August 22, 2013 · Print This Article
Introduction: Laying the Floor
This July, I participated in the gloATL Summer Intensive. gloATL is an Atlanta-based dance company that creates physical installations for the public. During the Intensive, there were six of these installations that focused on the concept of utopia for a series of “utopia stations” that was part of its series Liquid Culture: a collection of gestures and sensations from an asphalt perspective that had occurred during the summer for the past few years; this summer was the last of these installations. Lauri Stallings, the choreographer and founder of gloATL, considers these performances installations – physical and public installations; the series is described as “physical installations [that] are unveiled as public utopia stations for arriving, leaving, and staying for awhile.” 
During the first weeks of the Intensive, Stallings described to us her interest in utopia, referencing Thomas More’s book Utopia (Of a republic’s best state and of the new island Utopia (De optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia)), published in 1516. What seemed to be impelling Stallings to the notion of utopia is that the word utopia has multiple and somewhat contradictory meanings. The statement for this summer’s series of utopia stations describes that “[t]here is a double-meaning in the term “utopia,” being both a good place (eutopia) and a no place (outopia).”  The perplexing concepts of “good” and “no” together propelled me to enter the work. During this discussion with Stallings, the company, and fellow intensive participants, I mentioned that it seemed that “no place” had to be impossible. Wherever there is being, there is movement. Even between two atoms, there is an ever-so-slight vibratory motion. Animate form, or life, is exactly that, animate. It moves.  If “no place” cannot possibly exist, then what of the “good place”?
All of the installations involved swings, swing sets, and the encouragement of public engagement with the swings. For Stallings, this is a gesture of ultimate freedom; the ability to partake in the childlike joy of swinging within public space. Each installation also had blue astro turf designating a stage of sorts that at most times separated the dancers from the public. However, Stallings said that even this space should not be maintained as an eternal divider. She keeps in mind that a member of the public could always step over the edge of the floor and enter the space of the stage.
In looking back on this Intensive experience and observing the installations while reading Plato’s Republic for my PhD comprehensive exams, I find myself in a rather perplexing state of body-mind. Both Thomas More’s Utopia and Plato’s Republic describe a space where all would be good – proper governance, happiness, order, common property. Both of these spaces are fictional, however, and cannot possibly exist in the real world; a confluence of the double-meaning – a good place that is no place. In encountering a work that attempts through dance to create a utopian space in the current world we live in, the troubling passages in Republic become more clear instances of the perceived dangers of artistic freedom.  However, maybe the utopian installations illuminate these same passages in terms of a Platonic sarcasm; since the idea has been so pushed to the edge, it has become ridiculous.
As a participant in the making of the work and also as a viewer, my experience of the series of installations straddles multiple spheres of engagement, perception, and bodily recognition. I have to admit that those three weeks of July were among the hardest I have lived yet. The physical exertion of dancing for hours six days a week was taxing. The emotional investment was more than I had expected. The mental exercising was beyond what I had encountered before. Being in a PhD program at Emory, I don’t often have the opportunity to use my body as the material of my thought and production of work, so putting myself in the mode of bodily “thought” was an exercise in mental gymnastics.
Inhabiting another’s work was something I had not experienced before. Taking on someone else’s idea as my own and incorporating it into my own body was more of a challenge than I could have imagined. The ability to fully take on the choreographer’s concept as inspiration for one’s own bodily experience is a skill that I fully respect. It amazes me to see gloATL dancers express these concepts with their whole bodies; each finger is doing something special; each facial twitch is a culmination of an entirety of being. As Stallings says, “the movement is in your fingers.”
Stallings process is an incredible one to witness. Starting with an idea, it traverses into often unexpected territory, blossoming into full body expression. This part of the process, called “Process” by gloATL, usually came after a warm-up led by Stallings or other gloATL dancers. This wasn’t any sort of warm-up though. Called “Tools,” it was an exploration of internal bodily connections that make movement manifest externally. All movement generates from the inside and radiates towards an external form that can be witnessed. Coming out of a Gaga tradition, a dance technique and vocabulary formulated by Israel choreographer Ohad Naharin, “Tools” is a way to connect to the pleasure of movement. Even when difficult, the ability to move is a pleasure in and of itself. One of the goals is to constantly search for the unexpected places in the body that initiate movement. Stallings often said that if you feel you are comfortable with a particular movement, it’s time to move towards something previously undone, unthought, un/not-moved.
After finishing the intensive and going back into my usually more stationary world of reading books and writing words on a screen, I feel that the world of movement has infiltrated my world of stationary contemplation. I realize that the movement was there all along and that it’s just that I have begun to accept it more fully into the life I am living.
During the last installation I participated in with gloATL, I felt something inside come up into my throat. Maybe a purely physical experience, but something tells me that it was more. At the end of the installation, we invited the audience into the middle of the blue astro turf floor by leading them using our elbows as the anchor for them to hold onto. There, after looking into each other’s eyes, we decided as a group to speak: “You have only to say yes.” With childlike wonderment and excitement, about the beautiful swing sets, about the blue of the astro turf, about being there moving, the group performing in the installation let go with screams, laughter, and every other kind of expression that erupted from the core. At this point, something inside my body crept up to the top of my throat, something was attempting to escape through my mouth. I stopped still. If I moved anymore, that thing would exit my body onto the astro turf. I couldn’t fathom that happening. It was a purging that I couldn’t handle happening at that time.
I went home that night after the installation and tried to process what had happened to me. The next morning during process, we went over that moment. The same thing kept happening. Whatever was in there wanted to be let go, but, for some reason, I couldn’t let it. I sat down in the hall outside the studio. My body couldn’t accept what it was saying. The connections between my body, my mind, and my internal emotional existence were confused with each other. It seemed that my mental thoughts couldn’t keep up with the internal movements of my emotions and body. I couldn’t keep it together. I couldn’t participate in the last installation. Of this, I am deeply regretful. I wish I could have made it through, but something, I’m not sure what exactly, kept me back.
Maybe it was the thought of utopia, a freedom I couldn’t comprehend. That feeling deep in my belly that rose to my throat threatened me simultaneously with the “good place” and the “no place.” Something in my unconscious body-mind didn’t understand what that even could mean. How could I occupy that position of “good place” and “no place” at all, let alone at the same time? Maybe this is what Plato was warning against: a radical disorder. If the body, mind, and soul cannot be easily divided and categorized, what happens to that being and the rest of the world she inhabits? Music and gymnastic together as dance brought be to that precipice of disorder that was begging to erupt. This eruption of bodily order holds within it the potential for ultimate freedom from restraint, but also ultimate devastation of a creeping chaos.
This is the experience that Stallings created – for me, for the public, maybe for the other dancers themselves. Though these installations are meant for public interaction, it is rare that you see an audience member claim the space as her own. The dance floor remains a dance floor for most of the time until glo explicitly invites the public to join them. There is a timidity to dance and art viewing even with the explosion of socially-engaged and participant-driven art. However, during one of the performances at The Goat Farm Arts Center, one of the participants decided to take control of the space. He took on one of the swings hanging from the rafters as his own. He did not want to get off the swing, even when approached by glo dancers that needed the swing to perform the choreography. Eventually, with some silent, eye coaxing he got up and off the swing. In the public sphere, it is impossible to claim a particular space as purely your own. Part of the freedom the series of installations points to is the freedom to not grasp so tightly.
