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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  February 2011

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING February 2011

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Subject:

Re: the object of performance

From:

Johannes Birringer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Johannes Birringer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 4 Feb 2011 18:33:37 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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dear Simon, Johannes G  and all:

you again raise a fascinating question in your response, Simon

>>I don't see how you can collect or preserve work like this. I also don't
understand why you would want to.>>

Would you extend this to Nam June Paik?  probably not,  as here, as we learnt in the discussion last month,
the media art object is involved as a collectible or an installation that may have participatory/interactive
exhibitional value and also attracts aesthetic interest due to its materiality; and we have extended the
argument a bit to see whether media arts and conceptual arts (as they crossed between various
forms and as music has now been discussed very concretely.. as well in relationship to performing/performing art
and dance, after all, we have Konzepttanz too) are preserved or recreated (when copies/new versions  are offered in stead of, or alongside with a so-called
original) in ways that we like or consider appropriate or effective.........

I entered the discussion when Eleanor brought her questions to the list, and sought to bring up 
the performing arts (and then I mentioned "MOVE: Choreographing You" [Hayward Gallery, Southband Ctr]
as a particularly hilarious and less than delicate current exhibition that seeks to expand the participatory playground
ideology, using visual arts/installations as a vehicle to "move" visitors" and play with objects (copies or reconstructions)
or -- if we now take on the discussion about "score" and "interpretation" -  so to speak "perform" the sculpture or the object.

Now, if you remember Ono's instructions or George Brecht's instructions,  this kind of enactment then, of instructions
(well, some of Brecht's may not be enactable and maybe that is why we like them to be conceptual), would be the
performance or interpretation.

Johannes Goebels raises many important points, and indeed is spot on, so that's encouraging that we can continue
to talk about performance here, in this visual art context (now that museums love to invite us into their chambers), 
and Adrian George's reference to the exhibition  "Art, Lies and Videotape"
and the whole spectrum of the 'delicate art of documenting performance" naturally raises even more headaches (great catalogue,
Adrian, I always show it to my performance students and then send them to make up a performance they have not performed)...

Simon refers to Ono's and Schneemann's visceral power of performance, and thus to the original instanciations of the
work.  I tend to agree that these performances probably cannot be repeated (would it make sense?  I don't think so;
Ono has not recently repeated "Cut Piece," Schneemann has not repeated "Meat Joy" or the 1975 "Interior Scroll,"
and they don't have to).

Delicate documents exist of "Cut Piece," and remarkably, i saw one now last week in a show on fashion [AWARE, Royal Academy of Arts London],  
where Abramovic was also featured with the (video of one of the) performances you refer to, Simon. 

I was actually spell bound, and watched it over and over for a long long time: the lovely "Imponderabilia" (1997) where Marina and Ulay stand in the door frame at a 
gallery in Bologna -- I was most interested in the behavior of the public, the visitors to the exhibition, and how they managed to ignore or pretend to ignore the
presence of these two naked people as door frame, this couple through which they had to squeeze,  or how they negotiated the interaction with the
silent performers.  Much could be said now about the re-performances of the earlier work at MoMA, and why they failed. I agree with you;

and here i may have to shift over to Goebel's arguments about interpretation and reconstruction; interestingly, in dance of course we have
reconstructions (which are also interpretations), of historical choreographies, and often the people who make a dance reconstruction
seek out embodied training (from someone who danced in the original), and this is the Indian method, say, in Bharatanatyam, where
all gestures and all movement expressions are passed on, precisely,  from master to pupil) as well as the "score"  (say, using Labanotation).

In dance the "score" (if a notator is invited) is created after the dance, from the performance.  well, this is already peculiar and beautiful, as
the notation can also be called an interpretation, as it can only approximate the full movement / kinaesthetic or spiritual expression experience in space-time.

Goebel argues:
>>The delicate relationship between score, interpretation, sound and
experience as in music, theater and dance may bear some interesting pointers
to the discussion of what is subsumed under the visual arts.....>

and then asks:

>>Do it again? Well, maybe one should have a festival where all those old
"scores" from performance art are newly played/interpreted once everyone is
dead who can remember the original performances and once the video tapes
have fallen apart>>


Well,  the deliciously delicate documentations and re-performances will of course subsist, somehow i feel they will be sustained, as one "spawns" the other,  as Bill T Jones once said in regard to "Ghostcatching" , the work the Riverbed digital artists had made from his motion-captured movement data..........     I can say, Johannes, that I regularly  enjoy performing my version of  Paik's "Zen for Head" (after La Monte Young's "Composition 1960 #10")  and once 
those who remember an original performance are no longer with us, then later generations have to make up their versions from the broken relics, if they so wish.   I made up my version from the photographs and the descriptions, and wanted to interpret them.

Simon, the particular myths or visceral powers and charisma we tend to invest in some of these artists (whether Beuys or Schneemann or Ono)-  hmm,  yes, they cannot be recapped/reperformed by young art students (see MoMA, especially not in the presence of the still living artist in the atrium, what a metaphysical nightmare).  From a theatre point of view, however, all gestures are repeatable and can be rehearsed and staged, and we love to go to the theatre to see Bruno Ganz play/interpret Faust or Hamlet, or we go to see Marianne Hoppe in Wilson's King Lear, or we go to listen to this particular musician......  Are the performance art and Fluxus "gestures"  (actions)  operating on a different level, musically speaking, so that we don't care to see so and so perform Ono?

with regards
Johannes Birringer
dap lab



>>
Simon schreibt:

Hi Johannes

I accept the point about the importance of the score. This is important in
other practices as well, such as intermedia and systems based practice.

However, I think the viscerality of Schneemann and Ono's work is such that
the score is not the main thing. I saw the Abramovic show at MoMA. The
performance in the atrium was riveting. The reconstructions of earlier works
on the top floor, performed by others, offered interesting perspectives on
her (and Ulay's) earlier practice but as artworks failed. Having experienced
one of their original and best known works "in the flesh" (many years ago) I
could make a comparison. The reconstructions had no viscerality or sense of
danger at all. They were contrived tableau vivant "snaps" of something that
will never exist again - unless Marina and Ulay decide to get together and
do it all again; and then the question remains open as this could also come
across as just a shadow of the work. 

To date the video documentation remains the best record of the works, but the tapes are only records and offer a very partial sense of what they were like. They don't make your skin crawl, they don't make you giggle or whimper whilst your face is an inch from that of the artists, you can't smell what they ate for lunch.

I don't see how you can collect or preserve work like this. I also don't
understand why you would want to. Being of their moment was half their
impact, the other half being a function of the artist's own presence as
subject/object. I enjoy visiting Mr Bentham and saying hello to him whenever
I am at UCL but I don't mistake him for a living performing person - he is a
stuffed envelope, a puppet at best. Mr Bentham left the building long ago.

I hope that makes sense.

Best

Simon

-------------------------------------

Curating digital art - www.crumbweb.org [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of GEORGE ADRIAN [[log in to unmask]]


I agree with Simon entirely, particularly as my early thoughts on these issues, this debate, formed the basis of my exhibition "Art, Lies and Videotape", at Tate Liverpool over 6 years ago.

Adrian

Adrian George
Curator: Collections Projects
Government Art Collection

-----------------------------------

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