I enjoy and appreciate lecturing about my practice and how it is situated in contemporary art for selfish reasons, although perhaps not for the reason that may initially come to mind.
I find it a precious opportunity to re-evaluate my work, ideas and theories regarding sound, performance, spatial aesthetics and authorship. It is indeed the very state that I am preoccupied with, a state of liminality present to an artist, individual, and experience constantly becoming.
One of my favorite theorists and sociologists, Arpad Szakolczai, discusses this liminal state as
‘…a restoration of meaning and the pouring of fresh wine into old bottles.’
I mention this concept in my book. It is this fermenting power, brought on by the pressure of a well-defined deadline or event, that allows a heightened process of examination and articulation of both the self and one’s work in the world which has the added benefit of revitalizing direction and enthusiasm in spades!
So, it was on such an occasion while preparing for a lecture at Parsons that I once again unpacked my work, its meaning, and relevance to not only impart knowledge, but to create an experience.
During grad school, a professor of mine once spoke of lecturing as a performance in the broadest sense, and I must agree.
Lecturing is, if done well, is an engaging and ephemeral act that, as one hopes, stretches far beyond the studio or lecture hall to take on further thought, discussion and experimentation from those present in varied streams of time and place.
So I began to ask myself the question “How does the gesture of performance exist after it has been performed and documented?” I think if we go with Dr. Duclos’ interpretation of lecturing as performance, such an example illustrates the premise that performance exists as residue, traced in memory and reactivated, and what I find most exciting, morphed, through the act of individual recollection that surpasses all documentation. The ephemerality of the experience changes over time, whereas the archive, the documentation remains untouched, static.
I believe that it is this un-documentable aspect of experience within this transitory space-time where all of the juicy creative potentials reside.
This brings to mind a humorous and tragic performance of The Nutcracker in the scene where the Rat King battles the Nutracker Prince for power on Christmas Eve. The music builds in tempo, the Rat King lurches forward in a sparring match with his foe. However, in this particular performance, the Rat King, having miscalculated his momentum falls forward, catapulting himself in an uncontrolled, spasmodic tumble through space, bringing to mind Yves Klein’s Leap Into the Void (1960). Understandably, the residue held in the aftermath surpasses any notion of documentation, right?!
Ephemeral intervention in space is an anti-elitist gesture that has the power to alter social, political, and urban systems through experience. It is the fleeting, artistic enterprise that involves risk with unpredictable outcomes, much like our Rat King, existing outside the protected and controlled context of the white cube exhibition space, or stage for that matter, held up by collaboration and interaction that, I would argue, exists past any state of ‘having happened’ in the past or losing content due to the fact that it continues afterwards in an elongated space-time, superimposed upon the ‘present’ for those having witnessed and experienced it.
“We no longer live addicted to speech; having lost our senses, now we are going to lose language too. We will be addicted to data, naturally. Not data that comes from the world, or from language, but encoded data. To know is to inform oneself. Information is becoming our primary and universal addiction.” (Michael Serres, The Five Senses)
Okay, perhaps that is a bleak statement, but let’s seriously ponder our current trajectory.
Buckminster Fuller qualified the universe as a series of non-simultaneous apprehended events; the real, or our perception of it, under constant readjustment as new information is gathered.
― Lewis Carroll,
This contemporary feature of existing constantly doped on knowledge ensures that the on-going rattle of data (a state of becoming) the real instantaneously, thereby cutting down all value of the previous. The further along the production of data, the further one gets from the original generating source, casting the real deeper into umbra, the simulacrum. Like a drug, the individual seeking a fix of this type is never made happy or satisfied, but the very act of not having access to it often creates a greater perceived misery.
We are all guilty of going down the preverbal rabbit hole, (great article here), and sometimes it’s necessary in order to lead to the true nature of ‘reality’, particularly in this day and age of misinformation. However, what of the experience that one’s morning, day, or worse, the weekend, has been consumed by topic ‘research?’
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll,
I recently came across this gritty sensorial view of NYC through the lens of a blind resident.
Through this gentleman’s perspective, no preconceived notions of social, racial or economic boundaries exist for him; he states “I can penetrate neighborhoods.” All senses are piqued; smells, temperature and sound in particular, color his daily world, completely devoid of lightness or dark.
I had befriended a man in Portland, Maine, blind since birth, who navigated the city in a similar manner, avoiding new areas and choosing to adhere to familiar terrain and people. He had agreed to work on a project with me and we would meet and talk for a while at his favorite lunch spot. Just walking with him, each step calculated, each destination planned out well in advance, gave me an extreme insight into his capacity for true presence in the moment, how trust is always in question, and how the continual feelings of fear and vulnerability blanket each day’s activities.
“The artificial memory is established from places and images, the stock definition to be forever repeated down the ages. A locus is a place easily grasped by the memory, such as a house, an intercolumnar space, a corner, an arch, or the like. Images are forms, marks or simulacra of what we wish to remember.
If we wish to remember much material we must equip ourselves with a large number of places. It is essential that the places should form a series and must be remembered in their order, so that we can start from any locus in the series and move either backwards or forwards from it.”
– Francis Yates, The Art of Memory
And so Ariadne gave to him this in clew, the use of a string to mark the way, by which Theseus might escape after the monster was killed.
– Attributed to Ovid
I have recently gotten my hands on a copy of The Activist Drawing, a type of retrospective of Dutch artist Constant Niewenhuys’ experimental architectural vision of a possible future cityscape created in 1956; which he termed New Babylon. What brings this into current discourse is the uncanny resemblance to today’s world-wide web, reflecting Constant’s ‘unified urbanism’ and socio-political reconfigurations morphing almost as quickly as technology’s stratifigraphic formations. In New Babylon, every aspect of sensorial engagement would be plastic, reconstructed according to an individual’s momentary desires. He devised a parallel world where movement, not settlement would reign. Constant’s argument for such a possibility was seated in the discourse of a dialectical view of life, where one moment erases the preceding one; essentially a constant unfolding of experience. Keeping this in mind, one can readily see Constant’s deep involvement with Guy Debord and International Situationiste; even writing for the IS Journal during ’58. Often criticized for his dedication to what many thought to be an abandonment of current society, Constant believed his drawings and models to be an activist’s call to arms for a free and revolutionary culture.
(1971) New Babylon, Nord
The term moshing originated in the 80s hardcore punk scene in D.C. This aspect of mashing (currently referred to as moshing) was intrinsic to club culture at the time, and I soaked it up like a sponge. The term has grown in current culture to not only denote music and sound compositions, but aggregate web development portals using open source and APIs (web technologies that allow interaction between websites) as well. I am fascinated with this constantly morphing and rapidly evolving model of appropriation in both U.S. and transnational social trends.
The following video celebrates this idea of cultural moshing evident in the collaborative creative achievements of Ray and Charles Eames, drawing parallels between contemporary architecture and design, music, and art.
‘ You got to know where you at.’ -Ice Cube
There is a relevance to the conceptual nature to a series of seismographic process drawings (Commute) produced in L.A., which examine the connections between road condition and socio-economic landscape to Ice Cube’s reference to L.A. roadway culture. This is interesting in light of my Commute series, which traces the terrain of LA roadways in such an examination.