Ĭichti@ is an interactive live/cyber dance performance and installation, where your senses are exposed to an ecstatic, climatic, orgiastic encounter with our extended bodies. Addressing the objectification and oppression that society puts on the body, together, we use the power of dance to fight, liberate, and heal.
Our movements are translated through a vaginal EMG muscle sensor, which then activates the installation and affects lights and visuals within the environment. The ritual is a celebration of the nourishing power of the sun, where the sensual force of its rays is channeled through our pelvic floors. As a viewer, you become part of a sensorial journey that transcends our physical, spiritual, and digital worlds.
celebrating and channeling the sun
dancing around the bonfire
liberating our bodies, together
dancing around the bonfire
liberating our bodies, together
Picture by Gert Jan Van Rooij
This project was created and performed by sWitches (pamela varela, Ines DeRu, ella hebendanz )
in collaboration with:
Concept, Technology & Presentation: Marlot Meyer
Dance, Performance & Dramaturgy: Fazle Shairmahomed
Costumes, Wearables & Styling: persophino
Technology: Lucien Nicou
Sound: "Vesnianka" by mala herba (zosia hołubowska)
Projected Video Footage: Adam Centko
Ĭichti@ serves as a medium to demonstrate net-ktar,
an interactive / cybernetic / performative system,
which was realized with the support of the
Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie - Digital Culture Grant Scheme.
Ĭichti@ was presented at and supported by COME ALIVE, an immersive exhibition focusing on pleasure activism and the power of eroticism, created by curators Morgan Catalina and Ine Gevers: Niet Normaal Foundation
Special thanks to Georgina Pantazopoulou, Tim Schuetze, Maarten Keus, Lars Dorren, Emma Grima, Leo Scarin & Viv Li.
Software: Ableton Live, Arduino IDE, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere Pro, AutoCAD, TouchDesigner
Media: textiles, mirrors, metal structure, vinyl floor, carpet, video footage and projection mapping, music, spot and LED lights
Media: dance/performance, video footage and projection mapping, music, spot and LED lights with DMX, wearables and electronics (EMG muscle reader, vaginal and skin electrodes, Arduino and ESP32 microcontrollers, batteries, mirror plexi glass, textiles)
Software: Arduino IDE, ESP-NOW, TouchDesigner, Millumin
Media: dance/performance, live video footage and projection mapping, music, spot and LED lights with DMX, wearables and electronics (EMG muscle reader, vaginal and skin electrodes, Arduino and ESP32 microcontrollers, batteries, servo motors, TENS electric muscle stimulation, green screen, mirror plexi glass, textiles)
Software: Arduino IDE, ESP-NOW, Arduino IoT Cloud, TouchDesigner, VPN LogMeIn Hamachi, OBS, Twitch
Ĭichti@ is inspired by the rituals of the Summer Solstice and Midsummer festivals. The longest day of the year has been celebrated throughout history, often by dancing and singing around bonfires, which symbolize the sun, to channel its energy and ensure a supply of light for all life. In some traditions, people gather in architectural structures, such as the megalithic stone circles like Stonehenge, or the Mesoamerican pyramids like Chichén Itzá, because these spaces were built following the movements of the sun, and a perfect alignment culminates during the solstice. Interestingly enough for our research, there have been certain traditions in Europe where a figurine of a witch is burned alongside the bonfire, to “protect” the community against evil spirits and “witches”, a consequence of the medieval witch hunts which finally is starting to disappear.
The sound used in this video and in the installation is a collaboration with sound artist/synth witch mala herba/zosia hołubowska, which emerged from a magickal alignment where they wrote to us to connect, mentioning their enthusiasm for our practice and proposing us to create something inspired by the track. Our research during the creative times of Ĭichti@ was focused on spring and summer rituals, and mala herba brought this piece to us in a moment where we were looking for the sound of our dance. The combination of voice and percussions compelled us immensely, and we chose to dance to these sounds. The track recounts a Ukrainian spring rite called “Vesnianka”, and it was originally published on a HÖR compilation to support people in Ukraine.
