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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  September 2009

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING September 2009

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Subject:

archives and repertoires

From:

Johannes Birringer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Johannes Birringer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 23 Sep 2009 17:27:39 +0100

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dear all:

thanks for all the fascinating posts on the subject of "Real-Time: Showing Art in the Age of New Media".    Recently, Curt Cloninger's scales of speed/time and Baryl Graham's commentaries were really wonderful.  I loved Johannes Goebel's painting that is slipping off the wall.  I saw that happen once, and it was a terrific performance on part of the painting. 

When reading many contributions to this discussion, one can get the feeling that an underlying tenor is to see the museum and "institutions" (broadly speaking) as antithetical to time-based arts (or, if you prefer, the arts formerly know as time-based arts), or even as a threat ("death drive or cryogenics," Neal suggests). That surprised me.   I hope there are many here who will join me in defending the museum. 

I remember fondly going to the Beinecke Library in New Haven;  and i adore museums. We are thinking of using the escalators at the Centre Pompidou for a sonic performance;   I would love to learn from curators, and contribute to "best practices" in documentation. As I grow older, I also feel sentimental about good, sophisticated theatres (compared to some of the crumbling alternative spaces, warehouses, and abandoned buildings where some of my performances were shown). I would love to see the work go up in an excellent space, contexts that work for the work rather than against it, and be preservable. 

I read with interest about Lizzie Muller's project (in Linz) on collecting Rokeby's "Very Nervous System" in an "Indetrminate Archive."   Is this the initial installation he made?  or the software VNS that many of us have?  is the software exhibited as part of the archive or are you addressing its installment (which?) as an "interactive" artwork? 
I also sympathize with the implications of Ruth Catlow reporting on the intercontinental Upstage festival of cyberformance, Eclectic Tech Carnival,  in Istanbul. Curating a festival of this kind is fun, yes?    This is a model of an "event-structure", the kind that Sarah and Beryl perhaps look at as alternatives to object-display museums?  

:::
"Real-Time" -- we have not perhaps explored enough its cultural meanings today,  the technical ones just barely beginning to be understood.  Charlie Gere suggests, promisingly, 

>>I am intrigued by the term 'real time', which of course has a fairly widely accepted
technical definition, but also an almost poetic sense of invoking
something more immediate and real than we are used to with mediated
experiences, and thus also perhaps impossible in the light of questions
of pretension and retension or of difference and deferral immanent in
all experience of temporality. Perhaps TBA is always about making time
(more) real somehow>>>

Yet Neal White seems to differ:

>>
work, its process, any output of any kind is always real-time, as life and work are both media in this sense. If we then consider the museum or archive as a space which sets out to preserve objects, artefacts , codes etc, (death drive or cryogenics...) we can also say that the archivist understands the need to reduce the time-base of each object/item to their own time-base - that is institutional time. This arrest is not specifically problematic, but indicates issues relating to archives and events, part of the the real problem at hand. You may ask yourself why certain kinds of event based work have encountered resistance not only in the galleries, but within the archive of the museum itself to the extent it should be present, and then to examine the time-base of technologies, situations, contexts upon which it relies, to realise these are awkward at best, if not completely incompatible at worst....>>


I do not agree that they are (completely) incompatible, at least in so far as my experience goes in learning from the presentational dilemmas. Enjoying them.  I would have never explored in detail, as i did subsequently, the rich work of Hélio Oiticica and his Parangolés, had I not witnessed the wonderful contradictions (at the Houston MFA during the "Bodies of Color" Show, and then again in London at the Barbican, and the Tate Modern) of the museum displaying the wearables and also hiring dancers to perform them, and on certain days of the week allowing visitors to try them on. Lovely.  Good tangible sensual stuff, spent hours in the museum. 

Can I ask Jeremy what he meant by his comment?  

>>I find Charlie's comment about anthropological museums particularly interesting because of the approaches adopted in (online) museums dealing with the intangible culture of First People. My impression is that in such contexts viewer interactivity, so highly valued elswhere, is heavily qualified in favour of privileging the voice of the indigenous culture. >>>>

Are you saying the works are not interactive enough, or in Jon's sense "controllable" enough?  The audience is underprivileged?    This is fascinating material for all postcolonial discussions, surely. 


But i want to address the dance of paradoxes, and context shifts  (after all, it is obvious in Oiticica's case that the first set of Parangolés was given to his Afro-Brazilian friends in Rio, the samba dancers, but they were not the only ones to benefit from the work, wear it and experience its sensual exuberances, its "vivência"). In fact, the black samba dancers already didn't make it into the opening at the museum, and that is an irritating story. 

paradoxically, in real time performances we use capturing technologies and apparatuses all the time, both in interactive/networked/distributed performances as well as in non-interactive physical real space (RL) performance and installation;  we disseminate our variants and versions on many platforms, on our websites, and on the DVDs we hand out.  Choreographies are handed to other ensembles and companies to be interpreted and reperformed, rerepertoired. scripts are spread around (and there are ways to avoid the Beckett problem).  So, "ephemerality", is a largely overrated notion, ontologically speaking, and anti-apparatus (institutional critique?) , good heavens, give me a break. we are part of the apparatuses, and we of course, many of us, teach in institutions and we like to use a good video of Beuys performing.  

