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From Puppets to Pixels

From Puppets to Pixels - an interactive exhibition for children of all ages

From Puppets to Pixels is an interactive exhibition that transforms the age-old tradition of shadow puppetry into the digital world - to cyberspace and beyond. The exhibition runs throughout the July school holidays.

Over the past six months puppeteer Rebekah Wild has created a series of puppets based around characters from the traditional Eastern European fairy tale Baba Yaga, including a wicked witch, a cat, a young girl and a house made of chicken bones. In the exhibition visitors will choose one of the puppet characters to move and talk in a shadowy fairy tale forest displayed on a computer screen. With multiple computers in the room several people can play at once in the forest, moving props, talking to each other and making up stories - just like a play or a movie.

These characters will move, talk and come to life via a piece of software developed for online performance called UpStage. Created by digital performance group Avatar Body Collision with programmer Douglas Bagnall, UpStage allows people to create theatrical stories together despite being in geographically dispersed locations. In From Puppets to Pixels all the players could be in the same room or anywhere in the world, so long as they have an internet connection.

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With an internet connection and web browser, audiences can interact through a text chat tool while the players use images to create visual scenes, and operate “avatars” – graphical characters that speak aloud and move. Although some people find computer technology intimidating, UpStage Project Manager Helen Varley Jamieson says, “UpStage is so easy to use and engaging that the most technophobic people will find themselves enjoying it.”

In addition to the exhibition, on the seventh day of the seventh month of 2007 (07/07/07) there will be a one-day festival of cyberformances (online performances) created by artists from all over the world. The diverse performances will unfold in front of an online audience, in real time. Viewers around the world will be able to interact and influence the stories. As well as Wild’s shadow puppets there will be unique takes on classic theatre works by Beckett, contemporary dance, a site-specific work on a London building site and even an air-guitar You-tube mash-up.

The diversity of proposals for the festival has impressed the organisers. "It's exciting to see UpStage being used in such a variety of ways," said Jamieson. "We have all manner of artists - writers, musicians, dancers, performers, videographers, story-tellers - experimenting with how they can use the internet as a creative medium and a site for their work." Some of the artists are using UpStage for the first time, while others have been experimenting with it since it was first launched in 2004.

“Performers will be beaming in from at least ten different countries and time zones during 070707,” says Jamieson. “For New Zealand-based artists working in an experimental artform, it’s vital that we are able to collaborate and exchange with our international colleagues, and UpStage is a great tool for this.”

Rebekah Wild has recently returned from seven years working as a puppeteer, puppet maker, designer and devisor in the United States and Europe. Her previous work has included West End and off-Broadway productions of the smash-hit ‘junk opera’ Shockheaded Peter, and last year she worked on the Capital E production The Selkie Bride. She says that she has enjoyed discovering how the centuries-old medium of shadow puppetry can evolve in today’s digital world. From Puppets to Pixels also features her original drawings and designs used in the making of the fairy tale puppets.

The development of UpStage version 2 has been supported by a number of sponsors including the Government's Digital Strategy. Jamieson says that although From Puppets to Pixels is based around a fairy story, the exhibition and the 070707 festival will be of interest to the digital arts and wider arts community, teachers and anyone interested in live performance and storytelling. “Like theatre, UpStage is about artistic collaboration and live performance; but we also invite the audience to get out of their seats and interact with the work.”

The 070707 UpStage Festival will be projected at the Film Archive mediagallery where visitors can buy a coffee, take a seat and watch the performances taking place from remote locations around the world. Exhibitions Manager Mark Williams says, "It will be like watching a live cartoon, as the shows unfold in front our eyes." The performance screenings will be free and will run from 2pm to midnight on 7 July 2007. Alongside the festival there will be a continuous screening of classic animation films from the Archive’s collection in the cinema.

The launch of Upstage V2 takes place on Thursday 28 June and opens the exhibition, which runs at the Film Archive mediagallery from 28 June to 15 July. The 070707 Upstage Festival takes place live around the world on 7 July 2007, and screened at the Film Archive.


