The Dress That Eats Souls: A Robot In Progress

Lucid Possession, a multimedia performance, premiered at Roulette in Brooklyn, and combines musicians, VJ mashing, and stage-controlled robotic projection screens to present a contemporary ghost story – a poetic musing on managing the mass of information “noise.” Todd Reynolds live scores and composed the finale. Hai-Ting Chinn stars in the video and sings onstage. I run all cues from the stage and scrub video across multiple screens. Elliott Sharp composed the song cycle. The technologies of Lucid led me to a new installation project.

Lucid Possession and The Dress That Eats Souls will be part of a retrospective on my interactive work to be presented in early 2018 at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Fla.

First a little on Lucid Possession. The central character, Bean, is a young artist who designs virtual personalities and is plagued by ghosts. Her mind is like a live Twitter feed that “picks up people” …but without technology. She creates an avatar, an exaggerated alter ego that goes viral on the Internet and makes her a minor celebrity. People stop her on the street. They want something, and she isn’t sure what it is. Anxiety exponentially increases her paranormal sensitivities, and a ghost from the past emerges from the noise.

I was thinking about the way we live in analog and virtual worlds simultaneously – how we live an augmented reality through social networks and online connections that merge with our life in the physical world. It’s ordinary – but fantastic. A TV remote, social networks, ATM machines – they’re like pedestrian spoonbending. With telepresent agency – our bodies extend beyond their edges. Our boundaries blur. I was also thinking about how this landscape has turned us all into performers grasping for attention in a sea of market share. Everything becomes a popularity contest. How many likes for your cat video? Here’s a clip from the premiere.

Making Lucid Possession involved creating a complex intranet – an engine of linked technologies with many elements that included the production of LED costumes and robotic screens. The expansion of my technical vocabulary combined with further experiments with embodied interface inspired me to focus more closely on some of the possibilities these elements presented.

Building Lucid’s robotic screen: from sketches, to construction, to the projection of Bean’s Avatar. The arms and legs are selectable video loops scrubbed in real time. The head uses a neural net and vocal analysis to lip synch live to a performer. The robotic screen is controlled by motion sensing onstage or by OSC on an iPad.

The costumes were constructed with LEDs. This was before the current explosion of Rasberry Pis and micro controllers, conductive thread and flexible electronics for wearables. We had a guy with a soldering gun running around after our actors during the film shoot. In 5 years there’s been enormous advances in wearable technologies and the availability for easy use is everywhere. Karen Young: Costume design, Leif Krinkle: technology and controls.

I began thinking about the explosion of technologized wearables. It seemed to be dominated on many fronts by the fusion of narcissism and commodification. A new installation project started to percolate. The first sketch:

THE DRESS THAT EATS SOULS: An Interactive Robotic Dress Installation

progress, n. a forward movement: an advance: a continuation: an advance to something better or higher in development: a gain in proficiency: a course: a passage from place to place: a procession: a journey of state: a circuit. – v.i. progress, to go forward: to make progress: to go on, continue: to go in progress, travel in state: to go. Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

Xenophanes: “The gods did not reveal to men all things in the beginning, but men through their own search find in the course of time that which is better.”

Or not:

The Dress has a 14′ layered scrim skirt that acts as a projection screen and a cinemascope rear projection screen that hangs overhead. The robotics of the bodice and skirt are controlled by a kinect gaming interface. As a viewer standing in front of the Dress moves, the Dress mirrors their movement. It behaves as if you are wearing it. The Dress speaks to you. It’s rather chilly – like a lizard. It’s the combined human agendas that drive technology. The installation cycles between the Dress speaking and POV experiences on the overhead screen and skirt that put you inside the minds of the people who have worn the Dress as it evolved – 200 years of the human body shaped, molded and colonized by technology. Viewer head movement navigates the cinema space.

