performance documentation – finally…

Video documentation of baby’s first ice cream performed on October 27, 2013 at MINT gallery in Atlanta, GA is now up on vimeo. Sound is a remix of Jeff Kolar’s Ice Cream Truck Songs.

http://vimeo.com/83654702

Also, finally, video documentation of ray welcomes again performed on June 28, 2013 at Eyedrum for the exhibition Im/Permanence. Sound is mine. 

http://vimeo.com/83687717

Exhibition: Im/Permanence

I will be presenting photographic, video, and performance work in the exhibition Im/Permanence at eyedrum’s new space in the FUSE Arts Center located in the historic M Rich Building this upcoming Friday. It’s eyedrum’s first gallery show in a while in a new space and there are also going to be other music/sound performances, so be sure to come and check it out! 
 
6pm – 10pm
Performance: 8pm
115 Martin Luther King Drive, Atlanta, GA
Artist Statement:
 
We are inheritors of the past–our own past, others’ past: their language, their thoughts. Works presented inIm/Permanence, including his/my/your app/rehension/erception/ropriation #1 and #2 (2011), he (the poet) marks me (2011), and ray welcomes again (2012-13), explore meaning veiled in processes of succession, of coming after an other. Three mediums – photography, video, and audio with performance – express distance felt and imagined in the process of inheriting. Together, the works constitute a visual, auditory, and physical examination into remainders: remnants that are allowed to remain, remnants that dissipate. These remainders, or reminders, render us acutely aware of what disappeared and our propagation from our past into the present moment. However, the relationship between the residue of the past and the act of its dissipation draws up an essential fear that situates us at the threshold of disappearance and the unknown. Attention to dissipation indicates an anxiety about forgetting and an attempt to grasp firmly onto a presentist notion of our self. As an assemblage, all works cast unforeseen modes of navigation and perception of space in the physical present, causing us to question: from what present point does inheritance take hold?
 
eyedrum Exhibition Statement:
Im/Permanence is a concrete human challenge, but it is also a conceptual, social and personal component of what it means to be a living organism, by definition continuously both in flux and in stasis. Eyedrum’s Im/Permanence program of events offers artists opportunities to engage in conversation about the symbols, artistic and linguistic, that illuminate this conflict. How do we talk about it with ourselves and with others? Is it possible to connect with and convey experiences of permanence and impermanence directly, without communicative symbols? Is death actually a grin reaper, and are we just too nervous to notice? In what ways do change and intransience bind us to time and/or free us from it? How do we engage, resist, disclose, discount, accept, recoil from the im/permanence that defines and dominates nearly every aspect of our reality?

new performance piece!

This past weekend, I hosted and organized a new salon/critique series called SENSORIUM for the Visual Scholarship Initiative, of which I’m a member, here at Emory. It was really great both in terms of the projects presented and the discussion of the projects. There will definitely be many more of these to come.

Also, I performed a new piece of mine for the SENSORIUM  called ray’s welcome. Here’s a link to the video documentation of it, compliments of Alex Lukens:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovk7lr1771c&feature=youtu.be

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Ecology of Practices: Santiago Sierra

Santiago Sierra’s work is controversial, obviously so I would say. His projects include paying prostitutes to  tattoo a red line across their backs for money for heroine (160 cm Line Tattooed on Four People, 2000), paying unemployed works to sit in cardboard boxes for four hours a day for six days (Workers Who Cannot Be Paid, Remunerated to Remain Inside Cardboard Boxes, 2000), and hiring workers to act as buttresses to hold up a wall for five days (The Wall of a Gallery Pulled Out, Inclined Sixty Degrees From the Ground and Sustained by Five People, 2000). Claire Bishop, whom I wrote about last week, counters her criticisms of relational art with Sierra’s confrontational work.

Bishop claims that the relationships set up by Sierra don’t collapse into the work and are not meant for a sense of belonging like Rirkrit Tiravanija’s and Liam Gillick’s whom she criticizes: “The relations produced by their [Thomas Hirschhorn and Santiago Sierra] performances and installations are marked by sensations of unease and discomfort rather than belonging, because the work acknowledges the impossibility of a ‘microutopia’ and instead sustains a tension among viewers, participants, and context” (Bishop 70).

Santiago Sierra, 160 cm Line Tattooed On Four People, 2000 (image found at http://bombsite.com)

While reading Isabelle Stengers “Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices,” I thought of Sierra’s work. She begins by describing the stakes for physics: either it defends itself as keepers of the knowledge of reality or it must suffer as just another social practice. To deal with this issue of science’s truth claims, Stenger develops the notion of an ecology of practices which is defined as a non-neutral tool for “thinking through what is happening” (Stengers 185).

