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Merce's Isosurface

2009 | Golan Levin remixing Merce Cunningham + OpenEnded Group

Merce's Isosurface

Four artists Brian Knep, Golan Levin, Casey Reas and Sosolimited were invited to independently re-purpose Merce Cunningham's dance performance data into new digital forms. The source of the data was the LOOPS project (2001-2008), a digital portrait of Merce Cunningham by artists Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar and Paul Kaiser. Motion capture information of Cunningham's performance has been released as open source data by the Cunningham Foundation and OpenEnded Group (the artists organization) for this purpose. The LOOPS project is funded by the LEF Foundation; the four remixes were commissioned by the 2009 Boston Cyberarts Festival.

Merce's Isosurface (2009: Golan Levin remixing Merce Cunningham + OpenEnded Group) returns a mortal coil to the disembodied datapoints of Merce Cunningham's LOOPS performance. Here, the digitally captured coordinates of Cunningham's fingers and knuckle joints are used to structure a smooth field of simulated energy. The result is a twitchy, fleshy blob, animated by Cunningham's own movements, which dances in the liminal territory between pure abstract form and medical information visualization.

Merce's Isosurface (Excerpt) from Golan Levin on Vimeo. [Silent]

A video fragment showing Merce Cunningham dancing (with his hands) in the motion capture system is shown below. (Courtesy OpenEnded Group)

Additional Resources
A collection of screenshots of Merce's Isosurface can be found in this Flickr photoset.
Complete source code for Merce's Isosurface is available in this download. This is an openFrameworks project compiled in the free CodeBlocks IDE.

Credits and Acknowledgements
Software, Art, Remix Concept: Golan Levin
Motion capture data: Courtesy OpenEnded Group and Cunningham Foundation
Mocap parsing code: Lucas Walter, Bioviewer
Metaball code: Andreas Jnsson, Angelcode
Mocap file conversion: Moshe Mahler, CMU Graphics Lab
Developed in openFrameworks.
Commissioned by the Boston Cyberarts Festival, 2009.
Many thanks to George Fifield of the BCF, and to the other artists involved.


  • PixelAche Festival. Kiasma Art Center, Helsinki, Finland. 3/2010.
  • Vantage, Archer Gallery, Clark College, Portland, Oregon. 1/2010.
  • Loops Exhibition, Boston Cyberarts Festival 2009, MIT Museum, Boston. 5/2009.

Merce Cunningham, OpenEnded Group, Loops, hand gesture, hand dance, fingers, hands, motion capture, gesture recording, movement, computer animation, metaballs, implicit surface, blobs, isosurface, software art, remix.

Images (click to enlarge)

Merce's Isosurface Merce's Isosurface