Monday, 7 November 2011

tenth discursion

"archivization produces as much as it records the event" Archive Fever, Derrida.

Friday, 28 October 2011

ninth discursion

If “in the observation of things there is also the observation of memory” then the site of criticism is the finding and opening up in the artwork of what breaks from memory, from history. Critical engagement seeks the discontinuity, the rupture with the past that reveals this actual present, or throws light into an expanding hinterland of potential futures. In the desire to make legible something outside of an “observation of memory”, something improbable and momentarily outside the layers of institutional framing, a critical engagement or interpretative encounter needs to apply maximum stress to the artwork.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

eighth discursion

for a series of sculptures made during An Action Of Words please go to:

seventh discursion

The moment of interpretation, the space of reflection moves and the encounter extends beyond the confines of an actual physical proximity to the work. The live duration of interpretation continues as the event itself moves past in time, not into the site of forgetting, or into an archival space of documentation. To maintain the act of interpretation involves none of these sites. Interpretation continues to develop as the event rolls around in the spoil of un-witnessed events, the sparks of its passage into other spaces and times become legible as a second-hand communication, through the telling and re-telling of other conversations and discussions, relayed back to this site of interpretation through voice. The work has shifted momentarily into a video document, a recording capable of being repeatedly unwound as a technical spectacle, but the telling of this particular event is still different, it does not rest in seeing a projection of the workings of the black box of the camera. The vocal telling, is instead projection of the biological black box of the mind.

Friday, 21 October 2011

sixth discursion

ventriloquism is a performance in which a trick is played, but it is a trick you knowingly accept. what is at issue in the ventriloquist's act is the performance of a specific skill; how much do their lips move and are we able to 'believe' that the puppet is alive. The acceptance of a trick, of a manipulative act on the sense and cognition of the viewer is important in many forms of entertainment or stage-craft. But in all of these staged situations it is known that a trick is being performed, the viewer accepts the contract of the stage with its sub-clause of manipulation. in most performances, theatrical or otherwise, the key element is technical skill, the virtuosity of the performer and their ability to captivate the viewer, to generate an emotional or aesthetic experience. unlike the magician, or the ventriloquist whose obvious trickery is part of the pleasure of their practice; theatre, cinema and most forms of performance (except those of a Brechtian leaning) seek to hide their illusion, the strategic manipulation of space, time and the viewing subject. this is a politics, a construction of the subject, in which free agency is negated or at least put on hold before the seductiveness of aesthetic pleasure.
how much can we choose what gives us pleasure, an innocent and maybe pointless question, but when asked from inside a consumer society it reveals the limits of agency and will. when we experience aesthetic pleasure we become the ventriloquist's dummy, unknowing of whose grammar is animating us.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

ruminations on performance

In the 1530’s the word performance referred to “the carrying out of a promise, duty, etc.,” Between 1590-1610s the word shifted to become “a thing performed” or “the action of performing a play”. In 1709 the word came to mean “a public entertainment”. The term Performance Art came into usage in the 1970’s.

But this is history.

The following are comments made by the artists during the salon, held in the writer’s boardroom. In reference to the previous open rehearsal in the city square during 19 October 2011, artists Adeline Bourret, Sam Belinfante and Lore Lixenburg gave their following perspectives. (Transcribed in chronological order)

“I actually did something in the square when people were not around. I was going to do some movement… with all the drumming… but when I actually saw it I thought it was part of artistic decisions. I thought actually… it is all about sound. And then I turned around and there was this empty square and I thought… It would be really great if I were standing in the middle doing some movement. Some shapes. So that is what happened for me this afternoon.” - Adeline Bourret

“For me I thought it was one of the least successful things that we have partaken in so far. I think the main reason for that, is that we contradicted stuff that we have been talking about all week –in terms of the fact that we made a performance. We were lined up a bit like a kind of a Goya painting where they are all lined up against a wall or with the guns…and then we were all there to do a performance and I properly made this all worse making the drummers (stand) in a line like that."

