SEED was developed over the course of six months and performed March 4th and 5th, 2011 at the University of Georgia Cellar Theatre. The first few months consisted mostly of concept work and a fleshing out of environment design and interactivity. After the groundwork was laid, I began to program the performance interactions in Max/MSP/Jitter and begin to realize them physically with the addition of an Arduino microcontroller. Due to departmental regulations and limited storage space I had to construct the set in the two weeks preceding the performances and load it in the week before. Those last two weeks were the toughest, as I had to build, direct rehearsals and fine-tune the technology all in the same time span. The production of all of these elements simultaneously presented several issues, but I found that creating them also helped to unify the aspects of the performance as each informed the others aesthetically and conceptually.

Somnicorp website

  SEED is an interactive performance piece designed to interrogate the way contemporary society interfaces with its environments, and especially the ways in which individuals digitally interface. The “seed,” developed by JSR Lunar Seed Development Corporation, is a civilization startup kit that was planted on the moon as insurance for earth apocalypse. The seed contains everything physical and psychic; it is all that is known to a prototype lunar community of unknowns. The performance consists of a group of short scenes where the performers and their mediatized representations experimentally search the seed’s ethereal content for answers about thier place in the universe.

  SEED coursed through several conceptual incarnations before settling into its final destination. The project originally revolved around a seed stage object that contained all the necessary elements for the repropagation of human civilization. The seed’s processing core was going to compile a large databank of life’s building blocks, and during the performances the audience would digitally extract and discover these building blocks interactively and the performers would give them life. I underestimated the girth of information and comprehensive explication required for such an undertaking; the whole of civilization cannot be wrapped up neatly and performed in a timely manner. The spirit of a generative environment remained, allowing for the introduction of forces initiated by audience members. A new community came to life, one still in the process of revealing its foliage and developing its roots.

  The interactive electrical devices used in SEED really only scratch the surface of the Arduino’s ability to control physical computing environments. The Arduino’s use in the production serves its purpose well, but was originally meant to involve a large cache of physical effects. Subsequent productions would add some of the interactive elements that I cut for this version due to time limitations, such use of DC motors to articulate set pieces. Nevertheless, the physical effects utilized in the performance, as limited as they were, still remain effective, and although the technology is not all that new, I have not found documentation of any previous performances that have used the combination of an iPad with Max/MSP/Jitter and the Arduino system.

  The use of video and animated media in SEED was designed to serve as non-diegetic supplements to the live performance. The media’s contextual separation from the dialogue and narrative (such as it was) was an attempt at creating a believable circumstance for the performance. The show was advertised as a production put on by the faux corporation Somnicorp in coordination with our faux institution JSR Lunar Seed Development. This set up allowed for an immersive production experience, one that ostensibly was not produced by a conventional theatre organization. This experience establishes expectations that the performance will conform to its own laws and structures, not to those of conventional narrative theatre. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan stated that “The main obstacle to a clear understanding of the new media is our deeply embedded habit of regarding all phenomena from a fixed point of view.” .

  The choice to utilize abstract triangular shapes was heavily informed by my reading of Buckminster Fuller’s Humans in Universe. In this text and several others, Fuller outlines the strength and integral nature of the tetrahedron, which he believed was the strongest homogenous geometric building block. In fact he believed that the universe was composed entirely of these pyramidal shapes.

  Every scene had a physical problem. The simplest and most aesthetically effective method was to become in tune with the geometry and composition of the environment. We established a rough structure for vector-based movement and composition, wherein appendages became projections from the core to create shape and mimic the basic Euclidean geometric objects.

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Justin Roberts 2012