“documenting” NO MEDIA

March 28, 2013 · Print This Article

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“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 +

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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, [1] remove the pressure/distraction that often comes with documentation [2] 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:

>[1] remove the pressure/distraction that often comes with documentation [2] emphasis in-the-moment focus: w/your collaborators in that space/time. 

I would like to add: [3] 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!


Catch Nicholas O’Brien at the Nightingale Theater TONIGHT!

March 23, 2011 · Print This Article

Artist, writer, new media curator, and BAS’ own “Hyperjunk” blogger Nicholas O’Brien is visiting Chi-town, and if you live here you can see and — best of all — talk with the man yourself if you head on over to the Nightingale Theater tonight, Wednesday March 23rd, at 8pm. Full details on the action-packed events below…pecha-kucha style lecture?? This will be good.

I am Back: Nicholas O’Brien at the Nightingale Theater: Nicholas O’Brien will weave a conversation and lecture around his recent screen based works. These routes will range from a reading of an online conversation about mediated spatial awareness, screening samples from an ongoing video blog, presenting a pecha-kucha style lecture on the show Breaking Bad, as well as showing a VHS love letter sent to a distant, yet familial, stranger. The evening will enfold over the course of interlinking monologues discussing loss/return, finding sincerity in flippant formats, discovering self through cultural history, excavating digital landscapes, and employing wit to both disarm and embrace.

In-Game Chat with Jason Rohrer

July 14, 2010 · Print This Article

I was very excited when Jason Rohrer agreed to conduct and interview with me within his newest game Sleep is Death. The game typically allows a host player and a guest player 30 seconds each to collaboratively navigate an interactive story. In the video above, you’ll be getting my side of our conversation, as you watch me type, move, and interact with the environment Jason provided for our discussion.

During the course of our adventure we talk about games as a creative medium, Jason’s decision to opt for 8-bit graphics, and how his games have changed over the course of the past decade. I soon find out that making certain decisions within the game lead to great, unforeseen, incidents of chaos and pleasure.

Near the end of our conversation, Jason discusses how games are intrinsically about meditating on time. Many of Jason’s games involve cooperation with other characters or entities, which – depending on your willingness or investment – can greatly influence the direction and development of your experience. With Jason’s games, once is not enough, and many times I find myself wanting to replay his games not out of any vain desire of completion (which happens to me frequently with big-name video games), but instead as a way of investigating how I play.

I suggest that games like Passage offer a challenging alternative to typical “choice” driven blockbuster games (like “morality engine” games developed by Bethesda Softworks). In Passage, you navigate an complex labyrinth to earn points; however, as you advance further into the maze you grow older and can travel less quickly. You also have a chance to picking up a partner to join you in your quest, and although doing so can prevent you from accessing certain areas, you gain more points the further you travel with your companion.

Jason’s passion for his work, and their powerful impact upon traditional gamers and non-gamers alike provide unmistakable evidence that games art art. I believe Sleep is Death and Passage are emblematic of a distinct shift within the gaming and art world; a movement away from gloss and sheen, and a revisitation to affect and process.

Post-Cursor: talking with Eric Fleischauer

June 9, 2010 · Print This Article

Eric Fleischauer and I have a great discussion after the opening of his new show entitled Post-Cursor currently up at threewalls (until July 3rd). We talk about how his work relates and/or responds to technological cultures and production through a diverse array of perspectives.

Eric’s work – both within and outside of this show – critically examines our tendencies to celebrate and memorialize technology. In our discussion, I suggest that Eric combats these desires in his work by offering up poignant minimal (in construction and presentation) solutions through the lens of art and media history. Eric counters this by also pointing to an important conceptual art history that informs his work (his A Scan of the Space Under My Mouse (enlarged 2x) is a direct reference to Bruce Nauman, for example).

We talk further about how these influences are condensed (from an art historical standpoint) into strategies for navigating contemporary media; a thread that is interwoven throughout his practice. A good example of these concerns can be seen in Eric’s organization/curation of the End of Analog show that he put together last year for Roots and Culture. He admits that the titles of both End of Analog and Post-Cursor are intended to be hyperbolic gestures. In doing so, he hopes to point out how the content of popular media has gone (relatively) unchanged in the past three decades and that exploring the transience of media formats can be a more productive undertaking.

The last bulk of our discussion uses Eric’s blog work as a spring board to talk about the growing popularity of tumblr within certain circles of young new media makers. I propose that the mobility that blog formats like tumblr create a rich environment for cross-medium discussion, collaboration, and non-committal sharing of ideas. Tracing this (micro)history to surf-club group blogs like Loshadka and Spirit Surfers shows how this medium of quickness and real-time response unburdens makers from the stringent policies of a gallery space setting.