'Written on the Body'
Dancing on the ceiling
By Sarah Loat
Birmingham's Planetarium is usually the place to view solar systems and astronomy films, but artists Leon Trimble and Lisa Wetton are the first to screen an experimental 360 degree art film.
Stills from the film 'Written on the Body'
Birmingham VJ and video artist Leon Trimble has teamed up with Stoke choreographer Lisa Wetton to create a unique 'screen dance' to be shown in Birmingham Planetarium.
Screen dance is an art form that joins multimedia artists together with dancers and choreographers - and it's capturing the attention of artists worldwide. Leon and Lisa received a grant from the midlands arts scheme 'Fracture' to see how they would respond to the challenge of making new, unique screen dance.
"Here in the West Midlands our artists are actually making work for all kinds of installation spaces; galleries; cafes. It's about taking the screen and extending it." says Fracture Project Manager Rebecca Owen.
Artists Lisa Wetton and Leon Trimble
"Lisa and Leon have gone one step further and taken it to a planetarium, and this is the first ever occasion when artists have been commissioned to make work for a planetarium – it's unknown territory and really exciting for the West Midlands."
The Planetarium has a dome-shaped screen and viewers recline in a chair to watch the action happen above and around their heads.
"There's not much creative stuff going on with planetariums, except maybe 3D animation, " says video artist Leon Trimble "the dome of the planetarium was the inspiration for how our film would look.
"I used a fish eye lens on a stills camera and morphed between the stills to create movement and also built a camera array of six CCTV cameras bolted together so everything gets filmed at once.
An array of six cameras used to produce one image
"It all gets pasted together and when it's projected in the dome everything is strangely, suddenly alright. It's exciting to see it up there and when it’s on a loop it'll work really effectively."
The film, titled Written on the Body, is a combination of choreography and dance and 360 degree filming technology. The dancers leap and move freely across 360 degrees, it's impossible to see everything at once as the action happens all around your head.
"It was a massive learning curve for me in terms of the choreography, it’s new and its not been done before. It's totally experimental and new ground, it's very exciting." says Lisa Wetton the choreographer.
A still image from Written on the Body
"The choreography comes from my work ethos which is based around instinct, creativity, spontaneity and movement coming from within.
"The dancers had to get their heads around the idea that they would be moving around the camera rather than the camera pointed directly at them. Choreographically I feel we've just begun to scratch the surface of what is possible."
Birmingham's Planetarium at Thinktank is the UK's first purpose-built digital Planetarium. There are now eight other digital planetariums in the UK, showing educational films about the night sky.
Lisa and Leon watch their film in the planetarium
"People haven't yet explored all you can do with planetariums and very few people have tried art," says Planetarium Manager Mario Di Maggio "Leon and Lisa have a pilot project and hopefully they'll get funding for something bigger.
"There are international contests to encourage people to create more. We've suggested that Lisa and Leon enter the DomeFest competition in New Mexico. Even if they don't win a prize they will get international recognition.
"Astronomy is a staple part of what we do here at the planetarium, but here at Thinktank we encourage more genres. So many people are enthusiastic, particularly as it’s a new medium. Thinktank are willing to experiment, and Leon and Lisa's film is a first for us."
last updated: 04/10/07