Hand-drawn Spaces (1998;2009)

Hand-drawn Spaces is a virtual dance installation by Merce Cunningham, Paul Kaiser, and Shelley Eshkar that presents a mental landscape in which motion-captured hand-drawn figures perform intricate choreography in 3D. Created in 1998, it was recently designated a “masterwork” by the NEA, which provided funds for its full restoration.

In Hand-drawn Spaces, the virtual dancers appear as life-size drawings emerging from the darkness and moving in an apparently limitless three-dimensional space. Though the dancers are visible on three screens, they move through a much larger virtual area, and so travel in and out of projected image, often traversing the spectators’ space. The spatial sound-score by Ron Kuivila evokes their positions in space, making their presences felt even when not seen.

The 2009 restoration increased the resolution of the image and added a spatial 5.1 score, designed and recomposed by the original composer, Ron Kuivila.

For a more detailed account of the background and making of Hand-drawn Spaces, see the catalogue essay for Ghostcatching Steps.