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The performance (cyber)space (reflections on part 2 of etude #3)…

Now, here’s some notes…

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Notes from journal…

Luckily, a woman from class, who has her own private studio at the Art Barn with a couch and coffee table setup, allowed me to use it for my installation.

I had the phone on a side table, but ti didn’t play a part in the installation, really.

The laptop was on the coffee table and had a Facebook page that I’d created for the space (Installation Room) open. I also brought my portable Bose speaker, but the lack of an outlet made it practically useless. 

I had a volunteer sit at the couch. From my iPad, I Facebook messaged him from my iPad under the character name I’d created for the installation (Annie Anderson). We had a brief conversation as I explained the piece. 

It went over okay. As usually happens with my work, my fellow students seemed more enthused than my instructor. I swear I’m destined to be a popular artist that the academy looks at with a quiet disdain as a pseudo-intellectual. Anyway…

Class discussion, however, was again very constructive. And the concept changed even further.

Now, the installation is completely online and completely run through social media. 

Here’s my concept:

There is a website that serves as the “box office” of sorts for the performance. Given that it’s moved online, the performance can now accommodate more than one person at once. What happens is the audience member buys a ticket for the performance. Then, they’re given a list of the characters and all their social media profiles. From there, they can go friend/follow/etc. the characters. Once the performance starts, which will play out over the course of something like a couple of weeks or a month, it takes place on the audience members social media feeds. There is a general narrative between the characters in the performance, but again, the audience can interact with these characters and effect the course of events. 

This still plays with the same themes I’ve previously written about. What has changed is the space. 

I’ve written about the question of what comes next for art after people like Kaprow essentially blew the box up. And this seems to be an interesting answer. The internet as a performance space. 

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of it or even do it, but my interest is certainly piqued. 

Hopefully a performance like this can help the audience look at their carefully curated online social lives in a way that examines context and how exactly we craft and define the roles we play online versus who we are in the real world. 

The scripting process will be kind of crazy. I’ll have to develop full social media pages for my characters, going into great detail crafting them and who they are. Second, I’ll have to script a general storyline, even if specific lines aren’t written down. I think of it like a commedia del’arte situation. I’ll have a carefully constructed schedule in which different characters will post different things. From there, they’ll react to the comments from audience members and other characters. And these situations will have to be fluid based on where the audience, the spect-actors, take it. I imagine a gargantuan, annotated, and organized scripting system that has dossiers for each character, a collection of situations, and a schedule of postings. It’s a huge project, but one people seem excited about it. And it’s something that genuinely interests me.

The idea of taking performance/art to the online space is intriguing, despite my relative lack of social media experience. I’ll have to do a lot of work and studying. Especially when it comes to making a website to serve as a mission control for all of this. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

Exciting…

The Spect-actor (reflections on part 1 of etude #3)…

Class was great!

Through discussion, Tom and the class helped me develop the installation and get it to a potentially cool place. 

The set is still a living room. There is one audience member at a time. They enter the room. There is a TV, an iPod dock loaded with music, a computer on the coffee table, and a smart phone on the table next to the couch. The audience member has a minute to get themselves situated, perhaps put on some music or a movie, and then the text alert goes off. From there, the audience member takes part in a performance via text message and social media. They talk to a character. There is a general storyline for the character, but the audience member has the ability to effect the direction and outcome of the interaction. They become a true spect-actor, in that thy take a role in co-creating the performance. This does a couple of cool things.

First, it challenges the notion of context. Both context in interpersonal communication that is mediated by a digital barrier, and context in the definition and creation of art. 

In time specific sessions, the audience member can experience and take part in a performance that hopefully elicits genuine reactions, unconsciously generated, leading to an authentic interaction. It’s a happening of sorts, though more curated than Kaprow would like. 

Tom liked the concept so much he suggested it could be a creative dissertation project, and I agree. This is an example of how great the class is, especially in the way Tom structured it. He’s brought us along, putting the pieces out there and letting us slowly put them together, which is starting to reveal a real idea of what our individual drives and interests in art are, which in turn can inform the kind of projects we take one. 

