Video Conference

Video Chat in Artistic Endeavors

skype-iconIt goes without saying that the travel associated with our artist endeavors is not the most sustainable. I’ve been to so many conferences this last year, mostly traveling by plane. Next week I’m off to Europe where I’ll be staying in Copenhagen for COP15 and Wooloo.org‘s New Life Festival, but I’m also headed to London for the Future Arcola Launch and, it’s looking like Prague as well, to check in with a project for the next PQ in June of 2011.

I personally love traveling. I feel guilty, yes, but I love going places. I also feel there is no substitute for in-person discussions. The spontaneity and intimacy of direct contact is important and this is easiest to accommodate face-to-face and in the flesh. And, even when it’s not about having a one-on-one, there is also that just showing up most of the time is a big deal. I maintain that our “success” with the CSPA is due to persistence and “showing up”.

Two weeks ago, I was in Orlando for LDI for a full day of Green Sessions for the show technology crowd put together by Bob Usdin and Annie Jacobs from Showman Fabricators. There I had the chance to meet Bryan Raven of White Light in the UK again. We had been on a roundtable panel at the Theatre Materials/Material Theatre conference at the Central School of Speech and Drama‘s Center for Excellence in Theatre Training in April of 2008. That previous conference was also when I was able to meet, and have a drink with, Ben Todd from Arcola. Ben, who was not able to come to Orlando, and was instead in Stockholm (maybe you saw his post early this week) , was present via a video chat to talk about Future Arcola.

With the ubiquity of broadband connections, more and more people seem to be relying on video conference/chat technology to get other busy, high profile, greener guests to be able to be in two spaces at the same time. And, as it tends to shake out, the resident technophile/ show technologist, I get the pleasure of making a lot of them work.

Google_Talk_icon_by_hungery5Last night, at California Institute of the Arts I set up a video chat audition for guest artists that will be in residency at REDCAT, CalArt’s downtown LA space. The Artists of Invasion from the Chicken Planet, are based in New York and, though of no sustainable intention, weren’t going to fly out to audition some of our actors to use in their residency for two hours.

The day before, we had tested the connection. We used the same computer with the same software on the same network (hardwired into the wall) that we’d use the next day. We tried Skype, which was too choppy, garbled and had a couple seconds delay that made it less than ideal. We then switched to iChat with AOL Instant Messenger accounts and after realizing another computer being connected was preventing a decent video link, it proved the smoothest and most immediate.

So last night, when we moved the computer into the room that we would be conducting the auditions in, we configured the machine the same way, but were not able to make a connection on iChat. Skype had the same issues. At the prompting of a student director who was assisting, we tried Gtalk Video chat. It ended up working immediately and with excellent quality.

Earlier in the year, at Earth Matters on Stage (EMOS), when Moe Beitiks had tried to link up Brent Bucknum to present his bio-remidative work via video chat, we tried ooVoo, which we gave up on in favor of iChat again. We had almost just given up, but I only thought to use iChar from the decent chats I had experienced with my brother-in-law who was living in Edinburgh at the time. Also at EMOS we had a video conference in the University of Oregon library with a panel in London arranged by the Ashden Directory, which used their dedicated video conferencing package.

aim_logo_2.jpgIn both situations the video wasn’t great, but we could sort of communicate. The Ashden Session involved each end of the discussion/video conference going into another room to watch a video and then coming back to discuss together. But there was lag and the video wasn’t particularly clear. The Brent Bucknam session was not bad, but very one-way. For Green Day at LDI, the audio was great, but in one session, with Seema Sueeko from Mo’olelo Performing Arts, the video was minutes behind the audio connection.

Having now had extensive experience with video conferencing in less than ideal situations, I do long for the day when we’ll be able to turn on whatever client we’re using to video chat and it works smoothly and immediately, let alone with high resolution. But, that day isn’t particularly close. There are a lot of variables in the way of making that happen. Network connections, equipment, client servers, client and local network traffic, sunspots, radio waves and the phases of the moon. Even when we tried to eliminate as many of those variables in Eugene as possible, it still didn’t work ideally. Or, what was ideally was not enough to convince.

