having just overhauled the ‘about the live in live cinema’ presentation for the IMAP seminar, i thought it should be quite straightforward to translate this into a 4,000 word essay — my penance for sitting in on a module from QMUL’s excellent drama department last semester. how wrong could i be, the structure to my argument turned out quite differently. all the better for it, however.
The Transmediale / CTM joint keynote was Philip Auslander talking on liveness, and there was no way I wasn’t going to be there. He pretty much owns the field of liveness by virtue of writing the book ‘Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture’. It’s a great book that firmly moves performance theory beyond the aura of the body on stage to something that I can reconcile myself with as a media based performer. Having got over the history of mediatisation, the second edition is a lot more contemporary than the first, and CTM was to hear to my understanding his first progression from the position of that second edition.
The standing critique at my research group Interaction, Media and Communication at Queen Mary is that his conclusions smack of technological determinism and largely ignore the audience, and in so doing discount a phenomenological approach (oversimplified as the liveness comes from how the audience receive) and the human-human interaction (oversimplified as the liveness comes from the transition of a group of individuals into a self-identified audience). So it was nice to hear him pretty much flag these criticisms in his opening remarks and change his argument quite significantly. For my research, I needed to absorb his new discourse as a text, and so transcribed my audio recording of it, which I’ve copied below in the full post entry.
As an aside, I found it crazy that somebody whose research is about liveness and is steeped in performance theory could deliver a keynote in such an impenetrable manner. Everybody I asked about it pretty much said they didn’t get anything from it, they didn’t understand a word he said. Or rather, they heard the words, but couldn’t put the sentences together under barrage from the constant delivery. Such dense academic language read verbatim just wasn’t effective communication as a lecture, yet as transcribed I find it near enough perfect for that form. What I’m about to say is clearly psycho-babble, but it felt as it because he wasn’t actually thinking the construction and arguments in his head, that meaning wasn’t somehow imbued in his delivery of the content, and as such the words were just sounds alone.
Photo: Katrina James http://www.flickr.com/photos/transmediale/5415023473/
Update: Transmediale’s live stream of the keynote is now archived: http://www.vimeo.com/20473967
in one-liners rather than the fuller descriptions I intended, here are the speakers I found interesting. it took a long time for the symposium to get beyond the ‘what’ and start to touch the ‘why’ or ‘what could be’, but there was gold when it did.
Session 2: Medium or Instrument – Emergence and Intention
Artist’s Presentation: Ei Wada “Braun Tube Jazz Band”
Lectures & Discussion: John Croft / Shintaro Myazaki / Rolf Großmann
Chair: Daniel Gethmann
ei wada makes dead media performable, and is definitely worth checking out.
jon croft, photo’d above, addressed what we might like as live rather than what live is — introducing an ‘aesthetic liveness’ — and had a practitioner’s perspective as well as an academic which was good. the criticism would be that it seemed like his opinions as a practitioner written up as fact, but in such a short presentation thats impossible to know.
Session 3: Spectator or Participant?
Artist’s Presentation: Ali Demirel / Rob Fischer
Lectures & Discussion: Steve Dixon / Katja Kwastek / Regine Buschauer
Chair: Frauke Behrendt
ali demirel is somebody i already know, his work with bringing audience interactivity as a central component of the big-budget richie hawtin techno tours is a case study i really want to make as part of my research. while the actual interactions they have produced so far are quite simplistic, the massively important thing they have done is built and tested an infrastructure for this, and still having a ‘client’ that wants to push it, they are now in a (as i see it) unique position to deliver on the potential of audiences and performance enmeshed with technology.
12:00 › Session 4: Immersion and Self Experience
Artist’s presentation: Greg Pope
Artist’s presentation: Yutaka Makino
Lectures & discussion: Gabriele Klein / Werner Jauk / Beate Peter
Chair: Marie-Luise Angerer
beate peter is the surprise hero of the symposium for me, delivering a talk straight from clubland that went to the heart of the live experience vs. the home media version schism. more than any other talks, it foregrounded the experience, the audience.
14:30 › Session 5: Media Performance or Peformance Media?
Artist’s presentation: Naut Humon – Recombinant Media Labs
Lectures & discussion: Malcolm LeGrice / Yvonne Spielmann / Mick Grierson
Chair: Axel Volmar
malcolm legrice needs little introduction, a true pioneer with legacy and wisdom. what caught me specifically was his discussion around what the audience can want from a performer, where it can hinge on surprise as opposed to my thinking of exposing the live process, trivial example could be as a dj might build up the drop.
mick grierson is pushing in all the right directions in terms of digital media and liveness, and at the same time puts the algorithm, something that is unrelated to my take on these things, at the centre of his practice. so there’s something kinda funny for me here, but his laying out of the territory is very seriously worthwhile.
