Hand-drawn Spaces – a virtual dance installation by Merce Cunningham, Paul Kaiser & Shelley Eshkar; Ghostcatching, a digital art installation fusing dance, drawing and computer compositions by Paul Kaiser, Shelley Eshkar, Bill T.Jones

Dance and the Computer- Paul Kaiser

Digital artist Paul Kaiser (OpenEnded Group) is a pioneer and a world expert in motion-capture digital art. Outstanding in the field of computers and dance, his collaborations with Merce Cunningham (BIPED), Bill T Jones (Ghostcatching), and Wayne McGregor (Stairwell), have become landmarks of the digital dance field.1Kaiser has worked alongside fellow digital artists Shelley Eshkar and Marc Downie for many years.

Around the mid-eighties, he became fascinated and inspired by the idea of ‘drawing as performance and mental space’, whilst teaching students at a school for the ‘learning disabled’. Observing their drawing process and its relationship with time, Kaiser noticed how the pictures evolved: developing in stages, they could be amended or viewed from different perspectives at any point in time.Over a number of years, this led to Kaiser experimenting with digitizing the process of generating drawings and sound, eventually developing his ideas to include space (3D). Kaiser asked the question: could he enter the drawings and move around inside them? Continuing to develop the theme, he worked with computer programmers to produce the computer-generated, hand-drawn effect pictures that he wanted.4

In 1997, Kaiser and Eshkar collaborated with Merce Cunningham to make Hand-Drawn Spaces, a dance conceived purely for the computer, to explore the ides of motion-captured hand-drawn figures performing elaborate choreography in 3D. In return, the following year, Cunningham asked him to collaborate with designing and making BIPED, a full-length ballet which also featured mocap-based animation and live performance combined in a groundbreaking way.5

From 2001, Kaiser worked with Merce Cunningham to create Loops, an abstract digital portrait of the iconic choreographer. Loops is derived from a motion-captured recording of Merce Cunningham’s solo dance for hands and fingers. Recreated in various forms, with Downie and Eshkar, Kaiser exhibited a new version of Loops at the Pompidou Center in the summer of 2018.6

Janet Randell © Cedar Dance Animations Limited 2019

Loops, a dance solo by Merce Cunningham featuring the motion captured movement of his hands, developed by Paul Kaiser and the Open Ended Group.


For more information see: http://openendedgroup.com/



1 P Kaiser, ‘After Ghostcatching’, Proceedings of Corporeal Computing: A Performative Archaeology of Digital Gesture, University of Surrey, School of Arts and Department of Computing 2 – 4 September 2013, [Online presentation] http://www.ias.surrey.ac.uk/workshops/corpcom/ (Accessed 20 June 2018);
M Downie and P Kaiser, [website] www.openendedgroup.com (Accessed 20 June 2018);
2 P Kaiser, ‘STEPS’, ‘Steps’, OpenEndedGroup [Website] Writings: Steps 1999, [Online essay] http://openendedgroup.com/writings/steps.html (Accessed 20 June 2018)
3 P Kaiser, ‘STEPS’, ‘Steps’, OpenEndedGroup [Website] Writings: Steps 1999
4 P Kaiser, ‘STEPS’, ‘Steps’, OpenEndedGroup [Website] Writings: Steps 1999

5 P Kaiser, HAND-DRAWN SPACES, OpenEndedGroup [Website], Works: HAND-DRAWN SPACES, [Artwork, commentary and extracts] http://openendedgroup.com/artworks/hds.html (Accessed 20 June 2018);
P Kaiser, ON BIPED OpenEndedGroup [Website], Writings: ON BIPED 1999, [Online essay] http://openendedgroup.com/writings/onBiped.html (Accessed 20 June 2018)

6 P Kaiser, LOOPS, OpenEndedGroup [Website], Works:Loops VR (2017) and Loops (2001 – 2011) http://openendedgroup.com/artworks/loops.html

The Fusion of Digital Technology & Dance