Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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Odyssey 2016 (winter - fall 2016)

Kimberly Jannarone and other Theater Arts faculty 



We propose a DANM Performative Technologies group to create Odyssey 2016, an ambulatory multi-media living gallery, where participants' journeys parallel that of Odysseus as they make their way through a living series of "islands"— tableaux vivants, installations—in and around the Performing Arts Complex, created by an interdisciplinary group of faculty, professionals, graduate and undergraduate students.


Homer's The Odyssey began as an oral narrative, sung by a bard to a friendly assembly, a musical story told to strengthen shared communal bonds and inscribe history into memory. Today, this, the oldest extant work in Western literature, raises questions for which we have no clear-cut answers: What does it mean to be a hero? How do we define the rules of society and how do we view those of societies different than ours? How do we interact with different cultures, and what is the role of women, heroes, and "others" in our contemporary world? We delve into these questions with an artistic team led by faculty members and artists who staged the DANM Gynt Project in 2012-13, which brought together hundreds of artists, professionals, and students to create digital arts performances for over-sold houses. This time, the group will explore living galleries as a way of re-creating an epic.

By moving the audience alongside Odysseus as he travels through the Aegean islands, we return the epic to its performative origins while at the same time bringing it into the emerging field of site-integrated multi-media performance. Our interactive "islands" will specifically address the new digital world we live in: information from the epic will travel digitally as it unfolds via the "Athena" smartphone app; audiences will be able to interactively alter the outcome of scenes such as the death of Elpenor; spectators will be tempted to linger and interact with the digital environment of the Lotus Eaters through the Danceroom Spectroscopy supercomputing installation.

The process is collaborative and multi-disciplinary in its conception. We will divide the work into separate units ("islands") among professional artists, students, and faculty, keeping close communication throughout the project and uniting in performance in Spring 2016.

Faculty members from Digital Arts and New Media, Theater Arts, Music, and Literature are already working together. We have dramaturgical collaboration from several artists and classics scholars in the field. Internationally renowned chemist and physicist David Glowacki (Bristol and Stanford Universities) will contribute his Danceroom Spectroscopy installation—which projects live images of people's molecules as they dance (—to create the alluring Land of the Lotus Eaters. We would like to recruit 3-5 MFA students in Digital Arts and New Media for the project and, if possible, collaborate with the Mechatronics research group. (Please see the end of this letter for the current roster of the collaborative team.)

Institutional Impact

The project will be embedded in our University's curricular planning, so that students will be able to takes courses in Design Concept Development, 3D scenography, Sound and Music, and Classical Text and Adaption, collaborating with specialists in each of these fields. (Professor Jannarone is already teaching a class through Cowell College Winter 2015 on adaptations of ancient Greek epics.) This will be an immersive project for our DANM MFA students, who will be working with a range of professionals for three quarters.