Biped, 1999

Paul Kaiser

Haunted: Digital Embodiment and Memory

Date 10/28/02

Affiliation Digital Artist, New York


Motion-capture technology facilitates both abstraction and subtraction. The infrared cameras have eyes only for the reflective markers worn by the performing bodies, and not for the bodies themselves. They are blind to all vision of muscle and flesh, and with that all sense of effort as well, since they cannot see the struggle and sweat of the performing body. The face also vanishes, and with it the expressions that signal intention, charisma, and feeling. What can these cameras convey?

Is there beauty in motion seen all on its own, independent of the body that created it? Do the virtuoso performers on stage distract us from a more ineffable beauty that we sense only vaguely when watching them? Can we force such questions into focus by squinting, as it were: peering through new technological lenses?

Can we use these lenses to trace our memories, which are filled with ghostlike movements that we can barely put an appearance to? Or can we use them to create new improvisations, existing only in digital space and time, generated not by human but by artificial intelligence? Or can we multiply individual motions into fluctuating crowds and create a synthetic urban density that we can re-project into the real spaces of our cities?


Paul Kaiser is a digital artist whose work has appeared at Lincoln Center, MASS MoCA, the Pompidou Center, the Whitney Museum, the Barbican Centre, the Kitchen, and many other venues. His solo works include Flicker-track + Verge (1999-2001), Trace (2002), and Inkblot Projections (2002). His collaborative work, variously including Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Shelley Eshkar, and Marc Downie, has combined motion-capture with dance: Hand-drawn Spaces (1998), Ghostcatching (1999), BIPED (1999), You Walk? (2000), Loops (2001), and Lifelike (2002). Pedestrian (2002), a public art project that he created with Shelley Eshkar, premiered at four sites in Manhattan and is now touring Europe.

-- As of 10/28/02

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