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I have been experimenting with the newly installed exhibition apparatus (dispositive) Palaver developed by artist Eran Schaerf and Professor Florian Dombois and installed by the Y-Institute at Berne University of the Arts. The occasion for the experiment was enabled through HKB’s open house (Oct. 2010)  and the desire to develop strategies for the use of alternative exhibition models with a wider public.

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In a nutshell: Palaver is an assemblage of a wall, two screens and two cameras. A space can be divided by a mobile wall, one screen is attached to each side of this wall and each side is equipped with a mobile camera. The idea is to exhibit an artwork or a performance or anything on one side and project it to the other side where the audience is. Through such an arrangement the audience as well as the object/performance are put into a mediated relationship. With the help of the camera, the screens and the separation a process of negotiation and estranged, mediated contact is facilitated. A palaver in its original meaning is the week-long political negotiations in a public space in African native cultures. The idea for such an exhibition apparatus is the change in roles and time that might accompany the experience of art. In other words, the role of the spectator, the work its reception and the way to think and talk about it discursively might be transformed through such a renewed assemblage. The palaver centers the art object but at the same time mutually positions spectators, art critics, art historians artists and curators on a plane of negotiation. Instead of unfolding each ofthese participants into his/her discipline and mode of reflexion, Palaver aims at an intense engagement with the object, modes of representation, ways of speaking and sensing, the refomualtion of space and the role of speaking in formal and informal ways.

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What I have been trying in this particular occasion of experimentation was to undermine the conception of the object or the subject by becoming a non-subject and a non-object. The creature that lives at the interstice of non-subject and non-object is McGhille (see post below). McGhillie is neither a thing nor a person. McGhillie rather melts with its environment to liberate the one inhabiting the suit to become pure (in)difference and therefore not being accountable by vision or speech. McGhillie is perceivable but one cannot know it nor can one interact with it. I aimed at rendering McGhillie’s movements the least possible anthropomorphic. McGhillie was supposed to become a pure presence therefore demonstrating its disappearance. The visitors on the other side were estranged and curious. I aimed at a long duration not allowing for any interaction but forcing the audience to turn onto itself and initiate any kind of intercourse. The situation was at times uncomfortable due to its indeterminacy and at times charged with excitement when something happened. At one point I was compelled to end the performative situation but didn’t preclude how to go about it. The people in the room were already at the margins of the wall separating the spaces. The screens mediating the situation became fairly obsolete, live experience seemed to be more attractive. Hence, McGhillie was bemoaning the annihilation of the mediation by a screen and longed for its re-installation. Finally approaching the door to leave the room in a crouching way, a participant had blocked it to not allow for any escape. This provocation to leave the state of non-subject-object forced me to imagine what it means to be kept in a cell, to be considered outside of the general discourse and therefore being regarded as free to be subjugated. The liberating and almost powerful feeling of a Becoming-McGhillie shifted towards a Becoming-Animal with all its negative attributes in relation to the human master and the animal-slave. Finally forcing the door open, still being follwed by the crowd I managed to leave the situation and to allow McGhillie to become free for a future becoming.

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In sum, I can say that the attempt to undermine the dispositive of Palaver only partly worked. One of the main concerns that remain after the experience is the question of how a situation can be generated where one can feel the potential forces towards negotiation. In other words, is the apparatus as it is right now providing the right port of entry into a self-generative process of negotiation. In other words, are the enabling constraints given to allow the object/subject to speak in its own right or is Palaver just another discursive tool that hovers on the surface of representation and language.

categories: conferences, events, research
tags:

PhDs on a boat in Aarhus

Here is a quick homage to the fantastic “Event, Signal, Affect” conference at Aarhus University I was invited to last week.  The conference was targeted to bring together selected scholars working on affect, theories of the event, non-representational theory and signal or the signaletic. The setting was very intimate, with 25 people and a perfectly organized structure, including dinner and collective cookout.

The main guests were Erin Manning and Brian Massumi and Nigel Thrift, who unfortunately never made it to the conference. Topics were widely spread but well orchestrated into focused panels. The intellectual debate was engaged and on a mutually interested and curious level. On top of the two fantastic interventions by Manning and Massumi and the very focused crowed of guests, I would like to foreground the environment and techniques that made the conference so unique.

We started off with a round of conceptual speed-dating, a technique to get to know each other and have an idea of the other one’s thinking-space. The concept was autonomy and the range of discussions was wide. The good thing about this technique is that you get an immediate impression of the other one’s personal work and his/her way to move in thought. Another good aspect was to seek for 10 minute presentations and have more time for discussions. In the cases where the time was kept, discussions were very vital. The dinner and especially the collective barbecue gave the conference a very different tonality from other conferences. A free day in between the two conference days added more quality time to relax and meet up and talk. All in all I really had the feeling I have been in touch with people that also don’t want to have large conferences and impersonal panels anymore.

