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    Mapping Motion II: Motion Capture and the Visualisation of Dance

    Electronic Visualisation and the Arts (EVA 2015)

    London, UK, 7 - 9 July 2015


    Kelly Hamilton



    There is a long and rich tradition of visualising human movement in the history of dance. When considering traditional dance notation in Envisioning Information, Edward Tufte pointed to the dilemmas involved in reducing “the magnificent reality of time and three-space into little marks in flatland,” another instance of the difficulty of “escaping flatland” (Tufte 1990, 119). In “Mapping Motion: The Principles of Motion Capture and the Law of Projection,” presented at EVA London 2013, I examined performance capture in 3D animation, as used in films such as Avatar and The Lord of the Rings, to understand how Wittgenstein’s law of projection could illuminate the broader principles involved in this powerful and rapidly developing art form. In this talk, I will present a parallel case study of projective visualisation in dance, another art form significantly affected by, and in the minds of some of its most significant and creative practitioners extended by, motion capture.

    LifeForms, a computer choreographic software tool developed at Simon Fraser University, was used by legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham to create revolutionary dances. In “Wittgenstein and Tufte on Thinking in 3D,” presented at EVA London 2012, I argued that the mapping relation captured by the law of projection in the Tractatus contributed to our understanding of Tufte’s theories of envisioning information. There, the projective relation mapping information to visual data displays is central to escaping flatland. In this talk, I will explore whether such a mapping relation, and the law of projection informing it, can also ground the principles of representation involved in motion capture as it functions creatively in computer visualisations of dance. While the argument is grounded in concrete practices of electronic visualisation, my concern will be to argue that Wittgenstein’s logic of depiction, informed by his law of projection, illuminates the theoretical underpinnings of these important case studies.


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