Zoi Dimitriou’s The Chapter House combines dance and innovative technology to create a unique performance spectacle, exploring what it means to be a creator in the digital age. Charlotte Constable interviews Zoi in advance of her performance at Trinity Laban on 26 November.
1). In brief, how would you sum up The Chapter House?
The Chapter House is autobiographical in the sense that it is about me looking back at the body of my whole work. However, there is a layer added to that which is to do with how we document or archive live performance. Dance is such an ephemeral form of art – you don’t have hard copies of it. So, the process becomes a way for me to leave a trace of my bodily memory, which in turn becomes a piece in itself.
2). How is digital technology incorporated in the work?
I have been very fortunate to collaborate on this work with Mark Coniglio, who is the inventor of the Isadora software. The software has the essential capacity of live capture and the ability to play it back. Everything in the performance gets filmed live, and then it’s programmed by Mark so then it can be played back in different ways simultaneously onto five surfaces from a single source. It looks simple, but actually it’s a highly complicated piece of software. It’s quite unique.
The whole concept is for the video artist – in this performance, David McCormick – and I to expose what we do. What is it to expose the act of performing? I consider dance history, the dance body, and an understanding of dance. David films. But what unites both of these is that we are both conducting an exploration. Throughout the first part of The Chapter House, we are actors: we are creating work but we are also showing an audience that creative process. In the second part, the created footage gets revealed through new media.
3). How does technology shape the audience’s perception of The Chapter House?
One ongoing thing that I’m interested in is that when we look we have a certain angle – it’s always selective. You will see something that the person next to you might not see; they see somehow differently.
The video artists makes very specific choices about what he decides to capture. They might be moments that were hidden from the audience. Zooming in on these moments, and then arranging them in the footage revealed in The Chapter House, potentially gives a whole new perspective. So the technology feeds the concept: how footage can change, be transformed and, potentially, acquire different meaning.
4). What challenges has a collaboration of this kind presented?
The Chapter House challenged myself and Mark in different ways. I was asking Mark to work in a manner which is perhaps different from his usual style: playing, deconstructing, and creating something new. I think he’s much more interested in how technology in a way becomes an environment in which the dance shifts or changes.
For me, the collaboration is a risk, because Mark (and David) are creating something live. And that’s something that I can’t control. What I see on the night will be new to my eyes, as well as the audience’s.
5). Do you see digital dance being an avenue to explore in your future work?
I’m very attracted to visual arts, and I’m inspired by the work of video artist Bill Viola. Whether I continue to work with technology depends on what the dance necessitates. I start from a concept, I start with an enquiry of some sort that I’m interested in, and then the work dictates what needs to come in. The movement comes first, the digital element second. I didn’t decide to make a work which combines dance and technology – the work asked for it.
What I do know is that I’m less scared of it now.
The Chapter House will be performed at the Laban Theatre on 26 November. To book tickets to this unique evening, visit the Trinity Laban website.