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Student-produced Performance Illuminates Links Between Energy, Technology and the Body

A Bass Connections project team is exploring ways to bring energy flows to life and provoke deeper questioning of the implications of energy usage on our future

Originally posted on Duke Bass Connections

Every day, energy is flowing all around us, constantly being created and consumed. We get a sense of what energy looks like when a dancer leaps through the air or an athlete dunks a basketball. But it’s hard to visualize what it takes to power a refrigerator or heat the water for our coffee.

A Bass Connections project team is exploring ways to bring these energy flows to life and provoke deeper questioning of the implications of energy usage on our future.

photo from class

Visualizing Energy through Live Performance and a related course, Performance and Technology, are led by Thomas F. DeFrantz (African & African-American Studies, Dance) and Martin Brooke(Electrical & Computer Engineering).

Kyle Bradbury“We’ve been doing this class for five years now, and Bass Connections for three years,” said DeFrantz. “This year, we have an energy project with Kyle Bradbury and undergraduate and graduate students. We meet every week, and people demo what they’ve come up with. This work will be taken forward through SLIPPAGE for Moogfest this summer.”

Summer DunsmoreSummer Dunsmore, a second-year MFA student in Experimental and Documentary Arts, is working with DeFrantz to conceptualize and create the team’s projection art display. “We’re interested in the hard facts about everyday energy usage. Through using movement and performance to express energy expended from the body, we’ve found a natural connection between our work and reflecting on energy usage by consumers,” she said.

A typical class meeting starts with a free-flowing movement exercise, with different music each time. DeFrantz gives verbal prompts while Dunsmore, who is also the videographer for the Performance and Technology course, films the students. Then students divide into smaller teams and work on various pieces combining interactive technologies and movement. After presenting to the class and having a critique with DeFrantz, the students continue developing the work for presentation at Duke’s Choreolab in April.

“What I’m doing with the Bass Connections project pushes me to work more in projection art,” said Dunsmore. Last year she took a course on computational media, which helps MFA students “play with and start discovering new media technologies to integrate into our creative work,” she said.

Summer Dunsmore in production“I was interested in creating an installation space and working with projectors, so I did a projection project. In September of last year, I had my first installation show, In Other Words, Other Worlds, at the 40 North Dance Film Festival in California. Projection and installation work pose challenges along the way but it’s very rewarding. I’d love to teach a projection art class and help students learn how to tell a story that way.”

production photoDunsmore’s thesis project is called poem of H.O.M.E., an immersive installation that combines original narrative with video art and abstract storytelling. Audience members become participants, embodying the first-person narrative of a cyborg character named Sibley Greene. Dunsmore hopes to “engage the artgoer in a ‘play on words’,” asking each individual to make their own visual language and give the text new meaning with movement. Dunsmore’s installation is open to the public on March 31 and April 1 at the Shadowbox Studio in Durham, with a reception on April 1.

Bass Connections team members will perform their original work at Duke’s ChoreoLab on April 13 and 14 and at Moogfest on May 18.

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