New Butoh Space Dance

Interstellar Message Composition
Richard Clar and Tetsuro Fukuhara


The basis for the concept put forth in this paper—creating an interstellar message using art and technology—was presented by Richard Clar at the first workshop, The Art and Science of Interstellar Message Construction organized by the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California, held in Paris, in March 2002. Two artists, one from an Eastern culture and one from a Western culture—with a shared belief in universality common in art — have developed a modality for constructing a message directed towards an Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI). Collaborating on New Butoh Space Dance - Interstellar Message Composition (NBSD-IMC), New Butoh Sensei, Tetsuro Fukuhara, and interdisciplinary artist, Richard Clar, present a novel approach to Interstellar Message Composition utilizing art and technology. Combining the multi-cultural dimensions of music and dance with the use of two non-traditional technologies, Stereolithography and Motion Capture, it will be demonstrated how the behavioral and emotional state of the sender of the message might be revealed. A detailed account describing the art, technology, and philosophy of NBSD-IMC is presented in a chapter by Richard Clar in a forthcoming book, Between Worlds: The Art and Science of Interstellar Message Composition (The MIT Press), to be released in 2007 [1].


Without relying on language or logic, music and dance can communicate a powerful message. This aspect of music—the ability to cross cultural divides — makes it appealing for use in an IMC. As stated by Clar (2003) in press [2], “An Interstellar Message using art designed for ETI, may have content reflecting multi-cultural dimensions, such as those found in music and dance. . . . Patterns might emerge from our message resembling possible multi-cultural aspects of the ETI 's planet ” [3]. Music for NBSD-IMC will be an original electronic score derived in part using data that describes the intended target star and planetary system and data derived or inspired by the dance/performance site location. Currently, there are 236 planetary systems that have been detected since 1996 [4]. As further proposed by Clar, using dance and music together in an IMC  “illustrate how an individual responds to a particular piece of music through movement, thus demonstrating a physical response to an emotional stimulus ” [5]. Vakoch (2000) suggests that time as a fourth dimension in the dance movement may provide additional information for an IMC [6].


Tetsuro Fukuhara, a Japanese Butoh Dancer, and Director of  Tokyo Space Dance, describes Japanese Butoh [7] as “a wonderful dance art to develop the human body into a new body, one that can express the beauty of current times.”  Japanese Butoh is alive today as one of the major art forms in world cultural venues and has a general value not only from the perspective of theater arts, but also as a design form that can be used in daily life. In 2004, Tetsuro Fukuhara began a Feasibility Study in Tokyo with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) [8] for various utilizations of the Japanese Experimental Module (JEM) [9] on the International Space Station (ISS). In this Feasibility Study, Dance and Design are included in the activities planning for the JEM as part of the theme in NBSD-IMC.  Space Dance seeks to construct a new relationship between the body and the technology that bridges Dance, Architecture, Information, and Design. Space Dance is a new dance that creates an appearance of the relationship of the unity between the body, space, and objects. It is not uncommon for people to forget the unity of these three elements in their daily life. The relationship of this unity exists as a mass-like invisible “fluid body.”

Motion Capture

Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford explored the idea of capturing motion in the late 1800s. Stanford was a governor of California and also bred racehorses. The question arose as to whether there was a point during a horse’s gallop when all four hooves were off the ground. Stanford enlisted the services of Eadweard Muybridge, an English photographer who was living in California, in an attempt to answer this question. Muybridge used multiple cameras synchronized to the horse’s movement to determine that in fact all four of the horse’s hooves did leave the ground at one point during a gallop [10]. The first series of Muybridge’s motion photographs was published in The Horse in Motion in 1878 [11]. Currently, there are a number of different types of motion capture systems in use. For NBSD-IMC, optical motion capture is best suited for the application, as it offers an unrestricted movement for the performer not found in the other types of motion capture systems. Real-time capture of human motion is possible with some optical motion-capture systems, such as Motion Analysis Corporation’s Eagle System [12]. With the Eagle System, a series of small reflective markers are attached to strategic points on the subject’s body. Sixteen to twenty-four Charged Couple Device (CCD) digital cameras placed around the motion-capture studio record the subject’s X, Y, and Z movements through three-dimensional space. Vakoch (1999) has proposed transmitting an IMC “akin to an ‘interstellar ballet’ using kinesiological principles to describe human movement as quantifiable vectors in Euclidean space, or alternatively, as basic gestures imbued with cultural significance” [13]. Optical motion capture will be used to record the movement data of Tetsuro Fukuhara while he performs to the music of NBSD-IMC.


