Moving Bodies: Two humanities/engineering pilot projects

Annamaria Carusi of MHS and Claudia Mazzà of the Faculty of Engineering and Insigneo have collaborated on two exciting and innovative pilot projects, bringing together humanities and engineering perspectives on different aspects of movement.

Making things through movement explored the creative, socially beneficial and therapeutic benefits of working with and through movement across disabled and abled communities. On this project, supported, by the Faculty of Engineering as part of their outreach events, we worked with cultural theorist and choreographer, Nicolas Salazar Sutil (University of Leeds). The project brought together disabled participants with different levels of paralysis and previous exposure to dance, collaborating with a dancer and choreographer to explore and extend the experience of embodiment, through movement, narration and music. Motion capture technology was used to produce a visualisation of the processes through which movement was collaboratively explored. The topic that organically emerged from the participants’ interactions is pain, and this video shows a performance that developed from the collaboration. It was, however, the process of working across arts and humanities and engineering, with active input from our participants, that made this project particularly rewarding for everyone involved. We aim to extend it further to explore how motion capture technology can augment the experience of movement for people who have limited movement.

The Little Dancer project brought us to the Sainsbury Visual Culture Centre, where Degas’s bronze has been on loan for the past year. Together with Boris iseman (Visual Culture Theorist at the University of Copenhagen) and Lisa Alcock (Engineer, University of Newcastle), we used eye-tracking and motion capture to test how dancers and non-dancers interact with the sculpture. In this project, we are interested in the relation between movement and vision, and whether different experiences of movement (such as having a long training in classical ballet), would result in a different way of relating to the sculptural depiction of a ballet dancer. As with the previous project, we are also interested in how we can gain a deeper understanding of movement and vision through the different perspectives of arts, humanities and engineering. We are currently exploring options for an ongoing project that will allow us to analyse fully the large amounts of data we have gathered.