Re: Ruminations on Interaction II

Johannes H. Birringer (
Thu, 01 May 1997 00:25:10 -0500

Hello listfellows,

I wish to enter into the discussion suggested by Scott and Mark, and respond
to Mark's incisive testimonial.

I) But first, following Richard, a brief comment on the Atlanta "Performance
Studies" conference, since many of us are perhaps likely to attend or be
invited to conferences or some such event, and also there is the projected
conference/performance event at
Arizona State University in 1999.

I probably won't attend another academic conference since I am not willing
to play the clown for some unorganized arrogant organizing committee's
passing fancy to have some performance events, like appetizers, surround the
theory and paper reading sessions in the grand ballrooms of the expensive
hotels. As Richard mentions, yes, I pulled our performance out of the
conference altogether, finding a film auditorium and kind support by the
local Goethe Institute, went on to make the technical arrangements and
rentals I had to make since the conference organizers neither helped, cared,
bothered, greeted us or bothered to even come and look at artists' work, and
scheduling Jools's and Richard's presentation of their CD-ROM work in
progress at 8:oo in the morning speaks for itself.
It was offensive.

Our performance was not hampered by the alternative auditorium as much as by
our inability to work properly (technical preparation, test/rehearsal, staff
support, physical preparation) or to disengage our minds and bodies from a
profoundly alienating environment (the mall, the conference, the fact the
the audience treated this as a kind of panel sesssion into which one walked
in and out).

2) Had I been mentally able to put myself into the performance/experiment
mood, I would have enjoyed the issues Mark asks about, and yet I did learn a
lot, namely about the question whether we could simulate the interactivities
we are working towards while at this point in the process our choreographies
and video/sound/movement projections and live manipulations are scored
(timed, sequenced, positioned, conjuncturally composed as 4 simultaneities
in linear sequence, a performance with beginning and end, in an installation
environment that actually could have allowed the audience to walk around,
change their viewpoint or location, and well, yes, they could have come late
and left early, if they just wanted to glance at the configuration (it
functions as an exhibition, although it's time-based and not a loop, since
we only had the space for a limited time.).

I designed the installation concept, however, with the idea in mind that as
a visual/auditory installation (with live performers interacting with
scored/stored material), it could be in place for a day, for a week, and the
material can be looped and de-tourned, more importantly, it can evolve,
transform itelf, change over time.

3). The moment of our work moving from the studio to a live public
presentation changed the experience of it, and for us it is not really an
issue of control at all, Mark.

I do think that as a composer or choreographer I personally want to design
my own material and narrative (visual, movement, vocal), but then also
chnage that approach and engage in the performance with my colleagues,
rehearse and design together, learn from others whose work each time is a
revelation for me, since I experience it new, and in new phsyical and
emotional ways, and I also l i s t e n differently each time, or sense the
color of our sequences, and my body in relation to the environment, differently.

4). Yes, we need to address the issue of "deepening" (how does actual
interactivity deepen the meaning or experience of the work) and of
"perecivability" (by us as performers and by the audiences, since the latter
experience whatever it is they focus on or see [we were told that according
to our configuration, some only saw me face-to-face, others only my partner
Joel, and again others were watching or looking for Jools on the side of the
rectangle, commenting critically on gender and racial concerns in [their
perceoption of] our (color/gender) composition of memory (auto.biography),
in our p o s i t i o n i n g of the memories
(projected/voiced/performed/moved/still), on the de-centering of Jools
(present woman) and Imma's "mere" videopresence.

Jools, I believe, was looking at the missing centre, she being the one who
had not rehearsed with us physically and entered into an uncertain
improvisation with us. She felt anxious.

5. In this version of the performance-installation, Joel and I knew what we
had scored and what we simulated. [question: what d o e s one know about
one's work?]

6. In the next version, we plan to store/program some of the memories so
that they will be triggered by motion and light through sensors/cameras
(BigEye) or an interactive design that will make the
memories/images/movement fragments that show up unpredictable. In that case,
what will happen I think is that the anxious experience of performance will
change into another kind of anxiousness, when we will have to react to how
we perceive our own correlation to our own stored/programmed memories which
we d o not control. [question: do we know what we store and what we have

7. I think in both cases the performers are learning and experimenting with
different kinds of physical/technological process that is emergent and
cooperative, a kind of "participatory writing" (choreography) that is closer
to ethnography than dance.

8. If I may, in the next 7 days, I will post each day a short paragraph
from a text by a Houston ethnographer (Stephen Tyler) that I think evokes
some of the very concerns of experimental process that we are engaged in as
performance artists, except that that text is about ethnography, ours about
dance & technology. Not much difference.

It links my current work, however, directly to the "Artists in Trance"
experiment that the Cuban artists I joined here started in Houston in
January, a project about movements beyond the definable (art and its
genres)(anthropology and its genres), a "transart" process in which an
individual subject does neither control representation, make an object,
describe a reality, represent a reality, bring into presence what is absent,
know a totality, synthesize, or produce one, but - with others - partake in
conjoining (our dispersed) reality and fantasy and evoking quotidian,
palpable experience.

Perhaps, as Mark describes, the children or the teachers were also
experiencing a technological space (of interactivity) as something palpable,
a sensorium to play with.

There are questions that arise once we "use" technological design to evoke
play-effects or effects that play, and other questions arise when we no
longer know what to play or why we play or why we don't play.

[Remember Pina Bausch saying, in the 70s, she's not interested in how
dancers move but why they move at all].

Experiments perhaps, taken seriously, evoke the unthinkable, and so we play
at not knowing what to feel/think when our bodies expand or disappear. Or
trigger the predictable, or the unpredicatable.

Johannes Birringer