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New Work: Fifth Wall App

Video preview of the Fifth Wall app designed by Abbott Miller.

The pages of 2wice, the performing arts publication designed by Pentagram’s Abbott Miller, have always provided a unique and innovative venue for dance. Now Miller has designed “Fifth Wall,” an interactive app for 2wice that transforms the iPad tablet into a new kind of performance space. Created in collaboration with the choreographer Jonah Bokaer and 2wice publisher Patsy Tarr, the app takes advantage of the unique spatial and physical parameters of the iPad.

In the app, Bokaer engages with the edges of the iPad screen, and the viewer can interact with the performance by moving the tablet. To create the performance, Miller and his team built a box with the same proportions as the iPad. Bokaer was filmed performing within the box, engaging with the edges, jumping from the corners, and sliding down the sides. In the finished app, as users interact with the iPad, the performance responds to the movement of the user, flipping when the screen is turned, or changing when the surface is swiped. Technologically innovative, the app makes use of the accelerometer in the iPad, the device that rights the screen to the proper orientation of the viewer.

“Fifth Wall” is now available for download from iTunes. The app is featured in this Sunday’s edition of The New York Times.

The title of the app/performance is taken from the concept of the “fifth wall”—that performance spaces now extend beyond the “fourth wall” of the theater and are potentially present everywhere in the form of screens. The app positions the tablet as the space for a new kind of performance that literally puts the dance in the hands of the audience, allowing for direct engagement with the piece. The performance responds to the movement of the user, flipping when the screen is turned, or changing when the surface is swiped. The app is highly interactive and can be manipulated by the viewer: images may be scaled up or down, line up in a series, arranged in a mosaic, or viewed in an infinitely receding perspective. Through it all, Bokaer continues his dance, moving in the viewer’s hands.

Bokaer’s work often involves gravity and degrees of motion, and “Fifth Wall” gives him the opportunity to examine these themes in a new way. Miller and 2wice previously collaborated with Bokaer on “False Start”, a print issue that presented a performance in a flipbook-like succession of images. Bokaer also danced in 2wice’s first app, “Merce Cunningham Event” a tribute to the legendary choreographer.

2wice has always envisioned itself as an alternative space for dance, one that has the advantage of being a permanent record of a highly ephemeral art form. 2wice has a tradition of commissioning and recording performances for the publication––staging dances to be photographed, sometimes creating new pieces, sometimes recording existing ones. This approach continues with “Fifth Wall,” and Miller and Tarr look forward to commissioning future performances for specific forms of media.

Project Team: Abbott Miller, partner-in-charge and designer; Kristen Spilman and Andrew Walters, designers. Development: Eddie Opara, partner-in-charge and designer, Frank LaRocca, Hunter Cross and Ken Deegan, developers. Produced by Patsy Tarr/2wice Arts Foundation. Choreography by Jonah Bokaer. Video direction by Ben Louis Nicholas. Sound by Jared Hutchinson.