given my phd research centred around liveness and media based performance, off to berlin for the as-if-it-were-made-for-me symposium of club transmediale:
this year’s festival theme #live!? puts the spotlight on the practice of media-based audio/visual live performance. […] in considering what ‘liveness’ entails in the age of media technology, two major aspects may be identified: on the one hand, audiovisual recordings (and reproductions thereof) were what first made it possible to experience a “live” situation in an atemporal and non-site specific manner and, particulary in the context of mass media broadcasts, brought the term “live” into existence as a differentiator that had previously never been needed; and, on the other hand, media artists have experimented with the performative potential of technological media in live settings ever since these were invented, i.e. they tested the limits of film and records, video, tape and the computer. at the same time, the growth in interactive applications of media technologies has lead to new forms of socio-cultural participation and much discussed manifestations of augmented experience. the question as to whether, in terms of their aesthetic and everyday cultural impact certain media technologies are genuinely suited to “liveness” or to its diametric opposite seems to have not yet been conclusively answered.
having said this was made for me, there’s a lot of verbiage there, and i’m less interested in a lot of the thrust of it — the ‘what’ — and a lot more interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how could we’.
there is a big d-fuse production in the works, where the brief rather wonderfully was emphasising interaction with and within the audience. as briefs often do, things have changed a lot since the heady time of working on and winning the pitch, but the core of it is still generative graphics and punter control from the club floor. and so here, courtesy of dr.mo’s crack team of coders is an in-development iPad app talking over WiFi to a QC plugin, where my two fingers-as-proxies-for-collaborating-audience-members are sketching locally and that is being incorporated on the club’s screens.
pixelnoizz, *spark, an empty media card and a glitch machine: when its here+now, you’ll be part of it. an experimental performance workshopped as part of visualberlin festival 2010.
tomorrow week, i’ll be in berlin crossing my fingers for a performance based on only semi-tested technology and a lot of custom development that will happen once i’m over there. collaborating with david aka pixelnoizz, who so impressed me with his performance serpendity at lpm last year, and has since gone on to develop a whole suite of quartz composer based glitch stuff. which is just what a project based on a stream of photographs coming in from a camera roving around the venue needs. its also a collaboration-in-absentia with vade, as his v002 plugins are a big part of this, and he was there at lpm where the spirit of collaborations took hold amongst our group. and if he could, i’d wager he’d be over doing this with us in a flash.
there’s also an interesting aside in that the poster image for this was created by quickly knocking something up in quartz composer, and pressing the ‘re-glitch’ buttons until a nice combination popped out. so really, rather than having the static image, that composition should be the poster, quietly evolving by itself, glitching through the embedded images and whatever it finds in the graphics memory of everybody’s individual machines. not that that would be a ‘safe’ composition that would be allowed to play in a osx browser, but hey.
as part of the media and arts technology programme, a group of us have been investigating live performance in terms of the audience. its an area i have great interest in, believing that the entertainment can be an emergent property of the audience rather than something that has to be received from a singular performance/performer: eg. kinetxt. this project is more subtle than that, instead trying to tease apart what exactly makes an audience an audience and play with that. the first step is to stop thinking of an audience as a single thing. its a collection of people who at some point, hopefully, come together and somehow an audience emerges. its the interactions between the individuals that create an unstable state we call an audience…?
as our experiment, we created a mini-cabaret event and tried a few things out with our technological twists. here is keir performing john cage’s 4’33”, and for once not because we suddenly needed to fill five minutes, but because we had the whole venue decked out as an audience noise feedback matrix, gently developing and becoming more overt through the piece.
my phd has this first year not doing phd stuff. which isn’t all bad: i have to make an “experimental documentary about a contemporary arts practice” to hone my media production skills. i think the brief was “make sure they know how to use a camera”, props to the film department at queen mary for challenging us with something a bit more interesting.
so here i am, mike’s EX3 in hand, spending a day or so running round london on a slightly gonzo mission to talk about live cinema with my practitioner peers. big thanks to chris, mike and paul for the interviews and sarah for the assistance and interested-outsider perspective. and this photo.
part research, part curiosity, part embarrassment at just not having been before, i mounted a solo reconnaissance of secret cinema. and was impressed. if i’d known the film was going to be bugsy malone, i probably wouldn’t have bothered, but it was great: hundreds of hipsters in 1920’s chicago dress, and a moment of sheer audience electricity as they all realised there really was going to be a giant custard pie fight, and they were not just in the middle, but the only way through was to embrace it. that, and grab and put on a plastic poncho in the ten remaining seconds…
second of two installations i’ve really enjoyed recently, re-rite is a multitrack recording of the philharmonia orchestra performing stravinsky’s the rite of spring, played out across 25 screens and the three floors and many rooms of the wonderfully dilapidated bargehouse. i’d have gone to see such a mediated-live-performance-with-lots-of-screens type thing anyway, and doubly so as the philharmonia partnered with friends yeast to make this (props, pulled it off to a really high standard) but it really got under my skin: the experience was unique, beyond the goal of somehow giving the experience of being inside an orchestra on stage.
easy to explain would be the thrill of hearing a percussion crash somewhere else in the building come reverberating through while you were isolated with an entirely more delicate section of the orchestra. harder to convey would be as you explored the different rooms there was almost a touch of a haunted house rather than the known jigsaw you’d see on stage. at the heart of it is something that could only be delivered through such an installation, that wasn’t about the orchestral unit you see on stage, but was still very much about the orchestra, the music, the players. which is also why there is no photo from the installation above, just a production still i cullled from the website.