So I’ve started to build and script it. Brooklyn Research is working on the Robotics. Rene Steinke, the novelist, is working with me on the voices. Tommy Martinez is programming. Paul Geluso is designing the spatialized sound. Ben Light is prototyping and constructing elements of the Dress design. Leif Krinkle is technical director. Karen Young is helping with costume construction. Andy Dintenfass and Art Jones are shooting the video material with me. And many thanks to students from Parsons Design and Technology for their labor and brainstorming. Here’s some of the prototyping and building process:

First: lots of testing and discarding elements to discover the best way forward. Finally: building the robotic screen system. Robotics building and testing is going on at Brooklyn Research. The first Kinect test with Johnny Lu. Then the more evolved version – a serious robot!

We’re simultaneously building the skirt and bodice elements, testing media and programming navigation on a small mockup of the installation at the studio. This video shows Tommy using the kinect. The white cube in the first section shows how the Kinect sees and tracks his head movement. The second section shows how he navigates between 5 video streams with head motion.

Stay tuned for further developments as The Dress That Eats Souls evolves!

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Finite/Infinity ///Toni Dove and Bora Yoon: behind the scenes

Bora Yoon recently asked me to do a music video for her new album Sunken Cathedral. I was definitely up for it – there were some things I wanted to try out with cameras and lenses and this was the perfect opportunity. The song is Finite Infinity.

SUNKEN CATHEDRAL is a multimedia release that began with the album release performance in April 2014 as Asia Society NYC. The (Gr)album trilogy launched in November 2014 and is available in the iTunes store ( and the staged theater production premieres in January 2015 at the PROTOTYPE Festival (

Bora Yoon is a TED Fellow, Korean-American composer, vocalist, and pioneering sound artist who explores the connection of sound to the subliminal. Featured on the front-page of the The Wall Street Journal for her musical innovations, she creates architectural soundscapes using found objects from different cultures and centuries, chamber instruments, digital devices, and voice.

We shot for 4 days around lower Manhattan. The footage in the rain was shot on my street corner with a C stand, some plexi and a Hudson sprayer. Andy Dintenfass, our cinematographer brought ideas like this to the table. Andy shot some of the first rock videos for Stevie Nicks and  Billy Joel. Art Jones was AC and beyond. It was a three person crew with me directing – having three artists on board allowed us freedom and creative opportunities not possible with a larger crew. We switched roles, tried things out. Bora was a trouper and game to experiment with us.

We shot by the river below Chambers street and on the sidewalk bridge going over the highway. Some of the beautiful color and vintage cinema feel were due to a Dog Schidt optiks lens. It has a very special quality and when attached to an Iscorama anamorphic adapter, it gave us oval bokeh like a classic anamorphic cinema lens.

This location is near the Lower Manhattan Community College looking through to the river. They were loading something the night we shot and it was…well… not a bug, but a feature. We were pushing the camera at night with only available light, but it held up.

Mixing the dynamic range of the raw video and the digital sensor with vintage lenses and the Iscorama anamorphic adapter creates a cinematic quality that I haven’t found before in video. The language of lenses! Beautifully crafted optical machines – seeing machines. I wanted to experiment with an anamorphic adapter, vintage lenses and the Magic Lantern hack for the Canon 5Diii that allows you to shoot raw video. It turns a DSLR into an amazing cinema machine. Here’s the rig we used. 15mm rails and a cage, follow focus, battery pack, and external monitor on a tripod. Very portable.

A Leica R 90 mm f2 modded for cinema by DuClos and a Dog Schidt Optiks 58mm lens with a fixed oval aperture. This is a rehoused russian vintage Helios lens. It’s known for a particular swirly bokeh. In addition we played some with a Go Pro to do some underwater photography. In my bathtub and with footage I shot at the beach on the vineyard to add some dimension to the water.

Please stay tuned for information on an upcoming project. I’m hard at work on a robotic dress cinema interface. Learning about soft robotics, muscle wire and 3D printing. This music video is a rehearsal for the cinematic component of the upcoming piece. More as it develops.

