Founded in 1994 by a group of artists working at Richard Foreman’s
Ontological-Hysteric Theater, 3-Legged Dog spent nearly 20 years as an itinerant experimental troupe. In 2006, the company opened the 3LD Art and Technology Center in Lower Manhattan, and now produces most of the work shown at the new venue.
“Many of our more recent projects surround and immerse the audience in moving image and sound,” explains Kevin Cunningham, the center’s executive artistic director. “In fact, for the last four years the only people who have used our 240-seat riser system to front-ally present a performance have been short-term corporate rentals.” Cunningham says that artists working at the company’s space tend to “break up the presentational barriers between a watching audience and a performing stage company, creating a more casual and intimate but much more profound relationship between the art and the audience.”
Cunningham’s favorite example of this kind of work is Kurt Hentschläger’s Zee. In the piece, the audience enters into a 1,200-square-foot airtight space that curls with fog so dense that it’s impossible to see where you are or who is standing beside you. “A deep thrumming sound is present, vibrating the room, the fog and the viewer,” Cunningham says. “Suddenly, large, very bright strobe lights begin to pulse through the layers of fog and the viewer is very actively hallucinating extremely bright, complex, geometric multidimensional shapes, reportedly very much like heavy mescaline hallucinations but without the cognitive disorientation or euphoria.”
The effect, Cunningham claims, cannot be documented. He calls this kind of work “biometric” or “biopsychological” interactivity. “It will become more and more integrated into the audience experience as technology continues to develop.”
The story of 3LD and technology does not stop there. The company has delved into all kinds of new areas, including developing a method of high-resolution video mapping on moving objects that allows for live camouflaging and other envelope-pushing performance techniques. In the coming year they will work on a project with the Emotiv Electroencelography interface to actually control multimedia cues with human brain activity. “In essence, the stage manager or director will literally think something, and the entire stage will blossom into image, color, light, sound and motion,” Cunningham says—then went on to joke that it might be unethical to allow actors this kind of control.