The overall concept of the work, including the three modalities, was made in collaboration with Marlot Meyer, an Inter (Active | Net) - Multi (Media | Disciplinary) - Artist using technology to as a tool to illustrate the already existing, often unseen natural forces and connections around us. Together, we conducted material, aesthetical and conceptual research. We chose to collaborate with Marlot because we admire her practice, in which she has also already explored the elements of telepresence and the web, as well as of movement, transmedia performances, and body sensors. Marlot was present during the whole process of the work, but her participation was most present during the cyber-performance, which was a presentation where we joined our artistic practices and performed together as difgital entities both in the physical space and in the online space. More information about this event will come in the following sections.
Pictures by sWitches
Pictures by Emma Grima
The narrative of the live performance recounts a journey of pain and pleasure, individuality and collectivity, ground and sky, primal and technological, oppression and liberation. All these dualities appear within the piece in a non-linear narrative that portrays the different clashes. A bonfire stands in the middle of the room. Together, we dance around it, channeling and celebrating the sun while collectively activating the fire—our fire. It is divided in three levels of “light”, which symbolize three different stages of transcendence, and which are connected to the three chapters in which the narrative develops.
During the first chapter (ground level), we ignate the fire. We start lying on the ground. We awaken and together, while breathing, we initiate the light. The vaginal muscle EMG muscle reader senses our insides, while we activate it with our breath. This then triggers a ring of light located at the bottom of the bonfire. We when continue to stomp with our feet around the bonfire; the sensor translates our movement, and we build the fire further. The beats are drummy and slow, and all together, we make the light become brighter.
During the second chapter (liminal level), we channel the fire. The ring of light becomes beams of light. Each one of us stands in front of a ray, and this points at our groin, where we have a circular mirror. With the contractions of our vaginas and movement, the color of the beams changes from white to red. We then reflect these beams across the room and towards the audience, subsequently pointing our light towards one another’s groin and creating a constellation, individually enjoy our sensuality, while sharing it. With a mix of voice and drums in the track, we move slowly and snakily.
During the third chapter (sky level), we transform the fire. The beams of light become a projection. A video plays; it is our initiation ritual, a pre-performance we filmed at the beach, where we create a real bonfire and dance around it. This was shot with a camera and a drone. The eye-bird shot projected on the ceiling, recounting the same activity of dancing around the bonfire but at a more primal state, is a sort of tunnel experience between the dualities of ground and sky, past and future. Rhythmic, fast beats play in the music while we dance and let go, affecting the visuals of the projection. Our ecstatic dance triggers our vaginal sensors, which are linked to different effects in TouchDesigner, distorting the image and creating a psychedelic visual.
We created this narrative with the guidance and mentorship of Fazle Shairmahomed, an artist, dramaturgist, and choreographer creating decolonizing rituals, performance art, and dance. Their work is rooted in ancestral work and intersectional activism. Their movement practice focuses on the heart as a space of feelings and emotions, and the hara (energetic point close to the genitals) as a source of strength and rootedness, and in the relation these both share connected by the spine. We dance to liberate our bodies, using these two forces to do so and triggering the piece by our oppressed genitals.
By physically training, we explored our connection to our own bodies, as well as our relationship with one another. We learnt how to develop movement together through vulnerability, letting-go, “open-bodyness”, and trust, finding ways of healing for trauma and pain from the stories of our ancestors and sharing our struggles to, then, through trance and dance, achieve a state of transcendence in which our politicized bodies don’t exist anymore.
For Ĭichti@ and net-ktar, we collaborated with Persophino, a designer rooted in protective gear. We worked together in the creation of our costumes and electronic wearables. Through the process of these pieces, we wanted to express our own individuality yet sharing a collective textile and material language; therefore, we began researching our personal symbolic backgrounds, characteristics, and insecurities of our bodies, while finding a common ground.
