Ascenders & Descenders is a typographic reinterpretation of Merce Cunningham's dancing hands as recorded by OpenEnded Group for the Loops project. The piece cannot exist without the feeble words that huff and puff to make sense of Merce's work. It is, in a sense, a Cunningham dance work reconstructed from textual deconstructions of other Cunningham dance works. Each finger has an associated excerpt from an article, review, or essay on Cunningham from the last five decades. These texts become the ink with which each finger manifests its movements. Each text is dynamically typeset in three dimensional space along the curves traced by his fingertips.
The software keeps track of various movement parameters which it uses to modulate aspects of the visualization such as letter size, camera position, angle, and zoom. Merce not only dances the dance, but becomes typesetter and cinematographer, conducting the audience's view of the dance. In Cunningham fashion, the piece forgoes narrative development for a series of chance operations that determine one of three views onto the movements as well the current finger being tracked.
We felt that the use of computer graphics warranted new views onto - and into - the movement, radically different than those seen on a stage or even on a video recording. Speaking about his work, Cunningham says, "In classical ballet as I learned it, and even in my early experience of the modern dance, the space was observed in terms of a proscenium stage, it was frontal. What if, as in my pieces, you decide to make any point on the stage equally interesting?" What, from the outside, appear to be subtle manipulations of the hands become a beautiful tangle of diving flocks and waterfalls of letters. Presenting dance in this way, we hope to get closer to the experience of the dance from the inside out.