An Essay about Emotion and Technology in Dance: Emovere
(…) But two sensations, each having their own level or zone, can also confront each other and make their respective levels communicate. Here we are no longer in the domain of simple vibration, but that of resonance. (Giles Deleuze)
Emovere, Body, Sound and Movement sought to produce a specific sensitive experience through the capture of physiological signals associated with emotion, combining an interactive and reactive model of digital technology between dance, image and sound. The starting point is sensoriality as a form of experience, where the fact that the emotional states are associated with physiological expressions that are captured using technology is emphasized. Through this capture and its sensitive translation into different sounds and also projections, the piece generated a particular sonic space that was produced by the movement of the performers and their emotions.
How can we phenomenologically understand this experience that surpasses the existing possibilities? What was the performers’ experience like when their bodies, their movements and their emotions became audible? What is the role of the digital devices in their corporal and sensitive experience? What happens with their experience of sound, a sound that is and is not a part of their bodies? What happens when an emotion acquires a new aesthetic quality and a new corporal quality? These were some of the questions that originated this writing.
In order to test some of the answers, we will start by reflecting on the field of the sensitive, or the senses, and its relationship with the emotion proposed by Emovere in order to delve into the body that emerges for the stage performer from the different phases of the creation process.
An internal body process is made visible by making it audible. Emovere works with various emotional states that acquire different sound qualities from their physiological capture and sensitive translation, which in turn involves a creative process in the sphere of dance and technology.
The staging accentuates (underlines or emphasizes) an emotion through the senses. Through the senses, for instance hearing or sight, we are able to perceive an emotion. Invisibility becomes sound and image. In other words, Emovere makes visible that which is not part of the visible order, and it does it from an experience that is also not entirely an experience of the visible, but mainly of the audible. It provides sight with sound.
This way, while Emovere enables a visible experience of emotion from the audible, we find ourselves in the domain of “multi-sensitivity”. Something is made possible from a “multi-sensitive” experience, or “synesthetic” if you prefer, where following Deleuze (2009), the limits of sensation are overflowed and surpassed in all directions. This is an intense and intensive body. It is an intensive event of the body that “gives us eyes all over: in the ear, in the stomach, in the lungs (…)” (Deleuze, 2009: 59). In this sense, a multi-sensitive, and we could also say hybrid figure is generated. Deleuze is asking us: how can we paint a sound? How can we make colors audible? It is about making forces that are not visible, visible. And thus, the sensation can go through different levels under the action of forces, producing sensation couplings: “the sensation now becomes resonance” (Deleuze, 2009: 72).
Nevertheless, what would be the particularity of this resonant experience proposed by Emovere? We could say that we are facing a new sensitive experience, a new sensitive perception mode when the sound, with such intensity, seems to “come out” of the body’s movement, which is in turn found in a specific emotion. A new sonic dimension is opened, a new sonic space while something makes a sound (an emotion?), something that wouldn’t make a sound by itself. The emotion is dislocated; it now has another medium through the body and the sound. But it is necessary to warn you that this is not about any sound that may be produced with the body making it sonic, like a clap, an exalted breath or even a voice. The particularity of Emovere is that it is about gestures and movements that would not make that sound by themselves. It is about a sound that is not the body’s own sound, despite being originated in the body. These are sounds that the body would not be able to produce without the participation of technology and a digitally operated process. That is where the accent or the perceptual intensification is rooted. It’s just that this sonation of dance in Emovere has to do with a digital sensitivity. It has to do with a new sensitive aspect. The sensitive novelty resides in the sounding of emotion and movement. We are faced with a perceptible sound that comes from an impossible, soundless space, making the invisible, as Anne Cauquelin (2008) points out, come up to the surface. This way, a new type of experience is generated, tossed in that which exceeds the existing, or the possibilities of the existing, as François Soulages (2005) would say, opening new possibilities as a new hybrid extension space among resonances.
A Dialectical Process between Technology and Emotion
The dancer realized that her movements were more contorted each time she tried to achieve the correct sound; she was used to dancing following the music, not to create it as she danced.
In the scenic research process, the performers required a special training aimed at using technology in dance on one hand and different emotional states on the other, based on a self-perceptive exploration through Alba Emoting, which challenged them to an arduous emotional journey. From this dialectical work regarding oneself and also others, we sought to produce an accentuation in the perception processes of the stage performer’s body in dance.