Baba Yaga, Traditional story adapted and performed by Rebekah Wild.
Puppeteer and visual artist Rebekah Wild (NZ) takes the Eastern European children’s story of Baba Yaga as a starting point for an exploration of the convergence of traditional shadow and puppet forms with the digital realm of UpStage.
Baba Yaga will also feature in the UpStage exhibition, running from 28 June to 15 July at the NZ Film Archive in Wellington. Visitors – both online and in the gallery – can create their own version of Baba Yaga with the avatars, backdrops and props that Rebekah has created.

Come and Go, By Samuel Beckett, performed by Avatar Body Collision.
This performance is an exercise in reproducing as faithfully as possible Samuel Beckett’s precise stage directions and script, in the online environment. Avatar Body Collision is a globally dispersed cyberformance group, consisting of Karla Ptacek (London), Leena Saarinen (Helsinki), Vicki Smith (Hari Hari) and Helen Varley Jamieson (Wellington). The Colliders have performed together online since 2001, yet never all been in the same room or even country together. They are also the group who have developed the UpStage software.

Please stay alert at all times, Creator/devisor Meg Fenwick, visual designer Marischka Klinkhamer, performer Julie Devaney.
Playing with the MI5 instructions to ‘stay alert at all times’ and encouragement to report ‘suspicious behaviour’, using extracts from the crucible and speeches from world leaders, Please stay alert at all times is a humorous online performance drawing parallels between the war against terror and the 17th Century Witch Hunts, set against maps and images of the London bombing locations. Contributors to the performance will include found members of the public who will have engaged in ‘activations’ in London during the seven days leading to 07/07/07.

the old hotel, Concept by Cherry Truluck, devised, performed by Cherry Truluck, Suzon Fuks, James Cunningham and Liz Bryce.
This site-specific performance builds layers of stories and memories about an old hotel in Hammersmith, London. The UpStage performance will run simultaneously with a live performance in the original site, both starting with the same basic text. Imagery from a webcam will link the performance in the site into UpStage, while at the buidling site the UpStage performance will be projected onto and wall and the two performances will influence each other.
Cherry Truluck is a theatre designer and live art practitioner, currently undertaking a Master of Arts at Wimbledon College of Art, London ( Liz Bryce is a masters student at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, NZ. Suzon Fuks and James Cunningham are Igneous, based in Brisbane, Australia.

Isis: for my mother, Devised and performed by Marlena Corcoran.
Loss, fragmentation, searching…the inevitability of losing one’s mother. A collage of medical body fragments - x-ray, sonic graph, surgical photo, ultrasound image and others – hinting at a female person, but there's always something missing, and something left over. Marlena Corcoran is a writer and net artist who lives in Munich, Germany. She is a member of the Plaintext Players, a group which began creating live performances in IRC (text chat) channels in the 1990s.

Learn to Hear Through the Lies of Your Eyes: The Cyberforming Hybridization of Tuxedomoon, Devised and performed by Miljana Peric, Teodora Peric and Ana Markovic.
This cyberformance addresses the position of the contemporary musician in a relation to predominantly scopophilic regime of the Artworld based on information technology. Standard phonocentrical practice will be replaced with poetocentrical praxis by quoting, paraphrasing and mixing up the lyrics of Tuxedomoon. Instead of counterpoint techniques, it involves the counter-soundpointless tactics, which symbolise the protest against disregarded role of music in cyberformances in general.
Miljana Peric has been a regular participant in UpStage open sessions for several years; she holds a MA in Ethnomusicology from the Faculty of Music Art in Belgrade and is currently a PhD candidate studying the Theory of Arts and Media at the University of Arts in Belgrade. She is joined in this performance by Teodora Peric, a singer, musician and law student at the Belgrade University, and Ana Markovic, a musician (flute and keyboards) and student of Musicology at the Faculty of Music Art and Comparative Literature in Belgrade.

