome, because multiple audience members can share an embodied experience.
I could see you had funding for this project, how did you manage to get it!? Normally in screendance world it is difficult to have it.
The dance video was proposed as the first part of a bigger research project in which we are exploring how the impression of being inside the garden could be represented in Virtual Reality.
Thank you very much again for answering me the questions! Do you have a website or social networks where we can follow you?