Will our broadband video connections be able to save us the footprint of air travel for conferences and internationally collaborative meetings of the mind? Not yet. There might be some expensive corporate system out there, but we lowly green artists aren’t going to hold our breath waiting for that. Oprah’s skype seems to work fine, but I’ve never had such luck, so I leave that package just to replace my need for international phone calls.

I’d still rather sit and talk to you, especially when we aren’t both staring at our monitors in our Pajamas.

Also yesterday, Enci Box of Rebel Without a Car Productions came to speak to my and Leslie Tamaribuchi’s class, Sustainability Seminar. She can to talk about producing a short film as sustainably as possible. This included not using cars and transporting everything by bike with the help of the LA Greensters (green teamsters). She made the trip from East Hollywood, in the center of Los Angeles, to the edge of the county, where CalArts resides in Valencia, without a car. She came up on a Metrolink commuter train, biking from the station to campus. She and I had worked out the options for getting there and she had the time to dedicate to coming up. Also, she was lucky to had met a guy who regularly made that journey to visit his girlfriend at CalArts and could relay the benefit of his experience. She then went back home, via bike. all roughly 30 miles of the trip. Coming up to CalArts, it took 2 hours. Returning was supposedly going to be one and a half hours. All for a 45 minute presentation.

I suppose we could have had her “skype” in (even if we don’t typically end up on skype), but having her there in-person was a much greater thrill and much more in the moment for the students and for her. Instead it took dedication to not leaving a footprint, and finding alternatives to get to the class. I’m very much indebted to Enci for making the journey, which some might say was epic, to present for a fraction of that travel time. But, I think it far surpassed our alternatives.

Ashden signs up for 10:10

We sign up for 10:10


The Ashden Directory has signed up for 10:10, the collective campaign to reduce carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010.

Devised by the team behind Age of Stupid, 10:10 is supporting people and organisations in reducing their use energy in four areas: electricity from the national grid, fossil fuel use on site, road transport and air travel.
We’ll start by calculating our current energy use, see where reductions can be made, and keep track of our progress here on the news page. We are especially interested in the amount of electricity and fossil fuel use involved in supporting the internet, and in finding out how we might calculate the effects of our usage, and if possible reduce it. Beyond that, we are three people working part-time from our own homes. Any meetings are arranged to coincide with other purposes, and most journeys are by train. And, as shown in our video conference for ‘Earth Matters Onstage’ in Eugene Oregon, we are working on how more and different connections can be made without flying. We will start talking with the companies listed on the Directory, to see how they are reducing their energy usage. More on our progress here soon.

Earth Matters On Stage: Wrap-Up

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It’s been more than a week since the final days of this year’s Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama Symposium. I returned from Oregon to be immediately eaten alive by my other life: just coming up for air now and able to digest some of the great happenings and events. Hence this giant post.

The picture above is from day nine : that’s Ian Garrett and Naseem Mazloom of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts chillin’  on the lawn of the University of Oregon. After nine very full days of lectures, workshops, panels and a staged reading of Theresa May’s intense play Salmon is Everything, we  needed a break.

The very full final weekend  started off with an early-morning video conference with a UK contingent hosted by the  Ashden Directory. The overseas contributors overcame the fuzzy video and iffy sound quality of our current technology by preparing  a short film.

In it, several leading environmental artists, administrators and thinkers passed the philosophical baton by asking questions like: “How far is art worth the damage?” and “How can we reunite culture and agriculture through performance?” The room was brimming with ideas after that, and it was all we could do to get a few notions exchanged across the Atlantic before time ran out. Watch the video: do it now.

The stimulating conversation continued the next day with a panel called Theater’s Double Helix: Green Building and Sustainable Community Engagement.  Tim DuRoche and Creon Thorne of Portland Center Stage discussed their mecca of a green theatre: the folks from CSPA discussed their future mecca of sustainable practice.

Easily one of the most fascinating panels of the week, however, was the Northwest Theater Town Hall Meeting on Place/Community/Theatre. In it, Artistic Directors and administrators from a wide swath of Pacific Northwest Theaters (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Teatro Milagro, and the Lord Leebrick Theatre, to name a few), discussed how they strive to best serve their communities.