During the ending section performed at The Goat Farm Arts Center and The Woodruff Arts Center, we played a game of switching and racing for swings. It was so satisfying to attain the glory of the swing, but at a certain point, while swinging with pride, watching the other dancers in the middle of the floor fidget with anticipation and wide eyes, I decided to jump off the swing, give it over to another to enjoy. That might be the space of utopian contradiction – both the “good place” and the “no place” together; the space suspended in air where you joyfully float, exiting the swing in order for another to occupy it.
For more images of the installations, check out BURNAWAY’s flickr sets for gloATL’s Liquid Culture installations at Historic Old Fourth Ward, Goodson Yard at The Goat Farm Arts Center, and Woodruff Arts Center.
For a great review/write-up of the 2013 Liquid Culture series, check out Cynthia Bond Perry’s article “gloATL’s “Liquid Culture” series finds breath, simplicity, and freedom” published on Arts ATL.
 Statement for Liquid Culture: a collection of gestures and sensations from an asphalt perspective, gloATL, http://gloatl.org/upcoming/whats-next/ (accessed 8.21.2013)
 Statement for Liquid Culture: a collection of gestures and sensations from an asphalt perspective, gloATL, http://gloatl.org/upcoming/whats-next/ (accessed 8.21.2013)
 Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, The Primacy of Movement, 2nd edition (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2011).
 See for example Plato’s treatment of music and gymnastic as the best tools for educating the body and soul to be temperate, courageous, and good. However, there are stipulations attached to these training methods; no innovation is allowed. Since music is claimed to be the most mimetic art, it comes with a certain power that must be controlled. I don’t think it is surprising that this art form is paired with an art of the body, gymnastic. (Plato, Republic, Book II, 376; Book III, 410; Book IV, 424; and etc.) Also consider the discussion of music and gymnastic in relation to the proper form of narrative in poetry, pure third person narration, which does not inhabit the person of a character and speak through him or her. In Book II, section 377, Plato asks whether music also includes literature, and further, whether this literature is true or false. This leads the members of the dialogue to a discussion of what stories should be allowed to be told and which ones are dangerous to the ears – too influential.
Anna Friz and Coppice performed in their audio installation at Tritriangle on 5/25/2013 in Chicago, IL. The two installations and two live performances occupied the gallery as co-existing organisms.  Each stemming from Friz’s and Coppice’s own larger overarching projects, Friz’s Nocturne and Coppice’s A Vinculum Variation are iterations, though it becomes clear that these iterations are not repetitions, but manifestations of differences in space, time, and materiality. The artists filled the spaces above my head and below/around my feet with sounds produced by other bodies: people, instruments, apparatuses, and radios. The two installations created the terrain in which the live performances inhabited. The earthy landscape, coupled with a cloud of respiration, constituted a world of transmission that enabled relationships to form in and between bodies.
In the space of Tritriangle, tiny blueish-silvery lights floating in air illuminate 82 small silver radios suspended from thin silver wires, a cloud of radios. In one corner of the space is blue light; in two other corners, yellow-gold illuminations. The blue corner holds three hand-built radios by the inventor George Kagan, an accordion, a harmonica, a chair, a mixer, and other sound equipment. Two radio transmitters fixed near the ceiling, send signals on two different frequencies to the 82 suspended radios. The radios, hovering at different levels around my head, emit gentle sounds of an accordian-played melody, breath, and radio static. The golden-brown corner contains a chair, an accordion, a box. Another corner contains a set-up with tape players, speakers, and an inductive mixing table with devices that send signals to the speakers lining the room close to the floor. These speakers emanate sounds of breathing, bellows of an accordion, air passing through processed reeds, the crackling paper inside a shruti box, pressure cuffs, and a funnel. In a third corner, golden light illuminated that illuminates a metal funnel.
A Vinculum Variation; Coppice’s Archived Air Contours
For the installation and performance at Tritriangle, Chicago-based duo Coppice (Noé Cuéllar and Joseph Kramer) created a listening experience that compelled the listener to navigate and inhabit the space of the gallery in a fluid way. Before the performances, the audience could walk freely around the space and stop to observe what was emitting from the various speakers lining the room. During the performance, the audience stilled and the artists and the audio material activated. Cuéllar, playing the accordion and free reeds, moved his own body around and through the space, while Kramer used two custom-built apparatuses: his customized inductive mixing table and customized cassette tape player. Kramer, kneeling on the floor, using this table, which “redistributes the sounds of the Vinculum archive as they are played back through small speakers resting at different locations on its surface,”  changes the location from where sounds poured. The cassette tape instrument Kramer designed and created is able to “make a record of the sonic space that also reproduces the recording from moments ago while simultaneously recapturing its own output.” 
These devices together create space and time that shift and refuse to remain static or linear. The changes in the part of the room that contained the raw recordings from the Vinculum archive created a constantly changing environment of breathing; audio materials from their ongoing-archive emerged in the space and surrounded the audience with breath. Cuéllar, changing positions throughout the space of the installation, used the accordion’s keys and bellows to breathe sounds throughout the room. Coppice’s contribution to the installation as a whole grounded the audience and the space itself creating a material terrain the viewer could navigate and explore.
Coppice’s installation and performance at Tritriangle emerged from its ongoing project since 2010Vinculum, a constantly shifting index of sounds, bodies, and space that involves isolating and highlighting particular sounds that are specific to Coppice. Sitting down with Cuéllar and Kramer in their studio, they describe their interest in the “behavior of sounds”  and the ways in which different sounds demand a different kind of listening. However, Coppice is not necessarily interested in making the listener more aware of the plethora of quotidian sounds that may surround her. Rather, the listener is encouraged to connect to the collection of sounds Coppice draws from to create their compositions. The work is deeply self-referential in its consistent pointing back to itself, its own self-reflexivity. The recordings, which are used to form Coppice compositions, are stored and categorized as specimens the listener can study and discover within the work. Coppice’s archival process, which involves recording the sounds and storing them in built containers or vessels – hand-sewn pouches or built wooden boxes (for Vinculum Specimen Edition), produces a peculiar meditation on the nature of cataloguing. What is capable of being stored? What should be saved? The individual entries/specimens can then be accessed and experienced by the listener in a multitude of ways. Coppice encourages the listener “to play the discs simultaneously on repeat from multiple players when possible.”  However, the listener has the ability to change the order and method of playback to create her own way of experiencing the archived sounds. The archive is not static and is rather presented as a collection that is open to change and re-arrangement; it is an “open composition.” 
