Dissolving Self employs metaphoric data visualization, motion capture and wearable technology to harness the subtle movements of a Sufi whirler. We was curious to ask how new media technologies can be used to virtually translate and amplify live performance to open new inroads for creative articulation the performer. Much of the inspiration of this piece comes from Rumi’s mystic poetry and the physical meditative ritual of Sufi whirling. A gyroscope and a radio module (Xbee) worn by the dancer measure and transmit speed of rotation and a Microsoft Kinect captures lateral movement of the performer onstage. These two sets of live data are fed into Processing, an open source software to create a responsive and metaphoric visualization that represents Divinity through the cosmos, which is projected over the dancer. Works such as Dissolving Self play an important role by creatively investigating the possibilities and pushing the limits of new technologies, helping us to imaginatively experience and critically reflect on their implications of ubiquitous technology, such as wearable sensors. Digital electronic art is a source of innovation, the new norm in everything from publishing to TV, radio, games, film, fashion, music, architecture, design, applications and in this instance, performance art.

To read more about this project please follow this link on the wearable tech blog, Fashioning Tech.

Blackground:

In the spring of 2013, Maziar Ghaderi conceived, curated and directed a networked-performance entitled Dissolving Self for the HASTAC conference hosted by York University. This collaborative piece featured a contemporary dancer that performed the mystic Sufi ritual of whirling as part of the theatrical experience. Whirling has a long tradition in the Middle East amongst the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order as a form of physical meditation, where the devotee undergoes a shamanistic trance-like state in an effort to praise The Devine. In Coleman Barks’ The Red Book, the Sufi mystic poet Rumi likens the devotee to a lover and states: “…the lover wakes and whirls in a dancing joy, then kneels down in praise” (Barks, 2008, p. 162).

As commonly represented in Sufi poetry, The Devine is symbolized by the Sufi as the orbiting planets above, and the whirling movement is intended to mimic the movements of these heavenly bodies (Barks, 2008, p. 187; “The Sema of the Mevlevi,” 1998). This bodily interplay between the devotee and the cosmos inspired me to think about how the union of technology and dance could convey the inner intent of the performer and offer a symbolic representation of the Sufi’s cosmos, which was ultimately illustrated as a live rendering of a graphical sphere.

Credits:

Artistic Director: Maziar Ghaderi
Technical Director: Ryan Maksymic
DS1 Sound Artist: Carlos Montenegro
DS2 Sound Artist: Tamara Montenegro
D1 Costume Designer: Yuxi Wang
D2 Costumer Designer: Loretta Faveri
DS1 (Toronto, 2013): Denise Mireau
D2 (Abu Dhabi, 2014) Dancer:
D2 Remixed (Dubai, 2014 Dancer:

DS frames