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Spectropia Episodes 6-10 Online!! The adventure continues…

“Fans of offbeat cinema or science fiction might find aspects of Spectropia intriguing, because moments suggest an eerie blend of The Big Sleep, Brazil and La Jetee.”

The adventure continues as Spectropia inside Verna’s body in 1932 tries to solve some perplexing problems about her father’s disappearance in time. A mystery and a romantic triangle unfold across centuries as two women in one body drive a man crazy. More info in the Spectropia category to your right.

“Shifting eras and moods are powerfully evoked by the design, from the rich cinematography and costumes to Elliott Sharp’s eclectic soundtrack.”

- The Columbus Dispatch

Featuring the song “This Time, That Place” with vocals by Debbie Harry.

SPECTROPIA Episode #6: “Time is slipping”

Ghosts appear and the mystery deepens. What the Duck knows.

SPECTROPIA Episode #7: “Keeping secrets?”

An argument and a visit to Sally Rand. Collecting clues.

SPECTROPIA Episode #8:

“It’s not a straight line at all”

Stumped and stymied. Nothing is what it seems. Who is William?

SPECTROPIA Episode #9: “The triangle ends”

William lies and Verna gets fed up.

SPECTROPIA Episode #10:

“A private detective of memory”

Looked at in a certain way, time is random access.

Elliott Sharp composed the soundtrack for Spectropia. Check out his CD Spectropia Suite featuring the song “This Time, That Place”, Vocals by Debbie Harry and his CDIncident that includes songs written for Toni Dove’s Lucid Possession with vocals by Hai-Ting Chinn and Bora Yoon. More info below.

You can also find Spectropia on

VimeoYoutube and Reel House.

Stay Tuned for an app that will release Toni Dove’s Lucid Possession is 6 episodes. It will be released when we figure out how to do it!

We’ll keep you posted here on our progress and on some other projects involving robotic clothing.

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SPECTROPIA Online Now!! Episodes 1-5

“…it’s just plain cool to watch. Highly recommended.”

– Jeremy Barker, Culturebot

Spectropia is a hybrid of sci-fi and film noir, with elements of time travel and telepathy. The story opens in the future where Spectropia, a young woman in her twenties, lives in the salvage district of an urban center known as the Informal Sector. It’s a black market subculture of salvage and barter where knowledge spans only a person’s experience and recorded history is forbidden. More info in the Spectropia category on the right

Elliott Sharp composed the soundtrack for Spectropia. Check out his CD Spectropia Suite featuring the song “This Time, That Place”, Vocals by Debbie Harry and his CD Incident that includes songs written for Toni Dove’s Lucid Possession with vocals by Hai-Ting Chinn and Bora Yoon. More info below.

SPECTROPIA Episode #1: “It just looks like garbage”

The adventure begins. The future, 2099. “Give it a minute, it might grow on you.” It’s a black market subculture of salvage and barter where knowledge spans only a person’s experience and recorded history is forbidden.

SPECTROPIA Episode #2: ”Maybe I can find him”

The future scans the past.  Spectropia searches for her father, lost in time looking for a vanished family inheritance.

SPECTROPIA Episode #3: “I feel a little woozy”

Spectropia finds herself in the body of another woman in another time.

SPECTROPIA Episode #4: “What planet are you from?”

Spectropia inside Verna’s body navigates a strange romance and an old mystery.

SPECTROPIA Episode #5: “I think I’m beginning to see”

Spectropia gets a grip and begins to understand how it all works. The Duck worries some more.

