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Telepresence in Performing Arts

On the 28th of November 2016, the team, in conjunction with the Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University, held a symposium on ‘Telepresence in Performing Arts’ aimed at academics, artists, technicians and other practitioners who have experience in the use of telepresence systems in the field of performing arts. This was an opportunity for those who attended toshare their expertise and work together in the design of suitable technological arrangements for future work in online teaching and rehearsals. There were a series of presentations and workshops from Emma Smith and Tim Chown (JISC), Gill Davies (Low Latency Audio Visual Streaming System), Michael Rofe (The Online Orchestra), Jason Crouch (Contact Theatre, Manchester) as well as the Coriolanus Online team.

28th November 2016
Organised by the Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University
Co-directed by Dr Daniel Villar-Onrubia & Dr Tom Gorman
Presenters: Emma Smith, Gill Davies, Dr Tim Chown, Prof. Michael Rofe, Jason J Crouch, Dr Mikko Kanninen and Dr Tom Gorman.

Technology and the Arts: An Overview
/// Emma Smith

Fostering collaboration through technology within the arts sector is an ever growing area, one which highlights both triumphs and challenges. Over the past 5 years, Jisc have endeavoured to support this area and encourage collaboration through the use of the UK’s national research and education network, Janet. This presentation aims to provide an overview of some of technology available to use, including providing some examples of usage within the sector.

Emma is Jisc’s Media Services Development Manager within the Media Services Team. Emma is the project manager for a variety of projects within the Arts and Humanities and streaming area, and chairs the UK’s Arts and Humanities Special Interest Group.

LOLA: LOw LAtency audio visual streaming system
/// Gill Davies 

LOLA allows the transmission of synchronous audio and video and is designed for use over high speed national research and education networks.  Since 2012, Edinburgh Napier University’s music department has explored how LOLA can facilitate distributed music practice with partners in remote music organisations in the UK and in Europe. Participants have included music students, music lecturers and professional musicians from jazz and classical backgrounds in a range of musical groupings. Trials have examined the effectiveness of LOLA for distributed masterclass, rehearsal and performance. This session looks at the advantages and challenges of using LOLA.

Gill is a researcher in distributed music and recently graduated with an MRes from Edinburgh Napier University.  Her background is in broadcast production for the BBC. Her MRes thesis is available here. / @gilldavies

Can Science DMZ principles help performing arts telepresence? /// Dr Tim Chown

One of the challenges for organisations connected to the UK’s national research and education network, Janet, is achieving optimal throughput for high volume scientific data transfers. One of the approaches that can be applied to meet this goal is Science DMZ [], which provides a design pattern for optimising four elements: the local campus network architecture, the data transfer nodes, appropriate and efficient application of security policies, and measurement of the network characteristics. In this talk we’ll briefly review Science DMZ, and discuss how it’s principles might be applicable for optimising latency for telepresence applications.

Tim is responsible for developing and promoting new network-oriented services. Currently his focus lies in speaking to Janet user communities and helping them to make optimal use of their Janet connectivity for network-intensive applications, as part of Jisc’s end-to-end performance initiative. He has been involved in network operations and research for many years, both as a systems manager and then a lecturer in computer science at the University of Southampton.

The Online Orchestra
/// Prof. Michael Rofe

The Online Orchestra was an AHRC funded research project: a collaboration between Falmouth University, Bristol University, The Philharmonia Orchestra and the Cornwall Music Education Hub, running between October 2014 and March 2016.

Participation in ensemble music making has been shown to have wide ranging benefits in the areas of musical skills, social skills, social capital, community, personal skills, and health. Yet in parts of the country such as Cornwall, where many people live in geographically remote communities, accessing group music making opportunities is often difficult or impossible. The Online Orchestra asked how we can use burgeoning network technologies and creative approaches to composition to give people in remote communities access to large-scale ensemble music making opportunities. The project culminated in July 2015 in a performance involving young and amateur musicians around Cornwall – in Truro Cathedral, on the Isles of Scilly, at Falmouth University, and on the Lizard Peninsula – performing three new works together live online. The Online Orchestra was the recipient of two Reimagine Education Awards in 2017 – Gold for best Arts and Humanities project and Silver in the European overall category.

Michael is Professor of Creative Connected Communities at Falmouth University, where he also leads the BA Music course. His background is in musicology, moving more recently into the spheres of community music and music education through network technologies. Michael was Principal Investigator for the Online Orchestra project.

Finding Presence /// Jason J Crouch

Jason has been working with digital media for a number of years with a particular interest in both live and pre-recorded audio and video when used in performance. Collaborating with partners Contact Theatre (in Manchester) and culturehub (in NYC) they’ve worked to develop video-based networked performances, and inexpensive systems for live-streaming theatre events. In 2012 he began a four year research project which focused on the intimacies afforded to us through new technologies of communication, primarily through the development of one-to-one mediated performances which use the network to connect strangers.

In this presentation he talks about Finding Presence, a reminder of why we might make networked performance and what we seek to find there. Concentrating on finding the human within the digital, he introduces elements of his own research and place it in its broader context that of telepresent works that take their starting point from live and relational art in order to investigate the human connections made possible by the expanding cloud of digital networks.

Jason works as Technologist in Residence at Contact Theatre and is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Performance Research in Manchester Metropolitan University. / @jasonjcrouch

Coriolanus Online /// Dr Mikko Kanninen & Dr Tom Gorman

Taking the text of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus as a basis for study, in 2015-16 students from Coventry University (UK) and Tampere University (Finland) worked on a small section of the script (3:3) in both Finnish and English. A ‘virtual space’ was created in both locations through the re-purposing of videoconferencing technology and the use of large rear projection screens, high speed internet connections and unidirectional, hypercardioid microphones. Moreover, a unified spatial design and a careful use of lighting gave the actors the illusion that they were occupying the same physical space, so they could engage in a highly immersive telepresence experience.

Coriolanus Online provided students with an opportunity to identify and explore relevant features of performance practices within and in relation to their specific cultural and historical contexts, which involved acting in a foreign language. A second iteration of this project will take place in February 2017. This iteration involves the same group of students and will culminate in a field trip to Tampere where both groups will perform together live and will also demonstrate the use of the technology to an invited audience of theatre practitioners and technologists. The text chosen for this second stage will be King Lear and we will explore both a large ‘public’ scene as well as more intimate sections from the text in order to examine how this pedagogy enables rehearsal work in these differing circumstances.

Mikko is a Senior Lecturer of Acting and a director at Tampere University (Finland) and is  former Artistic Director of Tampere Theatre Festival. Mikko is also engaged in work with TNT – Theatre & New Technology: Digital Solutions in Performing Arts. This is a Nordic network project coordinated by The Centre for Practise as Research in Theatre T7 (University of Tampere / School of Communication, Media and Theatre) and Riksteatern (Sweden). The project establishes a network of Nordic art institutions, individual artists, freelancers, educational organizations, theatres, festivals, researchers and other specialists to facilitate and support widely the use of new digital solutions in the performing arts. The network gathers together the current know-how on new technological solution in performing arts by organizing a series of practical workshops and seminars in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

Tom (@aa4084) is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre and theatre director currently based at Coventry University. He studied English Literature and Language at Queen’s University Belfast before going on to complete a PhD in Theatre at the University of Ulster researching the history of non-naturalistic dramaturgy especially the concept of the ‘play within a play’. In 1990, after working for some time as a freelance actor, Tom co-founded Sightlines Theatre Company, Belfast, working with them as Artistic Director and director for six years.