Developing flipper consciousness at UCSD Calit2’s ‘Ideas Performances’ in La Jolla, and other shows in 2018


Do you have “flipper consciousness?” The dolphins, whales and porpoises (cetaceans) that swim off La Jolla do. They navigate the seas with their flippers just like we navigate the land with our hands, arms and legs.

UC San Diego Dance Theatre MFA student Aurora Lagattuta, an advocate of inter-species communication, has been exploring flipper consciousness through dance. She presented a multimedia piece at the 2018 Calit2’s Ideas Performances, where participating performers make use of the Qualcomm Institute’s high technology and computer systems. Lagattuta, thinks we can learn a great deal from cetaceans and dance is her way of linking to that learning.

“Humans tend to be isolated and alienated from each other,” Lagattuta said, “whereas dolphins are very pod-oriented. If we dance on land like dolphins swim in the oceans, it can lead us to flipper consciousness. In flipper consciousness, you find a natural ‘being-ness’ and a highly sociable flowing stance toward the world. You realize — it’s OK to relax and just be.”

Lagattuta has been performing her solo piece, “Inside the Whale,” across Europe. On Jan. 25, she was joined by visual arts film student Maya VanderSchuit, music student Kevin Zhang and four dancers to stage her most recent work, “Cetacea,” to a packed house at the Calit2 Black Box Theater on UCSD campus.

From the high ceiling, hanging delicately down to the floor, were two circular curtains of transparent tulle fabric. A relaxing strain of metallic computer music, composed by Zhang, wafted through the hall. Behind the sets on the Vroom bank of linked computer monitors, two black-and-white films of Lagattuta dancing underwater over the reefs in about 12 feet of water near The Marine Room at La Jolla Shores were running, side by side. The current swirled debris, like eel grass, as Lagattuta danced with a large piece of seaweed and a cellophane-like plastic sheet, over the rocky reef below.

In front of the films, which were shot with a waterproof camera by La Jolla native VanderSchuit, Lagattuta and her four dancers moved slowly and gracefully to the music, displaying a tai chi-like flowingness. Sometimes they assumed deep yoga stances or sat in half lotus meditation postures. Lagattuta’s next dance, “The Human Body Time Machine,” is set for April 12-14 in the Forum Theater on campus.

• A two-part show, illustrating the decline of the world’s coral reefs, happens 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 in the Reconfigurable Media Lab in Calit2 Theater in Atkinson Hall. The first part, conceived by Jacob Sundstrom and Anthony Vine, called “Erasure,” is a large-scale multimedia immersive experience featuring photo-mosiacs of coral reefs and accompanying percussion sounds by Fiona Digney. As more and more people enter the viewing space, the reef images and percussion distort and break down; as people leave, things reconfigure. Both processes symbolize human disturbance of reef ecosystems.

The second event, “Hearing Seascapes,” created by vocalist Lauren Jones and computer music student Eunjeong Stella Koh, takes place in the SunCAVE virtual reality (VR) space. Viewers will use a joystick to dive a coral reef and hear different sounds along the reef.

• On March 15, “Trapped in the Clouds, Pondering the Night,” by composer Robert Blatt and sound artist Jon Paden, will be shown. Blatt & Paden will use a 4K high-resolution camera to film the sky over UCSD, then project the results onto the Vroom computer display wall.

“The image that will form is akin to a reflection pond,” Blatt said. “Visitors will have the ability to instrument themselves and fish in the pond with electrically modified fishing poles with a microphone and a camera on the end of fishing line where the hook should be.”

• On April 19, “Deep Listening: Rhythms, Vibrations and Voices from the Ross Ice Shelf,” is planned. Last winter, Glenn McClure went on a 40-day exhibition led by SIO researcher Peter Bromirski to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Their team retrieved seismometers buried in the ice. The data from the seismometers, along with field recordings of the ambient sounds of the Antarctic made by McClure, was used to create the musical score that will be performed.

• On May 31, a large-scale, multi-movement work by Felipe Rossi and Johannes Regnier, “Wolflilieder,” will be presented. It evokes the themes of the mad Swiss painter Adolf Wolfli (1864-1930), who was famous for combining musical notation, mathematics and mandalas in his paintings. It is said that he even tried to play the music on his paintings with a cardboard trumpet! Stephanie Richards will play live trumpet to projected background visual imagery for this piece.

• This year’s Ideas Performebes conclude with a dance directed by Elisabet Curbelo Gonzalez, who also composed the music. Veronica Santiago Moniello will dance while wearing a new breed of sensors that will feed information from her changing heart rate and body chemistry to the computer, thus altering sounds being played electronically.

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