Re: telematicinterprovisation

Johannes H. Birringer (
Tue, 01 Apr 1997 02:10:58 -0600

Hola telematic listfriends,

I returned from 3 weeks on the road (film shoot in Houston), without access
to email and without cellular phone and pager and wireless modem attached to

I wanted to ask you all (after the weeks of discussion on telematics), how
one enters and leaves, and what happened to the audience, and to the

I am probably guilty of having sent you an indulgent latenight letter about
sheepskins and clones, weeks ago. I see with satisfaction that it did't find
an audiencethread. Is a thread an audience or some kind of new interaction?
The telematics discussion was so lively, I really enjoyed it, after the
fact, and actually went back to my files to revisit Mark's comment from
early March about the contradiction between composition (rehearsed
choreography) and on-spot improvisation (with electronic bodies, which I
find not clear, not really quite understandable, since I find Critical Art
Ensemble's text a bit too hallucinatory about the doppelgŠnger of real bodies).

What is clearly obvious is that people like to discuss
work/work-in-progress, and issues that come out of our production or
creation experience.

May I then suggest that the discussion on-line (so quick and almost
instantaneous, almost lost instantly) now disturbs my sense of the reality
of the past weeks on the ground without telematics and access. I am also in
midst of leaving/arriving. Moving from Chicago to Houston.

I want to mention one production experience, concerning telematics only
insofar as the arrival/departure (Scott's earlier rehersal idea, or also his
idea of working in two separated rooms/spaces, that might be considered
interactive) as inter-action interests me on a political-creative level,
also as change-over of context/ground and perspective, transculturally.

The issue here is the "interactor." [the "Mididancer"]. I wanted to ask Mark
(or wish to know more about Amanda's vivid and pressing work, which sounds
terribly intriguing): why is the "interactor" actually a term that Troika
chose in a purely operational/technical sense (a device, a softeware?). How
is such a term useful in terms of our debate on improvisation, movement,
ex-change between dancer/mover and images/projections/digitized
information/data transfer? How does sound figure into the interactor? How
touch, physical experience? Fear? Insecurity? Desire to leave? To forget?
How does such work treat/understand context?

These are not formal questions.

My last question concerns the fundamental reseach/production concept
underlying my own company and work,and yours, namely working-with-others,
in other sites.

Telamtic space is an approximation. A sensing, yes, a hallucination, if I
understand Scott's remarks on Paul Sermon correctly. How do we choreograph
hallucination, and what are we searching for? Is such choreography a
technical composition, can the physical-emotional and intellectual process
be "captured" (clipped, animated?). I consider animation/clipping
(videoclips) a very drastic decontextualisation. Poor at that. It doesn't do
away with audience, we are still watching/reading, someone reads. I agree
with Scott, there's little to read, to know.

How is it for the producer, and what does the "interactor" interact, and
what does it produce?

I conclude with my personal experience as a (first) outsider, arriver, then
interacter, participant/producer, learner, and filmmaker, touching ground
and joining the movement of the "Artists in Trance" project in Houston,
organized by TRANSART (a non-profit organization, founded by Venezuelan
artist Surpik Angelini) and hosted by Rice University Anthropology
Department. A three month public research course (for general audience,
staged at Media Center), including exhibitions, performances, outdoor
installations, and much context shifting.

What I thought was radical was the idea of designing a "fieldwork" project
conducted by Latin American artists (from Cuba, exiled Cuban, from
Venezuela, Chile,) within/inside the disciplined academic ground of the
first world bastion of postmodern anthropology (experimental ethnography).
The Latin artists, directed by Cuban curator/artist Abdel Hern‡ndez, work in
an experimental processual mode in concrete social and political/cultural
contexts, they brought their "fieldnotes" from streets and barrios and
decided to stage their work as a certan "mise-en-scene" or installation of
objects, constructions, choreographies, interactions, exhibitions. The
project was subitled: "working with the other" - but the reference to the
"other" (Latin America or third world notion) or other-cultural was here
twisted around (Scott, it's the wall, the room of the other side).

The outsiders were working in the inside conducting the choreography of a
theory (of experimental methodology and hermeneutics) yet not necessarily in
theoretical terms (= the terms of scientific and academic discourse), but in
artistic modes. [Footnote: the Rice professors and students seemed terrified
to make contact. Hid under mask of academic superiority, or ignorance of

the artist as ethnographer.

In my participation helping to prepare the exhibits, mount the performance,
put up the many little collected data/objects, say, from the village
mercados in Venezuela (Hernandez and Calzadilla worked for 4 weeks building
a outdoor shed that they exhibited as "The Market From Here" and you might
call it a "simulation" or a hallucination of a real market, with all real
objects but constructed in a new way, like an ethnographic museum except not
really, the mise-en-scene was too perfect or too false or too constructed or
too consciously shifted into a critical interaction with the "market" here
which is not a market place in the cultural sense in which the Venezuelan
villagers go to barter and find healing potions and prophecies and sheep
skin and vegetables and milagros.

There was something surreal about this old dirty shed in the midst of a
clean neoclassical fake Mexican architectural courtyard behind Rice
University Art Gallery in Houston, Texas.

But the people who came had been attending the course for 3 months, there
was an enormous social interaction, a gathering, a sense of living through.
For the active artists the process was immensely complex, beginning with the
constant negotiation of languages, and differences, the vast asphalt urban
space. I came to know them as I worked with them, felt them, moved with
them, observed and debated with them their way of organizing the presence,
the real, the material, the human interaction. The exiled Cubans, all in
their late or mid-20s, came from Carracas, doubly displaced in Houston, yet
the Houstonians also were other to the scene of hallucination. We recognize
each other somehow, uncannily, but not really.

If we talk about experimentation with new media/technologies, how do we
account for our work with others (on or off line), what zone of technics do
we enter and exit, and what does it matter, to want to work digitally, what
a luxury, what a challenge, what an excitement., or....

as a reminder: Alejandro Lopez wanted to do a multimedia opera (since 1991,
when he was in Cuba) on a fictional character he had created for himself and
which he lived for several years in the streets in Havana ( "Doctor A"). he
also wanted to experiment with shifting the voice (making it other),
sampling Laurie Anderson or rather playing his own sampling of his voice
through a MIDI and distorting his body into a sculpture. He could never do
the work in Latin American because he lacked the tools/machines. In Houston
we rented all the high tech stuff, 70 lights, and dat player/Pa system and 4
slide projectors and various other machines. The tech stuff was on the
stage, we did it quickly, but the metal scaffold he had welded and designed
in Cuba took 2 days to be put together, yet all the screws seemed to fit in
the holes. We had a very special time improvising with this metallic
scaffold, which can change shape and turn into something else. The
"ethnography" of the history of the scaffold interested me very much,
because he had built it over years, with this opera in mind that he never
performed, until now in 1997, in Houston, Texas. He called the piece: "the
indestructible unit".

Something here moves me, perhaps the stubborn resistance, of a vision, and
when the vision gets screwed together, with the participation of others who
come to learn from why we move where we move/depart/arrive or why we would
want to make art that is not primarily about art or interested in art at
all, that's another matter.

can anyone, who cared to read this, continue my thought and link this to the
question of why we care to improvise with one another, and why would
we/could we do so over a distance from New York to L.A., could we from New
York to Havana? do we? why not? but what would be experience in the telamtic
hook up? I never quite got the point Paul Sermon is searching for. The sense
of the wand in the hand as an eye that thinks it sees as it presumes to
touch something not there? Very clever.

Johannes Birringer
AlienNation Co.
in transit

Anyone interested in the full program description of "Artists in Trance"
please email me: