This semester, TIMARA faculty member Aurie Hsu has been on sabbatical (she is very missed!), working on a number of creative projects. Hsu told us about one of those projects, Imprints:
“Imprints is a collection of trans-temporal storytelling performances that combine text, movement, projection mapping, wearable robotic instruments, and electronic sound. I retell my grandparents’ experiences in Taiwan amidst hierarchical family structures, Chiang Kai-Shek’s rise to power, and the fragility of wartime existence. Gut wrenching strife permeates these stories: my five year old grandfather abandoned by his mother, an inconsequential third wife, and the close call of my grandmother, pregnant with my mother, nearly boarding a train that was attacked by air raid. These stories portray perseverance, courage, and optimism, and have provided inspiration to me and multiple generations in my family. I will be working on the performance systems for Imprints, the pieces themselves, and soon after the system/pieces are finished, I hope to organize community workshops to facilitate multi-media storytelling using the Imprints performance systems I build. The first piece in the Imprints series will retell the story of my grandfather’s abandonment and how he survived by earning small change herding ducks as a young child.”
The Imprints performance system consists of two interconnected components: one for visuals and one for sound. The visual component is a lightweight wearable system for “winged” dancer and small portable projectors. This component will consist of a custom-built aluminum frame, two portable projectors, microcomputers to run the images and video wirelessly, and a costume that will serve as the projection “screen.” This costume includes “ISIS” dance fan wings (an example appears in the video of Hsu’s collaboration with Alice Blumenfeld, Shifting Reflections), which are collapsible and expandable and will serve as a dynamic surface for the video projection mapping. She is currently developing a prototype for this system with support from an Oberlin Conservatory Grant in Aid. The sonic component produces acoustic sound through wearable kinetic instruments made from vibration motors that are attached to the frame. The motors will resonate strings that will be mounted on the frame, similar to a harp construction. The dancer will control the projection image and the vibration motors with movement. When the dancer moves, the motors will sway and hit the strings, creating a combination of acoustic and mechanical sound. Stay tuned for future documentation of Imprints and the other projects that Aurie works on during her time away!