Liminal Bodies in Unstable Media: Performance CaptureTechnology, the Performer, and the Gendered Body in Beyond: TwoSouls and The Congress Open Access

Cook, Augustus Walker (2017)

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As performance media increasingly embraces and incorporates digital technology, a new group of digital bodies are taking shape. Drawing from physical performance, computer animation, and the affordances of digital technologies, these bodies have been assembled from a variety of influences. The performance capture process embraces the crossroads between digital technology and physical reality, and is employed to create characters that occupy a liminal status between the physical and the digital.

This thesis argues that the liminal bodies performance capture and digital media production practices construct challenge traditional conceptions of the performer, the author, and the gendered body. In this multitude of production influences, the performance captured body is capable of exploring the nature of digital media production through the direct presentation of its very instability. Rather than attempting to conceptualize these bodies as either digital or real, this project instead contends with the hybrid nature of the performance captured body.

This project explores two primary texts: Quantic Dream's video game Beyond: Two Souls (2013) and Ari Folman's feature film The Congress (2013). These incredibly complex works actively move between different theoretical and production frameworks, employing such a hybridized mixture of animation, technology, traditional performance work and performance capture that making any kind of easy distinction between "reality" and "digitality" becomes impossible. These productions demonstrate a willingness to make audiences aware of the constructed nature of the performance capture by presenting these bodies as assembled and fragmented rather than unified or holistic. This is achieved through the works' employment both of a model of distributed authorship and through their representations of the gendered female star. Acknowledging the multimodality of the performance captured body, both Beyond: Two Souls and The Congress integrate the conflicting sites of control that have constructed the bodies they feature into their own textuality. Both works also employ the historically fraught nature of gendered representation to explore the fraught nature of contemporary digital representations, displaying how creative and technological forces work to manipulate and reshape the body of the performer.

Table of Contents

Thesis introduction.. 1

chapter 1: Quantic Dream: liminal media, liminal bodies, and the possibilites of control.. 9

quantic dream's liminality.. 10

Beyond: Two souls and the sites of control.. 12

The Gendered digital performance.. 17

"Kara:" Performance Capture as a gendered metaphor.. 22

the case of ellen page.. 25

The Complexities of Controlling Beyond: Two Souls.. 29

Existing beyond: A "meaningful" choice.. 37

chapter 2: "the one that used to be the actor:" Ari folman's the congress and the expansion of the star image.. 40

Star studies and digital media.. 43

The production of the congress: models of distributed authorship.. 51

Reality: "This thing called robin wright".. 54

"The Animated zone:" Animators as performers.. 69

the future: The transformation of Audiences and the leveling of performance.. 80

rebirth: the death of the "real" Robin wright.. 86

Conclusion: hybrid Bodies, Hybrid Cinema.. 88

Thesis conclusion.. 90

works cited and consulted.. 93

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