Enmeshing with our concept, we explored and embraced the aesthetics of the rave, the ritual, the artifacts of tech, and us as warriors—all through bodywear—and how they could be translated into wearables. In parallel, we had to delve into embracing the electronics as an essential part of the bodywear, by creating an undergarment with a double function, covering the lower body and holding the electronics as close as possible to the body. It also had to be suitable and comfortable to dance with, as well as visually engaging. We were confronted with many difficulties during the process of creating a wearable electronic piece, and as of today, we see this piece as a prototype yet to be further developed.
Picture by Emma Grima
Pictures by Marlot Meyer
Pictures by Emma Grima
The technological system that Ĭichti@ operates with is called net-ktar. This is a cyber-instrument that we created to enable us to connect to our creations using telepresence, therefore, crossing the boundaries of reality and virtuality, and building a relationship between these spaces for our performances. Both live and cyber performances use the same components in activating the space; however, with the cyber-instrument, we are able to connect to the web, automating our machines, sounds, and visuals from a distance, be it a few meters to a thousand kilometers.
The term net-ktar is inspired by the words “connect”, which is the act of bringing together, “nectar”, which is a sugary fluid secreted by plants and, in Greco-Roman mythology, the drink of the gods, and by “network”, which is a system of interconnected members. The k indicates disruption, inspired by the Spanish squatting scene OKUPA and by magick, differentiating itself from performance magic. The pronunciation brings rhythm to our tongues.
We live in a technological era—a time where devices can bridge us into different spaces and places, realities and virtualities. Though, as we are currently facing changes within our societies, the implementation of digital spaces has also driven us further into isolation from our physical encounters. Our aim as creators to contribute to the conversation currently held within the digital culture sphere was to develop a tool that supports the medium of cyber-performance. During the last couple of years, humans have explored a range of different ways to interact and have encounters. Navigating from fully-physical spaces to fully-digital spaces, we sWitches realize that the future of our society relies on hybrid encounters. net-ktar is a cyber-instrument that captures (bio)data from bodily inputs to be sent online and offline, activating digital and physical environments anywhere in the world. We are able to transmit data from our bodies, cross the boundaries of reality and virtuality, and build a relationship between these spaces for our performances. Through the use of sensors, computers, microcontrollers and routers, we are able to connect to the web, to then automate our machines, sounds, and visuals from a distance, be it a few meters to a thousand kilometers. It is a tool that enables us to control our installations and engage with our audience from anywhere in the world, to everywhere in the world.
Ĭichti@ and net-ktar are an investigation of hypothetical ways of connecting and reconnecting as sexual beings in these uncertain times, expressed in an artistic manner. The choice of merging the very-tactile act of sex with the intangibility of the Internet comes from our fascination of the cyber-sex and camming cultures. As young people living in the times of a pandemic that pushed us to transport all our activities into the digital realm, we saw ourselves exploring these contemporary ways of intimacy. In camming performances, it is common to use a device that translates the tips of the watchers into sexual stimuli for the performers. We are fascinated by how this device can bridge people’s actions and reactions in a physical way, through digital means. The media we explored for net-ktar (vaginal muscle reader, moving image, online platforms, and performance) is inspired by the camming performances, but we then question who is stimulated nad who stimulates, who is controlled and who is the controller.
We collaborated with Lucien Nicou and Marlot Meyer to develop the technologies for Ĭichti@ and net-ktar. Lucien, a young designer passionate about light, sound, objects, space, electronics, mechanisms and the link between them, created a system that we were able to use both during the performance and the cyber-performance. It is based on a TouchDesigner patch that connects our three vaginal sensors (plus their respective wireless ESP32 micro-controller) to the LED strip, the three spot lights, and the projections. For the cyberperformance, we added a VPN connection that allowed us to affect the same technologies from the distance. This is the main system we used for net-ktar. During our research, we found another interesting method to use telepresence and affect our creations from a distance, with the use of the Arduino IoT Cloud, an online platform where it is possible to connect Arduino-supported devices through the web. Marlot conducted this research and, by merging our concepts with her own concepts, created a system where we would electric-muscle-stimulate through the movements captured by our vaginal muscle reader and sent to her. Subsequently, the shocks produced on her body would make her move, therefore activating an accelerometer on her core, which would then move the mirrors in the room and reflect our beams of light around the space without us being there, replacing our physical presence.