The film’s cast features the actress Aleksa Palladino (Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Find Me Guilty; Todd Solondz’s Storytelling, Boardwalk Empire) as Spectropia and Carolyn McCormick (Law and Order) as Verna, Simon Jones as the Duck (Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 12 Monkeys), Richard Bekins as William (Mad Men, The Good Wife)Helen Pickett (recently with the Forsythe Ballet of Frankfurt and The Wooster Group) as Sally, Paul Lazar as Eddie (Manchurian Candidate, co-director Big Dance Theater)

Elliott Sharp and the ’31 Band featuring Debbie Harry and Sirius String Quartet: “Spectropia Suite” (Neos Jazz 40905) 22 relatively short segments whose stylistic range oscillates between E#’s renowned computerized action, über-distorted and typically twisted guitar solos, swinging big bands (“an imagined meeting of the music of Duke Ellington and Edgard Varèse”), and XX century chamber music (the gorgeous “Folding” and “Unfolding”, executed by Sirius with soul and brain). The rock ballad “This Time That Place”, sung by a Marianne Faithfull-like Debbie Harry — “Heart Of Glass” has never sounded so distant — constitutes the main theme of the opus appearing in various instrumental guises all over the CD.

Elliott Sharp: “Incident” Including unusual songs from Toni Dove’s multimedia work Lucid Possession sung by Hai-Ting Chinn and Bora Yoon. The opener, Send Us A Message, features Hai-Ting’s crystalline soprano over a lattice of Sharp’s unique and lush guitar sounds. Avatar Star shows off the power and beauty of Bora Yoon’s voice over a hard metal track with electric sitar. Viscus Non Exurum is a medieval chant sung in ‘fake’ Latin by a double-tracked Hai-Ting.

To be continued – stay tuned for the final five episodes

coming in early March

You can also find Spectropia on

Vimeo, Youtube, Film Skillet and Reel House.

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LUCID POSSESSION premieres at ROULETTE April 25, 26, 27, 8pm


A co-production of Issue Project Room, HERE and Roulette, premieres April 25, 26, 27, 2013 at 8pm at Roulette. Buy Tickets.

Photo: Melissa C. O’Brien

Batten down the hatches for a wild ride with robotic screens, live mix video, Todd Reynold’s live score on digital violin, Hai-Ting Chinn on vocals and sampling, songs by Elliott Sharp, with Toni Dove using real time motion sensing to control characters and animate video in real time!

It’s a crazy three dimensional video pop up book with performers playing the automated stage machine like an instrument. Technical Directors Ed Bear and Matt Tennie improvise on robotics and control an 8 channel sound system that combines improvisation and pre-recorded sound.  Software design by R. Luke DuBois. Robotics by Leif Krinkle and Ed Bear. Staging co-directed by Bob McGrath. Costume design by Karen Young.

Hai-Ting Chinn stars as Bean, the main character onscreen, and performs onstage as Bean’s Avatar and the show vocalist. Bean is a designer of smart personalities. She’s created something…or somebody? That’s gone viral. And the noise, the noise is really getting to her. You’ll have to come to the show to figure out what that means. And even then…

“She Won’t Know”: Music by Elliott Sharp, lyrics by Elliott Sharp and Toni Dove, vocals by Hai-Ting Chinn.

Todd Reynolds with his amazing digital violin system “plays” the movie creating a live score. An array of samples, machines, all manner of digital noise fuse with amplified violin to create a dynamic 8 channel sound environment. Additional sound design by Medianoise.

Photo: Lynn Lane

Toni Dove on show controls and live mix video uses an innovative motion sensing software interface. She animates and inhabits characters across multiple screens using body movement, triggers lights, sound, and robotics and manages the show control system that orchestrates and synchs a complex system of cues with the live performers actions onstage.

Photo: Melissa C. O’Brien

Co-starring Bora Yoon onscreen as Theo, the best friend with a twist…Photo: Melissa C. O’Brien

…and Andrew Schneider onscreen as Kal, the inner hardware geek you wish you had.

Photo: Melissa C. O’Brien

And of course there’s a ghost in the machine. Arathusa, a spirit from the past traveling across time in the same space on some strange electricity tapped by Bean’s paranormal programming skills. Just another day downtown in NYC and a new take on augmented reality – and this time it’s not just a floater stuck in your eye. Arathusa is played onscreen by Wendy Vierow with VO by Carolyn McCormick. Sound spatialization by Paul Geluso.

