The Welcome Genome Campus is a global hub of institutes and industry in genomics and computational biology and the most unlikely place to find Wayne McGregor- a choreographer, who for two decades has been exploring linkages across dance, cognition, mathematics and neuroscience.
McGregor had his genome sequenced in order to turn the data into dance. He extracted twenty-three artefacts from the data and converted them into choreography. These choreographic passages, or ‘volumes’, reflect the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that contain the human genome, and the essence of the unique human self. At every performance of ‘Autobiography’, a new combination of volumes was randomly selected, so that no two performances were alike. This shuffling of imaginative components imitates the multiplicity of paths and choices that we all encounter at every instant in our lives.
‘Autobiography’ incorporated artificial intelligence as part of the work McGregor is doing with Google that explores how advanced machine learning can create an organic archive that mimics his past choreographic steps to see if a machine can predict the next step. It will be a living asset in dance that incorporates the past as it peers into the future.
I visited Studio Wayne McGregor at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP). His studio is located at a former press and broadcasting centre built for the 2012 Olympics in East London that now plays host to startups, sport companies, technology firms and academia. Loughborough University has just opened an inspiring postgraduate campus at the QEOP and the restless and insatiable curiosity of Wayne McGregor is richly intertwined at the campus. He recently filmed his ballet ‘Atomos’ using state of the art facilities of one of his new housemates-BT Sport, and the dancers all wore wearable technology developed by another Olympic Park resident.
University College London (UCL) has also established a new campus called UCL-East at the QEOP where McGregor has lectured on architecture and robotics. McGregor believes that creative imagination is impossible without colliding different sorts of intelligences in one place. For McGregor potential is not inside the repertoire of what a dancer already knows but resides in working with-out the scaffolding of the things they have already mastered. He does not take a dancer from the known to the unknown. His defiance has the potential to unravel both the Piagetian and Vygotskian views of learning. It is not a process that places the dancer in the zone of proximal development- a field of knowing between what a learner can do independently and what can be achieved with the support of an expert. It is more about- unlearning and going beyond your cap-ability.
Potential is where anything is possible- inside the unknown; it is, in the environment. It is the masquerade that makes Minshall- not the other way around. It is the work that makes the wo/man. These radical ideas are gaining footing in places like ‘Second Home’, which offers cross-disciplinary co-working opportunities in London and Lisbon and ‘Pioneer Works’ in Red Hook, Brooklyn that provides free space for creators across the arts, science and technology. Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence is an area that is fast becoming an area of academic inquiry and of commercial concern.
Parisian booksellers are feeding video footage to algorithms to scrutinize facial expressions for hesitation, dismay, surprise and dissatisfaction. Angus.ai is piloting its software with Aéroports de Paris, LVMH, and Carrefour- a chain of hypermarkets. In London software from ‘Realeyes’ revealed that smiling customers spent a third more.
The race is now on to capture intelligence from emotions and to bestow on brick and mortar retailers the advantages conferred on online sellers. Emotions-data help improve packaging, displays, music and the content and timing of sales pitches. ‘Lightwave’ is measuring shoppers’ emotions for firms like PepsiCo and Unilever.
iMotions in Copenhagen works with Nestlé and Mondelēz International at mock-up stores and live locations to generate eMotions data. While humans may ‘edit’ verbal responses to rationalise and mask their purchases; ‘VideoMining’ is tracking the unconscious things they do. Dance and body language are new research frontiers.