Volumetric Performance Toolbox (Valencia James with Thomas Wester, Ben Purdy, Thomas Newlands, Sorob Louie)

Rapid Response Fellow
2020 – 2020

Valencia James is a Barbadian freelance performer, maker and researcher interested in the intersection between dance, theatre, technology and activism. She believes in the responsibility of artists to reflect socio-political issues and in the power of the arts to inspire change. Since 2013 Valencia has been researching the application of machine learning to dance and how artificial intelligence may change the future of performing arts. She co-founded the AI_am project and in 2015 presented the project at TEDxDanubia, TEDxGöteborg, as well as the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires and the International Symposium of Electronic Art in Vancouver. In 2016 she presented the project at the Gothenburg Science Festival and at Brain Bar Budapest. AI_am premiered their first evening-length work in Budapest and Gothenburg in October 2017. Valencia holds a BA in Modern Dance from the Hungarian Dance Academy and has worked with choreographers such as Ian Douglas, Yvette Bozsik, Zoltan Grecso, Maureen Whiting and Portsha Jefferson. In 2012, Valencia was invited by Wim Vandekeybus to participate in his research program at the world-renown Ultima Vez Dance Company in Brussels. Valencia won the 2014 Viktor Fulop and danceWEB Scholarships, with which she was able to study at the ImpulsTanz Festival in Vienna that year. She has performed widely in Hungary, Romania, France, Israel, Sweden, Argentina, and Canada. After a decade in Hungary, Valencia is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Her  work will be supported by the expertise of creative technologists Thomas Wester, Ben Purdy and Sorob Louie.

Rapid Response Project

By reimagining the use of computer vision and machine learning, traditionally used for mass surveillance, James, Wester, Purdy, and Louie propose a new online venue for live dance performance to be experienced by a virtual audience of real people from diverse backgrounds. With the future uncertain for large gatherings and high-contact activities, this project provides a safe alternative with new opportunities for positive social impact. In Phase 1, they will figure out how to represent human performance in the virtual realm in a way that does not erase or replace the performer with an avatar. This project reimagines immersive web spaces as a site for addressing the need for more equitable representation of humans in mediated performance.