Jeanine Breaker

Regarding Preservation of Nuance: Movement Analysis with Hindsight

Exciting advances in visual communication for understanding and simulating human movement (motion capture, eye-tracking, body-scanning and digital image-capture) are rapidly replacing the traditional methods of art practice and pedagogy such as life drawing. However, is this new technology adequate replacement for the nuances of highly skilled traditional perception? Can these new tools actually diminish our ability to perceive and simulate subtle gesture? As practitioners increasingly rely on computer models with decreasing movement-analysis training to scrutinize elaborate movement analysis tools such as motion capture, we are led to believe that the mechanics of the software and the models provided within them are high quality resources. Although practitioners confer such technology with great expectations of accuracy and benefit, much of it is only in the early developmental stages.

Research at University College London suggests that, “we may be in the midst of a sea change in the way we think…. We now expect to take in information the way the net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles… chipping away the capacity for concentration and contemplation.” As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960’s, media are not just passive channels of information.
They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. If ‘the process of thought’ is being shaped into perception with less fluidity, it stands to reason that the critical ability to perceive, simulate and scrutinise fluidity of movement is likely to decrease with each generation of learning and teaching.

Movement and structural detail are perceived in very different parts of the brain. The research described in this chapter aims to bridge that cognitive gap by simultaneously stimulating both perception of movement and identification of structure. Informed by the heuristics of thirty years of visual art practice and pedagogy, a modicum of ‘key-frames’ based on a Muybridge-style movement sequences were selected to articulate extreme moments of balance negotiation. ‘Transparent’ key-frame drawings were created that depict specificity of the skeleton and musculature at key anatomical landmarks as though seen through the skin, without one layer obscuring another. These ‘transparent’ key-frame drawings describe the nuances of balance negotiation within the movement stream during and between critical temporal moments. The core of the research and output is visual – emergent from a fusion of new technology and traditional tools – with the aim to provide the individual with enhanced resources that reveal the anatomy of human movement.

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