are not really endings
are not really endings
I am interested in the relationship between action and its depiction. The tension between the two is an inherent attribute of every picture taken.Or every video recorded, but not every story told: the medial turn in the case of stories, between reality and representation, is a different one, one that cannot be overlooked so easily This dichotomy is also at the root of how we imagine how life, and how one who is living should look like (feel, behave etc.). Trouble comes when we mistake one for the other, and the relations and positions get mixed up. Representation takes the place of reality.
The starting point of this research is performance art and its documentation. The hiding of reality behind the plane of an image appears most purely in these situations. This turn (be it iconic, pictoral, medial or simply photographic) is easy to observe in such well defined and clear instances. This journey from cause to effect (between an action and the document, photo or video remnant) is what is being explored here.
The viewpoint of theory is generally one of looking backwards. But is it possible to structure a theoretical point of view in the present of a piece?We certainly have the means to do it.
Looking back and drawing conclusions on the past has presented itself as an inevitable course of action. Because not surprisingly everything that has happened, has happened in the past. If there can be memories of something that never took place, or of something that is yet to happen, the direction of theory may not be this limited.
The big avant-garde escape from the physical artwork was so drastic that the space left by it – immediately and perhaps inevitably – had to be filled with some palpable document. The reason for the lack of examples who were able to evade this, is that by evading this maybe you also evade being made an example.
Only bad examples visualize themselves because good examples have better things to do then to become a spectacle. If you meet the Buddha kill the Buddha.meaning: the Buddha you can meet, or the teaching that can be told to you and not discovered by you is not the real thing. Perhaps it's fundamentally wrong to state something,In the same time implying insufficiencies that brought forth the statement and disproving other statements. and anyone who does so even though, should be handled with skepticism.I have nothing to say/ and I am saying it/ and that is poetry/ as I need it. Cage 'Lecture on Nothing' (1949)
The existence of depiction or documentation is a time based phenomenon. It is a byproduct of the flowing (of) time and our position in it. An intention to stop time or somehow link a distinct past to our present. Change and divert its course.
Every picture taken, is a freezing of time, a stop put where no stops should be put.Ubi Fluxus Ibi Motus – (The title of the 1990 Venice Biennal Fluxus Exhibition Catalog) roughly translating where is flow there is movement. Since every image captured is death any indigenous fear of the camera and what it can do needs no more justification. A high price is paid if someone uses it and forgets – or even worse, knows – to make something visible is to hold it captive.Boris Groys on the corpse of Lenin, in: On Art Activism - Journal #56 June 2014
Inescapable change is not just a symptom of time it is time itself. And the only way to navigate in it is to record. It is because of this that many performative works inherently contain a method for remembrance. Sometimes – and this is true not only as an art practice – they are in their attitude a design of memory.
This is often implemented through an intimate relation between the performer and the camera. An imaging done through performative means.
The camera is a link to another time, just as a paper when something is written on it. The phrase that every image is a window also applies from the point of view of the creator. An image is made so that at one point, later in time it will be looked upon. By the maker or by someone else that's irrelevant.Just as every diary is written consciously or unconsciously with the prospect of future readers in mind. It still is a link to an uncertain time.
The theatre is a place of image production. The scenes or scenographic images are also compositions between frames. But this image – as opposed to the photographic one – doesn't stop time, it merely dissects it. It separates a certain portion of it, puts it on stage to inspect and measure it as an alternative line of events.
Performance art also operates with the separation of time. The time of happeningsPainting → assamblage → environment (and with the introduction of time) → happening (Kaprow). or other action works is a separated thread of time. Only something which is separate can be examined. And also by definition anything that we pay attention to becomes separated from us. In theatrical and non-participatory performative works the continuity of the piece and its separated time is only possible because we as spectators are suspended from our time. The time of the observer and not of the piece is what stops during a performance.
Any attitude trying to conserve the fleeting or fix the continuous and give it concrete form is inherently futile. Futile in a sense that the original is lost, and what is left is only a mockery. But not futile in producing something tangible. In appearance it works because it does not take into consideration anything other than appearances. Everything unchangeable is in a basic misunderstanding with The Way Things GoA 1987 video of Fischli & Weiss of almost biblical significance in the subject matter. and thus it is only supposedly unchangeable. Only something that can exist in a state of constant flux could mend this discrepancy of change.
