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Up Pen Down


Théâtre la Balsamine (9-10-2017 → 13-10-2017)

Up Pen Down is a research based on the encounter between digital typography and choreography. By transforming the code into physical movement the project traces the borders between the practice of choreography and programming. From 9 to 14 of October, in the frame of Saisons numérique, the research will take the shape of a commented performance. After five days of preparation, a print party will happen on Saturday 14 at 8pm.

Up Pen Down est une recherche basée sur la rencontre entre typographie digitale et chorégraphie. Par un processus physique de mise en mouvement du code le projet trace des ligatures entre partitions chorégraphiques et programmation. Du 9 au 14 octobre 2017, dans le cadre de la Saison numérique, la recherche prendra la forme d'une performance commentée. Après cinq journées de préparation, une print party sera jouée au studio de la Balsamine samedi 14 à 20h.

Up Pen Down is een onderzoek gebasseerd op de ontmoeting tussen digitale typografie en choreografie. Door code als een daadwerkelijke beweging uit te voeren onderzoeken we de lagunes tussen de praktijk can choregrafie en programmeren. Na vijf dagen van voorbereiding ― open voor deelnemers, wordt het atelier gepresenteerd met een lezing-performance open voor het publiek.

Balsamine theater, Félix Marchallaan 1, 1030 Schaarbeek

Process path

The research has developed itself in stages through several workshops over the the past two years. Reworking a workshop OSP organized to explore performative typography with graphic design students, OSP invited Adva Zakai as a professional performance artist, close to us.

2015 - Workshop Up Pen Down at la Balsamine theater during the “Quinzaine numérique”

Example of logo drawings code. Human grid as an excersice for collective drawing. Or the mapping of a path.

For this 2 day workshop OSP invited Adva Zakai to reinterpret a workshop originially organised at ESAD Valence. And took as a starting point the relation between typographic movement and code. We started by executing simple commands or computer code ― walking on the lines a computer would have drawn. We quickly tried to develop movements through more abstract ways. In a exercice, movement rules were regulating the move of a groupe of people, in other each participant was inventing its own movement rules that other participants had to decode. Rapidly we developed a new game of coding and decoding.

2016 - Workshop Metahoguet at La Maison du Livre in the frame of the Saison numérique s, OSP invited Adva Zakai as a professional performance artist, close to us.

Hosted by La Maison du Livre a digital a typeface was drawn collaboratively using Metapost in a two day workshop. Metapost is a specialized programming language developed for parametric drawing. As letters were drawn using code rather than manipulating a preview through a graphical interface we could draw together live and simultaneously through a collaborative text editor, Etherpad. During the workshop this shared pad was projected in parallel with its graphical interpretation. This way all the participants could contribute with their letter(s) being aware of the evolution of the letters drawn by the others.

Linked up with this common screen; a plotter (pen tracer) allowing live drawing of the designed steps. These snapshots where exhibited so that visitors could feel the collective font process. Next to these snapshots specimens of the final font were drawn with a mural plotter during the opening of the exhibition.

Drawing collaboratively through code asked for a different process in considering shape.

2016 - Worksession at Buda (Courtrai), at OSP WTC and GC Ten Weyngaert (Forest)

In order to analyze and further the research started at Balsamine we organized three working sessions.

In the two first sessions in Buda (October 2016) and at WTC (January 2017), we looked back on the experiment at la Balsamine theater. Throughout our discussions we developped a common vocabulary and tried to precise our research scope. We identified three programming languages, each being able to describe or encode a drawing but all coming with their own approaches on how to desribe shape and motion. These languages were linked to approaches of movement we had developed to arrive at strategies of interpretation.

During the last session at GC Ten Weyngaert (January 2017) we invited two external guests, Louise Baduel and Sarah van Lamsweerde, to reflect on the work we'd developed and to find new insigts and directions to continue This last session helped us to realise how each worksession was preceded by exchanges on practices of the participants and that these sessions are crucial to establish a shared vocabulary and shared base of knowledge. The "lecture performance" we're organizing in Balsamine in October 2017 is for us a logical next step.

Session at Buda Kortrijk, with 3 Recipes for an 'R', drawn by the plotter, performed and exploration of the Bezier curve.

Session at WTC, excecuting the recipes in a grid.

Research session at GC Ten Weyngaret, with Sarah van Lamsweerde and Lousie Baduel.


Dance notations

Besides the two schools of Laban and Benesh, we can mention other notation systems.

Tools, dictionaries, programming languages

HPGL Command → Meaning

IN →initialize, start a plotting job IP → set the initial point (origin), in this case the default 0,0 SC0,40,0,40 → allows scaling in millimeters since 1 mm = 40 plotter units. Each user-unit is 1 millimeter, in both X and Y directions SP1 → select pen 1 PU0,0 → lift Pen Up and move to starting point for next action PD100,0,100,100,0,100,0,0 →put Pen Down and move to the following locations (draw a box around the page) PU50,50 →Pen Up and move to X,Y coordinates 50,50 (in this case mm, after the SC command) CI25 → draw a circle with radius 25 (mm) SS → select the standard font DT,1 →set the text delimiter to the asterisk, and do not print them (the 1, meaning "true") PU20,80 → lift the pen and move to 20,80 LBHello World → draw a label LTlinetype,length → set line type and its repetition length CSxx → set character set (e.g. 33 is German) DIx,y → set direction of text given as the catheti SIww,hh →set character width and height

Mediagraphy, resources



dance, draw


same movement/sign with differents parts of the body


  • Stanley Brouwn.

In 1960, Stanley Brouwn started This Way Brouwn serie, itenarary sketches En 1960, il commence la série This Way Brouwn, sketches of itinerary sketched by passers-by to whom he asks his way and where he then imposes his stamp.

  • Esther Ferrer

Le chemin se fait en marchant