Don’t miss us at Roulette! It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Matt Tennie and Ed Bear squash some bugs to make this a more perfect experience for you.
They mean business. Come and see.

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NPR’s Science Friday visits Bustlelamp Productions

Bustlelamp Productions Lab had a great time recently visiting with Flora Lichtman from NPR’s Science Friday. A video from the visit is online on the Science Friday site and you can listen to the radio show from Feb 15, 2013.

Performance skirt worn by Hai-Ting Chinn                                         photo: Melissa O’Brien

Bustlelamp is preparing to launch Toni Dove’s Lucid Possession, our new live mix cinema music performance. We’ll be going to Virginia Tech in March to do 5 preview performances March 16-19 2013. Come and see us if you’re in the area. We will also be Premiering in NYC at Roulette in Brooklyn April 25, 26 and 27. Co-produced by Issue Project Room, HERE and Roulette. If you’re in the NY area come and see us there. We’re very excited about the show. Performers: Hai-Ting Chinn, Toni Dove, Todd Reynolds (musical direction), tech direction by Ed Bear and Matt Tennie, co-director of staging Bob McGrath, songs composed by Elliott Sharp, software design R. Luke DuBois.

Say hello to the petbot. A virtual robot that responds to a human voice (vo by Simon Jones) and to Toni’s movement onstage via video motion sensing – this version is a straight animation as it is interactive in performance. We also have video characters with human faces that lip synch to a performer’s voice using vocal analysis to trigger video visemes – small video loops that represent all the phonemes of speech. They learn to recognize a performer’s voice and get better at doing it the more you use them. Luke says they’re dumb neural nets – they’re smart, but not very. Look at the last work in progress video on the Lucid Possession site to see Bean’s Avatar in action.

The costumes for Lucid were created with costume designer Karen Young and the LED savvy of Leif Krinkle. It’s just the beginning. We will be creating new characters – each with their own costume that manifests personality using LEDs and robotic movement. They will appear in upcoming episodes from the Lucid story world. We’re chewing on how to make it available to you. Maybe an App?

Hai-Ting Chinn and supporting cast Andrew Schneider and Bora Yoon.  photo: Melissa O’Brien

Bean, our heroine (played by Hai-Ting Chinn), is an artist who designs virtual personalities. She  is plagued by ghosts. Her mind is like a live Twitter feed that “picks up people”…but without technology. People stop her on the street. They want something, and she isn’t sure what it is. The anxiety exponentially increases her paranormal sensitivities, and a ghost from the past emerges from the noise…here’s a video scene from Lucid Possession.

The show combines cinema with live music, robotic screens and video motion animated in real time!  Below, Ed Bear, one of our engineers, is working on the robotics of a three-dimensional projection screen at the Bustlelamp lab. Leif Krinkle and Karen Young complete the design and fabrication team.

Below is another screen – a box in which Bean sleeps. It rises from the floor using a computer-controlled motor system. Everything is controlled by networked laptops onstage and triggered by motion, sound or keyboard and iPad commands. The performance is part improvisation, part automation.

Bean sleeps in the net – recharging her battery. Simultaneous multiple realities. Lucid Possession plays with our continual navigations of the real and the virtual. We all live an Augmented Reality, one much more subtle and complex than current AR technology.

The ghost screen has robotics that close up like an umbrella, open, shake and allow the screen to be controlled by video motion sensing onstage by Toni or with an iPad  by Matt Tennie, a technical director at Bustlelamp,. Multiple image loops projected onto the screen are controlled with motion sensing. The idea is to make the dimensional characters seem to breath and become animate.

Here’s a corner of the Bustlelamp Lab that became part of the set for the Lucid Possession shoot. We like it so we work in it this way. Another form of AR?