Just like lovePictures Of You by The Cure
or Close My Eyes Forever by Ozzy Osbourne And Lita Ford
every picture wants to keep its object unchanged, but just like love, it can never truly succeed. And we've seen how much is lost in order to stop inevitable change, and natural processes in a thousand different narratives, both fictional and non-fictional.
One that stands out especially is the Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Where by escaping change, the thing bearing that change is the one that isn't supposed to, a constant vehicle of remembrance, the painting of the flawless boy. We have changed the natural order of things, caused so much distress that the one thing that shouldn't move moves. The painting is the metaphor of perceptible and imperceptible derangement. The idea of an ever changing piece of art, with a fluid non-definitive form – whatever horrid thing it is displaying – is present in this work.
Art with the introduction of the spatial and time dimensions and the performative element stepped out from behind the plane of the image. But through the documentation methods applied to performance based works it stepped back again. These infinitely revisitable reproductions are seemingly the only way of afterlife for a work of action art. If it does not hide behind the image it is not decoded as a 'work'. Nonetheless the unsuspected forms that question this may be more aligned with the ephemeral nature of this art form.This is the reason why in my MA degree project I've used live streaming as a method to 'distribute' a live video performance http://kristofkristof.com/.../a-veletlen-megidezese/
Image production has always been a good tool for consolidation. A method with which fleeting positions of beauty, political momentum or authority can be stabilized. This of course applies in the case of performance art. From a sociopolitical viewpoint only the privileged have the power to distort reality with images. And it is not only their but everyone's reality.
The effects of images quickly become universal. While survival of the fittest unfolds and develops through countless generations, the consequences of image production happen instantly and with great horizontality. The scarcity of attention and the surfaces and media with which to capture it dictate an evolutionary directing principle. Only the fit reproduce and only the fit depict.
Works with simple and dense conceptual structure or gestaltHiggins, Dick, Postmodern Performance: Some Criteria and Common Points in Performance by Artists, 1978 acquire rigidity in their form. But if the basic idea behind a work is so simpleNot in its approach or intent but in the actual line of events that constitute the work. that it can be fully transcribed into a sentence, it often is. In such cases the textual reference usually takes the place of a photo or video documentation. These text or story based word of mouth references substitute a more fluid and possibly less concrete manner in which works can be (re)interpreted and remembered.
Petr Pavlensky nailing his scrotum to Red Square in 2013 is a perfect example. The action is based on a simple premise. The photos of the event are incidental. What is important is the actual fact that it happened. It is beside the point exactly how. In connecting his own hopelessness to that of gulag victims, he secured himself both in a literal and metaphorical sense to an unmovable feature of political terrain. By doing so he also created a word of mouth representation of his work, which grants it myth-like significance and power.
Many times the essence of a piece is lost by freezing it into an easily accessible reproduction. The analytical mind limits continuous flow or movement and only a well defined constant thing can be studied by measuring and other scaled inspection methods. Any fluidity achieved with it is only granular.Measuring with better instruments can take us close to reach fluidity, but not all the way. To design a function that matches and thus predicts a granular set of values one has to take an important step ahead and synthesize the analytically collected data into an expression (that was not present in the values themselves).
There is a parable in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig about the difference of western and eastern schools of thought. It mirrors the two approaches in an identical model situation: meeting a flower.
The western scientist upon finding a flower (unknown kind before for him) rips out the flower takes it to his laboratory makes drawings of its different parts, counts the petals, dissects the plant etc. and ultimately because of his actions, the flower dies. In opposition the Zen poet upon finding a flower contemplates its essence, rests in its shadow, enjoys its fragrance and forms a haiku from his experiences. Between these polarized situations a question arises about who got closer to discovering the flowerness of the flower. And soon after another follows: which of these experiences answer better to the all too pressing need of knowledge production.
The intention to depict movement, and therefore time in painting has been a long standing one. Nudes descending staircases and dogs running on a leash have been part of our understanding, not only of how movement is depicted but, how movement unfolds in actuality. Although it's no less present, the need to depict polymorphism has been a less articulated one.
The 1533 Holbein painting The Ambassadors is a clear example. With an unusual trompe-l'oeil effect the artist splits the canvas into two alternating states that manifest according to your viewpoint. The pictorial indeterminacy present in op-art works is abstract but still akin to this.
The anecdote of Oskar Kokoschka telling his models to move around and change positions frequently also shows an interest in presenting latent possibilities simultaneously on the canvas.
These images may be different in nature but they all exhibit similar ambiguous and undefined states.A photography fueled version of this is also present in the works of Gerhard Richter, and a newer example fueled by digital image manipulation and 3D modeling: the paintings of US based artist Austin Lee.