Coppice describes the sounds of Vinculum as quiet and having to be found from a particular point of view. Because Coppice is concerned with each sound’s specific experiential condition, the recordings in the archive capture the particular spatial arrangement necessary to recognize the sound, making the archive one of space and the way the listener and the instrument inhabit space. Many of the sounds Coppice finds, makes, and records relate to the human body and its rhythms. The breath that passes through a tube and the air that traverses through the bellows of an accordion or pump organ indicate the necessity of the body to the production of that sound, whether it is the musician’s breath, hands, or feet interacting with the instrument or apparatus. They claim that it is the “air on the edge of things”  that makes its way into the auditory. Coppice’s sounds that insist on the “air on the edge of things” found themselves in conversation with Friz’s dreamy cloud of radio breath that floated above their audio terrain.
Nocturne; Anna Friz’s Radiogenic Objects
Canadian sound and radio artist Anna Friz, who is currently based in Chicago, performed second, immediately following Coppice, in the installation’s landscape. While the suspended radios picked up the transmission of an accordion-played melody, Friz began to play that same phrase in the middle of the space. The recordings emanating from the tiny radios and the live instrument in the installation mingled together in a sea of sounds and lights. When the recorded melody ended, Friz used the live accordion with its bellows to create a drone, filling the space. At one point, Friz got up, put the accordion down, turned on the handbuilt radios, picked up the harmonica, and began to play the instrument, sending it through the transmitters to the radios filling the space above my head.
Nocturne is an iteration of her radiophonic installations that began in 2006 with You are far from us, a project she has been transforming since its premiere at Radio Revolten Festival at Ärtzejaus in Halle, Germany. The work explores the notion that radio technology is not disembodied, and that it actually holds within it traces of bodies and perhaps even allows us to overcome distance between bodies. Friz materializes the radio’s possible embodiment through voice and its breath, corporeality, and emotion. Breath and radio are intimately linked; Friz describes the phenomenon of the breath and radio static as sharing the same frequency range – a fascinating aspect of radio’s embodiment. She also describes the radios and their tendency to drift from their frequencies as a precarious bodily situation, not unlike human and nonhuman animal bodies that are subject to their environments and situations. The radios are in relationships with each other, though mediated through the multiple radio transmitters that populate the ceiling of the space.
The first manifestation of the installation You are far from us involved four transmitters, 50 radios, and 5-10 hand-crank Grundigs. This installation focused on the disastrous human condition and the ways in which it is transmitted and created through radio. In her statement for You are far from us, Friz asks the question: “What nearly inaudible signals, transmitted in moments of intensity or crisis — what do people seek to transmit, in a moment between the intake of breath and the breath held, waiting, in tension?”  Further, in turning to the specificity of the radio, she states that “[b]uilt on breath and other bodily exclamations typically absent from regular radio broadcasts, the radios operate at the limit of their capacity to transmit emotion.”  This interest in the radio as entity and performer itself is something Friz has been working with, an evolvement of her earlier work which conceptualized the radio as containing within itself people and that “the voices emanating from the radio were the voices of the little people who lived inside. Turn on the radio, the little people begin to talk, change the station and they change their voices. I imagined the radio people waited inside while the radio was off, ever ready to perform at the click of the dial.”  Now, she conceptualizes the radios themselves as the performing entities, not tied to a necessarily anthropomorphic view of the world. This is not to say that the radios are entirely outside the realm of human experience; they experience the precariousness of the world in perhaps a similar way. They tune in to frequencies and then drift off, floating and locking into a new one — a new world experience.
Friz describes the radios suspended in the floating cloud as sleeping, experiencing REM cycles, taking in the day and processing it through dreams. Nocturne at Tritriangle is an outgrowth of the section “Nocturne” from Friz’s previous installation You are far from us, with the section’s intent being “stilling the breath and relaxing [the radios].”  Friz emphasizes that she chooses to privilege the auditory over the visual in the installation because it helps the listener “focus attention on moving through space”  and instills the notion that the listener is a sensing body. The stilling of the breath and the radios drives home this recognition. When limiting one sense, other senses heighten. The viewer is no longer dependent on the two orbs situated in the front of the head as guides through space. The audio creates spatial relationships that enable the viewer to navigate the space at her own leisure. This navigational drifting relates to the radios’ own drifts. The radios experience the phenomenon of capture effect, thus causing them to detune and find a new channel to occupy. For Friz, the detuning isn’t necessarily about interference, since the notion of interference corresponds to a cybernetic theory of communication with involves fidelity to a message. Rather, she is interested in exploring “fields of influence.”  The radios’ detuning don’t mark a deficiency or breakdown. Instead, the tuning into different frequencies seem to reflect human and nonhuman animal choices to take a turn, go down a different path. The suspension of the inhale,  creates the space in which life is lived, with all of its precariousness.
Coppice and Friz created an environment in which the audience and the device could all breathe together, exchanging exhalations and inhalations actualizing a cloud of respiration. Focusing on the breath allows us to recognize that we are constantly exchanging material from our own bodies with the world. Though, this body in its continual state of exchange shows us that the molecules in our own bodies aren’t static and can’t always belong to us; these molecules are only finding themselves to exist within us for a passing moment in time. “The breath does not belong to the self. It enters and exists of its own accord. It inhabits the empty space of the lungs for brief periods and the same molecules and particles may never enter again.” 
 Personal conversation with Anna Friz and Coppice at the performance, May 25, 2013.
 Coppice, A Vinculum Variation, http://www.futurevessel.com/coppice/work/performance-installation/a-vinculum-variation.
 Joseph Kramer, “Episode 31: Porous Notion: Index Fragments and Interpretation,” Radius (Oct. 2012): http://theradius.us/episode31.
 Personal interview with Coppice, June 5, 2013.
 Coppice, Vinculum, http://www.futurevessel.com/coppice/work/recordings/vinculum.
 Personal interview with Coppice.
 Anna Friz, You are far from us, http://nicelittlestatic.com/sound-radio-artworks/you-are-far-from-us/.
 Anna Friz, Who are the people inside your radio, http://nicelittlestatic.com/sound-radio-artworks/who-are-the-people-in-your-radio/.
 Personal interview with Friz, June 8, 2013.
 Friz describes the inhalation as suspension.
 Meredith Kooi, “Aristophanes’ Hiccups and Relational Spasms,” given at Location/Location symposium organized for Field Static: A Group Show About the Object, Co-Prosperity Sphere (Chicago, IL: June 6, 2012), 6.
Atlanta-based idea collective John Q premiered its work The Campaign for Atlanta: an essay on queer migration at the Atlanta Cyclorama on Friday, May 17, 2013 and Saturday, May 18, 2013. The performance, an essay as John Q calls it, insists on exploring the phenomenon of queer migration into urban spaces, Atlanta being one of them. Using the space, movement, and pictorial qualities of the Cyclorama along with archival materials of queer filmmaker Crawford Barton, native to Resaca (about an hour north of Atlanta), later based in San Francisco, John Q essays (used here as a verb) a narrative of history, creative production, queerness, and geography.
In the broadsheet for the performance, John Q lists the definitions for essay as a noun:
“1. a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretive. 2. anything resembling such a composition: a picture essay. 3. an effort to perform or accomplish something, attempt.” 