This chain of feedback interactions symbolizes for us the network of sXsterhood we dream of. By means of technofeminist actions, we infiltrate a space that was born from war and patriarchy: the Internet. The four of us, FLINTA* people (Frauen, Lesben, intergeschlechtliche, nichtbinäre, trans und agender Personen) working with technology, see it urgent to create new ways to interact with and through the Internet, ways where we are more present, less isolated, and more bodily connected.
Pictures by sWitches
Technology: Net-ktar System
Net-ktar was created to interweave and integrate multiple realities of connection and communication. During the live and cyber performances, we used the same components; however, there were some slight di erences in the system.
Vaginal contractions / pelvic oor movements are read through a Myoware muscle reader and sent to the computer through ESP-NOW. Each one of us wears an ESP32 sender on the body, so three in total, which all send data wirelessly to one single ESP32 receiver which is connected to one computer placed in the space. This works via a TouchDesigner patch. The narration of the performance is divided into three chapters in which the data from the sensors is used to manipulate di erent light sources. First chapter: each of us activates 30% of the color of the led strip, arriving at 100% with all our strengths merged from contracting our pelvic oor muscles. Second chapter: each of us changes one beam of the three spotlights from white to red. Third chapter: each of us a ects the video projection with a different visual effect.
We are all in di erent physical locations. The vaginal contractions / movements are read through a Myoware muscle reader and then sent to each of our individual computers via ESP-NOW. Our three computers are connected to the one computer positioned in the room with the installation through a VPN network which is activated via a TouchDesigner patch, from a distance. Each of us has one ESP32 sende and one receiver in our individual locations, which connect wirelessly via ESP-NOW. The computer in the installation room does not have an ESP32 receiver, instead it receives the data from the Touchdesigner patches internally. In this iteration of the performance, we focus on chapter 2, thus manipulating the spotlight / beam colours, as well as the video projection. Instead of the installation video on the ceiling, there is now an online stream via Twitch and OBS projected into the dome of the installation. We are performing in di erent locations in front of green screens which we individually record and send via the system to a joined stream. With our vaginal contractions, we change the color rays of light from white to red. Additionally, we electric-muscle-stimulate Marlot with our vaginal contractions, which makes her move because of the small electric shocks. Her movement is tracked by an accelerometer, which a ects the mirrors in the room. These re ect the lights, replacing our physical presence.
We used Twitch as the platform to stream the live video and OBS as the visual composer and the receiver of video data from the IP addresses of all the performers. We shot the live videos with our phones and sent them to OBS using vdo.ninja, an online platform with which one can remotely send video material into OBS. We sent our live videos directly to the computer connected to the projector via the Internet, which was running OBS. In OBS we were able to detect and remove the green screen in the video footage, allowing us to make a visual composition with the four of us in the same screen space. What appeared in the projection on the ceiling of the installation was the live stream that was broadcasted on Twitch at the same time.
sWitches to Lights:
Using the same system as the physical performances, we used ESP-NOW to send data from the vaginal muscle sensors to TouchDesigner. These values corresponded to the activation and manipulation of each light from each chapter within the timeline. For the live performance, the values were communicated directly from each ESP-32 sender to the one ESP-32 receiver in the room. During the cyber-performance, we used VPN Hamachi to create our virtual private network in order to send and receive data from a distance. The host of the network was the computer that was in the exhibition space running the TouchDesigner patch and detected all the IP addresses and received all the values. Each of us had our own computer running another TouchDesigner patch that would capture our values with a ESP-32 receiver, so still using ESP-NOW, and directly send them to the main computer in the exhibition space.