I’m holding my iPad and tap its screen just as I have thousands of times before. But this time is different, because a man looks up at me. His face betrays a hint of exhaustion, and then he dances for me again.
This is Dot Dot Dot ($1), a new live action app conceived and directed by Pentagram’s Abbott Miller for 2wice Arts Foundation. Its core perspective places you above a grid of dots. Tap one, and a tiny dancer appears below you--as if he’s performing on your coffee table. Tap another, and more dancers join in as the score grows more complicated.
The app is the spiritual successor to Miller’s previous project, Fifth Wall, which explored how the tight real estate of a tablet screen inherently affects media, much like the fourth wall has long shaped the way plays and movies tell stories.
“I think the tablet is an ambiguous ‘wall’ because in the world of screens it’s relatively small, and it is seen and used in so many different spatial contexts, from solo to shared, and from something titled up to something flat on the table,” Miller tells Co.Design. “I think the typology is still new enough that you can employ it in different ways.”
In Dot Dot Dot’s case, the app is essentially a collection of video loops, but it’s cleverly cropped with invisible seams, meaning it often feels completely interactive. Then, as you swipe through the app, you’ll make your way across multiple stages, shot from different perspectives. From lower angles, the dots morph into pillars. But this view from the ground level isn’t just a different camera angle, it’s a more intimate perspective. Being closer confirms that your tiny dancer is not happy. His thick stage makeup appears stifling as he’s sweating through his suit, and I feel a tinge of guilt for pressing so many buttons earlier.
Ultimately, I don’t know exactly how to classify Dot Dot Dot. Is it an interactive movie? Is it a mobile art installation? Is it a tamagotchi that went to dance school? Yet the fact that it’s not any one thing is a testament to the app’s creativity. Often we’re using products that are less than a decade old to consume media that’s over 100 years old. And it may just be the time to reimagine movies as software to acknowledge the shift.