PRICKIMAGE, Aszyk, & Mavin Khoo - Digital dance performance

March 12, 2018
5 min read

For our next post focusing on user stories, we connected with Shaun PRICKIMAGE, Aszyk, and Mavin Khoo. Continue on for the full interview after our brief intro to the creative trio:

  1. Shaun PRICKIMAGE is the mind behind WALKABOUT Projection and the innovative WALKPro3D, a handheld, HD interactive system. He is the digital producer for the ‘Malta Calls’ show and has been working on it with the ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble (the national dance company of Malta) for 3 years now.
  2. Aszyk is an audiovisual artist working across design, illustration, animation, and music, all with a focus for live performance. While partnering with Shaun, he is bringing the show to life with his noted style fusing beautiful, organic and grotesque elements -- ultimately, producing a jarring and unique visual experience.
  3. Mavin Khoo is an internationally recognized choreographer and dancer. He choreographed the dance work featuring the ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble alongside a live DJ set with Per QX, and an exciting collaboration with Shaun and Aszyk, who developed the visual element marrying the live dancers alongside a 3D performative narrative. They are all being supported conceptually by Dan Strutt.

The trio is collaborating on an immersive and contemporary digital dance performance honoring Valletta’s nomination as 2018’s European Capital of Culture. The massive event centers around a 40 meter stage that will be wrapped around the 6000 strong audience while the performers interact with their virtual counterparts.
They each shared their experiences with the Smartsuit Pro, and the impact that it has had on their work and the creative process.

How are you using the Smartsuit Pro in this project?

SP: The concept for this performance is centered around digital conflict and harmony in contemporary culture, and we have chosen to generate digital content to be projected onto our stage space by using the Rokoko Smartsuit. There is research developed upon Dan Strutt’s PhD work on the metaphysical aspects of the digitalisation of material and corporeal forms. With the guidance and supervision of Marco Gillies and the computing department, this project will fuel further interdepartmental research funding bids from within the theme including, but definitely not restricted to, expressive dance performance concepts. We are also using the Smartsuit Pro to enable quick animation of characters for my WALKPro3D performances too!

A: I’ve been using the VR drawing application called Gravity Sketch to create the character quicker than a traditional 3D app. This paired with the Smartsuit Pro and suit has been an extremely fast way to create a character and animate it. Something that’s been very unique about this project is being able to use these new tools and experience how the process of creating a character has been taken down to mere days as opposed to weeks. When looking at captures directly from the suit, we have been able to get results that are very smooth; its genuinely impressive how nicely it captures.

MK: It’s an entirely new way of working for me and that has really been exciting. For the work, Shaun, Dan and I are using to create a kind of alternative avatar that constructs, deconstructs and constructs again within the work. It has been creatively challenging in the most positive sense in pushing those buttons to think differently and to create different movement.

What do you think makes the suit stand out?

SP: Seeing the Rokoko promo that’s on a cliff was really exciting because of the freedom that comes with that. It inspired me to get out and create one very similar. I currently live by the seaside and it so easy to begin feeling trapped inside. It’s so beautiful to go outside, to just do it, and not feel like you’re being hidden away or being punished for trying to create something beautiful. Speaking with Aszyk right from the beginning, we were very excited about what we would be able to do with the suit and the ability to create 3D characters. Aszyk was involved with me when we had the online demos with your colleagues and we thought it was very cool. I actually proposed the purchase to the dance company because the suit was such a perfect marriage for creating content very quickly and on a controlled budget. The initial attraction was that you can do a lot of cool and interesting things with it. While brainstorming options for creating their desired visual element with a lot of choreography, this just was the best choice.

MK: As I mentioned, being made to creatively work differently is always a good thing. As a choreographer, one is always concerned about generating movement vocabulary first. For me, it has always been a more internal space that I have had to engage with to articulate my body organically. In this instance, I am reliant on observation. 3D capture of my own movement impacted the creative process both through the instant playback of my movement, and potentially with motion capture in real landscapes influencing choreography and conceptualization.

What are you excited for in the future and how do you see our Smartsuit Pro fitting into those projects?

SP: Due to its inherent flexibility when compared to existing, camera-based methods of motion capture, this innovative technology has the capacity to transform the way digital motion is conceived, devised and produced at every stage of the creative process. The forum of this show gives unique opportunity to workshop cutting-edge technologies with real bodies in a way that would otherwise be difficult due to the expense of the equipment, space and expertise. The project will hone skills of collaboration and provide a working model for future projects, whilst also creating opportunities for knowledge sharing with other arts companies.

A: Being able to produce so quickly makes me very excited to continue working with the suit. The Smartgloves are also something I am looking forward to. It majorly expands the capabilities for traditional uses of hands, especially in the realm of nonhuman rigging; using the movement to give life to elements in ways that were otherwise extremely difficult to achieve. For instance, replicating the wavy fins of a cuttlefish by mimicking it with your hands, or being able to make things grow and twist. Think of it as a new form of puppetry.

MK: The Smartsuit Pro instigated a deep interest in me to further work with character animation beyond this project. I am a huge believer of the human body as a live element. The potential that lies in the juxtaposition of live and animation within a live performative context is exciting. As a creative person working with dance, I can see it being incorporated in a range of dance processes. The dance industry is diverse, and one of the biggest challenges is to always be innovative. This means that even companies that are classically based are always curious about new methods of creations. I would love to see the Smartsuit Pro used with classical ballet work!

Rokoko would like to thank Shaun PRICKIMAGE, Aszyk, Mavin Khoo, and Dan Strutt for their thoughtful, extensive feedback regarding the Smartsuit Pro and their exciting project. We will continue to release new information as the show approaches, so stay tuned!

You can visit the event’s site here

Shaun PRICKIMAGE’s WALKABOUT Projection 3D interactive performances give a fully mobile ‘Projected Augmented Reality’ experience, creating disruptive pop-up performances in any environment. A form of digital puppetry with a small video projection system, powered by the Unity3D gaming engine, manipulated magically by hand gestures to allow real-time interactions.
You can explore his upcoming projects including his event with a major tech company at the World Forum and the recently booked COOL Awards, in addition to his recently wrapped performances at the Bright Brussels Light Fest and COOL Awards.

Aszyk is currently exploring new technology with the aim of synthesizing organic forms and movement. His most recent live show 'Floral Intensities' combines VR-composed botanical visualisations with a finger-drummed musical performance in a unique immersive experience. You can follow work from Aszyk on Instagram.

Mavin Khoo is currently a touring dancer and a rehearsal director for Akram Khan Company, one of the world’s leading dance companies. He is working on Akram’s new solo work that premieres in Athens next month and will be staging one of his works for a major ballet company. Finally, he is dancing in a newly commissioned duet that will premiere in London during Fall 2018, followed by an international tour. You can continue tracking his projects by visiting his website.

Dr Dan Strutt is a researcher and lecturer at Goldsmiths University in London and long time collaborator with Shaun PRICKIMAGE. He has supported the project on an conceptual level from the beginning based on his academic work in digital visual culture. He has been successful in getting research funding from Goldsmith’s 'Invention, Creativity and Experience' research theme to draw student talent into the creative mix, and is taking the project to Anvil Hackathon at Goldsmith’s in London. Find more on his website.

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