I really like it. This was a great week. Unfortunately, it’s not the kind of thing that’s easy to document, I feel. I can write about it, but there are no fun pictures to take or screenshots to post because these are all concepts right now.

Next week, we put it together into an actual physical presentation. I’ve gotta figure out how to turn a space in the UTD Art Barn into a living room environment.

My specific assignment is to create a Facebook profile for one of my characters (we decided it’d be cool to have multiple characters) and present that in a setting that can somewhat recreate the idea. We’ll see how it goes…

Context (Etude #3)

I’m posting a scan of the actual assignment, as I made notes on it…

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So, we have to decide on a story that’s not our own, and then make decisions/observations about its visuals, sound, space, and perspective/concept.

This is definitely a site specific project, especially considering our reading of Kaprow.

I read a conversation in a comment thread online about a couple who, in the course of a normal conversation via text messaging, got into an argument because of something being taken out of context. 

This story interested me for a few reasons. First, I’ve been there before. Despite my generally jovial nature in person, I’ve had people read me in text/email over the years in a much different tone than I intended. The reason for this is a loss of context. Especially in text, it’s difficult to put any intonation into the words. Outside of emoticons, tone and intent can be difficult to decipher in a textual context.

Also, it made me thing of the social scripts I’ve already written about. Our reading of a situation (like in art) is informed by our own subjectivity. Despite the intent of what we’re perceiving, the way we read it can be completely different. 

So, this notion interested me. 

My concept is an installation in which the audience is placed in the role of the person having the text conversation. The setting is a living room. The living room os full of stuff, the decorations of an identity. They sit at a couch with a smart phone on a pedestal in front of them, a laptop on the table in front of them and a television playing a movie or speaker playing music. All of these electronic devices will be active. On the phone, the conversation plays out. On the computer is social media feeds. The TV or music provides a cultural noise that can, perhaps, influence the mindset of the audience. From here, the audience watches the conversation play out on the small screen.

This is like a happening, though I’m not sure how much further the audience could participate. Maybe be able to respond to the texts from someone else so they could experience the loss of context? How they respond to the texts reveals something about the piece and about themselves. 

This is a two part assignment, so this is my concept. I’ll present it in class and then perhaps develop it further…

Performance Installation: Week 4

Our reading for the week was the book Essay on the Blurring of Art and Life, a book of Allan Kaprow’s writings about his work edited by Jeff Kelley.

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My original reflection on the reading…

I’ve had experience studying Kaprow before, in Performance Art and Performance Theory classes during my masters.

Kaprow’s signature contribution to art is the Happening. 

Happenings are tough to define, partly because Kaprow’s own definition shifted over time. Basically, they’re a art performance or installation that happens outside the bounds of the traditional art sphere (i.e. galleries, theaters, etc.) 

That’s really broad. Winnowing down, Kaprow was concerned with the question, “What is art?” His solution partly involved taking the elements of what makes art, consciously, art, and instead using everyday locations, objects, and actions to challenge the perception of art itself. Starting with more scripted events, Kaprow eventually got to a point where events only happened once, they weren’t promoted, and there was a chance the people participating in them weren’t even aware of their intentions, meanings, etc. To Kaprow, art was the actual creation and execution of art. Not necessarily the creations themselves or the spaces they’re contained in. 

I’ve been a part of happenings before, typically of the more scripted variety where the audience was aware of their participation. 

And what this reading does for me is raise the topic of the conscious versus the subconscious. 

Once we’re conscious of something, we automatically assign culturally curated symbolism, meaning, and definition to it. As such, people in a gallery will behave the way people in a gallery are “supposed” to behave, and they’ll automatically register the gallery’s contents as “art”, because that’s what’s in a gallery. 

By leaving the safe confines of the curated, controlled space, Kaprow was able to get a more honest, perhaps visceral reaction from his audience, which in a way, is art. 

I remember taking a class on Dada and Surrealist art at the Nasher Sculpture Center. One time in class, I made the, tired, statement that art is subjective. My professor, a curator at the center, corrected me. She said, our reaction to art is subjective. 

