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January 16, 2017 / Tamara Reynolds

Lecture as Ephemeral Performance

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, an engaging and ephemeral act that, 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.




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