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Spectropia Returns for Two Nights at Roulette May 4 and 5, featuring Toni Dove, Luke Dubois, Elliott Sharp and the 31 Band with guest vocalist Barbara Sukowa

Over two nights, MAY 4 and 5,  ROULETTE will present two radically different aspects of Toni Dove’s Spectropia.

FRIDAY MAY 4, Roulette presents Toni Dove’s Spectropia, a feature-length live-mix cinema event—a scratchable movie performed by Toni Dove and  R. Luke DuBois, artist and project software designer. Buy Tickets.

SATURDAY MAY 5Elliott Sharp and The ’31 Band perform “Spectropia Suite”. Guest vocalist Barbara Sukowa sings the Spectropia song “This Time, That Place”. Toni Dove and R. Luke DuBois craft live video improvisations: a silent movie to accompany the score. Buy Tickets.

A sci-fi hybrid with themes of time travel, telepathy, and elements of film noir, Spectropia features live VJs orchestrating onscreen characters through a mix of film, performance, and a system of motion sensing that serves as a cinematic instrument.

Dove and DuBois scrub and navigate up to six layers of narrative video and sound—it’s like swimming through a movie! It’s a mystery, a puzzle, a time travel drama, and a romantic triangle—and it’s never quite the same twice. The first night you’ll see the full feature film in all its crazy complexity, then join Elliott Sharp, the composer of the music soundtrack with his ’31 Band, a nine-piece band from a parallel universe in 1931. It’s a thrilling cinematic happening. On Saturday, the film becomes an improvised silent movie.

Aleksa Palladino as Spectropia, Carlolyn McCormick as Verna, Richard Bekins as William, Simon Jones as The Duck,Helen Pickett as Sally.

See Episodes 1 and 2 from the soon to be released serial version of Spectropia at Streaming Museum.

“…it’s just plain cool to watch. Highly recommended.”

- Jeremy Barker, Culturebot

“Ms. Dove, together with co-performer and software engineer R. Luke Dubois, employs her “rig” to present “Spectropia,” an interactive film as immersive for its two real-time performers as it is for the audience. “

Photo: Brian Derballa for The Wall Street Journal

The multilayered presentation of “Spectropia” is…unlikely to sound or appear familiar to anyone who hasn’t already witnessed it—or to anyone unfamiliar with Ms. Dove. Since the early 1990s, the artist has explored the intersection of narrative experience and audience participation through complex, interactive installations aided by advancing technology.”

-Bruce Bennett, Wall Street Journal


Photos: Peter Cherches, Sascha Rheker

The musicians of The ’31 Band, all of whom have extensive experience in many realms of music, have worked with Sharp on many projects, from the various Western traditions of jazz and classical music to the farthest reaches of contemporary music, free jazz, and improvisation. For this performance, The ’31 Band will include E# playing Bb & bass clarinets, tenor saxophone, guitar & computer processing;  Briggan Kraus – alto saxophone; Nate Woolley – trumpet; Art Baron; Curtis Fowlkes & Steve Swell – trombones; Anthony Coleman – piano; David Hofstra – string bass; and Don McKenzie – drums.

Photo: Andreas Sterzing

Barbara Sukowa is known for her performances onstage and in some of the most iconic films of the New German Cinema with directors such as Fassbinder and von Trotta. She has a career as a classical music narrator and singer and is the lead singer of the band the X-Patsys, which she founded with visual artists Jon Kessler and Robert Longo.

From Douglas Detrick

“Sharp’s compositions, which often evolve through repetition and micro-variation, mirror mathematical processes, but don’t sound dryly scientific. Sharp is interested in discovery, and similar to the way math attempts to capture the nature of the world through the study of patterns and deduction, Sharp’s music seeks musical truth by extracting the essence of a musical concept and exploring it through various perspectives.

