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Reviewing “Choreografish” for Ground Works

Reviewer commentary by Sydney Skybetter

Under normal circumstances, if I told you that one of my favorite memories from last year was an academic peer review process, you might be reasonably confident of my sarcasm. Too frequently, peer review is a slow, vestigial process designed to preserve critics’ anonymity and mitigate accountability for folks in positions of power. It also has the effect of maintaining notions of expertise tied to “disciplines” defined by gatekeepers, as well as other generally noxious academic traditions. Personally, as an artist without much trust or love lost for institutional systems, I never thought a peer review process could be equitable, galvanizing, and productively interdisciplinarily. a2ru Ground Works and “Choreografish” showed me just how shortsighted my cranky lack of imagination really was.

The “Choreografish” submission to Ground Works presented the project as a choreographic intervention in the tradition of artists like William Forsythe: a means to commingle contemporary virtual reality technology with choreographic pedagogic technique. In conversation with Lise and Veronica, what became gradually clear was that the project description belied the depth of its roots; it was in effect the culmination of a much longer genealogy of dance, notation, encodement and citational practice. The “Choreografish” proposal was convincing, if conservative. Our role as reviewers became less about articulating any deficits of the initiative, and more about how to resource the project so it could reach its full exponential potential. This spirit was contagious, and—without imposition—inspired my fellow reviewers and I to function less as detached, neutral observers and more like collegial, collaborative partners.

“Choreografish” thoughtfully applies choreographic practice to virtual reality, work that will no doubt shape dancerly engagement with the digital for years to come. What was most inspiring about the project was how it bravely braided strains of expertise that too rarely come into contact. It’s a first that I believe will originate new classes of embodied engagement with computer science generally and virtual reality specifically. As such, it is worth recalling that “Choreografish” is coming up and gaining traction not through a traditional, orthodox peer review process, but through a2ru, and by way of a growing community that thrives in slippery interstices. “Choreografish” is thus a doubly hopeful venture, in that it represents both powerful project work and a review process that aims to embolden inspired oddballs with novel ideas for a better embodied future.

Sydney Skybetter was a “Choreografish” reviewer, and is a subject expert on choreography, human computer interfaces, mixed reality systems

Publication Date:
July 27, 2021