Used as a verb, essay can mean: “to try; attempt” and “to put to the test; make trial of”  or “to put to a test” and “to make an often tentative or experimental effort to perform” . Derived from Middle French noun essai, derived from the verb essayer, which comes from Late Latin exagium which means an act of weighing, the word “essay” refers to something active, performative. 
Similar in roots to “essay,” “assay,” as a noun refers to
- archaic: a trial, attempt
- the examination and determination as to characteristics (as weight, measure, or quality)
- analysis (as of an ore or drug) to determine the presence, absence, or quantity of one or more components; also: a test used in this analysis
- a substance to be assayed; also: the tabulated result of assaying 
As a verb:
- a. to subject (a metal, for example) to chemical analysis so as to determine the strength or quality of its components; b. to bioassay
- to examine by trial or experiment; put to a test
- to evaluate; assess
- to attempt; try 
The two words, though originating in similar if not same roots (assay originates in Anglo-French), now aren’t used interchangeably (in a simple online search, I came across forums discussing if the two are interchangeable – this is a big deal). At some point, the Latin word which expressed the action of weighing and measuring was split into the action of weighing in thought and weighing concrete objects. How are these two distinct from each other, though? Does the decision to weigh a concrete object necessarily come from a weighed thought experiment, or vice versa? John Q’s weighing of the Cyclorama, the site of the performance, a 42 x 358 foot panoramic painting of the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta, a complex of history, politics, and space, straddles multiple methods of investigation and examination, perhaps similar to the divided essay/assay. Paired with the Cyclorama is the weighing of Crawford Barton’s archive. As Wesley Chenault of John Q states:
In some ways, the provenance of the Crawford Barton collection did similar work as the Cyclorama in that it allowed us to think about his life in other ways, as patterns of movements and migrations between rural and urban spaces, not primarily as it related to San Francisco. Through letters, films, and more, Barton’s personal papers document his connections to Resaca and Atlanta, archival traces that map over the military campaigns that occurred in both areas. Atlanta, as Sherman understood over a century before, is a city defined by its relevance as a transportation hub in the Southeast. For many, it has long served as a nexus, where motilities of bodies, desires, and histories converge. Crawford’s correspondence from his time in the city, for example, illustrates how one young gay white man navigated the sexual landscape of the mid-to-late 1960s. Placing Crawford in the Cyclorama, then, allowed the collective to attempt – thus the essay form – to explore not just notions of movement and migration, but also the ways in which they relate to identity, place, archives, and memory. 
The performance can be broken down broadly into three parts:
- Beginning: the standard Cyclorama narrative while the audience goes through the standard revolve around the painting
- John Q takes over the narrative, delivering its essay while the audience continues to revolve in the space while the programmed lights highlight particular aspects of the painting
- John Q’s members, one by one, leave the theater and move into the auditorium, inviting the audience members to join them for screenings of Crawford Barton’s films.
The ending space of the performance (the auditorium) is generally the starting point for a tour of the Cyclorama: a video presentation of a Civil War reenactment. In the script of the essay, John Q states: “During a regular visit to the Atlanta Cyclorama, the presentation would begin with an interpretive film in the auditorium and then move here into the space of the painting. Tonight we ask you to navigate the space of the Cyclorama backwards with us, moving metaphorically against the grain of history and exploring, perhaps for the first time in public, a sampling of the film work of our current queer subject, Crawford Barton.”  Later, John Q states: “Instead of following Crawford’s biography to its end, we bring you back to his migrations.” 
The films present the Castro, the famous queer district in San Francisco, and of travel. Minimal in their composition and editing, the films are observational in nature; unedited, perhaps unscripted, they seem to hold the lives of those featured in the films. Resaca, GA, Barton’s hometown also happens to be “the site of one of the first battles in the Civil War military Atalanta Campaign.”  What seemed to draw John Q to Barton’s work was the potential to examine his migration to the Castro from rural Resaca in a larger phenomenon of migration, queer migration, and differentiations of space. One of the films depicts men running through golden fields, bare-chested. While watching this moving-image, I was struck by a deep-seated fear – something that causes one to run, to run fast and far away. Especially after witnessing a scene of carnage, destruction, and death represented in the Atlanta Cyclorama, the potentially and possibly joyful images of rural play take on a more morbid atmosphere. Are these fields that of “amber waves of grain” – fields that speak to the national project of America; the fantastic golden countryside? I have to ask then, if these fields aren’t filled with joy, what then are they filled with and why are these men running? Is this moving-image representative of the larger phenomenon of queer migration that prompted John Q to realize this project? What does this mass movement to urban centers mean for America’s rural spaces?
The essay John Q presented during the second turn of the painting starts with General Sherman’s ability to really see geography and an aside about Napoleon’s extensive map collection, both juxtaposed with Borges’ map the size of the place it represents, an absurd exercise of cartography. At one point, John Q points out to the audience that how the painting is viewed is highly controlled:
“In the first turn around the Cyclorama, controlled light directs your attention to the scenes under discussion. The seating apparatus itself takes you on a turn that controls what spaces draw your attention and when. The narrative is set. Your gaze over this space has been determined in advance. It is a visual, pre-cinematic form, which presents the unfolding of geography and history as seemingly inevitable.5 You are a witness to History.6” 
One thing to consider, however: can my experience be completely controlled by another, unseen forces, or composition? Do the spinning gears and directed lights completely focus my attention to the spot I’m supposed to? Can I close my eyes, turn my head – experience this painting differently from the way it’s presented to me? This ability, to close the eyes, refuse to look at the space indicated, has much to offer the archival work that John Q does in its public projects and the ways in which they invite the audience to engage with the particular archives presented. In an interview with Julia Brock for History@Work: A Public History Commons from the National Council on Public History, they describe the way they view their work as public scholarship and what this means for its reception, particularly what their take on “public interventions” is. Joey Orr explains that “The learning that takes place in a publicly constructed project is not unidirectional and can never be predicted in advance, so I do not assume our job is to wake people up. I do hope some of our work intervenes in a more street-level, quotidian way into the spaces where people are carrying out their everyday lives.”  Andy Ditzler further adds: “I don’t think any of us see ourselves as ‘educating the public,’ partly because we’re members of the public as much as anyone else, and as much as we’re artists or scholars.” 
One aspect of John Q’s performative project is to examine the ways in which we experience painting, video, and installation: how we see; how we navigate the space that shapes and contains them. The painting, though it may appear to be a static entity that can be simply viewed and understood from any time or perspective, is shown to be extremely vulnerable to time and space, the order in which it is viewed in relation to the re-enactment video that is usually shown to the audience before moving into the space of the Cyclorama, facing the gigantic circular painting. When asked further about their take on intervening in a “normal” visual experience, Orr explained that the project is interested in
“how might we visualize the past in ways that foster different kinds of relation to place and history. How might we deal in fragments, the quotidian, memory, and weak theory instead of proliferating the kinds of power that seem structurally reinforced by forms like battle paintings and cycloramas … We understood from the outset that many people would not be familiar with the visual culture theory we were invoking, and this might mean that the connection between how landscape is visualized in cycloramas and how it is visualized through the lens of Crawford Barton’s camera would somehow seem strange. These two very different modes of visuality begin to reflect one another, though, in the context of a critical contemplation of how we do the work of invoking the past.” 