Spectropia Suite… features mosaics of noise, string quartet pieces, dark and alluring jazz piano solos, and music for large ensemble, with growling blues riffs reminiscent of the Fletcher Henderson band or the early Duke Ellington orchestra… a wide-ranging tour through jazz, contemporary concert music, and avant-garde noise, three main facets of Sharp’s work as a musician over the last 30 years.”

Purchase CD

Come and see us over two nights! They should be two very different experiences – and we think you’ll want to see them both.

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LUCID POSSESSION is a live mix cinema performance. Musicians, a video DJ, and stage-controlled robotic screens combine to present a contemporary ghost story – a poetic musing on managing the mass of online information ”noise”. Lucid Possession draws the audience into a world  in  which video characters come to life: the wave of a hand moves a video body, and video characters lip synch live to a singer. The players onstage collectively perform the movie, which spills off the dynamic, dimensional screens onto the stage. The result is like a complex three-dimensional, automated video pop-up book, and as characters are brought to life through motion, voice, and robotics, the boundaries of the real and virtual are blurred.

We’re happy to announce some new developments for Lucid Possession! Issue Project Room and Roulette will be co-producing the New York premiere at the new Roulette theater in the spring of 2013. Stay tuned for further news and details. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates and announcements (see bar to the right for follow info).

Bob McGrath of Ridge theater is co-directing with us. We’re thrilled to have his vision enhancing the project. Todd Reynolds, violinist. composer and technologist, will be joining us as musical director and performer. Todd will be composing noise segments for the piece as well as playing violin and some crazy custom interface instruments we are cooking up with Ed Bear, our resident multi-talented engineer and artist. Ed is also building some new robotic screens. Leif Krinkle, artist and robotics engineer – who built the incredible main robotic ghost screen (above) for Lucid – is working with us on multiples and other ingenious hardware designs.

This is the Petbot. A virtual screen-based video robot that lip-synchs live to Toni Dove onstage.

It’s a great team as always, with the brilliant R. Luke DuBois on software design. Incandescent Hai-Ting Chinn, mezzo soprano, sings and has the lead role onscreen, and the glamorous singer/performer Bora Yoon (above) is her onscreen nemesis.

In the sample above from work in progress shows at The Spielart Festival, Munich and at Republique, Copenhagen, we see an opening video clip, then move between stage and screen to meet Bean, our lead character, and get a hint of what she’s dealing with: ghosts from the past, noise in the present. It’s a juggling act and she has some big problems to solve. Some of you may find her problems familiar.

In this clip we meet Bean’s Avatar and hear some backstory. What kind of ghosts are we dealing with? Bean’s Avatar sings “She Won’t Know” from a song cycle composed for Lucid Possession by our long time friend and collaborator Elliott Sharp, composer and multi instrumentalist.

It’s clear there are some blurry boundaries between real and virtual, person and doppleganger. Images seem to inhabit multiple worlds in multiple forms. Is it surprising that Bean is having an identity crisis?

Visit us again for more about Bean and her friends. Contact us for presentation and touring information at

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Lucid News

We’ve been busy the last few months with a video shoot for Lucid Possession, a live mix cinema music performance with robotic screens and media driven by musicians and a VJ using our own interactive interface design and proprietary software. We did some rough editing and went to Republique theater in Copenhagen (a project co-producer) where we workshopped performance elements and our multi channel sound system. The creative team includes R. Luke DuBois, our long time collaborator and software designer, Hai-Ting Chinn, mezzo soprano, Mari Kimura, violinist and composer, Stephan Moore, stage sound design, and technical director Josh Higgason.  Now we’re back in the studio editing, working on sound post with Medianoise and songs with composer Elliott Sharp, who is creating a song cycle for the project. We’re building dynamic dimensional screens for the finale with Karen Young and Ed Bear and getting ready to rehearse this fall with Bob McGrath who will co-direct. Jared Trimble is producer/dramaturg. We have received support from a HERE Arts Center HARP residency 2009-11 and from an EMPAC: 2009 tech residency.  See Thank you also to New York State Council on the Arts, mediaThe Foundation, New Spectrum Foundation, and the Experimental Television Center.