We were talking a lot about margins and liminati. It was really interesting that we were going to do a performance in the square but we weren’t allowed in the square. So we had to have this peripheral position and by actually straddling this position a lot of the problematics of what we were doing came to the fore and the fact of who were we actually doing this for… Were we doing this for us? For the development of the project? Or were we doing this to pander to a certain requirement or to a certain widening participation element or for/from a certain city or gallery position? We were on an uneasy position on this periphery, which was made successful by Adeline puncturing that and then going in, into the space which wasn’t the space of the performance.” – Sam Belinfante

“I think that maybe the mistake today is that we wanted to generate images to be used afterwards for the gallery. I think that is how we saw this day and tomorrow but because of how we were positioned it was very much like - this is the stage – although there were maybe invisible boundaries, they were there. That is why I was like hmm this is interesting there… I am going to do something there." (the square) – Adeline Bourret

See its funny I almost didn’t see it as performance. That is how I work a lot… - Adeline Bourret

“I think it’s about ownership of that performance and asking who are you performing for? I think tomorrow when we got to the botanic gardens I think we just got to do the same thing we would do in an empty gallery and with the kind of supplementary interest of having public engagement. That’s the kind of tension.” - Sam Belinfante

“So to make it a real rehearsal. More of a rehearsal” – Lore Lixenberg

How much of this undertaking of rehearsals operates as an attempt to initially obfuscate the notion of a rehearsal and performance yet all the while, is building a progression towards that which is familiar? That which we might be tempted to call a success? We will know more when we compare the rehearsal in the city centre to the rehearsal in the botanical gardens and in particular when we have watched the cumulative performance.

fifth discursion

the world is comfortable with the rhetoric of collaboration, but not with its actual concrete practice. in an arts education setting, the typical studio will be full of drawing easels, made for one eye and one hand. the size of the paper sheet, made to fit the scale of the upright easel, is suited to the single gaze. most rooms and buildings only have chairs designed for single occupants and nearly all doorways are only capable of admitting one person at a time, the very architecture pushes us apart, its fixtures and fittings split us into solitudes. a piece of furniture to accomodate collaboration is rare, usually the only space designed for a group of people, supposedly working on a common agenda is the meeting or board room, but even here the single expansive table is so large that individuals are physically out of reach when they sit on opposite sides. in this atmosphere how is it possible to foster an air of collaboration or collective agency, when even the physical fabric itself is an obstacle.

Rehearsal in the city square 19 October 2011

This was recorded in the city square during the open rehearsal of A Cut A Scratch A Score on 19 October 2011. video

Punctuation marks

Last night, the Exhibitions team, the artists and us writers had an evening meal and the first chance to let our hair down as a group. Discussions, strategy and planning continued this morning over breakfast and it was decided that neither we nor the artists were interested in leading this afternoon’s 17:00 Salon; we would both rather continue with our work. The performance is due to open to the public at 19:00 tomorrow, perhaps the session could be led by the MFA students and their impressions of the week thus far?

An interesting element to arise from last night’s Salon was how the artists were entirely unaware of what our intended were to be. David asked about the nature of our process, Sam was concerned about whether and how our work would impact the performance, Bruce welcomed the fact that it could. Fundamentally, and this also arose from the fact that the artists were disappointed in yesterday’s rehearsal, it seemed that the notion of their authorship being undermined by factors including expectation, the audience and ourselves could have an adverse effect on the unintentional intentionality of their working process.

I’m very aware that the above text makes a clear distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’, which is the case to an extent but we are now coming to a point where our paths will converge further, and it would help if we could use the time apportioned for the Salon to make this happen.

fourth discursion

"the notion of strategic critique where the criteria for making judgements are discovered or invented through the course of criticism". P18 site-writing, Jane Rendell.

Interpretation and criticism as a slow, patient and gradual realisation of an idea, a plotting out, a playing out, and extended bringing to being of something. This something could be an 'idea', a set of social relations or a methodology to be worked out in another situation. But how does this process of bringing to being, "bringing to word or appearances" work, is there a methodology that could be placed in words and applied across different situations? Is there a method to bringing an idea to light? Or is the calling forth of an intuition a theatre of chance and happy accident? Vilem Flusser in his "Into the Universe of Technical Images" talks about how programmable media are designed to make the improbable happen, to hasten the movement from intuition to embodiment. For Flusser the realisation of ideas becomes an almost designed process, rooted in the black box of the camera, the computer, the network society. But perhaps the finding, the dragging out, the digging up, of an idea is more like taking soundings, a plumbing of depths, discovering how deep the water is, a marking out of the maximum dimensions of the invisible by touch, of charting the volume and mass of the idea.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

discursion three

During an act, or process, of interpretation its relation to what is being interpreted changes. As noted earlier the space of interpretation can gain its own agency and volition. The space of writing, or of reflection assumes its own peculiar and specific gravity, it becomes a 'body' in its own right, and it can assume a position of phantom authorship in relation to the material or matter under interpretation.

Mid-Salon Update: Document seems they didn't quite like it as much as I thought they would have. Really so.