In Husserl’s essay “The world of the living present and the constitution of the surrounding world external to the organism,” he writes that space is a “system of places.”  In the case of the space of the Cyclorama, there is a multitude of places that coalesce in this one site. It is the site of John Q’s performance, the place of itself in this present moment, the place of the Civil War Battle of Atlanta, Illinois’ cornfields where it was commissioned, Resaca – where the Atlanta Campaign began and the birthplace of Barton, the migration telos for a queer community of which John Q speaks, a pre-cinematic place that records the history of technology in its 360o turn. The Cyclorama itself and its revolving proscenium seating affords the audience explicitly multiple perspectives; an exaggeration of the way we perceive and make sense of the world: “The entire present world which appears as actual is rather a totality of perspectives for me.”  For Husserl, there is phantom space, a transcendent space that gives space itself while still being able to change through time and with our changing orientations and perspectives, thus perceptions. The Cyclorama is constituted by this phantom space, but also by a plethora of phantom bodies: soldiers, civilians, slaves, Crawford Barton, migrating queer individuals and communities.
Underlying this space is the seemingly coincidental, the encounter that occurs during times of travel. John Q arrived at the Cyclorama and Barton through what would seem to be mere coincidental experiences that then led them down particular paths, which were manifested in the performative essay. Following the notion of “intervention” mentioned above, the surrealist found object presents itself as a model of surprise, the uncanny, and coincidence. Resaca, GA, only about an hour’s drive away from Atlanta, becomes an uncanny figure – simultaneously familiar and strange. One of the films of Crawford Barton’s John Q presented is of a car journey, passing by signs that advertise Georgia Peaches. The passengers of the car smile and look into the camera.
Ross McElwee’s film Sherman’s March follows a different path than General Sherman’s March to the Sea, begun in Atlanta, which is the end point of the Atlanta Campaign and the site of the Cyclorama.  Initially a project that intended to follow Sherman’s destructive path, McElwee ends up following women he becomes intrigued with and attached to; a journey back home to the South. Desire, violence and war, and geography become entangled in the movement through the space of the South. Ross McElwee is attempting, trying, experimenting with what love may be for him in a time of nuclear proliferation, the subtitle of the film and recurring theme that continues to creep into his thoughts and dreams. Pat, the woman introduced to him by his parents who becomes somewhat of an obsession for him, an ambitious actress who is herself searching and trying to become what she wants to be, takes McElwee to Atlanta. There, McElwee describes Atlanta post-Campaign; it was a city composed of children, women, and elders – supposedly a weakened and helpless place without its male influence.
What are cities, urban spaces? What do they mean to us? What are we to make of Atlanta? A southern metropole, remnant of war? What of the space surrounding the city? The space between Atlanta and other US cities? John Q’s use of the Cyclorama signals the ways in which urban space becomes a nexus of lives, loves, losses, and travels. Not only does the performance question who is allowed the position of contemporary flâneur,  but also who must take up this position and where. The performance shows us that the metropole and its varying representations hold within them an entanglement of histories, memories, and modes of visuality and experience.
 John Q Broadsheet
 Personal interview with John Q, June 16, 2013
 John Q, The Campaign for Atlanta: an essay on queer migration, 2013.
 Personal interview with John Q, May 30, 2013.
 John Q, The Campaign for Atlanta: an essay on queer migration, 2013. Here, they footnote  Jonathan Crary’s Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture and Anne Friedberg’s “The Mobilized and Virtual Gaze in Modernity: Flâneur, Flâneuse” and  Alison Griffiths’ Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View.
 Personal interview with John Q, June 3, 2013
 Edmund Husserl, “The World of the Living Present and the Constitution of the Surrounding World External to the Organism,” trans. Frederick Kersten and Lenore Langsdorf, in Husserl: Shorter Works, eds. Peter McCormick and Frederick A. Elliston (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), 250.
 Ibid., 239.
 Ross McElwee (dir.), Sherman’s March: A Meditation on the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation (1986).
 Susan Buck-Morss, “The Flâneur, the Sandwichman, and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering,” New German Critique, vol. 31, no. 2 (April 1989): 217-236.
The sound switches. Loud intensity and vibration. My body is permeated by the sound and radio waves. While watching the dancer move, I realize that all the cells of my own body are moving, oscillating, with the sound waves.
The dancer runs across the stage, throws herself towards the floor, glides. My body feels the impact of the floor on skin, skidding, sliding, perhaps squeaking.
Darkness and light, spotlights on my sight horizon. The moving horizon line, the white board, shifts my bodily perspective and orientation.
Jennifer Monson premiered her latest evening-length performance Live Dancing Archive at The Kitchen in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood for a two-week run February 14th – 23rd, 2013. The project Live Dancing Archive comprises three components, which consist of three different archival practices: dance, video, and digital archive. The “Program Notes” for the performance states that “Each of these captures how bodies hold, transmit, and convey experiences and understandings of ecological systems as they relate to human movement through the specificities of their medium.”  Monson’s work explores the ability of movement itself as an archival practice; she is interested in the particular capability movement has to archive, record, and store the ecological systems that we experience.
For the two-week run, the video component of the archive was a a video installation which was on view during the day before the evening performances in The Kitchen’s Theater. This part of the work, made by Robin Vachal, a videographer, video installation producer, editor, and teacher, consisted of editing approximately 50 hours of footage Vachal captured during the BIRD BRAIN Osprey Migration from 2002, an “8-week research project in which dancers followed the migration of ospreys along the Atlantic Flyway from Maine to Venezuela.”  Watching the video, the audience experiences the dancers’ improvisation solos, conversations with park rangers at nature centers and preserves, public performances, and public workshops Monson and iLAND held with park patrons.
Another component of Live Dancing Archive is the digital archive which was designed and implemented by Youngjae Josephine Bae, who completed her MA in Library and Information Science, in collaboration with Monson and Vachal. The digital archive consists of video footage, photographs, dancers’ journals, project notes, plans and schedules for performances and workshops, and other ephemera generated from the BIRD BRIAN Osprey Migration. The aim of the digital archive is to “make available to the public as much of this material as possible.”  The program notes encourage the audience to “peruse the archive in your own time as a supplemental experience to your participation in the audience tonight.”  The performance need not “end” once the audience member leaves the theater; she can continue to experience the work through the material which was archived in the movement of the performance.
Live Dancing Archive’s live performance aspect involves the audience as well. The audience’s participation in the live performance is that of the ocean. Monson describes her process of choreographing the movement in the program notes as:
“A significant amount of the dance material was learned from video documentation of four improvised solos on the beach at Ocracoke Island, NC. The dancers were Javier Cardona, Morgan Thorson, Alejandra Martorell, and myself. The camera angle was always moving so deciding how to orient myself in the dancing was a challenge. Eventually I arrived at orienting myself always towards the ocean. The audience is the ocean.” 
