by Helen Varley Jamieson and Vicki Smith
Avatar Body Collision is a performance troupe incorporating its virtual and physical presences into globally-distributed 'cyberformances'. This is where one performer is live in front of an audience while others are located on another continent, participating virtually via the web.
To develop this unique practice Avatar Body Collision created the open source platform UpStage. UpStage offers people a virtual theatre within which they can perform in real-time, mixing digital media such as photographs, drawings, animation, text, audio and web cam footage - there is even a text-to speech tool adding a verbal element too.
Live performance is made accessible via a browser-friendly format; an archive of videos and tutorials demonstrate the scope of the tool for newcomers. Performances often reflect upon the nature of performativity and human connectivity in a networked world, often drawing our attention to the awkward and glitchy aspects of computer-mediated communication.
If all the world's a stage, then all the online world's a theatre and open source performance tools offer us a unique backstage pass.
- Lines by Virtual Theater, at the 090909 UpStage Festival, used Flash scripting to allow the audience to draw lines on the stage, which then animated into a mandala (unique for each audience member) accompanied by a poetic text about city life
- make-shift by Paula Crutchlow and Helen Varley Jamieson, premiered on 5 December 2010, simultaneously in the UK, Italy and online. This performance used UpStage in conjunction with live audio-visual streams, with audiences in two physical locations as well as online
- The Old Hotel by Cherry Truluck, Suzon Fuks, James Cunningham and Liz Bryce used live webcam images in conjunction with photographic and animated backdrops and avatars, and an audience at a physical location in London as well as online. The image to the right shows the player interface (as it was in 2007) with the tools at the top right and long the bottom of the screen that are used to present the performance
- Baba Yaga by Rebekah Wild and Vicki Smith at the UpStage V2 launch - Puppets to Pixels (2007); the performance brought shadow and object puppetry techniques into UpStage and the immersive gallery environment provided a physical perspective of the online stage
There have been many more cyberformances created in UpStage - visit the UpStage website for further information. Anyone interested in the development side of the project can visit the sourceforge site for the project to find out more.