If one makes the right preparations change can be invited into a work. It is what John Cage does in his composition, 4'33''. By setting up two time coordinates 4 minutes and 33 seconds apart a time interval of near infinite opportunities is created. Anything that happens between these two points becomes part of the composition. In fact the composition is nothing but the accidental sounds and events that occur within its time frame. This frame then can be positioned anywhere in time and space so virtually anything can be a part of the piece. Thus the seemingly strict rule outlining it works on its contrary and facilitates freedom.The right kind of which is not easy to achieve: 'I must find a way to let people be free without their becoming foolish. So that their freedom will make them noble. How will I do this? That is the question.' Cage in John Cage / David Tudor – Indeterminacy (1992)
The transformation taking place between a score and its performance, or a dramatic text and a staged version of it is a kind of artificial evolution. During the staging process the original often textual or paper based work is reinterpreted through countless iterations and changes to produce something that is alive, and has value in the present. This process ensures the actuality of a given work. It is used to counter the inflexibility of the source. This is a way in which an ever changing artwork is achieved. Not by an original that is ever changing but by continuous effort making it one.
The countless possibilities which are latently present in the score can make the piece complete even without a manifestation. This is the reason why the final form of many fluxus scores is not an event but the idea of an event on a piece of paper. This form holds a multiformity which an actual rendering of the event – by its nature – cannot.
There is nothing wrong in trying to sustain a moment.
The trouble comes if we succeed.
Traditionally the real evil and the real good are what escape definition. We do not know the name of god only a placeholder for it. Because knowing the true name of something gives us power over that thing, true names and true forms are concealed.In Hungarian a remnant of paganism and shamanism can be seen in the name of some animals. Their true demonic names are unknown (perhaps only have been known by the shamans) and are called by a reference name → wolf = farkas which literally translates as the one with tail, deer = szarvas : the one with horns. Reciting the name of a demon or other entity not only summons it, but gives us control over it. Only something with a name and definite form can be grasped comprehended, and for that matter ruled.
Giving someone your truest form is surrender. If you go by many names you may risk not being known, but you avoid being caught.
Performance is the 'unifying mode of the postmodern'.Through Philip Auslander: Pomo and performance ? Michel Benamou, ”Presence and Play” in Michel Benamou and Charles Caramello (eds.) Performance in Postmodern Culture (1977) p.3. Everything that we perceive as a fixed state is constructed continually through actions. Still – going ahead of the canonizing methods of art theory – many artists working in a project based practice, package their art in an essentially solid way to ease its quick interpretation. Often this effort goes contrary to the nature of the work. The results of this second order mediatization are internet friendly, easily transferable pseudo-works, that are compressed versions of the originals. Which are inherently fixed and finished.
A piece can be a momentary manifestation of latent possibilities present within the system of the work. In such cases nothing is fixed in the final work only in the conditions from which it arises.
Theory either has to be adapted to inspect something fluid or it can only be applied to the source of the workThe artistic attitudes, system of rules and conditions producing it. not the actual rendering. The directing principles can be articulated into a form that can be stored indefinitely and every time upon accessing it, a new rendering of the work is produced. As is the case of many event works by George Brecht this score also becomes the documentation, which is in universal contact with all of its performances, even the imagined ones. We can only examine this with a speculative frame of mind, which relies strongly on imagination and artistic attitudes of synthesis present in the spectator. Through this method a new work is created in order to examine it.
If there is no solid source from where to start with this speculative practice, this approach has to be altered and expanded to reverse engineer the preconditions based on the actual work. Build up the background from which it is brought forth and from which it can be made again.
The intention to produce images is rooted in a basic attitude towards life. To preserve that which is of value, and which might go away otherwise. That way every image is a proposal of what we wish reality to be. And this is true of every image that is not completely abstract (which are virtually non-existent).
We look through these images as we would through a window, to an alternative world that is continually shaped by our efforts. But if we go outside we find, as if in a bad dream, that we are inside again. Our understanding of reality is relearned continually through images.
Presented with an artwork lacking debatable form theory has to find another subject → itself.The serpent biting its tail is a clear symbol of continuous change, and renewal. This either meas that the artist while creating the work also has to create the theoretical background necessary for its reception, making the two inseparable. Or theory has to become a work on its own. To inspect continuous change it simply becomes one with that which is changing.
The result of both these ways is a symbiotic merging of theory and practice.