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Live After Death

Bill T. Jones and the late Keith Haring collaborate online

By Giancarlo Davis

What do the urban-chic images of Keith Haring, the choreography of Bill T. Jones and a bunch of high-tech multimedia entrepreneurs have in common? The early '80s saw Jones' body decorated with the graphics of Keith Haring (photographed by Kwong Chi). Now, the multimedia company is in the process of recapturing the collaboration, using the same canvas--Jones' body--but with a slightly different medium.

Riverbed Productions--a company of commercial specialists trying, according to Riverbed Media founder Paul Frasier, to "bring visual literacy into the digital world" by working with fine artists and dancers--is in the process of recreating the Haring/Jones collaboration and reproducing it on their Web site. The effort, due out late in the year, shows Haring's paintings superimposed upon a three-dimensional moving image of Jones perpetually dancing onscreen to original choreographed dances.

The idea originated in San Francisco, where Riverbed was working with a firm called Unreal Pictures that had developed a new figure-animation software. "We were (and still are) simultaneously doing a project involving Merce Cunningham and his dancers," Frasier says. "We were interested in working with performing artists and had done work with the Haring Foundation on various things. We explained the project to Bill, who happened to be rehearsing the same time we were out doing our other project. Our idea [was] to have Bill choreograph a dance that would put together these poses." Jones' movements, put into motion by the Haring pieces, were recorded by optical motion sensors attached to various places on his body.

"The movements that Bill had done were very amazing, very Haring-like," says Frasier. "We can map onto his captured digital body the painting that Haring had done originally, and then each of these figures zooms in on a figure, which then could begin a dance itself. You can move from there out into the world of Haring's artwork."

The results can be seen late this year at www.riverbed@riverbed.com. For more on Haring, go to www.haring.com.

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From the June 1997 issue of the Metropolitan

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