Among the SETI community, a notion exists that whatever interstellar message we might send would more than likely be ambiguous to the receiver, or at best, might take many years to decipher. Prompted by this belief,  Clar and Fukuhara thought of a means to convey information in a message that would be three-dimensional and unambiguous.. Stereolithography, a Rapid Prototyping process, provides a solution. Developed in the early 1980’s and used in the fields of Aerospace and Medicine, Stereolithography offers the capability to produce three-dimensional prototypes without any tooling or expensive time consuming set-ups. In the Stereolithography process, 0.1mm-thick slice files are created by solidly piling one layer at a time in sequence, starting with the first file at the bottom of the object to be produced. Upon completion of the Stereolithography process, which may take eight to twelve hours, a highly accurate 3-D model is obtained. Modeling by this process is not limited solely to the surface of the structure, but includes all complex interior spaces as well. STL Slice Files, the software used for Stereolithography, takes data describing a three-dimensional object—either from a CAD file, or in the case of medical imaging, a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), a Computed Axial Tomography (CAT), or a Computed Tomography (CT) file—and slices it horizontally into 0.1mm- thick sections.  An MRI or CAT scan of Tetsuro Fukuhara’s skeleton, converted into STL slice files, will be transmitted as part of the NBSD-IMC. This will allow the recipient of NBSD-IMC to construct a highly accurate, full-scale model of Tetsuro Fukuhara’s skeleton. Motion capture marker points will be indicated on the skeleton.  Not unlike the discovery on Earth of ancient skeletal remains by a Paleontologist or an Archaeologist, the NBSD-IMC skeleton would reveal upon examination a good deal of information, about the sender of the message; for example, cranial capacity, size and placement of sensory organs, teeth, (which would convey information about our diet), and mobility patterns. In addition, a study of the skeletal joints would reveal the range of motion of each joint and would provide useful information when comparing the motion capture data of each joint during NBSD-IMC and the actual limits of the range of motion of each joint.  The ETI recipient of NBSD-IMC would be faced with an interesting challenge in attempting to interpret the data from the music in relation to the Motion Capture and the dancer’s skeleton derived from the STL slice files.  Some portions of NBSD-IMC would be ambiguous, while other portions would be unambiguous, such as the STL slice file skeleton. It is the contention of the authors that the ambiguous portion of the IMC would illicit sufficient interest from the ETI recipient to accept the challenge to decipher the IMC.


Art, and the innovative use of non-traditional technologies, may offer a viable interdisciplinary approach to interstellar message composition. Motion Capture and Stereolithography (as used in NBSD-IMC), combined with music and dance, are two technologies highly suited for this purpose, each having the capacity to reveal to an ETI receiver intriguing information about who we are.


[1] R. Clar, “Ambiguity, Absence, and the Process of Interstellar Art,” in Between Worlds: The Art and Science of Interstellar Message Composition, D. Vakoch, Ed., Cambridge: The MIT Press, in press.

[2] Clar [1] in press.

[3] Clar [1] in press.

[4] California & Carnegie Planet Search, 110 planets are known outside our Solar System (Sept. 2003), retrieved May 1, 2004, from

[5] Clar [1] in press.

[6] D. Vakoch, “The Conventionality of Pictorial Representation in Interstellar Messages,” in Acta Astronautica, vol. 46, no. 10-12, Elsevier Science Ltd., p.735, 2000.

[7] Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno created Japanese Butoh 35 years ago in Japan.

[8] JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

[9] JEM (Japanese Experimental Module in the International Space Station) will be built up around 2010 as a manned establishment. JAXA seeks not only scientific experimental works, but also various utilizations from the economy, business, education, and culture for daily life.

[10] Clar [1] in press.

[11] J.D. B. Stillman, The horse in motion as shown by instantaneous photography, with a study on animal mechanics founded on anatomy and the revelations of the camera, in which is demonstrated the theory of quadrupedal locomotion, Boston: J.R. Osgood and Company, 1882.

[12] Motion Analysis Corporation, Eagle Digital System (2004), retrieved May 1, 2004, from

[13] D. Vakoch, The Aesthetics of Composing Interstellar Messages, paper presented at the 50th International Astronautical Congress, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, October 1999.


Art and Science of Interstellar Message Composition

Encoding Altruism

Books and articles about SETI

Vakoch D., To Err is Human and of Interest to ET? May 16, 2002

 © 2004 Richard CLAR, Tetsuro FUKUHARA & Leonardo/Olats (Edited 9-21-07)

(Home) (Richard Clar) (Projects) (News) (Gallery) (Links) (Contact)

© Copyright 2005-20066 Art Technologies

Webdesign by Studio Resistance