(Not sure, Curt,  that in Germany he'd be considered a saint, i am afraid, and I don't remember him preaching to hares; rather, he was trying to explain the difference between art and time-based art to the poor dead rabbit). The comments that were made on Robert Smithson as a real-time artist were wonderful and of course confusing too. 

I think the relation of time based arts to the museum (preservation, re-exhibition)  is absolutely critical, and crucial. 

(Neal White, reproduced)
>>work, its process, any output of any kind is always real-time, as life and work are both media in this sense. If we then consider the museum or archive as a space which sets out to preserve objects, artefacts , codes etc, (death drive or cryogenics...) we can also say that the archivist understands the need to reduce the time-base of each object/item to their own time-base - that is institutional time. This arrest is not specifically problematic, but indicates issues relating to archives and events, part of the the real problem at hand. You may ask yourself why certain kinds of event based work have encountered resistance not only in the galleries, but within the archive of the museum itself to the extent it should be present, and then to examine the time-base of technologies, situations, contexts upon which it relies, to realise these are awkward at best, if not completely incompatible at worst. If nothing else these works made in one context would be at the mercy of another entirely, that is the event structure of the institutional practices of a collection, its overheads and relevance. >>>

Yes, the museum's resistance to dance and performance art, and complex time-based art installations, is uncomfortable, but understandable. 

I want to end by evoking the possibilities of separating the work from itself.  Rethinking performance of course always requires displacing paradigms.  Happening tried it, and thank heavens it failed. fluxus art (Brecht) sent me down the streets to set fire to the opera houses, we tried and failed.  Current economics may succeed in closing some opera houses. 
Dance and music have sustained themselves for many centuries as vital visceral cultural traditions of transmission, and Indian classical dance is now also taught and preserved on digital platforms (see Jayachandran Palahzy's NAGARIKA:  Integrated Information System on Indian Physical Expressions Through Technology). Dance, like the singing choirs in the village where i come from, is very sustainable,  even though i attended a workshop last week, and the economist present told the dancers theirs was an unsustainable art form. 


"..the archive and the repertoire exist in a constant state of interaction" writes Diana Taylor in her study of performance;   "the tendency has been to banish the repertoire to the past"; and Taylor sought to restore the repertoire's social agency to view, and to outline its ongoing political and epistemological resistance:   “the archive and the repertoire have always been important sources of information, both exceeding the limitations of the other,” and usually working “in tandem and [...] alongside other systems of transmission” ..... and Taylor associates repertoire with "embodied memory - performances, gestures, orality, movement, dance, singing-in short, all those acts usually thought of as ephemeral, nonreproducible knowledge” (The Archive and the Repertoire ,2003, p. 20).  

For those of you interested in this, W.B. Worthen has written an excellent reponse:  "Antigone's Bones"  (TDR/The Drama Review Fall 2008, Vol. 52, No. 3 (T199): 10-33.)  which complicates the relationships between archive/repertoire, and it seems to me that it is fascinating to look at time (the Utah salt lake? the clouds over Wyoming or over Super Mario?), and ask again what "real-time" means in a non technical (computational) sense, if indeed you think Smithson's earth art was a time-based piece and then how to you compare it to the "Black Factory"? or to Jon Ippolito's controllable art?    would Spiral Jetty disappoint Jon as it is not controllable?


In dance, the problem of the ephemeral or of live event structure has been countered by a consistent concern with dance preservation and reconstruction (and the development of notation  systems, which may today be complemented by the interdisplinary collaborations between dancers and neuroscientists, the latter bringing other capturing systems into the fold).  See also the “Forum on Digital Dance” and e-Symposium on “Dancing in the Digital Age” organized online by CultureThreads (<http://www.culturethreads.net/>) in 2005  --  to draw attention to issues of digital preservation and dissemination at the Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York City.

In current dance research, we have the example of William Forsythe (in collaboration with OSU Dance Department and ACCAD) developing the "Synchronous Objects" project (http://synchronousobjects.osu.edu/).   What is so interesting here is that Forsythe seems to separate choreography from dance and speaks of the creation of an archive that is not (only) an archive but also (and not only)  a living repertoire and a creative generative system ("Synchronous Objects reveals the interlocking systems of organization in William Forsythe's ensemble dance One Flat Thing, reproduced through a series of objects that work in harmony to explore its choreographic structures and reimagine what else they might look like") ---- the objects are not the dance , nor are they their or "the" choreography, and there are no easy software and output correlations here.  This is a very very nervous system. 

The choreographic objects (created for online exhibitiion) derive from the research team's  initial concept of a "generative motion trace", as OSU's Norah Zuniga Shaw tells us.  Creating a trace not for preservation, not for repertory or reconstruction, not as an etymological, archaeological, historical exercise, not to recreate the experience of the piece or its genesis but to create a trace/traces of choreographic principles --- what they now call "choreographic object".  The various descriptor systems are what is at stake, and how they can/could be read (used) by the public, dancing and non dancing. 


with regards

JohannesBirringer
DAP Lab
School of Arts 
Brunel University
West London 
UB8 3PH   UK
+44  (0)1895 267 343  (office)
http://www.brunel.ac.uk/dap

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