Optics-based Immersive Performance Event, Chimera

Do Young Kim, College of Engineering

Collaborators: Yuchen Wu, Stamps; Okyoung Noh, Stamps; Chien-An Yuan, local independent composer; S. Jean Lee, choreographer and lead performer; Doyeon Son, poster designer

Faculty Advisor: Malcolm Tulip, Associate Professor, SMTD

Chimera is an immersive movement-based sound-optics-focused performance installation, in collaboration with AAPI Performance Collective IS/LAND, which will be premiered in Duderstadt Center Video Studio in April 2024.

By definition, a Chimera is ‘an organism composed of mixed genetic tissues’ but also, when applied to science, a goal that is ‘that is hoped for but is illusory or impossible to achieve’.

Both of these definitions apply to the experiences of AAPI women — how their experiences and complex life identities are vilified and simplified by the white supremacist patriarchy, but more so, how their achievements are also subject to the glass ceiling, with aspirations and dreams made impossible by existing social standards.

Is it possible for AAPI women in this country to fully integrate into the fabric of Western society, or will they always be subjected to being othered? Can AAPI women in solidarity, as connected foreign debris, evolve into a new creature – a Chimera?

This performance then confronts and questions these two conceptual definitions through an immersive sound/optics environment. It is divided into two scenes.

The first scene is inspired by the idea of mixed cells and genomes from different species. The performers wearing different colored fabrics will be merged, dispersed, and re-connected as the microscopic movement of the cells. It will visualize the desperate effort to fit in American fabric as AAPI females – foreign cells.

The second scene will celebrate the temporary/illusory creation of Chimera. By creating a space where movement intersects with propulsive electronic sounds while enveloped by light, Chimera creates a space for AAPI women to liberate themselves from societal constraints and fully embody their complex life experiences—as both a form of exaltation and transformation, converging into an apex of ecstatic catharsis.

The performers wearing the irregularly connected, monstrously shaped fabric will visualize Chimera. The projection backgrounds for Chimera will consist of optical imaging created and selected by me, exemplifying the cellular transformation of AAPI women through the performance experience.

Project Background: As an Optics student, I have been deeply interested in optical microscopy and spectroscopy in cellular studies. Also, as an amateur videographer, I have worked with AAPI performers to visualize their resilient power through their live movement.

In both realms, I have been interested in lens-based images for a long time, where I can capture “movements,” and more specifically, the activeness of entropic and negentropic lives – such as their movement to survive, compete, violate, conform, cooperate, and disunite. Visually capturing these living beings is how I have approached the images of lives from diverse perspectives.

Further, an in-depth conversation with IS/Land performers and my partner who identify themselves as AAPI females and femmes inspired me. I thought a lot about how the microscopic world of living cells resembles our living society. I wanted to contribute to the visualization of their struggles and survival.

I want to make an experimental theater where AAPI performers’ movements are combined with microscopic imaging of their live cells. I am interested in the visual narratives and effects that this project can yield. I hope this project can expand our understanding of movements and lives as an extension of the microscopic world.

Project Timeline: The project will be completed in the following phases:

Phase 1: Recruiting of extra dancers, Duderstadt Center Video Studio application (December 2023)

Phase 2: Rehearsals (January–March 2024)

Phase 3: Performances (April or May 2024)