This brings me to a very crucial point about such events. What one seeks in such events might be to network and put yourself in contact with the “right” people. But what actually really counts is the potential of a joyous being together and friendship. In that respect it would be interesting to ask, how do you generate environments that do not allow any straight forward modes of self-representation and networking but are lures for friendship? In that sense I have to say that the potential for friendship to build is way higher in such events. I feel that I had the chance to intellectually relate to my friends Tomas Jellis and Jonas Fritsch more intensively. It is the real joy of the time and ideas shared that need to be accounted for a creative practice such as our intellectual work. Further I finally had the chance to meet Thomas Markussen, also member of the Senselab and associate professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture. Two very lucky meetings that I didn’t anticipate before were Niels Albertsen head of the Department of Landscape and Urbanism and Leila Dawney, PhD researcher at the Geography Department in Exeter. Another wonderful aspect were politically engaged talks by Thomas Markussen on the Cut Up Collective and Tatiana Bazzichelli’s presentation on Italian Hacktivism and the media event of Anna Adamolo.

I would like to close this entry by pointing out the the level of openness of the discussion we enjoyed. Merete Carlson, PhD scholar from Copenhagen, gave the last presentation pointing out the difficulty to affectively engage with interactive media artworks by writing a PhD thesis about it. The problem is not, that one is not capable of writing a thesis according to known norms but rather how to write a thesis as process and in a way that accounts for the movement of thought without representing it in language. For me such highly difficult questions lie at the core of what research-creation might mean and how we have to move “earth and the heavens,” as Bruno Latour says, to allow new minor modes of research and creative practices to flourish.

Here just a quick overview concerning the upcoming Interdisciplinary Dialogues Series I am organizing this year. Session II deals with the theme of Research, Ethics, Politics. A short description of the session outline:

A PhD project in its research and content often touches upon topics of critical importance and ethical encounters. The research we deploy bears a plethora of political and ethical decision we make and are confronted with. This immediate layer of a politico-ethical encounter in the practice of research is reflected onto the modes of creating and composing the content of our papers, presentations, shows, performances, and finally the PhD thesis. What critical considerations of the politics embedded in research might foreground are new practices and techniques of dealing with such issues beyond the well-considered modes of representation. Maybe through an awareness of the multifaceted politics in research we can re-invent modes of creating content and expression.

Interdisciplinary Dialogues II

nouveau terrain d'apparition panoscope sphere

On January 7, 2010 we launched the first general meeting after phase one of the “nouveau terrain d’apparition” (NTA) project has been accomplished. The first phase focused on establishing a solid and properly working system to run the panoscope in a networked state, allowing telepresence between two characters in a shared and immersive virtual space. The general meeting targeted at a presentation of the technical system (mostly developed by Mike Woznieski), a demo of the system and theoretical reflections on the potentials of the system from my side. Guest at the event were students from Université Laval in the the Museology Department and members of the Institut Technologies de l’information et Sociétés, Bob White from the Anthropology Department at Université de Montréal, Erin Manning, Brian Massumi and of course head researcher Luc Courchesne.

I will here focus on some potential alleys and first insights from the conversations. My presentation was targeted at opening the NTA-system’s black box (à la Bruno Latour) and to outline its actants and interdependencies. The importance for the first phase lies in the system or rather assemblage that has been developed. As Luc pointed out the other day, the system is at its limits in terms of computation and therefore we will have to take its state as “enabling constraint.” The first important move which occurred consists in going beyond the conceptualization of such a system as dispositif and to use the notion of the assemblage instead. This shift in terminology brings us close to think different registers of realities (those realities of matter included) together and to annihilate any kind of other-worldly conception of virtual reality. To unfold this move I was drawing on Andrew Murphie’s article “Putting the Virtual back into VR.” Here Murphie claims with a Deleuzian approach through “The Fold” that Virtual Reality as a concept can help us to understand and play with what Deleuze defines as the virtual, the continuous immanence of potential in each actualization.  Since assemblages of virtual reality provide the potential to narrow the usually very crowded (with percepts and affects) experiences in our general “Umwelt” (von Uexküll), we can more precisely tap into the field of the potential. What we encounter as assemblage exists on the one hand as a complex intertwining of different realities - material, human, social, spatial and computational -  and on the other hand as a narrowing of our sensory focus to experiment with the virtual relay in our experiences.

