Wednesday, April 16, 2008

John Toenjes Artist Bio

John Toenjes playing his custom computer interface at the 6th annual SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and Art, in Minneapolis, March 2008.

John Toenjes is Music Director of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of Dance, and President of the International Guild of Musicians in Dance. John has played numverous dance classes and workshops nationally and internationally for master teachers, and has had more than 30 scores performed by dance companies and universities. Recent collaborators include NY choreographer Todd Williams, whose company WilliamsWorks premiered Value Intensity as the opening concert of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival in New York in 2006, and choreographer David Marchant, with whom he created Leonardo’s Chimes, an interactive music/dance work premiered in 2006 at Washington University, St. Louis, and performed recently at the SPARK Festival of Electronic Music and Arts in Minneapolis in 2008. Other works include a computer art installation as part of the “When We Were Young” exhibit at the Krannert Art Museum, which is now permanently installed at the Champaign Children’s Museum, and e’s of water, a large scale dance/computer installation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. John’s new evening-length interactive work, Inventions Suite, will premiere at the Cleveland Ingenuity Festival in July 2008. Also a scholar, John’s presentations and publications include “Finding Humanity Within the Machine: Large Motor Movement Computer Interfacing as an Artistic Mindbody Integrative Practice,” at the 1st annual HASTAC International Conference at Duke University, and “Composing for Interactive Dance: Paradigms for Perception,” at the Sound Moves Conference on Music and Dance, in London, England, subsequently published in Perspectives of New Music.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Towards a Definition of "Performative"

Intro-the problem
The word "performative" is getting quite a workout these days, at least in the field of music and dance and art (don't know about theater yet, and probably "new media" is in on this trend, I bet). Yet, it really has no specific meaning, so one seems to be developing before our very eyes. This is an exciting time to be alive, to notice a possibly substantive re-definition of an existing word going on in our midst.

In all of the dicitionaries in which I've looked, "performative" means this:
per·for·ma·tive [per-fawr-muh-tiv]
–adjective Philosophy, Linguistics.
1. (of an expression or statement) performing an act by the very fact of being uttered, as with the expression “I promise,” that performs the act of promising.
2. a performative utterance.
(from Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: March 04, 2008).

Yet this definition of the word is not the one that is meant by people who are using this word all over the place. Here are a couple of "performative" sightings and hearings by way of example:

  • "[I am concerned with] the performative aspect of sound...[I like to] take away the performance, then leave the sound." Chris Peck, at UIUC, March 2.

  • "She herself takes a perfomative stance in the making of her pictures." Seen in the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. This is from a wall quote by the exhibition curator of the photographs of JoAnn Verburg.

  • "[We're working on] the performative aspect of movement." Heard many times in Jan Erkert's dance classes.

Obviously these useages don't jive with the one given by the dictionaries. Chris Peck is not saying "Sound!" and sound then just "happens." The word has something to do with performance--performance quality, or the state of your being while performing for others? When I was reading the Walker Art Museum quote, I asked a museum tour guide what the word and the quote meant. This question really stumped her! "I dont really know," she replied. Then she took a stab at a definition: "Well, I know she didn't do this (she uses a heavy camera on a tripod), but it sounds like she was dancing around" while she took her photos.

So as I am just starting this blog post, I would like for everyone who sees a use of "performative" anywhere to send it to me via the comments on this post. That way, collectively, we can define his word for the rest of the world!


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Composer-Choreographer Students Post Blogs

The Composer-Choreographer class (Dance 464/Music471) has begun posting their responses to the collaborations they've worked on during the first two weeks of the semester. You can read their postings at each of their blogs, linked to the right. One group of dancers, Young Sun Lee and Christine Betsill, worked with Cheryl Krugel in the TEEVE lab, under the direction of Renata Sheppard. The other group, Laura Chiaramonte, Renay Aumiller, and Pin Hsin Lin, worked on a traditional collaboration, working with the idea of making a dance starting from a common "image," under my direction. Go to their blogs as they get put online to read about their responses to the question:

"Using your experiences from the past couple of weeks, and drawing upon the readings I’ve given you and the class discussions we’ve had, write and post to your blog a statement concerning your personal observations about the collaborative process you’ve experienced during this time, and aesthetic observations about the relationship between music and dance that were discovered during this time. You might mention what inspired your artistic choices in creating your dance or music score as well."