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Video performance in collaboration with Olivia Robinson

Negotiations is a project that explores cross-cultural communication and interpretation. Over a period of two years Daniela Kostova and Olivia Robinson developed an interactive system that utilizes blue screen video techniques as a tool for manipulating human bodies moving through unknown environments. The system has been performed in three distinct public environments: Sardinia, Italy, New York City, USA and Sofia, Bulgaria. The first public performance of Negotiations took place in Sardinia, where a prototype of the system was deployed. Through the extended performances in New York and Sofia we further developed the system.

As both a conspicuous costume and virtual assimilation act, each performance has fostered the development of a site-specific story. Recurring themes that emerged from the performances include: estrangement and integration; cultural economics of “authority”; placidity of legality, territory and ownership; and mediation of experience. The hand-held monitor which displays the “negotiated” video in real-time becomes the focal point, allowing relationships to form during performances and highlighting the double-consciousness of cross-cultural communication.

The Negotiations system uses readily available computer and surveillance technology to create the real-time video. Two characters embody the system, an Alien (in blue) and an Authority (in black). Each has a video camera which is linked to a computer embedded in the Authority’s costume. Custom software composites the two video streams to create a negotiated final video. The resulting imagery is solely from the Authority’s point of view wherein the Alien has been replaced with her or his own point of view. The Alien carries a small monitor where s/he and passers-by can view the final video as it is being created. The Authority rarely takes her camera off of the Alien, the surveilled subject.