21st century education
Fly-By takes off

Fly-By takes off

Fly-By takes off


I am so please that artist/thinker/netizen (and Practice Based Re/search founder) Vanessa Blaylock has joined our project “In the Dark”. She will be collaborating with the principal artists: choreographer Donna Sternberg, media artist Kate Johnson and I, in the first section to be staged, called “Fly-By”. Composer David Raiklin will be writing original music to accompany Donna Sternberg’s dancers, in this site-specific work.

Fly-By will take place in an outdoor parking lot, with projection surfaces ranging from inflatables to building walls utilized.

The In the Dark project began when University of Michigan physicist, Prof, Gregory Tarle approached me to work together on an art project which would involve the subject of dark energy. Greg and I had known each other in high school, back in the Stone Age (or should I say stoned age?), but we had not been in contact for decades. When we discussed a potential project together, I suggested that my two-long time collaborators, Donna and Kate, come in, also as principal artists.

For the last two years, Greg, Kate, Donna, myself and postdoctoral fellow Dr.Brian Nord (now at FermiLab) discussed both science as well as art, and narrowed down a number of possible site-specific concepts for a large-scale, site-specific immersive multimedia performance. Challenges of ‘accessibility’, in terms of a potential audiences’’ understandings of today’s complex theories in astrophysics were taken very seriously in developing the project.

This preliminary “Fly-By” section from what will ultimately be an evening-length work will be staged on April 12, 2014, as part of ONE Night-EZTV, SIGGRAPH and West Hollywood Digital Art, an evening of part retrospective screenings of 1980’s era digital projection art, as well as part new work and performances. In addition to Fly-By, Kate Crash (LA Weekly’s favorite collision of art and music) will also appear. The possibly of also having the Venice Symphony Orchestra perform is also seriously being discussed.

When I first wrote Fly-By and presented it to Kate, Donna, Greg and Brian, I took very seriously some notions that Greg had spoken to us of. The idea that scientists were first and foremost ‘tool makers and tool users’, measuring the physical world and from those measurements making calculations and then theories of the very nature of time/space made a deep impression on me. I imagined a piece where humans and their tools danced, just as metaphorically, they do in science. I realized that much of what science now ‘sees’, is remotely viewed. Not remotely viewed in the metaphysical sense, but in the literal sense. The Hubble Telescope, the Large Hadron Collider, electron microscopy, the Mars rovers, etc., are all really drones which expand our sense of sight. Without them, the universe is a much smaller place.

Tools are therefore not separate from ourselves, but are intrinsically extensions of ourselves, expanding our senses and our perceptions, and even developing new senses, which biology did not provide us.

I approached my collaborators with the idea that one or more of Donna’s dancers, should do ‘duets with drones’, small flying drones equipped with wireless cameras, which could ‘beam’ images remotely, to projection surfaces. We began development along those lines and inducted long-time EZTVer, artist/filmmaker/physicist (and newbie drone operator) Nina Rota to get involved. She began working with Donna and her dancers in developing drone movements and techniques which may ultimately translate into choreographic vocabulary.

More recently, I suggested that Vanessa’s avatar performances could be an opportunity to further develop the notion of remote viewing. Vanessa’s writings and statements showed me that she also had realized that tools, such as cyberspace, were extension of self, and not separate from it.

As a trained dancer as well as media artist, Vanessa, could dance with Donna’s dancers remotely, from The Hague, instead of West Hollywood. Vanessa will serve not just as a remote viewer/dancer, but metaphorically serves as a visual reminder of the various scientific theories of multiple universes, in which other equally complex universes may exist simultaneously all around us. This creative opportunity was immediately of great interest to Donna and Kate, who see what all our art-practice experiments together might create.

Vanessa has suggested that several other avatars, in addition to herself might be possible, as well as an avatar of a drone.

The word ‘drone’ now, understandably, has a very negative connotation to many people. I therefore have suggested we adopt the term ‘flying camera’ to better introduce, conceptually, what we are experimenting with.

I am sure that Donna and her talented dancers (who will also help develop choreographic vocabulary), Kate, Nina, the scientists and now Vanessa, will conceptually evolve my initial idea into something that they can all work with creatively, to truly result in a collaborated effort.  Collaboration is both the most rewarding form of art practice ,but equally, the most emotionally-charged, as one’s intial concepts must understandably morph into new directions, in the capable hands of others. And, of course, David’s music will tie it all together into something I believe we will all be very happy with. I am so very proud to be part of this team of artist/thinkers.

Many more details about Fly-By, In the Dark and ONE Night will appear on Re/Search as they develop.


  1. This sounds PHENOMENAL, Michael. Kudos to you and your collaborators for this effort. I am looking forward to the result (and to progress updates from you and others). Please post links to process reports so that we can follow. xo

    1. As always, I entirely agree with Christa! What an inspiring project. And yes to all the ideas you shared about extended humanity. I think that’s a lot about the definition of who we humans are. When the Voyager 1 spacecraft encountered Jupiter, the late Bruce Murray said “today human ganglion cells are a billion miles long.”

      And yes, our initial meeting was great. I’d love to hear more production details and creative concepts as we go, to best formulate ways to participate on the VR end. And since you’re planning to be posting more about these activities, why don’t we create a new .Re/search “Category” “In The Dark” to be the home for these posts. Perhaps there should be a “Projects” category with sub categories like “In The Dark” and “1850 Charla”.

      And say… isn’t “In the Dark” the name of one of Joe Frank’s projects?

  2. Thanks to both of you. Yes, Vanessa, great idea! I’ll start a “In the Dark” category, which can be a sub-set of a larger Projects category.
    And you are proabbaly right about Joe Frank. He doesn’t get to broadcast here in LA much anymore, and I don’t remember the name of the last regualrly scheduled show which broadcast two blocks away from here at KCRW.

    In the late 1980’s when he did a manistream style radio show on the arfts, I was a guest of his. I had no idea how he would years later, create such innovative spoken word/ambinet music radio art.

    With that in mind, I’m suggesting we change the title of our piece to In(the Dark). BTW, we did apply for the LACMA grant for this project, and included both Vanessa and Christa in it. Should the other ‘Berries want to partcipate, I’m sure we can find a way.

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