The audience gets to experience a journey of the spaces and ecologies that Monson and the other dancers migrated in Monson’s choreography, and it also gets to become part of that environment itself. Monson’s choice to make the ocean the point of orientation and her further choice to allow the audience to occupy that position, creates a complex dynamic of waves and force that oscillate between the performer and the audience. It is also in Monson’s processes of research and choreography that point to the ecological systems along the migratory path. Monson describes her work as dance research; the movement generated during the migration is knowledge-making. I would further argue that the audience’s experience of viewing the video, the digital archive, and the live performance, while also becoming a participatory element of the system created in the theater are all knowledge-making practices which coalesce in a system of bodies and the environments in which they inhabit. Describing this process of knowledge-making, Monson states that
“the knowledge has to do with understanding the relationships between events and systems. When I’m dancing, I’m bringing multiple ways of perceiving information of movement, sensory, imaginative, and analytical registers. I’m processing information of the world and using it to make choices about movement in the world. The multiple systems I am moving and that are moving me help me to understand the complex systems I am perceiving. There is also the phenomenological approach – as I am moving, the world is showing up for me, it’s changed by my moving, and as I move I also show up for the world. The knowledge is about ways of putting things together in multiple modes, holding unstable relationships of meaning and conditions of existence.” 
Phenomenologist Maxine Sheets-Johnstone writes about the primacy of movement in our consciousness of the world. In her book The Primacy of Movement, she states that “We make sense of ourselves in the course of moving.”  However, movement is not only sense-making, but constitutive and generative of the self that is moving. Further, Sheets-Johnstone claims that “In effect, movement forms the I that moves before the I that moves forms movement.”  These two phenomenological statements seem to permeate Monson’s process of research and performance. Her work explores the ways in which ecological systems function and the dancing body’s relationship with and in these systems.
The live performance of Live Dancing Archive was itself a system. This component of the archive also consisted of multiple parts including the movement, live sound, and live stage and lighting design changes and manipulations. The sound, composed and performed by Jeff Kolar, an audio artist based in Chicago, is “generated live through field experiments in the AM/FM, Shortwave, Citizens, and Unlicensed radio spectrums. The instrument arrangement of handmade radio transmitters and receivers respond directly to external weather phenomena, wireless technology systems, and human activity.”  After the performance I attended, Kolar explained that there were more “ghosts” being picked up by the receivers that night than had usually been happening for the other performances. The fluctuations occurring in the systems of the electromagnetic spectrum and the Hertzian space surrounding and emanating from the instruments, the electronic objects of the audience members, and the other technologies that exist in and around the space of The Kitchen directly impacted the sound performance and thus the entire ecology of the live performance.
The live manipulation of the lighting and stage, performed and designed by Joe Levasseur, who has received two Bessie awards for his design work, was a continual shifting of the ecology of the theater space. The minimal stage props and lighting, reminiscent of Isamu Noguchi’s stage designs for Martha Graham, seemed to create the boundaries of space and time. The stage prop, a long wooden board on wheels, serves as the “horizon line” that can move and shift. At times, Monson herself moved the horizon line, thus changing the orientation of the horizon and its relationship to the audience, the ocean. The lighting was able to move around the stage as well and was manipulable by Monson and Levasseur. The turning on and off of the light, sometimes a single light that was moved around the stage, seemed to control the limits of the perceptual experience of the work. Our perception is always bounded; we cannot see the backs of our heads, our eyes even work through an amalgamation of small focal points, congealed in our brains – we don’t see the world as a clear image; our perception of the world is a complex system composed of interweaving aspects that need to work together to form a coherent experience of the world.
Phenomenology, the philosophical study of our experiencing of the world’s phenomena, understands our bodies as the entities that world the world. The world is mediating through our perceptual experience of it and the world appears for us through our engagement with it. Monson’s work takes this phenomenological understanding of the world seriously in her research processes and the performances that result from them. Much of the research process involves improvisational movement in the places along the migratory route Monson was following. In Ann Cooper Albright’s article “Situated Dancing: Notes from Three Decades in Contact with Phenomenology,” she describes the transition from considering the aesthetics of dance to the phenomenology “because phenomenology focuses attention on the circumstances of this active “becoming.”  Though Albright is discussing more specifically Contact Improvisation, she incorporates the notion of embodied research, an important aspect of Monson’s work. Albright describes embodied research as a process that “requires that one engages seriously with the ambiguity that results from trying to conceptualize bodily experience that can be quite elusive. It requires patience with the partiality of physical knowing as well as a curiosity about how theoretical paradigms will shift in the midst of that bodily experience.”  This situated-ness of research also can be placed in a feminist tradition stemming from feminist epistemology and the notion of situated knowledge explored by Donna Haraway in her essay “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Monson’s method of phenomenological epistemology of ecology speaks well to feminist conversations about science and the generation of scientific knowledge.
In thinking about what this means for an archive and the processes of archival practices, Live Dancing Archive speaks to the ways in which archives have to be generated; they do not simply exist in the world. They are always subject to the particular bodies controlling their collection, documentation, storage, and availability. The interesting aspect of Monson’s work for conversations about the archive is the tension of the usual goal of the archive — infinite storage for an infinite amount of time — and the ephemerality of movement. Can we ever say that an archive is a permanent collection of materials that simply narrate history? Archives are subject to the circumstances of the world — floods, unemployment, politics, fires — and any notion that we can make a truly permanent archive is contingent on the resources available and ideologies of the day. Monson’s Live Dancing Archive made me think critically about these aspects of making and transmitting history. Her movement, some of which I was able to glean from the video installation, is able to capture the singularity of the movement in its original form, though changed, made into something different in its repetition. Her attention to the specificities of place and the ecological systems constituting it along with bodily and movement singularities, creates a complex of environmental knowledge and history within the performance and the dancing body.
Live Dancing Archive is featured in the upcoming 2013 Dance Improvisation Festival organized by Columbia College Chicago’s Dance Center and curated by Lisa Gonzales with support from Links Hall, taking place June 3-8, 2013. Monson’s Live Dancing Archive will be performed Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 8PM. Be sure to visit the Dance Improvisation Festival’s website for tickets, information, and schedule of other workshops. http://www.colum.edu/Dance_Center/performances/2013improvfest/
Live Dancing Archive Collaborators:
Jennifer Monson: Choreography
Robin Vachal: Video Installation
Jeff Kolar: Composer
Joe Levasseur: Lighting
Susan Becker: Costumes
Betsy Brandt: Dramaturge
Davison Scandrett: Production Manager
Youngjae Josephine Bae: Digital Archive
Tatyana Tenenbaum: Dresser
 Jennifer Monson, “Program Notes,” in Jennifer Monson/iLAND Live Dancing Archive (New York: The Kitchen, 2013), 4.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 4-5.
 Ibid., 4.
 Personal Interview with Monson, 4.16.2013.
 Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, The Primacy of Movement, expanded second edition (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Johns Benjamins Publishing Company, 2011), 117.
 Ibid., 119.
 Monson, “Program Notes,” 4.
 Ann Cooper Albright, “Situated Dancing: Notes from Three Decades in Contact with Phenomenology,” Dance Research Journal, vol. 43, no. 2 (Winter 2011), 9.
 Ibid., 14.
“NO MEDIA is an open [sign up] improvisational realtime/performance media art event. Participating artists are randomly matched in sets of 3 && given 10mins to perform w/&& in re:to each other. Poets + experimental dancers + free jazzers +
No Media At The End!
[NO documentation allowed. It happens once && in realtime.]
NO MEDIA happened March 16, 2013 at TRITRIANGLE, the art space that formerly held Enemy Sound, in Chicago, IL. Developed out of a GLI.TC/H Working Group, the first NO MEDIA happened at GLI.TC/H 2112 on Friday, December 7, 2012 at TRITRIANGLE. Described in the schedule as “Proposed by Jason Soliday on the Working Groups: NO_MEDIA is a performance framework that goes from zero to zero! Participating performers will start with blank slates, build sets from scratch. No preparation allowed. Zeroed out knobs. No strings on your guitar. No presets. Everything done in realtime from beginning to end. Everything that happens exists only in and during the performance :: “Raw Real Time.” After ~ 10 minutes you will delete all assets. It happens … and … then it’s gone …”
On March 16, 2013, I participated in it, but that’s the only detail of the night I’ll give. For, there is no documentation allowed. After the event, I sat down with [dis]organizers Jason Soliday, Nick Briz, and Jeff Kolar via electronic-mail. I wanted to ask them: Why a NO MEDIA new media performance event? What is considered documentation? What does it all mean??
And then, here I am, writing for the “media” about NO MEDIA.
MEREDITH KOOI: And, of course, no documentation of the night, though as Jason brought up on Saturday, is this [the writing of the article] considered documentation too? Discuss.
JASON SOLIDAY: I think questions are allowed.. I would say that if were going to stick to this no documentation thing, that we can talk about what could happen, or impressions of how the night went as a whole, just not specifics of what actually happened… so no “———————————————————————————.”
The whole First-rule-of-NO-MEDIA-is-no-one-talks-about-NO-MEDIA-thing is something we could maybe talk about too. I think Nick and I at least have somewhat overlapping, but different interpretations of the why of that…
JEFF KOLAR: I’m right on with Jason on this one. Particularly from the perspective of us [dis]organizers, it might be best for us to specifically address the format of the event instead of the specific performances. Plus, I am personally less interested in which performances were good or bad, and more interested in the arc of the evening; the organism it creates.
That said, I think talking about NO MEDIA is okay. It’s interesting how flexible and relative the “no documentation” rule ends up being, particularly from an audience perspective. It places an interesting constraint on the attendees of the event and activates their participation to a certain extent.
NICK BRIZ: echo above sentiments
xcited for chatz
MK: Well, first of all, I’m wondering what you all consider to be actual documentation. First-person accounts? A photo of the —————————————- from the evening? Dreams? Collaborative work that grew out of the session? And, what was the motivation behind choosing to not document the sessions?
NB: Great place to start
Quick disclaimer, as Jason mentioned before, I think the three of us have overlapping (but not identical) motivations going into this, so I’m speaking for myself here (and only partially for Jason && Jeff ^_^)
The day before the show someone posted on TRITRIANGLE’s page asking if it would be broadcast online, to which I responded:
“Hey ———, it won’t be broadcast online. Myself && Jason && Jeff are all involved in organizing different events/initiatives which we broadcast online + generally prefer to stream stuff, but the impetus behind NO MEDIA is a bit different/specific. We want to create a localized space for experimentation which is low-pressure. For this reason we purposefully don’t broadcast, in fact one of the ‘rules’ (listed above) is no documentation of any kind.
We’ve noticed sometimes the pressure of documentation can compromise some of the risk taking involved in improvisational performances. We’ve also noticed that (sometimes) folks perform specifically for the documentation and not so much the live setting. This isn’t specifically good or bad, we just want NO MEDIA to be a space specifically for in-the-moment happenings where folks can take risks without worrying about the comments it’ll get on Facebook the next day.”
So this is more or less where I’m coming from w/re:to the ‘no documentation’ rule,  remove the pressure/distraction that often comes with documentation  emphasis in-the-moment focus: w/your collaborators in that space/time.
I’m also very interested (romantically) in community + most of the events/organizing I do is motivated by this, so I’d actually be very xcited if collaborative work grew out of one of these sessions. So no, I wouldn’t really consider that documentation Nor would I really consider bruises, first person accounts, etc. To be honest, for me the rules are similar to the Dogma95 rules, in that I’ll try my best to enforce it (for the reasons stated above) but in the end I’m less interested in being dogmatic about it. There’s something fun about the idea of a photo that sneaked out or a shady vine vid (again, so long as the in-the-moment ethos isn’t compromised).
JK: Echo that disclaimer…
And jumping off Nick’s statement:
> remove the pressure/distraction that often comes with documentation  emphasis in-the-moment focus: w/your collaborators in that space/time.
I would like to add:  give agency to the audience.
One of my motivating interests behind the “No Documentation” rule is also to think about roles the audience plays in concerts/performances/events. I’m with Nick on this one, very interested in a rule that is clear yet flexible enough for performers and audience members to follow/break in [un]expected ways. If we were really strict about the “No Documentation” rule, we could ban use of all media (i.e. collect cell phones pre-entrance, radio-wave body scanner, destroy writing utensils, etc.). Jason, Nick, and I often take these “what ifs” to extreme/absurd levels; perhaps that’s how we came up with some of the rules for NO MEDIA in the first place. How far is too far? Why is it too far? I’m more interested in what audience folks consider “Documentation” of an event in this digital-device era, as it seems to get slipperier and slipperier as more [media] tools become available.
Also, one thing that seems special with NO MEDIA is that the audience/community really helps shape the performances. Laughter certainly seems to impact the performers. Audience chitchat often becomes the “intro” for group’s sets. I view the audience an active agent in NO MEDIA events.
And also interested in how the “No Documentation” rule/constraint actually creates awareness rather than preventing it.
JS: >And, what was the motivation behind choosing to not document the sessions?
A while back I remember my friend Witch Beam posting something along the lines of why does everyone feel the need to post everything to the internet? Why can’t somethings just happen and then be over, stay secret? So, it was partly in response to that, and a reaction against New Media/Internet/Noise culture’s common tendency to release ever last thing it creates out into the world, that glut of stuff we all keep making and posting to Tumblr, Vimeo, Soundcloud, and the rest.. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much a part of it as every other “new media” artist, but I really wanted NO MEDIA to be about the moment, be here right now, it’s happening, then it’s gone. Telling everyone to put their phones away and stop recording and taking pictures was just one way to make that explicit.
