Nancy Garcia
Nick Hasty

Zoraida Project – Objects for Performance

Spiritual and cultural objects turned into instruments for sound and performance based on an original science fiction narrative

Live Image Processing and Performance,New Interfaces for Musical Expression,Performing Technology,Project Development Studio (Danny)

We've created a fictional persona, Zoraida, who is a performer living in a speculative future Cuba. After Castro died, the island was transformed into a playground for wealthy tourists by numerous multinational firms. A biohazardous accident, however, forced most of the firms and inhabitants off the island. Yet Zoraida stayed behind to reclaim the land and create a new culture for the island via her performances. She created her own set of instruments utilizing the technological detritus left behind on the island. It is these instruments that we are presenting.

This semester we have worked on creating instruments to use when performing Zoraida. We based that off of objects that are supposed to have supernatural powers in Cuban culture or used in Santeria practices in Cuba.

The first object is a large elephant statue we've turned into an object for voice. Building off the belief that positioning elephant figurines to face certain directions will bring good luck, our our object has become a microphone that can be twisted to face different directions. The act of twisting the large, and the smaller, surrounding elephants, affects the sounds the microphone picks up (vibrato, volume, delay).

The second object is a machete with an attached accelerometer controlling sound in Max/Msp. This object is based on the Orisha Ogun, the spirit of technology and war of the Yoruba religion, whose symbol is the machete. This is an object for dance, and we were inspired by the dances honoring Ogun utilizing machetes in the movement.

The last objects are a pair of congas with piezo films attached beneath their drum heads. These piezos send data into a Max/MSP/Jitter patch, and playing the drums controls and manipulates a jitter patch displaying prerecorded video that we incorporate into our performances. The use of these drums too are based on Santerian spiritual beliefs regarding Ana, Orisha of drums and spiritual music.

We both have backgrounds in sound and music composition/performance, and Nancy has a background in dance and movement. We were both interested in effectively communicating a meaningful narrative integrating technology and dance. We were also interested in exploring the use of the body, voice and sound in performance-based storytelling. We also wanted to create work dealing with issues pertaining to multiculturalism, feminism, history, economic systems, and globalization.

People who enjoy watching performance (dance/music), dancers, musicians, performers, people who appreciate interdisciplinary approaches to design and artmaking, people interested in cultural discourse, science-fiction fans, and people interested in Cuban culture.

User Scenario
Though these are objects for a specific performance, for the show we will have them available for use and demonstration. We will briefly explain and demonstrate how the objects work, and then let people play with the objects themselves.

We would also like to show video of the Zoraida performance (w/ headphones) so that visitors have a context for the instruments and see how they relate to the narrative and performance. It is not necessary for us to show the video. Meaning, we can show the instruments without showing the video. Depending on equipment availability, we can be flexible with this aspect of the installation.

For the show, these objects will be on display awaiting user interaction, with working max/msp jitter patches and video documentation of the performance.

Object #1: An object for voice consisting of a large elephant statue on a rotatable stand. The elephant has a lavalier mic attached beneath its trunk. Singing into the trunk while rotating the elephant controls spatialization/panning of sound. Inspired by podiums typically used by public figures to address "their people."

Object #2: An object for rhythm, composed of a conga drum with built-in piezo film/mic. The hitting of the drumhead controls images projected behind the performer, so playing the drum will “conjure” images of Cuba and La Lupe, a Cuban performer from the 1950's whose life story was of great inspiration to our project.

Object #3: An object for movement and sound, which consists of a wireless accelerometer attached to a machete. The XYZ data sent by the accelerometer controls a MAX/MSP sound patch. Dancing with the machete sonifies the user's movement, creating recognizable relationships between gesture and sound.

We found that working within an overarching narrative is a great way
to yield specific and meaningful uses of technology and foster the
creative process in general. In coming up with and fabricating these
objects, every choice we made had to work on many different levels
(e.g. the objects' relation to Cuban culture, to Zoraida, to the narrative,
to the performance, and their design and construction).

We also realized that creating a narrative concerning the merging of subjectivity and technology in light of cultural, political, and economic issues ensures that technology plays more than just an ancillary role in the production of our piece. Zoraida’s story is about technology, among other things, and cannot be told without it.