Feel HEaR SEEcret an interdisciplinary performance work created and performed by Katherine Duncanson, Susanna Hood, Nilan Perera and Jim Ruxton. Presented by hum dansoundart/twitchLIMBic at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Opens tonight (Thursday, October 10) and runs to October 20, Wednesday-Sunday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $20, stu $15, matinees pwyc-$10. Rating: NNNNN
When he was in engineering school, Jim Ruxton had no idea that one day he'd be designing and performing in the way-out-there world of experimental theatre.But the double Dora Award-winning designer is currently putting the finishing electrodes on the interdisciplinary show feel HEaR SEEcret, as well as limbering up his voice and body to perform in the piece.
"One of the things we wanted to do was make sure we're all seen as performers," says Ruxton about his collaboration with artist Katherine Duncanson, dancer/choreographer Susanna Hood and musician Nilan Perera.
"Often technical people get shoved into a corner," he laughs. "But the electronic design is part of the creation of the thing."
For the show, Ruxton's created a muscle-detection system that takes electrical signals from muscles, amplifies them and turns them into digital signals to control lights.
He himself will be wearing a distance sensor that sends a radio signal to a computer, drives an audio sampler and controls sound. Cool.
Ruxton, who worked for two years designing satellite communication devices -- "I wasn't interested in helping build better missile-seeking radar systems" -- before applying to the Ontario College of Art and Design, says the OCAD experience regenerated his mind and brain.
While film work currently pays the bills -- he's designed his fair share of countdown timers on big and small-screen bombs -- what excites him about live performance is creating things that allow artists to extend their bodies.
"When you strap yourself into some of these systems, you get the sense that you're bigger and larger, you move outward," he says.
"It's like that cliché of the butterfly flapping its wings and affecting the weather somewhere across the world."
Ever the engineer, Ruxton imagines using similar technology to build a system for dance clubs that would allow you to control lights or sound by moving your body. He's also patented a new lighting system that can deliver a low-cost way to control light colours.
While his work is a combination of art and science, he explains that even with creative freedom he still needs discipline.
"Without discipline, a show might literally go up in smoke."