Interface Devised and performed by Igneous.
A face-to-face meeting on the surface of the interface. Igneous are choregrapher/director/photographer Suzon Fuks (Belgium/Australia) and dancer/choreographer James Cunningham (Australia). Their interdisciplinary performance work explores issues around bodies, motion and physical and virtual images, and has been presented around the world.

The Rabbits, From the children’s book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, adapted and performed by Louise Phillips and Helen Varley Jamieson.
The Rabbits is a contemporary Australian children’s book about colonisation. Louise and Helen first performed the story in UpStage at the Reconceptualising Early Childhood Education conference in Rotorua in December 2006, to demonstrate the use of internet technology and story-telling as a means to engage young children in discussion around social issues.

Louise Phillips is an early childhood educator currently undertaking a PhD at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, investigating the use of storytelling as a tool for social change with young children. Helen Varley Jamieson is a member of Avatar Body Collision and a masters student at QUT, studying cyberformance.

The Best Air Guitar Album in the World Vol. II, Devised and performed by Dan Agnihotri-Clark.
Dan will virtually rock you from the privacy of his own computer, performing a 21-minute live audiovisual mash-up. He will manipulate audio samples from the double CD compilation 'The Best Air Guitar Album in the World Vol. II', mixing these with video samples of the world's best air guitarists found on YouTube. A doctoral candidate at Massey University, Wellington, Dan is a visual artist, musician and curator whose work explores intermediacy, indeterminacy and the interface in digital art.

Freeze, Flight and Fight, or main reactions to rejection, Devised and performed by Igneou.
A cathartic cyberformance, on the way to acceptance ‘with glorious rays of hope, humour, and tribal encouragement’. Please, prepare your letters of rejection.

Misflight, Devised and performed by Megan Jupin, Kristin Carlson and Nick Fitzherbert.
Misflight will be a 2D dance theatre piece, exploring the scope and range of object actions and movements within the UpStage interface, with a live sound score created by using UpStage’s text2speech functionality. Megan Jupin lives with computers, not people, and is a dancer and trapeze performer. She has recently moved to New York City. This will be the first long-distance collaboration between Megan and Kristin. Kristin is based in Auckland and has a background in contemporary dance and all things technical.

Ophelia_machine, Created by Marischka Klinkhamer, Gabi Schmidberger and Maria Chatzichristodoulou.
Every woman is an Ophelia. In Ophelia_machine, join us in a journey of self discovery from submission to transformation.
The performance uses extracts from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet and Heiner Muller’s play Hamlet Machine.

Paraiso, Devised and performed by Helena Martin Franco.
Taking the shape of a miraculous appearance, “Corazon_Desfasado”, some sort of illegal hybrid saint, reveals to us messages of redemption.

Show NZ Time, 7 July Local performer time(s)
The Rabbits 2.30pm Australia QLD: 12.30pm
Misflight 3pm NYC: 11pm Friday 6th
Paraiso 3.30pm 11.30pm Friday 6th
Freeze, Flight and Fight 4pm Australia QLD: 2pm
Interface 6.30pm Australia QLD: 4.30pm
Please stay alert at all times 7pm UK: 8am
Netherlands: 9am
Freeze, Flight and Fight 7.30pm Australia QLD: 5.30pm
Come & Go 8pm UK: 9am
Finland: 11am
the old hotel 8.30pm UK: 9.30am
Australia QLD: 6.30pm
Babayaga 9pm Croatia: 11am
ISIS: for my mother 9.30pm Germany: 11.30am
Ophelia_machine 10pm UK: 11am
Netherlands: 12 noon
Tuxedo Moon Tribute 10.30pm Serbia: 12.30pm
Air Guitar 11pm

From Puppets to Pixels 28 June – 14 July 2007, at the New Zealand Film Archive mediagallery, cnr Taranaki and Ghuznee Sts

07/07/07 Festival 7 July 2007


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