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  • Puppet Experimental Project (Free Application Full) >> Details

Puppet Experimental Project

Venue:Bopiliao Historic Block Performance Hall
Free Application >> Full
20:20 ENCORE 

Artistic Director:Wen-Hao Huang
Project Producer:Chieny-Ying Lu
Artistic Consultants:Su-Chun Wu
Technical Consultants:Yi-Ping Hung
Choreographer:Ho-Wen Hsiao
Performer:Ho-Wen Hsiao、Ray Shih、Anny Huang (Puppet)
Technical Supervisor:Wei-Yuan Lin
Puppeteer:Ray Shih
Puppet Designer:Hui-Min Chiang
Computer Programmer:Chun-Kai Hsieh、Shih-Yao Lin
Structure of the Puppet:Jeng-Yan Lin
Dress Designer:ZEIGARNIQ
Music:Han-Yu Liao、Shu-Hui Hsu
Stage Manager:Jiun-Da Ju
Technical Staff:Yueh-I Chiang、I-Lan Liu
Executive Producer:Chih-Han Liao
Visual Designer:Yi-Chung Liu
Photographer:Ui-Lin Wang


A motion capture system visualizing performer’s movements from Liyuan opera, a type of Chinese opera originating in southern Fujian province, forms the backbone of this artwork. The artwork attempts to explore the peculiar relationship between puppeteer and puppet. Through interactions between the puppet, puppeteer and technology that simulates, represents, configures and reconfigures movements, the system creates an eco-chain where human manipulates technology, technology controls puppet, and puppet influences human, thereby revealing how the manipulative energy at multiple dimensions triggers external change to the environment.

Traditional opera (Liyuan opera) postures were chosen since traditional opera music is governed by a particular tune system and follows predictable musical patterns. A large part of traditional opera movements is mimicry. Take Liyuan opera for example: There are 18 posture families. Most are imitations of everyday gestures or a marionette’s moves. Strict adherence to norms and generations of refinement has produced stylistic beauty of a unique kind, creating stereoscopic and delicate visual effects. Removing the “plot” elements, movements are cut out and become an independent creative vocabulary that helps combine machine, imagery, sound, shading, plastic art and real-person performance.

uppetry has long maintained sisterhood with other opera types. Do opera movements mimic puppetry, or the other way round? After generations of continuation and evolution, scholars from related fields have failed to find a true answer. This artwork, for the sake of the twenty-first century, includes a technology element and explores how a techno-puppet comes into a trans-temporal encounter with a real person in reality. The immediacy of technology and the passivity of puppet may generate confrontation but also convergence. Along with the interaction with a real person, this artwork creates a juxtaposition of dialogues involving both reality and virtuality, and an evolutionary unity of craftsmanship, performance and technology.

This artwork is a techno theater for Taiwanese traditional aesthetics. Performance takes the form of combing digital technology with stage performance, involving both opera and dancing. Using postures and theatrical elements from Liyuan opera, and leveraging contemporary technology, modern design and the latest costumes, a real person performs side by side and interactively with the digital techno-puppet. One person and one puppet make up the main characters. Supporting cast is not limited. Onstage stand the person and the puppet pulling each other, presenting their desire to control the other side and making audience subjectively believe that it is the person that is triggering the puppet. Incidentally, however, they also find out that the person is also subject to the puppet – a predicament often at play in interpersonal relations. Behind the images of two pulling each other, the person and puppet become hardly distinguishable. Performance is accompanied by two musicians playing Nanguan, a classical Chinese music type, with a dongxiao (a Chinese flute) and pipa (a traditional Chinese string instrument). The artwork is a groundbreaking performance involving a machine-controlled puppet and a real person. With the digital techno-puppet performing elegant moves in peculiar but beautiful coordination with the real person, the two still pull and confront each other. Postures and dance moves are especially designed for the coordinated execution by the puppet and the person, giving audience an eye-opening visual experience.

The inter-disciplinary nature of digital art performance is shown in the use of diverse materials and presentation styles. Throughout the creative process, the artwork garnered expertise from artists, engineers and executors from a wide range of industries. Conventional single-minded creative concepts and patterns had to be broken to allow more communication and coordination for the purpose of research , development and creation.

Taking “puppet” as its starting point, this artwork triggers the collective memory of both adults and children. Apart from song and dance, puppet is the other “species” for art creation in performing arts. Coupling with “manipulative” and “imitative” techniques, it evolved into the traditional puppet opera seen in every culture. Arriving at the age of the Internet, simulated cartoon figures become endorsors for various commercial products or simply turn into business opportunities. By intervening in the real consumer world with virtual “idols”, people continuously create “puppet” to incarnate humor, joy and desire that cannot be achieved otherwise in reality.

Artist-developed control technology is more delicate than those designed for industrial purposes, hence the selection of the most sophisticated and refined Liyuan puppet as the starting point of the experiment. It poses both great challenges and high thresholds. Such control technology proves highly practical for the automatic control industry. Industrial application may be possible.

Developing “manipulation” and “mimicry” technology, and taking “puppet” and “performance” as the starting point, a complete and reliable mechanical puppet-controlling system and supplementary software has been built. The performance will serve as a demonstration of the initial results.

This artwork comprises onstage motion capture technology and “performance”. A complete and reliable software system has been developed to caputure movements of a human body real-time, which is then used for the final presentation of an interactive performance. Image-based motion capture allows the performer to carry as little sensing equipment as possible, lest the performance become unnatural. Once motion curves are captured, possible applications including those in illumination, audio, installation and mechanics.

Technology comes in two parts::

  • Part I : A motion capture system capturing and recording the physical movements of the performer.
  • Part II : A mechanical puppet-controlling system recording the movements of the puppet, which is attached to mechanical strings.

Technical details are as follows:

  • Image-based onstage motion capture: Motion capture targeting invisible light colors. Applied onstage, it enables real-time motion capture and performer-puppet interaction.
  • Motion vector recording format and communication interface: Motion pre-recording, coupled with a motor power system and a TCP/IP communication interface.
  • Mechanical and kinetic-structural design of techno-puppet: The kinectic structure enables each motor to trigger its own MCU. Multiple structural corrections can be performed. Structural design has been finalized.
  • Puppet making: Puppet completed.
  • Motion capture equipment design and making: Given the stage conditions, infrared and visible light cameras are used alternatively. Data is transmitted wirelessly.
  • Onstage movements defined: Collaborations with choreographers Xiao Ho-wen and Wu Su-chun have helped confirm the motion scope and motion patterns of the mechanical structure.