Networked_Performance

[empyre] … slippage, becoming, reembodiment

Micha Cardenas wrote: […] As a coder and hardware hacker who is also a performance artist, I feel that the complexity of contemporary computing puts it into the realm of dynamic systems whose predictability is not simply linear. At the level of high level programming languages, there can be millions of instructions represented with a single line of C++ code, so the layers of complexity are deep. At the level of circuits, the movement of electricity can be erratic or smooth, even though much effort is put into channeling and taming it. The lines between smooth digital representation and messy analog electricity are not as clear as one might think.

At a workshop with Erin in the Sense Lab, we worked on relational movement exercises, with a partner, working on the kind of subtle listening to one’s own body moving and learning to feel the movement of one’s partner, in an exercise like tango, stomach to stomach. The experience reminded me of my study of Theater of the Oppressed with my students in that there is so much learning that needs to be done to find one’s body and to be able to feel it. When I think of the kind of aporias that are opened by by simply trying to describe a movement, to find the line between one movement and the next, I am reminded of Boal’s idea that ideas and emotions are trained and mechanized and by moving in new ways we may learn to think in new ways.

In this way, I find the notion of indifference to movement difficult, as in my experience movement is always closely tied to desire and affect. In fact, considering the practice of Theater of the Oppressed, and the trajectories of feminism and cyberfeminism, it seems that learning not to be indifferent to movement is critical, learning to listen to the body. In my experience as a transgender person, it has taken me years of work to learn to allow my own desires to exist and that has come through listening to myself and exploring my own body and movement and desires and affect.

Mixed Reality performance, for me, highlights the thrownness of the body, the way that we are constantly shifting through realities from our physical lived reality to our cell phones to our online identities such as the ones conjured by our writings on this list to our imagined selves to the selves we desire to be. Perhaps one can imagine fractal flesh and phantom flesh as related to this notion of slippage. I have been recently developing the idea of transreal, of existing between realities, having an identity spanning multiple realms, as so many of us have identities which extend, as stelarc said in our talk about learning to live in mixed realities, “beyond the boundaries of our skin”, but include online bodies, multiplied, folded, amplified, distributed assemblages. As you are reading this your mind is shifting from your fantasy of me writing or saying this, to your fantasy of yourself reading it, back into your body and your surroundings, always shifting in and out, just as in the act of watching a performer, in movement or still, there is a shimmering, never a perfect clear act of sight, but more a pulsing mirage of a performer…

As always, my interest is in disturbing borders, and I find movement to be such a rich field of investigation in its close dance with gender, desire, pedagogy and politics… The simple question of how one walks down the street, while unexamined by most, becomes a tumbling nebula of multiplicities bursting with resonances…

For now I have to shift out of this space for a moment, thank you all. I hope you enjoy these electrons I have shared with you.

micha

Micha also wrote:

hi all,

Ashley, i totally resonate with your last post. for me, (or how i’ve been trained in our art department at ucsd) post-conceptual, post-contemporary art is a kind of thinking. i began realizing this when i was studying clowning and came across the book Through The Body by Dymphna Callery where she discusses thinking with the body. As I continued to study Boal and Theater of the Oppressed, I understood more how physical gestures can in themselves be a kind of thinking and how thinking about physical gestures can allow one to approach a problem in a totally new way. This is how I educate my computing and the arts students about concepts like the virtual, war, interactivity, race and gender, by using movement exercises asking them to improvise gestures around these concepts, allowing them to not only think of means of representation but then to embody them, feel them and realize new things about them.

With my work, I begin with a question, or a set of questions and try to find a performance gesture which can give me some new knowledge about this question. Sometimes its a matter of just looking very closely at one thing, as in durational performance, I see Becoming Dragon in a way as getting very up close and personal with the gritty materiality of the virtual, of the motion capture camera, of the head mounted display. Yet I also think about it in terms of an investigation of the line between the real and the virtual and how it can be blurred.

One of the first conversations I had about Becoming Dragon was with our technical director at CRCA, and he was asked, “are you sure you want to wear the hmd? (i)t gives you a strong sense of disembodiment”, and I said “but isn’t a sense of reembodiment? I’ll have a new virtual arm, and with the motion capture, when I move my arm it will move, whats the difference in the sense of your real arm moving and your virtual arm moving?” I still find this notion of reembodiment to be an important concept for me, outside of the embodiment/ disembodiment binary, because it is only because of our memory of embodiment, our sense of having a body, our muscle memories of walking, that we can understand this new avatar as our own body, as an extension of ourselves. The notion of transreal speaks to this well for me, in that our identities, bodies and gestures have significant constituent parts which span multiple realities.

My interest is really in this queer strategy of blurring boundaries and categories and continuing to push that limit, not only the line between genders and sexes, but between the real and the virtual, the human and the machine, but still holding onto an affective sense of compassion or holding onto a consideration of the ethical stakes of such an intervention. I think that haraway’s recent book “when species meet” expresses this incredibly well. This quote gets to an explication of some of the ethical questions involved in bringing together people and machines or people and other species:

“…ways of living and dying matter: Which historically situated practices of multispecies living and dying should flourish” There is no outside from which to answer that mandatory question; we must give the best answers we come to know how to articulate, and take action, without the god-trick of self-certainty… Far from reducing everything to a soup of post- (or pre-) modern complexity in which anything ends up permitted, companion-species approaches must actually engage in cosmopolitics, articulating bodies to some bodies and not others, nourishing some worlds and not others, and bearing the mortal consequences.”

I can appreciate haraway’s approach which accepts our finitude and historical situatedness, yet which still seeks to bring multiple bodies, technologies and species together. My new project that I’m working on now, tentatively titled “mixed relations” is a collaboration with Elle Mehrmand in which we are experimenting with putting two performers together in mixed reality environments to create live audio, exploring not just “how am i changed” but “how are we changed” and how do our relationships to each other and these technologies change, become erotic, become painful, break down or transform into something new.

I also love the writing of the argentinian group Colectivo Situaciones on the question of theory/ practice, from a footnote(!) in their article:

“Faced with these deliberations, our friend poses questions: “How is it that you do not believe in communicating and publishing texts?” In order to separate ourselves from the alienating image of communication, in its ingenuous version as a message from one consciousness to another, we suppose that writing, implicit in a practice, in a living thought, is particularly moving for those who search. We experience publication more as a search for (producing-receiving) resonances than as a transmission of messages. The final goal of publication is, in our case, extending experimentation, establishing links with those who experiment in other places. This bond is incompatible with the pure “will to communicate.” from PDF or in html:

gracias,

micha


May 26, 11:50
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