Stengers talks about our attachments, our obligations, and our responsibilities; attachments to her are “what cause people… to feel and to think, to be able or to become able” (191). It is our mistake when we take these attachments as “universal obligations” and feel “free to go anywhere, to enter any practical territory, to judge, deconstruct or disqualify” (191). What can this mean for Sierra’s work? Work that judges without judging, disqualifies without actually disqualifying? Sierra brings the prostitutes and unemployed workers into the gallery where they become both performers but also objects of art. Their previous societal disqualification makes them fodder for Sierra and they are transformed into highly expensive works of art, though after their time of occupation, what has changed about their original disqualification? How do we see these people now? What is our (the audience’s) responsibility to the people who for a period of time became art? Bishop says that “Sierra knows there is no such thing as a  free meal: everything and everyone has a price” (70). Is Sierra simply a “nomad” pointing out the problems and exploitations of the world while still participating in them?

Santiago Sierra, Eight People Paid To Remain Inside Cardboard Boxes, 1999 (image found at http://www.medienkunstnetz.de)

What does it mean that Bishop claims Tiravanija is working in a “major key” and Sierra is in a “minor”? (71) Is this at all akin to Stengers’ insistence on working in a minor key that “avoid[s] the center stage”? Like Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s work on minor literature, a literature that works from the inside through  the dominant language? Sierra in these works is using the dominant language of gallery, gallery patron, artist, art object, but the question of his complicity within this dominant language has been raised. According to Stengers, “there is no practice independent of its environment” (187). To this, Sierra responds that he doesn’t “believe in the possibility of change” (Sierra 2002, 15 quoted in Bishop, 71). But what kind of change is he talking about here? A change in the politics of labor exploitation, or a change in the mechanics of art? Or are the possibilities for change wrapped in both?

How are Sierra’s practices, art practices, implicated in Stengers’ notion of the ecology of practices that does not “describe practices ‘as they are'” but rather “aims at the construction of new ‘practical identities’ for practices, that is, new possibilities for them to be present, or in other words to connect;” “as they may become”? (186) How can Sierra’s work be in a process of becoming? To view Sierra’s work as just another instance of exploitation is to, I think, dismiss another side of the work – some sort of nuanced truth claim, but not Truth. Stengers mentions philosopher Leibniz’s take on Truth: to “not appeal to the strong drug of Truth, or the power to denounce or judge, to deconstruct and criticize” (187). The very notion of the critique while participating in the practice being critiqued seems to throw a wrench into the smooth machine of criticism. Do these works empower in Stengers’ sense of the word or mobilize? What about the witch’s ritual she describes and its effect that is “not becoming aware of something which others already knew, of understanding some truth beyond illusions – her effect is enacting the relation between belonging and and becoming, producing belonging as experimentation while it is always in danger of being some kind of psychological habit”? (195)

Monkey Myths and Elephant Ears

I completed When Species Meet by Donna Haraway for this week. To say the least, there is a lot in the book to find problem with in terms of its side-treatment of disability related issues – consider the chapter “Able Bodies and Companion Species” and not to mention the off non sequitur, “Not simple, these aged and needy parents!” (203) Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe it was just not what I expected. HOWEVER, this post will focus on another artist working with animals as material and subject matter.

Deke Weaver, a performance artist who teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has a life-long project devoted to animals, The Unreliable Bestiary.

The Unreliable Bestiary is a series of performances, a website, and a set of books about our precarious moment in natural history – an ark of stories about animals, our relationships with them, and the worlds they inhabit. The project will present a performance for each letter of the alphabet – the letter representing a particular endangered animal or habitat.

The Unreliable Bestiary also seeks  to unveil the “connections between science, behavioral observations, economics, politics, spirituality, myth, and imagination.”

(Image found at http://interactivefutures2011.wordpress.com)

I have seen two of Weaver’s performances: Monkey and Elephant. I did a brief write-up on Monkey for The Green Lantern’s blog, and when I look back on it now, I did not give enough credit to the animals, the monkeys, apes, and the others.  I was shortchanging the animals as allegories for humans, and I believe I didn’t pay enough attention to the animals themselves, their lives, their histories, their stories. Partially through reading When Species Meet and also through my own work on Franz Kafka’s animal stories and reading of Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari has made me more aware of this mistake of mine. I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner! The stories narrated in Monkey were not just about human genocide as I was thinking before, they are stories of the experience of monkeys themselves and should not be read solely through anthropomorphic lenses. Elephant should be read similarly; we are to mourn the elephant dying in the midwestern snow by itself, far away from home, for itself and not necessarily as a metaphor for our own struggles with loneliness and isolation; we should pay attention to the elephant’s own existential crisis, not just our own. We are to “regard” these animals in Haraway’s sense of it:

I see the regard I am trying to think and feel as part of something not proper to either humanism or post humanism. “Companion species” – coshapings all the way down, in all sorts of temporalities and corporealities – is my awkward term for a not-humanism in which species of all sorts are in question. For me, even when we speak only of people, the animal/human/living/nonliving category separations fray inside the kind of encountering worthy of regard. The ethical regard that I am trying to speak and write can be experienced across many sorts of species differences. The lovely part is that we can know only by looking and by looking back. “Respecere” (164).

I think maybe Weaver is engaging in these narratives to pose questions similar to the ones Haraway asks “Who are you?”, “Who are we?” and what it means to be “partners-in-the-making” (208). Unlike Haraway’s text-based project and her narration of her relationship to her dog, Weaver embodies the animals in his performances through costuming, movement with choreographer and dancer Jennifer Allen, sound with musician Chris Peck, and video. It is not a simple thing of “becoming the other,” and I don’t think that Weaver would claim that that is the case. It seems to be more of a rethinking of human exceptionalism and a paying attention to the “unruly edges” between species (Haraway 218); Weaver is putting himself in the “contact zone” and bringing us with him, for “most of the transformative things in life happen in contact zones” (219). (However, for some other time perhaps, an examination of the “contact zone” is required along with its seeming reliance on Levinasian ethics and the face-to-face encounter – the issue of what is a face and who has a face was not fully addressed, I don’t think in When Species Meet).

Weaver’s animal embodiment is not a simple engagement with the “contact zone” and the “encounter of the other,” rather, it looks toward “becoming-animal;” “to participate in movement, to stake out a path of escape in all its positivity, to cross a threshold, to reach a continuum of intensities that are valuable only in themselves, to find a world of pure intensities where all forms come undone, as do all the significations, signifiers, and signifieds, to the benefit of an unformed matter of deterritorialized flux, of nonsignifying signs” (Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, 13). Like with Kafka, Weaver’s animals don’t simply “refer to a mythology or to archetypes,” but show us more of the animal in its intensities (13).

GIMP

I just saw the dance performance GIMP this evening – one of the events of this year’s Chicago Humanities Festival, theme = The Body.

GIMP is one of Heidi Latsky’s projects.  She is a dancer, choreographer, and founded a dance company – Heidi Latsky Dance – based in New York.  This project, one that apparently grew out of another of her projects exploring her own bodily limbs, consists of abled and disabled dancers.  I was really looking forward to this performance.  I wanted to see what the performance could offer in terms of exploring the continuum of ability, but I was more or less disappointed.

The beginning of the performance was a line up of the dancers with some of them wearing pithy t-shirts like “Let’s get ready to stumble” and “Keep staring and I might do a trick.”  I liked these t-shirts a lot.  The 6 dancers all in a line were easily comparable; I was searching their bodies for difference.  How did their movements reflect or depart from each others?  It seemed at this point that the majority of the dancers were abled.  However, during one of the dancer’s solo performance on stage, i noticed that one of her hands was deformed.  This woman who I originally counted in the abled camp had a difference I had not noticed.  She danced by herself on the stage, emphasizing her hand and its way of moving.

A majority of the dancers were abled including the choreographer.  She claimed in the talk back that she worked with the disabled dancers to discover movements of theirs that were challenging to her, but it did not seem that this was actually in the performance.  The dancers were dancing like dancers – it did not seem that their bodies were challenged to do something different than they were used to.  It made me question the way the performance was put together and what the use of disabled people was really for.

I am not saying that it is a problem for abled people to participate in a disabled performance, but the movements of the “dancer” dancers and the “disabled” dancers were emphatically different.  The disbled dancers seemed to serve a different function than the “dancer” dancers.  This made me uncomfortable to an extent.  Were these dancers with unusual bodies and movements being put on display?  Or, were they simply choosing to share their vulnerable bodies to a public?  What is and should be the role of the choreographer in this sort of situation?  Must physical difference always be emphasized?

I wonder how self-conscious the performance and performers were?  As one of the dancers told us as he broke through the 4th wall: “We thought you were all going to be weird but you’re beautiful.”  Was that a way to convince us and them that we are all beautiful humans?

To learn more about the GIMP project, click here.  And for Heidi Latsky Dance, click here.