In resonance with the system’s actual state these considerations take specific configurations:

  • Space-time: In an immersed experiential space such as the panoscope the narrowing aspect of VR allows us to experiment with new experiences of space-time. Important for a successful design of such different experiences seems to me an appropriation of affective interaction design (as developed by Jonas Fritsch). As Fritsch outlines: the account of affect will have to ”…directly address forms of experience, forms of life, on a qualitative register” (Fritsch 2009). “Affect as a whole then is the virtual co-presence of potentials” (ibid.)
  • Affect & Interaction + Memory: To feel these co-presences of affective potentials the system might not only offer shared spaces for experience but also allow the potential for interaction. This point has been uttered by Massumi and Manning, as well as in my presentation and by Mike Wozinieski. The potential to actively contribute to the system seems crucial for an enhanced interactive immersive experience. This circumstance has two important values: On the one hand the experience of space-time is always related to the way memory occurs in Bergson and slightly different in Whitehead. Memory here functions as the potential side of an actualization in a new experience. Obviously, the human participant always carries potentialities into the system through memories. Such a form of memory adds a singular (yet potentially always collective) aspect to each experience with the system. Hence, an important consideration would be the generation of memory with the system. Not only through giving machine perception the potential for interaction but also to generate an affective moreness of computing other than traditional approaches of “affective computing” as emotional aspects of programming. For the future I will follow up this thought under the concept of “affective and perceptive traces.”
  • Time and Duration: Another form of space-time configuration that might be enhanced through interactive modes of contributing actively to the system would be jumps, leaps and the sensation of duration through the system. At the moment the space inside the panoscope consists of spheres (360° images), time-lines with images that relate to certain biographies, spatial city environments (e.g. Toronto), and animated spheres with moving sound and image. Since experience here is spatialized and therefore according to Bergson misses in its euclidian appearance a thorough attribute of duration (durée), the durational aspect need to be generated by particular strategies. One of these strategies has been mentioned by Erin Manning as boredom. For her, a new user of the system has to arrive at a point of boredom to become creative with the system. To allow this creativity, we need the experience a certain durational quality inside the panoscope and the potential of active participation and contribution.
  • Collective Experience: The final point touches upon the collective experiences the system might allow. On the one hand collective experience occurs through the potential telepresence with other users. On the other hand experience surfaces through the contribution to the system and the creation of traces that can be encountered by others. What seems important here is the experience of a fully embodied state in the immersive environment of the panoscope. The embodied quality of experience allows us to embrace multiple (crossmodal) perceptive modes. On the one hand one can share experience through telepresence. On the other hand (which has been suggested by Erin Manning) one can also have the same collective experience with more than one person inside one panoscope. There is a difference in the shared expereince either through telepresence or through the physical sharing of the space in a panoscope. Interesting in that regard world be a blending of collective experience that not only includes human participants in actual physical or tele- presence but also the contribution to this experience by the flow of memories and contributions to the experience by an active and interactive (responsive) system. In that sense, to provide an initial idea, the collective individuations that might be facilitated through the system, could be generated through an internal resonance of the system with its users. To conclude with Simondon: “Internal resonance is the most primitive form of communication between realitities of different orders. It is composed of a double process of amplification and condensation.” Amplification here defines the process of an individuation (of a system for instance) as a resolution of anterior tensed states. Its condensation is the very presence as event that ties together all its anterior disparate realities and tendencies. A nexus with social character in Whitehead. The internal resonance of the user-panoscope individuation expresses its amplification and condensation through the emergent relation between different realities (of users, memories and the systems active contribution) and its condensation in an actual occasion (an event in all its complexity and singularity).

smaller panoscope for torso immersion

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interdisciplinary dialogues - what is research?

The Interdisciplinary Dialogues 2009/10 series I am organizing in the PhD in Humanities at Concordia Universty, took place for the first time this term with the opening session entitled “Art as Research.” The overall theme for this year focuses on the question of “What is Research?” As part of the annually curriculum the PhD in Humanities is having the Interdisciplinary Dialogues as a platform for PhD students in the program to share ideas with their peers and faculty and to get their work discussed in light of particular topics.

The emphasis of the conceptual framework lies in the notion of “dialogues.” From last year’s experience and due to a general discomfort with terms like panel or paper presentations, this year’s series aims at creating an environment of mutual exchange of ideas in relation to a specific theme. Thus, the PhD students were asked to give 10 minute insights into their work in conjunction with the session’s theme. Once the presentations are over, a discussion with the audience is generated by a faculty member. In our case Owen Chapman from Concordia’s Communication Department took on the role of the discussant.

What follows are some remarks that are based on the experience of this first panel and the experiment it comprised. The presentations were all exercised in perfect idiosyncratic and thoughtful ways. I think the audience received insights into five very different projects that have very different angles around the problematic field of art as research. From preceding discussions the presenters knew each other which turned out to be very beneficial for the session as such. Hence, the challenge of proposing a problematic field instead of a bold statement or a mere provocation played not really in favour of the creative collaboration I envisioned for the session. Once the floor was opened for the audience, people (in reference to one individual in the audience that unfolded the problematic in a more than determinstic mode of thought [à la art vs. science vs. philosophy]) often fell back in defending academic disciplines, their value for dialogues, and their strengths in adressing the issue of art as research.