As Anne Cauquelain (2008) points out regarding the relationship between the body and technology in contemporary art, it could be suggested that this process originated techno-bodies, where a different logic also operated for the performer of Emovere. The body is transformed, and other types of perceptive experiences are generated. This hybridization that is present in the piece and its creative process produced a disorganization or rearranging of the sensation, of the senses, a disorientation and decomposition from a digital and emotional matrix. New bodies emerge, which are de-subordinated in a dialectics between the device and the emotion. As a result, a techné of the emotion is generated in combination with a corporal techné of the sonation, which in turn implied a long process of searching and exploring various qualities of movement.
In this sense, a particular corporality was developed in Emovere that implied a specific embodiment process where an emotional techno-body was in-corporated in order to develop a particular dance performance mode.
This way, a sonic-emotional dimension opens among the performers. It is not just that a performer “makes sounds”, but they engage with another that also “makes sounds” and they find each other “making sounds” in a specific emotion. In this sense, the creative process also implied the development and creation of a particular relationality. A sort of sonic-emotional relationality is generated, which is articulated in different sound combinations according to the relationships established, or rather giving way to different relationship modes.
I will use a fragment of the piece that was called “zone 1” as an example. Each person has a set of different sounds with different levels of intensity the higher the muscle tension. They start taking turns moving. Francisca moves first, then Eduardo. Both stop, and then we hear the movement of Pablo, which is joined by Poly’s sound and movement. The bodies make sounds while they brush past each other, crawl or slither. Different sound levels are generated as if each relationship between two or three made a different sound, which also implies performing not only an internal world, but different combinations of relationships among diverse worlds.
On the other hand, it is important to note that in this “making sounds” by the performers, the sounds are and are not part of the body. A hybrid interface opens. Emovere is a performance of contact and brushes, but also of prolongations and intensities that belong and do not belong to the bodies, and that at some point also place the body in an experience both inside and outside of it; or rather, the inside also places it outside like a walk on the exterior.
The set of sounds is generated from the body. But these sounds also have a repercussion on the way the dancers move. Throughout Emovere, the sounds change; they are diverse, they intensify and dilate, they are interrupted, they are resumed, they join in a series of combinations and then another according to the emotional states, sometimes generating a sort of musical composition and decomposition through the body.
Therefore, from the constitution of resonant bodies on stage, Emovere poses and questions a bodily experience of emotion, emphasizing the transmission of the body’s internal experience and relationality, and generating a particular scenic poetics.
Deconstruction between Voice, Sound and Emotion
A being, a contained movement, minimal, breathing, a puff that barely flaps his shirt The brush of his clothes makes him uncomfortable. His body makes him uncomfortable. Tense ribs. Invisible, latent impulse. The eyes staring at a fixed point as if he were afraid to lose control.
(Text written by Rolando Jara for Eduardo)
I challenge anyone to try to say something without using the body,” says Eduardo at the beginning of the piece. This is the first sentence, which initiates the stage production. In fact, it is the only sentence we will hear without the intervention of technology. And the piece is indeed also that challenge. Thinking and rethinking the role of the body in emotion. Eduardo approaches the microphone located at one end of the stage space. He enunciates his text. The text was written for him. Rolando wrote it poetically following certain traits of his personality. We can hear Eduardo’s voice through the microphone, which is adapted to also record a sound track. In a very slow and paused manner, he pronounces each one of the words. When he is finished, he steps away from the microphone. Suddenly, he starts moving in a specific way, generating the necessary muscle tension to activate the sensors located on his arms and one leg. Once they are activated, the track that was recorded through the microphone with his own voice starts to play. With the muscle tension of his leg, he activates the volume. With his arms, he increases the speed. A dislocated place for the voice’s emergence is generated, which is not the usual place, proper of its condition of possibility. The mouth is not the one that articulates the voice and makes it appear, but the various parts of the body. And in this journey through the body, the voice expands, demonstrating an uttering of the body. Or rather the movement of the body is demonstrated in the process of uttering.
 I use the term “sonation” in reference to the term described by Aristotle in On the Soul (1993), which denotes the act of something that can make a sound.