From the practice of emergent design and research-through- prototyping, playformance explores the limitations and affordances of augmentative technology through ludic performativity, where the artist serendipitously interacts with technology without any predetermined purpose; this is similar to what Donald Schon describes as a “conversation with the material of the situation” (Schon, 1984, p. 175). Design researcher Rachel Philpott explains, “the purposeful purposelessness of play cultivates a very particular mind state in which one is relaxed enough to relinquish control and allow the unknown to occur” (Philpott, 2013, p. 2). This mind state that Philpott describes is exactly the place that a performer can discover new ways of creativity through embodied articulation. Looseness or openness with the artistry of the performer takes advantage of the improvisational potential of a performance which “generates singular moments” that are perceived by the audience as being unique, and thus special (Wechsler, 2006, p. 5). Sometimes it is practical to include a technician to prompt sequences in a performance, but Wechsler’s argument is referring to the replacement of live body data with a technician, rather than a technician controlling one component.

When the performance is not married to a preferred end result or limited to a strict and linear choreography of what is supposed to happen, a more embodied and meaningful interaction can be experienced for the performer. This is not to say that a Leap Motion or a Microsoft Kinect will always become as fundamental to a performer’s work as a microphone or a lighting rig – this would be a rather reductive take on this research and misses the point entirely. Playformance is process-driven research that aims to start a conversation where new forms of expression can be explored in depth. Interactive technology situates the human as the variable in that it is the human that engages with the technology. It is the human that is the initiating input, with his or her movements translated by the technology. Katherine Hayles explains that it is this variability in the user that brings forth the improvisational affordances of interactive technology: “Embodiment is akin to articulation in that it is inherently performative, subject to individual enactments, and therefore always to some extent improvisational”(Hayles, 1999, p. 197). When we choose a technology that we think might capture the respective expressive nature and/or stage presence of a poet, a DJ or a dancer, we bring certain assumptions to how they will react to it and how the technology in question will read their movements. Such assumptions in my research have almost always been inaccurate. In the Dissolving Self project, allowing the space for playful exploration of the technology has shown that when the performer spins abruptly, the affected media (the metaphoric sphere) reacts in a very responsive and visceral way – this led to the incorporation of this sequence into the piece. With the Blendism project, I simply placed a contemporary dancer, singer, live video feed, worn sensors and a projection together in a room and hit record on the camera. This studio performance brought about more questions regarding compliance and set design than it did answers, which is why it was a fruitful learning exercise, specifically in revealing how video filters enhance different dance sequences or the way in which infrared LEDs read the singer’s hand movements – and, more importantly, when and why they did not.

User-testing for both the Havabazi Tuno and Jadoo Bänoo projects allowed the space for the user to independently understand the type of kinetic gestures the Leap Motion controller most consistently reads, which is fundamental in user-centered compliance design. This was done by allowing the time for the performers to play games like BoomBall or Lotus with the Leap Motion. After playing such games with the technology, one of my performers, Zan, adjusted the setup of the Leap Motion to be positioned at her side, in order to allow just her left hand to hover over the sensor. This ended up being a more natural interaction for her, and though it sounds simple, it validates the value of ludic performativity in the synthesis of performance and technology.