Synchronous Objects

William Forsythe’s multi-disciplinary, media-blending work is perfectly suited for exhibition and exploration at Ohio State. The University’s unmatched academic breadth enables students, faculty, staff, and the public to study and experience Mr. Forsythe’s thought-provoking work through several different lenses.”
—President E. Gordon Gee, The Ohio State University

Visualizing Systems of Organization in William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced

COLUMBUS—Synchronous Objects (2009) was the result of a collaborative process involving choreographer William Forsythe and the Forsythe Company, Frankfurt, and researchers from the departments of Dance, Design, Computer Science, Geography, Statistics and Architecture at the Ohio State University, Columbus. The project’s participants examined Forsythe’s complex ensemble dance One Flat Thing, reproduced, searching for ways to visualize the methods of choreographic organization. Lacking a musical score, dancers instead rely on intricate systems of cues from other dancers that trigger their own reactions, whose reactions further trigger the reactions of other dancers, and so forth. Transciption of this complicated system of interlocking structures using traditional methods—often of limited value even in less involved dance—were discarded. Merging art and science, collaborators created a number of more experimental, data-based visualizations that would reveal complex, subtle, connected patterns hidden not only to the audience, but almost certainly to dancer and choreographer as well.

My work on this project was centered on the concept of “trace,” or (in my execution) the ghost-like persistence of bodies in time, lingering for a moment in the spaces just evacuated moments before by the dancers. Similar to the animation process of onion-skinning, each dancer would leave behind slowly fading after-images from their previous positions, revealing not only a less truncated view of their individual movement histories, but superimpositions and overlap with others not possible in traditional forms of representation. What this captured, in addition to the surprisingly vivid, organic, fractal-like geometries as the dancers arc through time and space, is a very graphic representation of their speed and velocity in the manner of Étienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotography.

Synchronous Objects was included in the Comm Arts Interactive Annual, featured in The New York Times  and was presented as part of the Wexner Center exhibition, Transfigurations.

Credits for this clip and Synchronous Objects can be viewed here; additional video here.