‘The Digital Marionette’ is a collaboration between Dr Donna Hewitt, Dr Paul Smith and Blush Opera. The project proposal was selected for a two week development residency at the Joan Sutherland centre in Feb 2019. The initial proposal is to develop an electronic operatic performance work for two performers.
This piece intends to explore the dominant themes of puppetry and specifically the notion of control and interactions with the body and projection of the voice. The world of puppetry involves a complex hierarchy for the performers and also challenges audiences to consider who is causing what actions to happen, as in a traditional puppet show.
The relationship between the puppet and the puppeteer is always a kind of weird dance. One puppeteer who has been working with his puppet for 35 years says his work has been an experiment with the relationship between him and his puppet. ‘It all has to do with power,’ he says, ‘and who is the boss.’ He says, sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s the puppet.
Our aim is to draw together the media of electronic music, and opera performance practice to consider how the musical and performative overlap can be structured in relation to the concept of puppetry. The artists will explore the use of wearable gestural controllers opening up a modern paradigm for the concept of the puppet, where the data from the movement of the bodies can be used in many ways to control the elements in the performance. The performers can control each other, their voice and the production of the sound and other media elements.
Some early testing of the wearables #1
Some early testing of the wearables #2
Read the following story on the Digital Marionette
Digital Marionette Study I
Digital Marionette Study II
The works present two opposing states or power relationships between the puppet and puppeteer. In Study I we see the puppeteer in control and manipulating the puppet and through moving the body of the puppet the puppeteer is also able to control the sound that is generated.
In Study II we see that relationship inverted whereby the puppet has become aware of its own agency and is able to manipulate the puppeteer through control over the vocal processing of the puppeteer via wearable controllers on the puppets body.