The Careful Scientist exercise requires following a small set of joint movement rules which dictate the ways a performer’s arms may move. As part of the rule set no movement that is happening on the one side of the body can happen at the same time on the other side of the body. Because the options are so discrete and constrained, the number of possible action sequences can be calculated. As we have discussed here previously, the movements are limited to: Upper Arm Pointing Shoulder Rotation Elbow Flexion Forearm Rotation With a new action being chosen roughly every 1-3 seconds, there are millions of possible sequences for the first half minute of the exercise. Calculating the number of permutations was useful for giving a…
For the past several months of this project, we have been focused on understanding and deconstructing Thomas Hauert’s choreographic tool, the Careful Scientist. The Careful Scientist is an exercise used by Hauert and his company to develop improvisation skills and encourage reflection on human anatomy and consciousness. The exercise involves a very specific set of four actions on joints in the arms. Working within a set of constraints, the dancer generates sequences of these four actions – an activity which helps to retrain tendencies and develop new possibilities for performance.
As seen in the video above, Hauert establishes the following four actions:
The constraints of this exercise are then to simultaneously execute these actions in the left and right arm, to avoid symmetry of actions in the two arms, and to work towards overlapping motion – adding changes in duration and amplitudes to stagger the start and end time of actions on the two sides.
The exercise can be performed at increasing levels of complexity. Hauert often begins by demonstrating the exercise without the element of overlapping timing – by stopping and starting actions on the left and right sides simultaneously. More complexity can be added to the task by including the legs, knees, and hips while lying in a horizontal position. From performing this exercise, one becomes aware of the bimanual nature of movement programmed into the human body and through practice is able to overcome these tendencies.
The first level of our analysis was to use the motion capture data of Thomas performing the Careful Scientist and apply it to more mechanical, robotic digital models. Observing the Careful Scientist from an outsider’s perspective – this activity seems very robotic, calculated, and unnatural. The robot model was designed so that each of the joints was indicative of the nature of movement it can accommodate and to remove some of that complexity and ambiguity of the human body. This visualization made certain attributes of the actions evident, such as axes and limits of rotation which facilitated a clearer articulation of the rules of the exercise for us as researchers.
An algorithm was then written by graduate research assistant J. Eisenmann to generate the same kind of Careful Scientist data. This data, rotation orientations over time, was similar to that which we had gathered with motion capture. In this step we define parameters of movement based on Thomas’s rules, through code. Processing was used to create the program with the constraints and limited actions of the Careful Scientist exercise and to generate ‘performance data’ comparable to that of a live dancer. This algorithmic data was then applied to the robotic arm models and juxtaposed in this video.
Comparison and contrast of the two highlighted the unavoidable ‘human-ness’ of the motion capture data compared to that which was computer generated. ‘Human-ness’ is used here in a very loose sense to include a several observations:
In reflection, this visualization was a helpful tool in defining the Careful Scientist for ourselves and identifying the inner-body conflicts Hauert seeks to overcome. It could be helpful in explaining the Careful Scientist exercise for new audiences to show the rules on a simplified form such as the robot model rather than a human arm. This tool would not necessarily be conducive for communicating Hauert’s larger themes in his work and goals for movement generation to a broader audience, however.
–Malory Spicer, Graduate Research Assistant, ACCAD
“Inanimate objects have a very clear interaction with forces, a living body like ours can complicate this relationship endlessly.” Thomas Hauert We are now a few weeks into the process of working with our second artist collaborator, Thomas Hauert who was in residence at ACCAD in September along with dancers Sara Ludi and Samantha van Wissen. Hauert is the director of ZOO, a contemporary dance company that performs improvised works motivated by Hauert’s “desire to maximize the creative possibilities of the body in motion and to go beyond the habits inscribed in it…” Rather than emphasizing set choreography, ZOO’s performances privilege the emergent structures and events that evolve in the moment of collective and individual impulse and invention. This kind of work…