EMPAC - Recursive Frame Analysis



The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | Troy, NY


Recursive Frame Analysis

by Mark Fell
with choreography made in collaboration
with Brittany Bailey and Burr Johnson
Performed by Brittany Bailey and Burr Johnson

Argeo Ascani - EMPAC Curator, Music
Ian Hamelin - Production Coordinator
Daniel A. Swalec - Lighting Supervisor
Eric Lin - Lighting System Engineer

October 08, 2015 | EMPAC Theatre


Returning to EMPAC after his 2013 multi-venue installation and performance, British artist Mark Fell presents Recursive Frame Analysis, a new work for light, sound, and human movement. As with many of Fell’s previous works, Recursive Frame Analysis emphasizes highly formalized aesthetic strategies: arrangements of intensely saturated light, raw synthetic sound, disrupted rhythmic structures, and kinetic systems that urge the audience to their perceptual and cognitive boundaries. 
Taking its title from a therapeutic technique (RFA) developed in the 1980s, Recursive Frame Analysis refers to the cognitive patterns around which behavioral relationships and interactions develop; typically these are thought of as “stuck” and therefore also somehow problematic. The frame in the case of this performance could refer to the semiotic or the phenomenological.

The work engages with and responds to vocabularies of shapes developed by New York-based choreographer and dancer Brittany Bailey.

“Recursive Frame Analysis” by Mark Fell was commissioned by EMPAC / Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.”

text and logo from the EMPAC website
Recursive Frame Analysis by Mark Fell featuring dancer Brittany Bailey and Burr Johnson.
photo by Kris Qua courtesy of EMPAC


About the Artists:

Mark Fell is a multidisciplinary artist based in Sheffield, UK. He is widely known for combining popular music styles such as electronica and techno with more academic approaches to computer-based composition, with a particular emphasis on algorithmic and mathematical systems. As well as recorded works, he produces installation pieces, often using multiple speaker systems. He started his career in the ’90s house and techno scene as one half of electronic duo SND and released The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making earlier this year on label The Death of Rave.

Recursive Frame Analysis by Mark Fell featuring dancer Brittany Bailey.
photo by Kris Qua courtesy of EMPAC





Brittany Bailey has worked as a dancer/choreographer in NYC since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2008 and went on to train with Merce Cunningham. Bailey has performed with Marina Abramovic, Michael Clark Company, and Robert Wilson. Along with creating performance works for her dance company, Bailey is currently the choreographer on performances with Christopher Knowles, Mark Fell, and a solo dance with visuals by Louise Bourgeois and text by Gary Indiana. .

Recursive Frame Analysis by Mark Fell featuring dancer Brittany Bailey and Burr Johnson.
photo by Kris Qua courtesy of EMPAC




During this residency period, the artist wanted to focus on precise control of Martin Atomic 3000 Strobe lights. These are fixtures that were a part of the EMPAC fixture inventory, and high-powered entertainment lighting fixtures that are available worldwide. Mark had realized that while controlling these fixtures using the standardized DMX protocol for control of entertainment lighting fixtures, the response time from his control software (max) through his DMX converter and into the fixture had a bit of a lag to it. This was an issue with these fixtures and his setup on many occasions prior to the inception of Recursive Frame Analysis, and was a primary concern in the early phases of this project.

During the first meeting about this collaboration between Mark (at this point in the process, a choreographer and dancer yet to be named) it was determined that a different control method would be desired. My colleague, Eric Lin devised a system using a solid-state relay to close a control circuit, after we determined that a manufacturer included the opportunity to trigger the strobe to flash simply by shorting pin 1 to pin 3 of the DMX data input connector.

photo by Daniel A. Swalec





After an initial phase of testing, we determined that the theory worked and control of this relay through the use of an Expert Sleepers ES-3 module that allowed for the creation of control voltage from an ADAT lightpipe input to a coupled DC voltage output.  This DC control voltage would open and close the solid-state relay which would short the DMX pins and flash the strobe light at a surprisingly fast speed.

I later finessed the design and fit the entire system into a euro-rack style enclosure with custom Ether-con to 5-pin DMX breakout connectors sending short circuit bursts to the Atomic 3000 strobe lights in line. The final device was provided to Mark Fell with a custom engraved faceplate sporting his name, the name of the project, and the EMPAC logo.

photo by Daniel A. Swalec 2012





To download a PDF synopsis of my work on this project please click the download button below.




EMPAC | Recursive Frame Analysis | Documentation