Such a small change in the statement makes a big difference. It acknowledges that something is art if we call it art, taking the power away from the art academy and placing it squarely on the spectator. And there’s something to that. Think of things we interact with everyday. A chair, a table, a toilet (Hello, Duchamp!). All of these things had to be designed. They are, in their own way, art. But, because they exist in our everyday lives, and perhaps because they serve very practical purposes, we don’t immediately identify them as being artistic. The Dadas and Surrealists plead their own part in challenging these notions. Duchamp’s readymades specifically did this. Especially his work Fountain, a urinal turned on its back and signed, as a work of art would be. 

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Collage and some of the Dada sculpture would also fall into this category.

But, Kaprow took that a step further. After all, a lot of these Dada and Surrealist works were still displayed in galleries and exhibitions where they were defined as art. Kaprow took his art outside of the gallery, noting in the book that in order to get to the heart of what is art, you had to un-art the art, or basically strip it of the signifiers that identified it as art. So, take it out of the gallery, don’t sign it, don’t advertise it as art. Just let it happen, as it were. 

This, in turn, will elicit a spontaneous, unconscious reaction from the audience, which can then reveal the true definition and nature of art. 

I totally dig what Kaprow is saying, to an extent. We live in a socially constructed world and follow script throughout our everyday lives. So, when someone walks into a theater or a gallery, they’re playing the role of audience member, art patron, etc. Due to these roles that we take on, we behave in certain ways, and look at the contents in a certain way. We perceive the art as art simply because we’re in a place that houses art. Not necessarily because it actually is art. Confused yet?

I like the idea of getting your audience into an unconscious space. Getting them to react spontaneously and authentically to art really is, perhaps, one of the most interesting aspects of art.

However, what the Dadas and Surrealists played a big role in starting, and what Kaprow furthered, is this postmodern notion of deconstruction. And while there is a way in which deconstruction can be a very good thing, what happens at the end when we’ve torn the entire academy down?

By deconstructing the notion of “What is art?”, we tear it down to its parts to such an extent that we invite a total relativistic outlook on the form as a whole that in the search for meaning can dilute it to the point that it has no meaning.

As Hakim Bey suggested in TAZ: Go into the lobby of a Citibank, drop your pants, take a shit on the floor, and walk out.

Sure, you can identify that as an artistic expression. Especially in today’s world where there is such distrust of the large banks. But, if no one else knows about it, is it art? Is it enough that the 20 people in the bank perceived the action and questioned in their own heads what it meant?

I agree that we should find ways to break down the social scripts that can, arguably, sometimes limit art. But, how far can we break them down before there is no script left? Are we truly living in an age that’s so subjective that it’s enough if just one person unconsciously perceives it as art? 

And think of it on a practical level. It’s fine when you’re the one leading the charge on these movements, but what happens to artists who come after? I feel it’s safe to say that the world needs art and artists. But, we let those who came before us tear down the academy to a point that we’ve entered into a time of cynicism where everything is considered trite or derivative. Everything is been there, done that. 

Kaprow was great, but he got to work in a time when the art world was still somewhat strong, so his abstraction meant something. But, his development of the Happening, in a way, can play as him pulling the pin on a grenade on his way out the door and making it more difficult for everyone who comes after him. The grand narrative (or meta narrative) of art has been broken down to a point that to participate in the traditional art world these days is considered tired. As Tom Riccio said to me during a meeting, “Theater is dead.” (For this example, consider that theater can mean art in general). Now, Tom didn’t mean that theater itself is dead. That’s obviously not true. Broadway posted record ticket sales last year. What he meant is the “box” is dead. The traditional theater, with its proscenium seating and coherent, self-contained narratives, is dead. To participate in this old form is to be living in the past, to an extent. 

I, in all my amateurism, disagree. I think it’s still possible to work within the box (whether that be a theater, a gallery, or whatever else) and create great, progressive art. The key, as Kaprow’s work gets at, is getting the audience to truly unconsciously react to the art within. How to do that? I’m not totally sure. But, I’ll keep working on it.

I know going into this class, that Tom is a fan of site specific artistic work. His group, Dead White Zombies specializes in site specific performance. And, I think it’s really cool and results in really visceral, honest performances. I like the notion. And it’s something I want to do with my work. Which leads me to the assignment (etude) for the week…

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