> I agree with David - almost entirely. I would just reiterate that there
> is a huge difference between watching a recording of a performance (of
> dance, or other live art) and experiencing it live in all its
> multi-sensory complexity. Watching a recording, if it is very good, I
> get some sense of kinesthetic empathy with the performer (as an
> ex-surfer I get this watching a recording of a surfer). But most
> recordings do not transfer that dimension of a work. In live situations
> all the senses are engaged and one moves with the dancers - you are also
> performing, you are not watching anymore. Empathy is total, at least
> when it’s a good performance.
> There was an interesting research project on this:
> http://www.watchingdance.org/ <http://www.watchingdance.org/> <http://www.watchingdance.org/ <http://www.watchingdance.org/>>
Of course with a video of a performance, we can also have privileged views… impossible closeups, sounds of breathing, etc. that we cannot have live.
On the other hand, we can tie this up nicely if we agree that the audience is also a performer, integral to the live performance. That one thing that distinguishes live performance from a recording is that the audience is in a feedback loop with the performers, and in one way or another modulating the performance with the energy of their attention and their responses.
Perhaps we can agree that there is a continuum here, varying within media as well as across media disciplines of the importance of the instrumentality of the audience. The difference with new media is perhaps that the seemingly impossible task of the live performance of infinite duration becomes tantalizingly realizable because of the infinite patience of the computer and the marginal incremental cost of each additional hour of performance. The challenges of maintenance remain of course, and while they may seem virtually insurmountable, they are so much simpler, in theory, and at least to a degree, in practise, than the infinite performance of live dance or music.
We could argue that some lives are performances aspiring to as near to infinite duration as possible, but then we really are, I think, talking about something else.
Infinite duration is not the only temporal advantage here… there is also constant availability. A live performance can challenge our ideas and feelings about a space for a time, and that experience may live on in memory. A new media installation can provide this transformation continuously and cumulatively. Its effects can seep into our consciousness over extended periods of time, if it occurs in a location we visit frequently. They are experienced in an involuntary manner. The audience generally does not seek it out, and does not prepare themselves for it, so it provides a substantially different kind of experience to the user than is possible in museums or at scheduled events. (this has advantages and disadvantages of course…)
In the end, I think I am arguing that we are sacrificing something remarkable when we let our exhaustion and frustration wear us down to the point that we accept that our works should simply operate for the duration of an exhibition or two and then die. But I am not being absolutist here… any work should be allowed the dignity of a timely death… Any artist must be allowed to make their own decisions about the relative merits of investing time in the durability of the work versus spending that time and energy on new work as long as they understand the consequences.
I am arguing for a plurality of options. We need to develop a language of temporality around these kinds of works that allows artists and curators and commissioners and conservators to discuss these issues frankly and to seek solutions to each example that understand the unique propositions and circumstances of that work. The required framework is not a single solution, but a shared language that helps to define and describe the space of possibilities.
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