I think what people do with that experience afterwards will be the interesting part.. Hopefully new, unexpected ongoing collaborations that wouldn’t have happened if people had not been thrown together during a NO MEDIA event will start appearing! Or perhaps someone sets off on some new direction with their work because of something at one of these events. I hope we’re setting up a space with NO MEDIA that provokes that sort of thing. That’s a thousand times more interesting to me than yet another cell phone video on YouTube.
That being said, I’m guilty of thinking “I wish someone was recording this, I’d like to hear it again” a few times during the two NO MEDIA events we’ve done so far.. but then that just means it was good, right? Hopefully the people that were performing at those points were thinking the same thing too, and are now hard at work on something new inspired by it!
MK: In thinking further about documentation and the space/site/time of performance, does NO MEDIA have any particular kind of performance it’s focusing on? Is it geared towards particular ways of working or does what you all are saying about the site of performance apply to all different ways and mediums of performance? I know Jeff has mentioned interest in hosting NO MEDIA in different venues thus drawing different artists and crowds – is this ideal for the interests of NO MEDIA? Do you foresee particular audiences and artists working in various other mediums responding to the rules in vastly different ways? If so, why do you think that might be? Would that signal some sort of success (I guess if that’s an appropriate word here at all) of what the rules are doing? Does this at all matter? Is there any particular goal that the rules are trying to achieve for art-making as a whole? Is this particular to Chicago?
(That’s a lot, I know, so, run with what ya like.)
JS: I would hope so. At its core, NO MEDIA is just an improv lotto, which really isn’t anything terribly new in the sound world. One of my early introductions to playing, well… free, weird, experimental, you know, the “hated” music as some will joke… was performing at the Myopic Books Improvised Music Series where the rule is that you are required to play with some one you’ve never played with before, and that series has been going on for something like 15-20 years now. With NO MEDIA one of the things I wanted to accomplish was to bring that to a New Media context, and add in artists that work in mediums and genres that might not normally approach their work that way, hence opening it up to video, performance, and everything else..
The site of the performance, I think that plays into the whole NO MEDIA being about the now, being in the moment.. and how one deals with that in making art. That would certainly include the space one is in at that moment… Rotating venues… that’s always been in the plan for NO MEDIA, at least since we decided to turn it into an ongoing series. Having it happen at the same place every time would I think impose unwritten rules that I’d like to avoid… nobody should expect anything really to be a given at a NO MEDIA event except for the couple of basic rules for the events that we’ve posted. What happens if there’s no PA next time? Or if the next one happens outside and the only thing to project video on is the bushes? [aside to Jeff and Nick here... I think I just came up with a new "rule".. cue nefarious laughter]
I think a “success” for me with NO MEDIA would be seeing interesting new work inspired by something that happened at one of the Events, something that wouldn’t have come together otherwise..
JK: >I know Jeff has mentioned interest in hosting NO MEDIA in different venues thus drawing different artists and crowds – is this ideal for the interests of NO MEDIA?
Yes, absolutely. Our goal is to host each NO MEDIA event at a different venue with the hope that the change of location will increase diversity in participants. We are really pushing for different media[ums] to sign up for the events in order to keep the events fresh. My hope is that NO MEDIA has the possibility of providing collaborations with folks outside of an artist’s normal social/art circle. To that extent, anyone can sign up for NO MEDIA: it’s open sign up, low pressure, and the format openly accepts failure. Plus, diversity in performers usually creates more unexpected realtime results, which is really fun to watch/listen/experience.
>Do you foresee particular audiences and artists working in various other mediums responding to the rules in vastly different ways? If so, why do you think that might be?
I would certainly hope so. When drafting the rules for NO MEDIA, we certainly were aware of the multi-media flexibility. Particularly the first rule:
NO preparation is allowed. Bring your tools, devices, instruments, props, etc., but you’ve got to start with a blank slate. NO time will be allotted for ‘setup’.]
We are definitely interested in overlapping the rules with performance practices that may not have thought about these types of constraints in their practice before. How does one approach the same rule using different media? What if you’ve never considered your practice media-based? Then, how would one approach these generalized rules? Part of what makes the NO MEDIA event so indeterminate is that performers from different disciplines have to react to these questions in realtime with three other artists without (hopefully) any prior consideration. NO MEDIA builds this exploration of “finding something” in realtime with other artists you’ve potentially never met before. It’s a really exciting moment.
MK: In re-reading some of the questions and answers from this past week, I wanted to revisit something:
>Jeff: And also interested in how the “No Documentation” rule/constraint actually creates awareness rather than preventing it.
Is there any way that the rules are a response to a perceived lack of awareness that many in the media and artworld talk/comment on? There seems to be a new article everyday either proving/disproving the use of media in the classroom or the breakdown of American literacy because of the 140-character tweet. Since NO MEDIA also focuses on the audience and the audience’s experience, do any of you have any thoughts on watching/engaging in performance and its greater/broader relationship to our experience of the world? Is this a consideration you’ve had?
Also, do you see any affinities between the series you’ve created and the goals you’ve set for it and early performance work and happenings? There are major differences obviously in the types of constraints from those early days, but it seems that the principle is rather similar – it’s about being there and witnessing what could happen in the space. Is NO MEDIA trying to recapture in some way this emphasis on first-hand experience? Does this is some way react against a lot of work that is made about the unnecessity of actually experiencing work in person (I’m thinking particularly of Brad Troemel here)
NB: echo’n && reiterate’n on this…
>I know Jeff has mentioned interest in hosting NO MEDIA in different venues thus drawing different artists and crowds – is this ideal for the interests of NO MEDIA? Do you foresee particular audiences and artists working in various other mediums responding to the rules in vastly different ways?
+ connecting that with this:
>Is there any way that the rules are a response to a perceived lack of awareness that many in the media and artworld talk/comment on?
re:lack of awareness and/or lack of perspective, >> its tuff to gain perspective on your context when you’re on the inside looking out. Once in a conversation with Jason, he mentioned that he notices how at improvisational noise shows the artists often fall back on the same tropes/conventions. This doesn’t mean the artists aren’t being spontaneous, but rather that they’re doing so within a set of conventions. This isn’t inherently a problem, after all it’s these conventions that define the context (i.e. there are particular rhythms bossa nova musicians improvise on, these structures can be seen as limits/restrains but also help identify what’s happening as bossa nova). For me this only becomes a problem when the artist doesn’t realize they’re restraining their work to fit w/in these conventions (because it’s become such an invisible norm). I think this is where mashing up improvisational performers from different disciplines becomes interesting, when different sets of tropes/conventions are forced to reconcile w/each other in realtime… you can’t ignore ‘em.
>Also, do you see any affinities between the series you’ve created and the goals you’ve set for it and early performance work and happenings?
Oh yea absolutely, I think this is obvious ^_^ while it may not have been a direct reference at first I think there are lots of parallels, namely the interdisciplinary nature and the interest in (the alternative) value of ephemeral/uncommodifiable art situations.
MK: Thank you Jason, Nick, and Jeff for taking the time to talk with me about NO MEDIA!
JK: NO MEDIA is in the works for May, so keep an eye out on our tumblr for event and date specifics!