Todd Margolis

Telepresence Performance

"Telepresence allows the subject to control not just the simulation but reality itself. Telepresence provides the ability to remotely manipulate physical reality in real time through its image. (...) Thus the essence of telepresence is that it is antipresence. I don't have to be physically present in a location to affect reality at this location."
-Lev Manovich

Telepresence Performance


Todd Margolis in collaboration with Tracy Cornish and Naruwan Taiko

ESSA! was a live taiko drumming performance by Naruwan Taiko with high resolution visualizations by Tracy Cornish and Todd Margolis.

“Taiko" is a style of drumming that originated long ago in Japan and was first introduced to the United States in 1968 by Grandmaster Seiichi Tanaka. Traditionally, these types of drums were used in battlefields to communicate to soldiers and in festivals where people would dance. Only in the last 50 to 60 years, with the emergence of the premiere ensemble group Kodo, has taiko drumming evolved into the riveting stage performance art that it is today. There are numerous styles of taiko drumming depending on the region of Japan and there are currently hundreds of groups in the world, with ours being only one of many.

Naruwan Taiko was founded in 2008 by Diana Wu, who at the time had just graduated from the world of collegiate taiko. Wanting to extend the wide array of benefits from taiko (physical, mental, social) to her local community, Wu began the project of starting a taiko group in San Diego that would be a place where not only could collegiate taiko players could go after graduation, but also a place where anyone could learn taiko whether or not they were of a certain ethnic background or had a certain level of music experience. The name “Naruwan” is, in fact, not derived from Japanese vocabulary but a Taiwanese Ami word which means “welcome, for we are all in the same family.” This name represents our group’s mission as a place where anyone is welcome to come and learn taiko and our hope is that through these drums, we can bring together people of all backgrounds, ages, and experience. The name also pays tribute to Naruwan Taiko’s sponsor, the Taiwanese American Community Center, for because of them, Naruwan Taiko has a home in which it can practice and continue its activities.

Naruwan Taiko welcomes people of all backgrounds to learn the style of Japanese drumming and hopes to encourage teamwork, creativity, physical activity, and confidence in expression for each individual.

ESSA! took advantage of the available technology at the Qualcomm Institute at Calit2 UCSD. During the performance you the audience could see 4K visualizations. 4K is 4 times the resolution of HD and is the new digital cinema standard. Margolis has been working at Calit2 at the forefront of developing both the enabling technologies and creative content to drive this new medium.

Each piece in this performance was accompanied by a different realtime 4K visualization. Some incorporated motion capture, others EEG brain wave data, and others were computer graphics that respond to the performers striking the drums.

Through these realtime visualizations Todd & Tracy hoped to provide audiences with a novel experience of Taiko that not only compliments this energetic artform with high-resolution imagery, but also show how the body and brain function during a performance.

ESSA was co-produced by UCSD Visual Arts adjunct faculty Tracy Cornish and Qualcomm Institute’s Todd Margolis through a grant by the IDEAS initiative at Calit2, UCSD.


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ESSA! Highlights

In development...