Motion Bank at Hochschule Mainz

Florian Jenett
Apr 8, 2018 · 7 min read
Overlay of 21 versions of the solo choreography “No Time to Fly” by Deborah Hay (still image of a video), made during Motion Bank’s first phase of work with The Forsythe Company in Frankfurt. Deborah Hay later used the overlay-video as starting point for a new choreography for the Swedish Cullbergbaletten called “Figure a Sea”.

Continuation of research into annotation systems and methods

Piecemaker is a web-based application originally developed by the dancer David Kern for annotating video recordings of the creation process of new works of The Forsythe Company (from 2008 to 2014), recording video and dramaturgic notes simultaneously during rehearsals and automatically linked the two. With Piecemaker additional information added to recordings goes beyond the limitations of video to capture and communicate concepts, thoughts and intentions, which often play a key role in contemporary dance. In 2017 Motion Bank was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to investigate in the possibilities to preserve and study the extensive rehearsal archive that was created through the use of Piecemaker by The Forsythe Company. In the course of this research, Motion Bank was able to explore the unique possibilities of the material for dance research and to demonstrate solutions for long-term preservation, automated data analysis and software migration. Since Motion Bank took over the Piecemaker application in 2011 and continues to develop it today, the findings from the review of the software’s origins are supporting Motion Bank’s future research work.

View of Piecemaker 2, showing a video with the corresponding annotations next to it and a blank form beneath to enter new annotations.

New team and facilities at Hochschule Mainz — University of Applied Science

Professor Florian Jenett brought Motion Bank as his research project to Hochschule Mainz in 2016. It is now part of the Institut Designlabor Gutenberg of the Communication Design Department and has joined the digital humanities network mainzed. Motion Bank is now being co-directed by Jenett and Scott deLahunta (Professor at Coventry University / UK, Senior Research Fellow at Deakin University / AU), who has been researching and testing the digital methods and interdisciplinary approaches to dance documentation, creation and study for many years and directed Motion Bank in its first phase with The Forsythe Company. His associations with artists and researchers world wide form an essential part of the Motion Bank network.

Motion Bank team on the terrace of the Motion Bank facilities at Hochschule Mainz (from left to right): Florian Jenett, Scott deLahunta, Anton Koch, Ronja Butschbacher, David Rittershaus. Christian Hansen is missing. Photo: Vanessa Liebler.

Upcoming projects and research

Motion Bank is looking forward to a range of upcoming research projects and other related cooperations. Together with the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University and the Motion.lab at Deakin University, Motion Bank is developing a concept for an International Dance Data Network (supported by the Aventis Foundation) that would support the further collection, management and sharing of dance related data (videos, annotations, documents, motion capture data) in a decentralized way. In a three-year collaboration with the sports science institute of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, Motion Bank is exploring the possibilities of digital tools and methods in the context of dance in school education. For the #digitanz project Motion Bank is developing digital tools and researching their use within dance classes, as well as investigating the possibilities of video annotation for both the students and ethnographic approaches of the researchers. In summer 2018, Motion Bank will begin a collaboration with two other major cultural institutions of the Rhein-Main area: the art gallery Kunsthalle Mainz and the tanzmainz ensemble of the Staatstheater Mainz. A new choreography of tanzmainz and its creation process will be captured and translated into the digital realm. The choreography and the related data will then serve renowned visual artists as inspiration for the creation of new works. In a final exhibition in 2019 the choreography, the open data and the artworks will come together in the art gallery.

Preview of Piecemaker 3, Workshop at Codarts (Rotterdam) in March 2018

Motion Bank

Research from the Motion Bank project

Florian Jenett

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Professor at Hochschule Mainz, Co-Director of Motion Bank

Motion Bank

Research from the Motion Bank project