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Comprised of diverse students from across creative disciplines, the UNT Intermedia Performance Art class explores new collaborative structures utilizing an adventurous mix of old and new media modalities. In spring 2011 the IPA students were asked to reconsider “the opera” in light of the practice of 20th and 21st century performance art. The group undertook a project to integrate spoken word, concrete poetry and song with elements of dance, interactive video and a hybrid AI electronic music system. The work grew out of a series of intensive conversations that coalesced around the mechanisms of language to control and define social interactions. The resulting themes include, the destructive manifestations of stereotypes, ubiquity of social profiling systems, loss of meaning in translation, transformation of meaning via media transcoding systems, the language of crisis and gestures of personal empowerment. The result, “7 Systems of Control!” employed an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) that gathered data from the surrounding media environment, acting as an autonomous, intelligent participant to augment, redirect or intervene with the associated team of human performers. Just as ANN was left up to her own devices, the audience also had to find their way within an uncertain system of concatenating messages, emergent codes and operatic fragments. Taking on an overt socio-political focus the work mixed high seriousness with playful interactions and strong language. The result is a mixed media performance work that references contemporary idioms across multiple artistic disciplines.

Working Methodology:
This performance took form in Seven Modules that began from conception to presentation over the Spring 2001 term. Our creative process has been unique in that we commenced work without a specific theme, designated artistic production roles, existing script or score. My directive to the students was to reconsider the opera within the context of 20th-21st century performance art and then assigned them into specific working groups (small seed pods). As ideas emerged individual groups were to form conceptual alliances with other members of other groups. A kind of blueprint for emergent cellular interaction thus took shape. In the end, very individualistic idiosyncratic roles evolved and to a great extent the groups dissolved into a larger collaborative network.

– Professor David Stout


Special Thanks to: The entire CEMI staff for their exceptional professionalism, Rachel Albright for her good cheer and keeping us all on track, The College of Music – Composition Division, College of Visual Art and Design – New Media Program and iARTA (Initiative for Advanced Research in Technology and the Arts) and to all the friends and family that have supported us!