Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sketchbook: Light vs. Dark

This Luminarium "Sketchbook" entry brought to you by Merli.

From approximately 10am to 11pm, Kim and I spent our President's Day communicating back and forth about grants, research, connections, scheduling, planning, rehearsing, etc. The nitty-gritty aspects of running a company. But from 11pm to 1am, the conversation shifted to the creative process, and what a meaty conversation it was!

We covered several directions this topic could take us, but I thought it might be interesting for our viewers to see a little sneak peek behind the creative process of one of our current works, Spinal.

For those who have been following all the recent images of my Quilt Vignettes for our Threading Motion Project with the New England Quilt Museum, you might remember a digital sketch of Spinal, in which a white spine-like quilt would be projected across a dancer's back. Spinal quickly became a favorite among these digital sketches, not only for myself, but for my viewers, and the dancer I cast!

Little did we know how tricky this vignette would secretly prove to be...

Jess Chang, rehearsing Spinal.
Quilt by Sonya Lee Barrington
(Photo enhanced to show shadow...otherwise difficult to capture on film)
My original concept was to project the image onto Jess's spine, seating her on an angle to allow us to play with her shadow. However in reality, Jess was so dark in comparison to her surroundings, and the beam of light was so bright, that my eye continuously wandered to the projection. Only to the projection.

Light and anatomy are both to blame for this lack of intrigue: Unlike my other quilt vignettes, in which the patterns cover a greater amount of space and the dancers face any number of directions, we suddenly found ourselves with a thin vertical beam of light against a flat back...good luck making it undulate, let alone move!

Now, this was by no means a shock, but when you combine a bright, stationary beam of light with the inability to see the rest of Jess in the dark, you are literally left with one of the most boring films of all time. (I'd post it here, but... I mean, it's literally just the spine quivering in the dark to the sounds of me giggling with frustration.)

Fast-forward one hour to when we threw on the lights, and suddenly the entire piece takes on a completely different feel and complexity:

I filmed it again in the light, and was struck with a sudden sense of success! It is amazing how differently this piece now read: With the focus drawn away from the projection and instead onto Jess as a whole, I found myself excited by the unexpected movements of the spine on her back. A highlight, rather than a hiccup.

So now it's less than 24 hours before my next rehearsal, and I am still struggling as an artist to determine the best move. Do I try to salvage the dark version? Do I welcome the fully-lit version? Or do I try to find a balance in between by using clamp lights to manually adjust the Jess to projection ratio?

I guess we'll find out at 9:30pm...

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