Anthony

Literary Review of David Z. Saltz’s Performance and Interaction

In Literary Review on February 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Slatz offers a comprehensive look at the introduction of digital technology into theatre, dance and art installations (labelled under the term ‘performance’). Beginning the history of new media’s introduction, Saltz uses the interesting concept of interaction with a computer as a performance in itself, as computer users perform real actions within an imaginary framework, such as throwing files into the recycling bin. This idea follows in to the fact that new media’s interactivity allows it to be brought closer to live performance, which is developed later in the text when the idea of dance and music interactivity is touched on, whereby the movements of the dancer can be translated into sound by motion capture technology. In addition, the usefulness of databasing to theatre historians is mentioned, along with the benefits of computers to theatre set, light and sound design and operation.

The history of new media in performance was comprehensively covered, with a concise breakdown of the different aspects of performance influenced by developments in technology. Although this was effectively handled throughout the article, it did feel like there was an absence of critical evaluation of the effect of these developments on performance practices, whether it has been a positive shift in the attitude towards performance or whether it has had more negative consequences. The problem of context was raised when discussing simulation of 19th century theatres (mentioned in relation to Saltz’s Virtual Vaudeville project) and how a 20th or 21st century audience might misinterpret the significance of the environment and performance. This left a lot to be desired and a handful or mostly unanswered questions at the end of the article did little to compensate.

It cannot be denied that Saltz has a strong understanding of the presence of new media in performance, and the examples listed in the article are extensive, and provide a sound foundation upon which to explore the subject further, and having looked further into a few of these examples it did prove exceptionally helpful in understanding the importance of new media in performance studies. These examples were all relevant where mentioned but after giving three examples of projects using virtual scenery, it did feel a little superfluous and it could have possibly been of more benefit to examine another aspect of digitalised scenery rather than over-analyse one particular area.

The conclusion to this article suggests that there is more to be said on the topic of new media in performance, with many of Saltz’s concluding questions leaving many avenues open for further exploration and possibly a more in-depth analysis of what new media’s introduction really means for the definition of theatre, as first developed by the Greeks and gradually adopted by the Elizabethans, and so on. Having read the article it did not feel like any opinion or viewpoint had been particularly expresses and while it can be presumed that Saltz would of course be in favour of digitalisation in performance, considering his background study in the interaction of performance and new media, it would have been beneficial to the academia of the article had he approached the subject more objectively and argued for the reasoning behind the incorporation of new media into performance, and perhaps looked at the advent of new theatre and performance emerging through media such as Second Life and indeed the ‘liveness’ of theatre, a question only brief raised, unfortunately, in the conclusion of the article.

This article can be found online. An interesting example of the interaction between new media and performance can be seen in this video.

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