So…what’s it about? Noise. Noise we’re all dealing with. Good noise, bad noise and inevitable noise. But as usual our view is… oblique. Lets start with the main character in the story : Bean (played by Hai-Ting Chinn).

You can tell she’s got some stuff on her plate. She designs smart personalities. Avatars. She’s gone viral and the results are a little overwhelming. Especially mixed with her programming skills which seem to border on the paranormal.

She’s got some help from her friends.  Sort of.  Theo (played by Bora Yoon) is her BFF. She has her own band and some agendas of her own. She’s kind of snarky, but Bean is too distracted to notice.

Here Bean is sharing some research with Theo. Someone from the past keeps popping up. Someone who lived in the same space in a different time. It could be who’s chasing Bean. But is it?

And then there’s Kal (played by Andrew Schneider).  He sees the world through that gear – it looks like a video camera monocle on a bicycle chain (video camera objet by Andrew Schneider). And when Bean is off to find some answers he shows up to nudge her thinking. Here they are at the forge. Costumes by Karen Young with LED technology by Leif Krinkle and Ed Bear.

Please visit again for more about Bean’s adventures and the characters in Lucid Possession both onscreen, onstage and off.

We’ll be looking at things backstage, backstory and round and about as well as bringing you information on work in progress shows and the premiere and tour info.

Hope to see you again soon!

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The Performance: Software, Puppets, People.

More about Spectropia and the performance event. Spectropia, a live mix feature film performance, will be presented at the Kitchen, NYC, Dec. 9, 10, 11, 2010. Buy Tickets. Click here or on the sidebar for The Spectropia Suite, original soundtrack to the film Spectropia, composed by Elliott Sharp. Featuring the Spectropia song “This Time, That Place” with vocals by Debbie Harry. Hope to see you all at the show!

Spectropia came out of a desire to take a movie apart like a pocketwatch and explore and reassemble the parts to learn something about cinematic language. My father, an artist, told me that when he was in the army he learned how to take apart and clean his gun by drawing all the separate pieces and then drawing them back together again. Spectropia is dedicated to him. It runs using a proprietary software program written by R. Luke DuBois in Max, MSP and Jitter (Cycling ’74). Luke and I perform the piece from laptops and a customized stage instrument created by Bill Ballou, technical director for REDCAT, and Leif Krinkle, technical director for Bustlelamp and our robotics and electronics engineer.

The concept evolved from embodied interface and interactive narrative design I’ve been developing for almost two decades. The interface that scrubs and navigates up to 6 streams of video simultaneously, uses video motion sensing. When you see us waving our arms around looking like conductors, we’re actually moving the video – changing direction, speed, changing clips and altering sound in real time. Performing it’s like swimming through the movie – you can feel your body in the images on the screen. We haunt the movie.

The performance is framed by a chorus – a meta view – made up of the characters Sally (Helen Pickett) and William (Richard Bekins). Merging sophisticated cutting edge programming and witty repartee – these digital puppets produce an experience that is both humorous and uncanny. Sally is based on the real life fan and bubble dancer Sally Rand. The characters use text to speech to synch a video puppet to a synthetic voice typed in real time.

Sally and William form a chorus that frames the live mix movie narrative, sometimes speaking in pre-scripted dialogue and sometimes improvising and commenting to the audience.

R. Luke DuBois is a composer, artist, performer and software designer who has collaborated with Bustlelamp Productions for 10 years. In his own work he explores the complexities of time in sound and image – he is pushing some boundaries that have only recently shown up on the map. And he’s really good company.  Luke is co-author of Jitter software by Cycling ’74.

His remarkable talents are a significant part of the comprehensive narrative software system that has become our toolkit. Look for it in the upcoming production Lucid Possession.

Stay tuned here for upcoming posts
on Lucid Possession

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