Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin?

Program Note

In collaboration with composer Aurie Hsu, Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? for sensor-equipped belly dancer, robotic percussion, sound exciters, and live sound processing, explores questions of intersectionality and fluidity between organism and machine as raised in Donna Haraway’s 1984 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” These intersections between human and machine suggest hybrid bodies, raising questions about embodiment in our contemporary techno-culture where the lines between organism and machine become indistinguishable. This performance enacts Haraway’s idea of a “cyborg world” consisting of “lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship between animals and machines.” The piece realizes the capability of the hybrid body in performance, sonically connecting mechanized human movement and humanized robotic action. Robotic percussion surrounds the dancer, serving as a visual and sonic extension of the dancer’s body. The RAKS (Remote electroAcoustic Kinesthetic Sensing) system, a wireless wearable sensor interface, translates the dancer’s movement into activations of the robotic percussion instrument CADI (Configurable Automatic Drumming Instrument). Through the RAKS system, the dancer also controls computer-generated sound processing and synthesis. Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin? was commissioned by the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology for the 2018 Biennial Symposium.

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