Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation / Edition 1

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The past decade has seen an extraordinarily intense period of experimentation with computer technology within the performing arts. Digital media has been increasingly incorporated into live theater and dance, and new forms of interactive performance have emerged in participatory installations, on CD-ROM, and on the Web. In Digital Performance, Steve Dixon traces the evolution of these practices, presents detailed accounts of key practitioners and performances, and analyzes the theoretical, artistic, and technological contexts of this form of new media art. Dixon finds precursors to today's digital performances in past forms of theatrical technology that range from the deus ex machina of classical Greek drama to Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk (concept of the total artwork),and draws parallels between contemporary work and the theories and practices of Constructivism, Dada, Surrealism, Expressionism, Futurism, and multimedia pioneers of the twentieth century. For a theoretical perspective on digital performance,Dixon draws on the work of Philip Auslander, Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, and others. To document and analyze contemporary digital performance practice, Dixon considers changes in the representation of the body, space, and time. He considers virtual bodies, avatars, and digital doubles, as well as performances by artists including Stelarc, Robert Lepage, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Blast Theory, and Eduardo Kac. He investigates new media's novel approaches to creating theatrical spectacle, including virtual reality and robot performance work, telematic performances in which remote locations are linked in real time, Webcams, and online drama communities, and considers the "extratemporal" illusion created by some technological theater works. Finally, he defines categories of interactivity, from navigational to participatory and collaborative. Dixon challenges dominant theoretical approaches to digital performance — including what he calls postmodernism's denial of the new — and offers a series of boldly original arguments in their place.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
The MIT Press

The MIT Press

Philip Auslander
A lively and contentious introduction to the history, theory, and practice of digital media in performance. Dixon's book provides the solid grounding this ongoing discussion so urgently needs.
Arthur Kroker
Like the performance art of which it represents such a brilliant history,Digital Performance is itself literally that — not only a superb history of new media but a field-defining performance of the trace of the digital in theater, dance, and installation. To read this book is to enter deeply into the creative artistic imagination which codes so much of contemporary digital experience.
Susan Melrose
There is a fine irony in the very 'bookness' of this vast and startling work. As book, what Steve Dixon has set out to produce here is stunning, monstrous in its dimensions — virtually impossible. If you have any interest at all in recent histories of performance, this is precisely why you need to get hold of it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262042352
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Series: Leonardo Book Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 832
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Dixon is President of LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword     vii
Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xiii
Introduction     1
Histories     35
The Genealogy of Digital Performance     37
Futurism and the Early-Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde     47
Multimedia Theater, 1911-1959     73
Performance and Technology Since 1960     87
Theories and Contexts     113
Liveness     115
Postmodernism and Posthumanism     135
The Digital Revolution     157
Digital Dancing and Software Developments     183
The Body     209
Virtual Bodies     211
The Digital Double     241
Robots     271
Cyborgs     303
Space     333
Digital Theater and Scenic Spectacle     335
Virtual Reality: The Search for Immersion     363
Liquid Architectures and Site-Specific Fractures in Reality     395
Telematics: Conjoining Remote Performance Spaces     419
Webcams: The Subversion of Surveillance     437
Online Performance: "Live" from Cyberspace     457
"Theater" in Cyberspace     483
Time     513
Time     515
Memory     539
Interactivity     557
"Performing" Interactivity     559
Videogames     599
CD-ROMs     623
Conclusion     643
Notes     671
Bibliography     737
Index     777
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