The curved paving stones in Dundee City Centre created an invisible stage for the non-physical amphitheatre that held the first outdoor rehearsal of A cut A scratch A score. Sam Belinfante, tuxedoed, held court with a megaphone from a red-painted stage. Beside him a similarly tuxedoed Bruce McLean providing stage directions from a hastily assembled libretto. Before them seven drummers. It’s cold. A regional television news anchor and cameraman put the event on video, David Barnett the same, the gallery-appointed videographer the same. Lore Lixemberg has arrived from London and while the drummers take sequential direction from Sam, she holds a series of notes. A red carpet unrolled between the stage and the drummers blows off in the wind. Of a group of four children stood near me (probably aged around eleven) a boy dances to the music. He’s in shorts and a t-shirt (have I mentioned that it’s cold?).

While it was stressed throughout yesterday’s performance that this was a work-in-progress and the only thing that anyone was sure about were the incidental incidents that felt right, today seemed more assured. Perhaps the presence of an audience added to the performative gravitas. At its peak the audience was composed of approximately over a hundred people. Glancing around at the audience towards the latter part of the performance, I noticed that almost a quarter of observers had moved on with their day. The rehearsal ended abruptly and applause was scattered, but the response was positive overall. Puzzled, maybe, but positive. There will be another Salon discussion this afternoon at 17:00, I think the participating artists and technicians can look on today as a success, if they choose to (there are few intended expectations from their end).

Success is history

“Remember Bruce you have permission to fail.” Sophia Hao

“We have been invited here and we have the luxury of failure. We can’t fail. Most places you have to behave properly in order to not fail.” Bruce McClean

“Can we do this again? Can we stop and do this again? Hang on that’s crap can we do it again?” Bruce McClean

“You never see it because you are in it and then I was out of it. That process of cycling through works really well.” Sam Belinfante

Success is a fixed coordinate. Failure runs along lines of latitude. Failure guarantees a continuum.

Success is history.


The itinerary of our days here is as follows:

Between 12:00 and 13:30, is an informal event called Meet the Writers. Our invitation here has been funded by the MFA Fine Art department at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee and as such we are encouraged to involve the MFA students in our discourse. At 15:00 for an hour we join the open rehearsals for A cut A scratch A score to see the work in progress and at 17:00 there is a salon, a roundtable chat about the performance and project in general.

All events are open to the public and so far the reception has been good. In addition to the artists we have been joined by staff, curators, students and members of the public. This is part of a deliberate attempt by the curators, organisers and artists to enmesh among all participants (and as a public performance it is hoped that participation will extend beyond the artists and ourselves) a nature of collaboration; true collaboration where the process of creation is cyclical and no permanent outcomes have been intentionally fixed.

As writers, our invitation here has been with the implicit contract that we create a critical dialogue in response to the work and work-in-progress. Personally, it feels that we should retain (or at least strive to retain) a critical distance from the performance. To engage and evolve with the artists but not go native. The demarcation (or lack thereof) of roles is troubling though it feels that we writers are developing our own strategy to balance upon that thin red line. A question that remains unanswered currently though is 'Who is this for?'. A recurring motif for the trip so far has been the notion of failure, and it has been discreetly agreed that not only is failure an option but perhaps should be met head-on. The question of audience is a large one but one that at the moment feels peripheral to the situation that we have encountered here.

second discursion

"a huge furiously crossed out something" Charles Simic.
Heidegger talks about the task of bringing "beings to word and appearance", if one of the tasks of this discursion is too bring an interpretative space to appearance, then it must be acknowledged that there is a fundamental contradiction at work. In the 'performance' of an interpretation, what is being performed will stand in the way of what is being seen. These thoughts and reflections will cast a veil across the artwork. In this moment of writing the artwork is 'used' as fuel to generate another entity, which will in turn grow in your mind, the imaginative space of you the reader. To look upon something is to create another thing, this is Heidegger's hermeneutic circle. What is being interpreted is only known because of its absence, its diminishing visibility between these few words.

first discursions


That which dwells near its origin departs”

This quote from Holderlin’s The Journey was placed by Martin Heidegger at the end of his origin of the work of art, its use here as a beginning situates the following writing as a sequence of discursionsthat depart from an encounter with an artwork.

In the first moment of an encounter with an artwork, a between is formed; something that stands between the subject and an artwork, thisbetween provides no comprehension of the artwork which stands to the other side and in this between neither the subject nor the artwork exist as clearly delineated things, instead they could be thought of as hybrid and contingent processes, that diverge and tangle over time.

Friday, 14 October 2011