Blister Cinema 3 was the last stage of the production phase of our Battle Of Blister project. We finally got all the artworks, programs, props and performers together to work for 10 days on an interactive film set in Margate. There were over 20 collaborators, a professional videographer and multiple simultaneous interactive art works and cameras all capturing footage. Everything went according to plan, everyone turned up and hours and hours of footage was recorded. The only low point was the poorly attended party night (which unluckily clashed with the opening of Dreamland). We are so glad to have had Jason Brooks filming this event – he got so much great footage from which the photos below are sampled, and also provided ideas on all aspects of the shoot.
We’re starting to go through the footage and will be editing short sequences for each of the collaborators. This will help us to get to know the footage inside out and then we can start thinking about how we are going to layer it with the computer captured sequences into the final film. We will be using some of the live footage in the film (as it is so compelling) but need to be careful not to overwhelm the animation with the live – we need to find the right balance.
This post is intended as a thank you to each of the collaborators and say a bit about what we were trying to do with them – which part of the science we were trying to illustrate. All of the performers managed to do something which we hadn’t seen before (even on the last day) and it will be a great challenge to try and work out how to use such invention.
Anna Symes & Leon Williams
Anna and Leon have been dancing together for a while and have connections to Morgan’s Dance Studios. They cover many styles including Tango, Lindy Hop and Salsa and we had them trying various dances and concentrated on looking at how they worked together as a pair. We were interested in the gaps and joins formed between them and how that might relate to cells surrounding or engulfing each other. They were the first to get involved and turned up the week before and did a kind of test run which was a big help in working out how to approach the filming. They have been really supportive throughout and we have been encouraged to work with local performers in the future – we can even see a Tango lesson or two in our future.
Anna was very focused on what her on-screen avatars were doing and really explored the potential of the setups that we gave her. She responded to instructions to be fly like in different ways including flapping as above and also on her back kicking her feet up in the air like a dying fly – not sure if we prompted her or she just invented that – she independently created several unique visual narratives in response to the projections.
Karol turned up in a striking red and white polka-dot dress and was soon Rock-and-Rolling away to several fluid backgrounds. We also looked at using her striking silhouette to build a black and white cell wall of multiple figures. Karol was also great fun at the wrap party with her dog joining in the dance.
Sidonie had a very fluid style with great arm movements so we got her moving with a series which saw multiple figures overlapping and engulfing each other. We kept the effects simple and allowed her movements to flow across the screen. She really brought the room to life. Sidonie also acted as a Macrophage at one point pulling enemy bacteria into her body with her arms.
Rutter + Bennett and Katie Welsford
We’ve been talking to Chris Rutter and Evelyn Bennett for a while now working out how to collaborate. They are interested in using more digital and were interested in doing more performance. We used the possibilities of Blister Cinema to bring them into the space and see what could happen. They came in the week before with musicians, poets and acrobatic dancers and we recorded several improvised performances. This time Chris and Katie wore R+B’s incredible (possibly bacterial) costume sculpture. These are very colourful (and 3d so they change as the lights go through their coloured sequences) creating some striking footage.
Circo Rum Ba Ba – Marianne + Jen
We were lucky to have Circo Rum Ba Ba involved with their array of circus skills, they did things nobody else could do including stilts, ball walking, acrobatics and aerial silks (climbing and spinning around a 6m high rope tied to the ceiling of Limbo Art Space). Marianne and Jen really challenged us to keep up with their dexterities and hopefully we can adapt the footage to relate to interlocking, stretching and and transmigrating cells.
We have known Arti for years and worked on several Spare Tyre projects with her. She is always up for exploring new ways of communicating ideas and emotion through the use of theatre, mixed media, storytelling and in this case dance. So we threw a lot of balls at her. We were interested in the the way blood vessel walls near the point of inflammation attempt to capture white cells from the blood and pass them into the plasma filled blister to help break down the pathogens. Arti also brought along with her two of the regular Spare Tyre performers…
Vicky studied biology and was fascinated in the way some of the setups reminded her of things seen through microscopes. She interacted with multiple versions of herself creating an emergent wave of activity and described it as an out-of-body experience.
David did some hugely imaginative things at Blister Cinema. Dressed in a green lizard like bodysuit he was able to focus his actions into a mesmerizing science fiction performance which saw him go through a range of precisely structured motions eventually spiraling down and through a self-made time vortex into stillness. Extraordinary.
Jockel usually creates sound and visual art to get others to respond so it was good to see him on the receiving end for a change. We didn’t realise he was such a confident mover. Jockel helped out throughout the day and combined with several of the people above and us to try and create visual vignettes which would help us fill in the gaps in the scientific narrative – so we gave him things like the bursting of mast cells, and the probing of proboscises.
Allyson Jones, Anna Arnsby and Harriet Parker-Beldeau
Allyson Jones was a great connection we made through this project. She and her family and friends run Morgan’s Dance Centre on Margate High Street just opposite the space. Not only did Allyson bring two of her dancer friends she also brought along her three kids for a further session. It was fascinating to see groups of people working together exploring a set to create weird and wonderful patterns. Above you can see Harriet tackle a bulging blister pattern and then the three dancers enter a multicoloured spiral formation – think of a cross section of a blood vessel bringing leukocytes to the party.
Willow, Louis and Vincent Jones
Allyson’s kids brought some crazy energy to the space with the three of them jiving, whirling, bouncing and popping across the room. Each one of them had their own inventive moves and shapes and putting the three of them together was explosive. Here you can see them as red macrophages trying to stop the blue bacteria from getting through their defenses. Hopefully we can bring some of this excitement into Morgan’s in a future collaborative dance + digital project.
Annie wanted to see how small movements could be magnified and multiplied across the space. She bought a simple prop – an umbrella, and started a fascinating controlled sequence of actions which brought out the programs image making potential. Much of the time she interiorized her movement, not looking at the screen, and just responded to our cues and her own investigation of her position in the space. It is hard to describe her unique approach to movement but the results were captivating.
We met Lucy several months ago when we had an earlier version of the program on display at the Beaney Museum in Canterbury where Lucy was one of the first to grasp the nature of the piece and performed some amazing flowing sequences which had the crowd entranced. We were keen to work with her again and she again delivered a range of flowing and still sequences with a range of fluid and static backgrounds. Lucy had a really clear idea of the type of effects she wanted to achieve and was knowledgeable about digital dance in general. Even though Lucy was the last dancer we worked with we were still excited to capture novel forms and responses.
Julia Schauerman + Gudrun Haraldsdottir + Others
Julia and Gudrun are not dancers but both are artists and great experimenters. They were given specific tasks to try and illustrate from bacterial multiplication, creating a living fly, and staging a slow motion noodle fight. As this was the last day the creative process bacame much more improvistaional with anyone who was in the room being roped into the action including Abigail and Bentley from Silent Signal. Stefan Costen was also involved in many interactions, big thanks to him, and was even promoted to cameraman for some of the evening as Jason strutted his stuff. Some of these people are part of the fly below.
The Wrap Party
We quickly threw together some rough cuts from the previous days into a show reel of the type of footage we were getting and showed that alongside the interactive art works which were now set on auto-mode. The few who attended were excited about the piece and everyone is very positive about the footage and looking forward to the final film. There’s over 20 hours of footage to sift through to find the particular moments we want, which might seem overwhelming to us now, but Neil (our scientist below right) can see bacteria and inflammatory agents in everything so we are encouraged. We’re looking forward to the next stage which should be much less stressful and more intuitive and exploratory as we work to combine the layers of sound, images and effects to tell the story we want. Blister Cinema let us capture exactly the kind of animation that we hoped for and then some.