Issues of race surfaced, and not timidly (quote from Valerie Curtis-Newton of the Lorraine Hansberry Project: “Why does the marketing sound like an anthropological expedition? White people! Stop trying to sell me to other white people!”). The idea of non-local community also came under discussion (45% of OSF’s audience is from the SF Bay Area: the internet creates seas of non-geographic communities: PCS had Scrooge “twittering” during A Christmas Carol). All in all, great perspective from a group of seasoned professionals.

Somewhere within these ten days I led a panel and a workshop: there were also many, many other worthwhile performances and presentations (including a short play starring a Cedar Tree). Over the next few months I’ll do retrospectives of works I’ve missed: stay posted.

Garrett and I had to miss the last day to get back into California for work. We left exhausted, but excited about the future. The Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama symposium was a kind of turning-of-the-soil, great groundwork for things to come. Thanks to the University of Oregon, Damond Morris, and Theresa May for making it happen.

Some greenmuseum.org ecology and performance links:

~enterchange

~Platform London

~Hester Reeve

~Simon Whitehead

Go to the Green Museum

Earth Matters on Stage: Ashden Directory Session


Friday morning at Earth Matters on Stage a small group of us piled into the video conferencing room in the Knight Library at University of Oregon to have a conversation with our interested counterparts in the UK. Our second, but certainly more ambitious, video conference of the day, it harkens back to the discussion surrounding travel, the arts and conferences that has been come up at the RSA here (also to be seen in our archives as part of our feed syndication).

From the Ashden Directory Blog:

Our DVD contribution to Earth Matters On Stage is now online. The interviewees address the question: ‘What Can Be Asked? What Can Be Shown? British Theatre in the Time of Climate Instability.’ (The interviews can also be watched individually.)

Quoting Rilke, Dan Gretton considers the value of quickening the pace of artistic response and cautions against the narcissism of frenzy.

On her allotment, Clare Patey explains how a year-long project changed the quality of the conversation amongst its participants.

In Brazil, João André da Rocha draws attention to the movement and shapes of rural life, especially popular dance, as a way of getting closer to Brazilian culture. (Transcript here.) 

From his office in the East End, Paul Heritage raises the question ofthose who are talked about rather than those who are talking.

With the Lake District as her backdrop, Wallace Heim asks how climate change differs from other political situations and how this might alter the ways in which theatre can be made.

Finally, Mojisola Adebayo performs the first moments of her play Moj of the Antarctic and wonders if some people in theatre think they’re above climate change.

You also can watch each person’s contribution as a separate sequence:
 

dan gretton
Dan Gretton

Dan Gretton, co-founder of PLATFORM 
responds to Mojisola Adebayo’s question, 
‘How far is art worth the damage?’ 
watch here
 

clare patey
Clare Patey

Clare Patey, artist and curator 
responds to Dan Gretton’s question, 
‘Can you talk about the role that slowing down and reflectivity plays, both in your creative process and your interaction with your audiences?’ 
watch here 

João André da Rocha
João André da Rocha

João André da Rocha, performer, producer, People’s Palace Projects and Nós do Morro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
responds to Clare Patey’s question, 
‘How can we reunite culture and agriculture through performance?’ 
A transcript is here 
watch here 

paul heritage
Paul Heritage

Paul Heritage, producer, director People’s Palace Projects and Queen Mary’s University 
responds to João André da Rocha’s question, 
‘What steps are you taking to descrease the impact of your life in the world?’
watch here 

wallace heim
Wallace Heim

Wallace Heim, co-editor Ashden Directory, academic 
responds to Paul Heritage’s question, 
‘How can we listen to, see, feel and learn from those who are talked about rather than those who are talking in the great climate change debate?’
watch here 
 

mojisola
Mojisola Adebayo

Mojisola Adebayo, artist, theatre-maker 
responds to Wallace Heim’s question, 
‘What would you keep from theatre and performance practice and what needs to change in response to climate instability?’ 
watch here 

The film is edited by Adam Clarke and directed by Wallace Heim.

‘What can be asked? What can be shown? British theatre and performance in the age of climate instabilit