During the course of the discussion it turned out that the setting of an interesting theme, great presentations, and a discussant, are not necessarily enough, if it is not possible to divert deterministic lines of thought in favour of more productive forces. The techniques at stake need to be more refined without cutting the proces of actual collaborative thought. Hence, and this is the curicial question here, what is needed for a collective thought to emerge? I actually think, that the potential for such a collective process was immanently present but did not actualize due to particular circumstances. This is in its core a very political problem. On the one hand, we have to warrant a certain openness for a process to freely develop in its unpredictability. On the other hand we need a political commitment that is able to cut creatively and therefore to generate new openings. The political act resides not in the selective mode of amplification of a preferred line over others (always the problem of a positioning such as “right” or “left”). On the contrary, the political act here lies in the very attentiveness towards a process that need to be maintained open for new modes of collective expression. In other words, not a strategy or tactic that provides a direction but a continuous critical re-posing of the problematic at stake and its creative productivity.

Once the session was in a certain mode oriented (or territorialized), the refrain, with which the territory appears, became so strong that it disabled any re-emergence of a creative collective process. Participants fell back into straight-forward and short-handed exercises of rehearsing the jargon of their accustomed and inscribed disciplinary modes of thought. What would have been necessary was a little cut to open up another line and therefore a new field of potentials. In that sense a discussant can take on such a job, an audience member as well or one of the presenters (ideally we might want to get to a point where these differentiations are somewhat obsolete). The question refers for me to a lack of intensity and resonance. Certainly a molar resonance developed according to a strong refrain - the deterministic statement according to molar blocks of thought. But there was another resonance immanent yet not activated. The discussion that the presenting students generated in the meetings before bore plenty of potential for a collective mode of thought. A group-intensity, a comfort and ground to work from were the immanent forces that could have been activated to generate a new shift towards a processual opening.

We have two more chances to experiment in the coming sessions. Let’s hope things get more often cut productively than they did this time.

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In one of my recent projects (”Nice-Looking Obstacles: Parkour as Urban Practice for Deterritorialization”), I have investigated the question of movement and architecture as rhythmical nexus through the practice of Parkour. One of my major arguments builds on Parkour’s consideration of obstacles as potential “landing-sites” for a different movement to take place. The engagement with architectural configurations and obstacles through movement recomposes the city, architecture and spacetime through the constant shifting of the movement-space-time nexus (see for example Bergson, Time and Free Will, Chapter II: “The Multiplicity of Conscious States; The Idea of Duration”). To conceptually derive from phenomenological tendencies in Arakawa and Gins and transform the practice of Parkour into a creative form of thought in motion, I use Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of rhythm, refrain, assemblage and milieu. My major concern aims at the question of how architecture cannot only become more fluid or lend itself for interesting encounters, but what are the ecologies of practices that radically open the potential of movement and encounter to create new relational concepts of spacetime. The full article will be published soon in AI & Society but I would like to provide an excerpt of the most conceptually dense section.

The excerpt: “Architectural Body - the Concept of Landing Sites

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deleuze

The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory In cooperation with Culture, Imagination and Practice Research Group, School of Social Sciences

link

In light of my acceptance for the Deleuze and Activism Conference in November in Cardiff, I would like to publish my abstract for remarks and discussion:

Expression as Micropolitical Force of Change

For Deleuze and Guattari expression evokes a shock that is in excess of the human body’s contained capacity of perception. It is the potential for change as an ethico-aesthetic and political enunciation. Expression as ethico-aesthetic concept yields the creative capacity of a becoming through an unfolding of its transductive and transversal forces of potential. Expression’s ethical implications lie in the question of “how one performatively contributes to the stretch of expression in the world” (Massumi 2002, xxii). It defines a particular mode of emergence, a becoming that is singular and yet in relation (collective). As a collective mode of becoming, expression reshapes the body as event producing a complicated field of potential that is constantly negotiated by molar captures and molecular series of singularities. The body in its state of shock becomes a negotiated territory for capture being executed (the molding of the expressive potential into a defined system) or it creatively acknowledges change (the acceptance of expression’s potential as novelty).

In an attempt to contribute performatively to the “stretch of expression in the world,” and thus to open up bodies towards the excessive potential of expression, the Senselab (www.senselab.ca) launched a series of events, called Technologies of Lived Abstraction, of which the latest was entitled “Society of Molecules (SoM).” Echoing Whitehead’s concept of society as a relational collective, SoM is a transnational and transversal series of events creating ethico-aesthetic interventions in their immediate local environment. The process-based events yielding an activist micropolitics will function as domain of inquiry to trace expression’s affects on a global, yet transversal, territory.