“I fell in love with the 'ever-changing nature' of the real-time interactions, and the live act of collaborating with dancers offers more unpredictable possibility. Every time we are on a stage we create a new piece.” -Réka Harsányi
In this piece of art, the stage is the womb. Birth, envisioned by Réka Harsányi, is a choreographed performance in which the dancer interacts with the circle of the LED “light uterus” surrounding her. Dóra Ida Szücs (the performer) is hooked up to a series of different bio-feedback sensors (ECG, pulse, etc.), which then directly control the visual and audio elements of the performance.
“For most people, the idea of returning to the womb is an out-there Freudian tenet, but for Réka Harsányi and Dóra Ida Szücs, two Hungarian artists interested in biofeedback, the womb is the perfect setting for their experimental dance performance, Birth, which explores how the body can be used to communicate without words” (Buffenstein, Alyssa. 2016. Stunning Biofeedback Performance Returns a Dancer to the Womb).
It was a performance that evolved organically, both from her other works and throughout the process of creating it (Harsányi, R. May 17, 2016. Email Interview). It is described as the telling of an unseen story, and is essentially an artistic ultrasound, a vison of the place we all existed within in the human body. This piece came together in about two weeks, which was extraordinarily short in comparison to her other pieces (generally 4-12 months).
With this piece, she grapples with the idea of existence. During the process of creating the performance, Ida introduced her to the novel I Gave Up Before Birth by Samuel Beckett, and that became the inspiration for the piece (Harsányi, R. May 17, 2016. Email Interview). Here is a piece of the excerpt she included in her writing about the work:
“I gave up before birth, it is not possible otherwise, but birth there had to be, it was he, I was inside, that’s how I see it, it was he who wailed, he who saw the light, I didn’t wail, I didn’t see the light, it’s impossible I should have a voice, impossible I should have thoughts, and I speak and think, I do the impossible, it is not possible otherwise, it was he who had a life, I didn’t have a life, a life not worth having…” (Beckett, Samuel. I Gave Up Before Birth).
The influence of this is evident in the piece. She creates the juxtaposition of self-awareness and innocence by placing an adult within a womb, and explores understanding of the human body and experience with movement and response. She experiments with breath, pulse, and communication through the back and forth dialogue created by the sensors and the artist. This, in turn, encourages the viewer to explore their own sense of existence, and reimagine the idea of birth as something that can be recreated through a series of actions and reactions.
Another comparable piece by Harsányi is Ego-World, which debuted about a year earlier. She cites this particular performance as an important contributor to Birth, and believes this played a large role in the eventual end-product. This piece is another bio-feedback performance piece, and took about a year to complete (Harsányi, R. May 17, 2016. Email Interview). This work used pre-recorded macro shots of the human body, sounds bits generated by Harsányi, and live performance to create a re-envisioned experience of the human body. As stated by Harsányi herself, the piece is a powerfully stimulating experience, and led to the more subdued nature of Birth. She felt that in Ego-World, it was all just “too much”, which drew away from the live performance and made the piece less impactful on a whole. So, when she went about creating Birth, she decided to “simplify” and concentrate only on the signals produced by the dancer (Harsányi, R. May 17, 2016. Email Interview). The result is a much more refined and impactful experience. It shows the evolution of her work towards new ideas, and the exploration of similar ideas in new ways.
Another comparable piece is Amy Karle’s Biofeedback Artwork. This is another experiment in creating art through technology, and using the human body as part of the medium. In this instance, she uses a Sandin Image Processor to create visual from the electromagnetic energy emitted by her body. In this piece, she uses existence and the movement within the human body to create visuals of that which cannot be seen, just as Harsányi does in Birth. She brings into question our understanding and visualization of consciousness, and attempts to create something that can be seen and understood from something that cannot. The ideas of this piece run parallel to that of Birth (and Ego-World, by extension), as both sit at the intersection of technology, art, and the understanding of our own “humanness”.
Connected Bodies Team- https://connectedbodiesteam.wordpress.com/
Harsányi’s Vimeo- https://vimeo.com/harsanyireka
Amy Karle’s Vimeo- https://vimeo.com/amykarle