Reimagining the Proscenium with the Department of Dance

To the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts November Dance: Reimagining the Proscenium, the Advanced Visualization Laboratory and Institute of Advanced Computing Applications and Technology contributed a visual surround that transformed the studio environment where faculty member Jennifer Monson’s modern dance, The Mahomet Aquifer Project, takes place.

The visual environment AVL contributed to the event—performed six times from November 13-15, 2008—was part of a larger interdisciplinary collaboration for Reimagining the Proscenium between UIUC dance faculty, which also included John Toenjes; New York-based composer James Lo; KCPA technicians, student dancers, Cultural Computing Lab director Guy Garnett and research programmer Mary Pietrowicz; AVL artist-technologists Jeff Carpenter, Bob Patterson, and Stuart Levy; Illinois State Water Survey scientists H. Allen Wehrmann and George Roadcap; and other scientists’ open domain data.

The radical transformation of performance space was a goal of the larger production, which was held in various locations throughout the Krannert Center and was meant to, as the program for the event says, “throw a brick through the fourth wall—the traditional yet imaginary glass wall separating audience” from performer, observed performance from embodied experience. AVL’s visualization depicts a persistent ground of dark, shimmering sand perpetually in motion, evoking the opaque and porous substrates of the aquifer through which water moves and from which it is drawn. Slowly an isomorphic image of the Mahomet aquifer rises and turns to open, inviting viewers to move within the exposed mystery of its negative space. Gradually a graphic representation of the Mahomet aquifer resolves until it is superimposed across the three-dimensional outlines of the aquifer. Both images represent human imaginative constructs of the aquifer, as a container for life-giving water, as a topographical feature that can be defined for human use. These linger only a short time until the reality of the aquifer—dense, dark, and subterranean—is reasserted.