Render, a senior dance concert, will include multimedia forms in its exploration of everything from humankind’s growing reliance on technology to the final demise of the universe. The show will shed light on concepts of permanence and impermanence through artistic experimentation this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Created by College senior Miryam Coppersmith, who is majoring in Dance and Creative Writing, Render is set to center on the scientific theory of the universe’s “heat death.”
This theory predicts the eventual end of the universe through constantly increasing entropy. College first-year Savannah Crespo, a dancer in the show, said that Render’s cast will “[take] analytical scientific concepts and tur[n] them into embodied movements,” creating a fresh perspective for students and community members interested in both science and art. In addition, the thought-provoking, interdisciplinary piece will utilize projected visuals and live electronic music.
Coppersmith has worked rigorously with Render’s cast and crew for the past four months to develop the show, but the impetus for Render began with an experience that dates back to Coppersmith’s high school chemistry class. She said that, at the time, a realization about the law of increasing entropy caused her to have a “version of a singularity” in which the “only thing that existed [ for her] was the classroom.” She went on to say that this response was her way of coping with the implications of entropy. This incident colored Render’s production.
Render will include influences from the emerging field of cybernetics, which attempts to understand how humans communicate with one another and, in turn, how artificial intelligence might fit into our world. Coppersmith was deeply inspired throughout Render’s development process by the writings of Norbert Wiener, a founder of the cybernetics movement. Render will incorporate Wiener’s ideas, including his notion that “our use of technology and our increasingly entropic universe are very interrelated.”
Coppersmith and her team of dancers choreographed moves that demand interaction with live electronic music and visualizations. Crespo, who has vast experience in social dance but had never taken a technique class before her first semester at Oberlin, said that the most intriguing thing about Render is not “the challenge [ for] the dancers, but the number of codependent layers that comprise the show.” Although the subject matter of Render may be labyrinthine, its material is posed in an artistic manner. College senior Dan Laufer, who works on modeling black holes with Professor of Physics Rob Owen, saw a workshop of the piece at the end of last semester and commented that it is “well thought-out; … [it’s] quite dense in the ideas … but playful in how it is communicated to the audience.”
Laufer was fascinated with how the dancers drew parallels between the idea of increasing entropy in physics and specific references to human history. Render’s title has a triple meaning for Coppersmith. For one, it means to cause, be or become; secondly, it means to represent or depict artistically; and, lastly, it means to melt down. All three of these meanings will reportedly factor into the show.
Render will be Coppersmith’s culminating performance at Oberlin. She plans on continuing her dance work after graduating and is interested in getting involved with film. She expressed deep gratitude to her cast and crew, inspirational choreographers Liz Lerman and Meg Stuart and visual artist and cyborg activist Neil Harbisson. Coppersmith encourages Oberlin students and community members to attend the show “because it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.”