Movement Alphabet - interactive art work combining immersive performance with digital interactive technology to explore how we relate to our physicality.

JAN LEE & TIM MURRAY-BROWNE
Movement Alphabet is a project mapping the way we move our body in our day to day life through algorithmically generated images and immersive one-on-one performance.
As our lives are increasingly lived through disembodied online interactions, the work explores alternative digital representations of an individual. The portraits of Movement Alphabet are sketches of the physical personality of a person: how they move in their everyday life, the lifetime of experiences, choices and habits entwined into every physical gesture. They are intended as writing from the body, carrying the same individuality as handwriting.
Much like how we write, the habitual patterns of movement from our body are ingrained from a mesh of influences. The natural mechanics of our physical selves mix with influence from others – parental instructions to sit up straight, teenage attempts to walk in a sexy way, unconscious mirroring of those around us, and the assimilation of gestures much like we learn language.
It was a curious and serene experience. The immediacy of the memories it evoked and the emotions it raised felt both authentic and nostalgic.
Sridat
Participant at Tate Modern
Movement Portrait of Kenton Hall by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne. The portrait is made up of 9 significant moments from the immersive experience, arranged into a grid. Each shows marks drawn by parts of the body as sensed by a 3D camera through a process akin to a calligraphy of the body. Overlaid on top is the outline of the participant at the moment when the portrait was finalised. Part of Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee & Tim Murray-Browne. Taken at G.A.S. Station, 5 Nov 2016.
Each Movement Portrait is created through an immersive journey with a guide who leads the participant to explore their memories and attitudes of their physicality. During this, the guide selects significant moments to capture via remote control. This communicates with bespoke software that tracks the body using a 3D camera and transforms movements into lines through a process akin to a calligraphy of the whole body. The final image is made of nine moments arranged in a 3×3 grid.
It made me more aware of my body in the moment. It made me feel powerful, happy and relaxed and to want to take time to get that feeling again.
Rosie
Participant at G.A.S. Station
Jan Lee as the guide putting a blindfold onto the participant before leading them on a walk exploring sounds, space, stories and their body. Part of the immersive experience of Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee & Tim Murray-Browne, taken while exhibited at Tate Modern.
Jan leading participant on a blindfolded walk, part of the immersive participatory experience within Movement Alphabet to explore personal memories of movement. Taken while exhibited at Tate Modern
The remote control used by the guide to capture significant moments of the participant's movement. Part of the immersive one-to-one audience experience of Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee & Tim Murray-Browne
Similar to sitting for a portrait, the mapping session is a personal one-to-one experience. The guide leads the participant on a journey of storytelling, arriving into the Interaction Pod, a safe, enclosed space, where she leads them through questions and tasks exploring the different dimensions of their movement characteristics and physical presence. This interactive experience is an invitation to reclaim the full capacity of our physical responses, which may be limited by our daily lives working in a job or living in a culture that codifies and limits our ways of moving.
The imaging algorithm selectively tracks and graphs points in the body over time. It was developed concurrently with the interactive performance through a series of 30 one-to-one workshops with test participants. Through this evolving system, we are constructing a visual language that captures the essence of how a person moves.
Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne. At GAS Station London, audience view of a participant creating their movement portrait within the interaction pod through a process akin to a digital calligraphy of the whole body.
Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne. At GAS Station London, audience view showing a live render of a participant experiencing the immersive performance within the interaction pod.
Screenshot of the pixel-based skeleton tracking algorithm used in Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne. End points of the skeleton are smoothed through a bespoke algorithm to produce the distinctive calligraphic marks of each Movement Portrait.
Each image is in some sense a score of how the person moved during the session. It challenges the disembodiment of our digital lives, instead inviting the viewer to connect to an individual through technology in a more embodied, physical way. We want this movement map to pull you in like a manuscript of ancient hieroglyphic texts might – a language you do not know but somehow can still feel for intuitively.
Movement Portrait of Zoe Radford created at Tate Modern on 28 Oct 2016. Part of Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne. Each cell of the image is created algorithmically using a 3D sensor analysing movement during an immersive one-on-one experience with a guide.
Movement Portrait of Niamh Floody. Created as part of Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne in the immersive digital interactive performance Movement Alphabet while exhibiting at Bucks New University.
After the session, the system prints out the participant’s Movement Portrait for them to keep.
Movement Portrait of John Hale by Jan Lee and Tim Murray-Browne. A1 giclée print, 2016.
I fall and I recover.
John Hale
A1 giclée print, 2016
Outside the pod, the blurred motion of the participant is visible through the walls of the pod. Other visitors see this alongside a monitor showing a live display of the portrait as it is generated.
A Movement Alphabet participant's silhouette is seen from the outside of the interaction pod - Movement Alphabet by Jan Lee and Tim Murray Browne - taken at Watermans Arts Centre
“ Meaning coming from feeling, feeling coming from within, you absorb a massive amount of information, it goes through your whole body, a little bit of it floats up to your head where there is deliberation. You are conditioned by the way your whole body is responding to what is going on …. Everything you know about the world comes to you through your body. ”
Read more in Bill Henson

ANIMATED PORTRAIT

In addition to the installation experience and print series, a series of animated portraits in the studio where the spoken dialogue between guide and subject can be heard as the portrait is materialised.
I realised that I would never have such perfect communication with any creature again, that this, you know, this being two and being one at the same time was so magical, that he was in there, in there… He knew everything that I was thinking and feeling. He just knew. And, that would be lost. And that seemed really sad and I’m tearing up. So all the time you’re in there you know exactly what’s going on, and then… then you’re this totally bewildered starfish thing, like “I have no fucking idea what is going on.” And before I knew exactly what was going on but now I’m… yeah. Knowing everything to knowing nothing, it must be tough.
Kay Scorah
Describing the moment she gave birth, G.A.S. Station, 2 Sep 2016
The full animations may be seen in the Gallery.
“Much like how we write, the habitual patterns of movement from our body are ingrained from a mesh of influences. The natural mechanics of our physical selves mix with influence from others – parental instructions to sit up straight, teenage attempts to walk in a sexy way, unconscious mirroring of those around us and the assimilation of gestures much like we learn language.”

Upcoming Exhibitions

27-28 May 2017
Truman Brewery
London
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Past Exhibitions

28 Oct 2016
Tate Modern
London
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4–5 Nov 2016
G.A.S. Station
London
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12–13 Nov 2016
Watermans Arts Centre
London
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8 Mar 2017
Bucks University
Buckinghamshire UK
7 Jul 2016
Barbican Curious Lab
London
16 Jul 2016
Victoria & Albert Museum
London
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