RE: baroque garden

Johannes Birringer (
Thu, 26 Jun 97 02:37 +0100

Hi listmembers,

good to be back online after 3 weeks on tour in the east, but hard to catch up.

I now realize that my efforts to have a complete ISDN telecommunications set-up
built up in my old German house were heroically useless, once we went on the
road and worked in the alternative scene in east Germany, in the countryside,
living in Hellerau (gutted, no-access), working in production and in very
diffucult and unusual spaces (Old Fire House, Old Dresden Castle, Museum of
Hygiene, Baroque Gardens), very quaint spaces that took us more concretely to
the body work-performance work with real materials, actual/historical space,
earth, stone, water, grass, wood, nature, and institutional (representational)
space than we could have dreamt, and the interfaces with some of our
technologies were difficult, challenging, disturbing, and exhilarating,
especially since Imma and I tried very hard to expose ourselves as fully as
possible to the implementation of a performance (video-digital) installation in
midst of an uncertain playing space where the audience behavior and physical
actions were quite unpredictable.

An example:

The last performance, under the working title "Metamorphosen", took place in the
empty Lower Orangerie (where they keep the orange trees in the winter) of the
old 18th century baroque gardens in Grossedlitz near Dresden, a huge 80 meter
long stone bulding, a long tall rectangle with earthen floor and bare stone
walls and on one side old arched windows floor to ceiling opening to the baroque
symmetries of a fantastical garden, fantasy of a saxon king. The project was a
collaboration for a 8:oo pm-midnight exhibition, involving 2 visual arts groups
(2 installations, one with computer-modulated morphings of a face on monitors,
on the earth floor, on stones (photo-print-outs of composites), the other with
found objects of 19th century garden tools, edged by a natural water current, a
litter rivulet created by one of the artists.

On the long end of the hall, Imma and I built our "video environment" for BEFORE
NIGHT FALLS 1.8 , with 3 monitors and one projection screen shielding the last
remaining octagonal space at the end, which we brake open when we build our
floor sculpture near the end of the performance. Imma tears the screen with a
kite she tries to fly.

The evening begins with an outdoor action (hopeless battle with the garden
symmetry) and a jazz musician from Berlin, and the audience then enters the
large Orangerie to see the various exhibition-installations in place, while Imma
and I are inside our configuration which is not delimited in a visible way,
meaning the audience can walk through us. Our colleagues from Dresden (Gruppe
RU-IN) play experimental music for 4o minutes, and people mill about, inside,
outside, and eventually our performance (the video and digital footage on the
monitors and screens interacts with us or we act with it) begins when darkness
has fallen or is falling, and we energize the space differently from before,
when we were, more or less, only present with silent (blue, green) monitors.

In the 60 minutes while I sit in front of my control monitor I plant leaves on
my screen, like clouds, taping the planting with a digital camera, or recording
the taping of the leaves on the blue screen. The sceen image is not just blue,
it's Derek Jarman's film BLUE, in German transcription of vocal track softly.
Later that night, I quietly read all the names of the flowers in Derek's garden
he created before his dreath. They also appear in yellow on the blue screen.

I noticed that the audience during the first 90 minutes either thought we
w e r e a live installation, or they thought the silent screens were our
performance, or they thought something else, many perhaps from the countryside
not knowing that much about performance art or installation art or interpreting
the event in their own ways, others finding the computer art in that environment
upsetting or exhilarating, others enjoying or hating the music, others having to
organize/spend their own time, milling about, resting, listening, breathing,
walking outside, kissing, playing, touching the water, coming back, studying,
some in fact intensely standing next to, even mimicking Imma's silence and
frozen posture, and then, as Imma dances and I move with my control track, they
grudgingly make room, or jump aside, not knowing where to look (our four digital
video tracks are facing each other in a cross shaped quadrangle in the Orangerie
rectangle), what to look, why to look, or are so close they can touch us, or
smell us, and I am getting more and more feverish or hallucinatory in my action
and my listening, feeling the people so close so close while I can't see Imma in
my back since people are standing between us.

(It was the first time that our organic metaphor, the hopscotch game as memory
device-childhood-movement remembered, mathematical code structure for our
digital video tracks/memory hypermedia, worked in a very exciting way, as the
audience jumped without fully knowing what the hopscotch meant for us or in the

This I consider an incredible learning experience in terms of the "installation"
concept we had explored in Atlanta, Cleveland, and the Dresden Hygiene Museum
(in the latter we had a precisely delimited space in the middle of a large room,
on plexiglass, viewable from all sides, but the audience is always outside and
cannot see really what we see), and the many late night debates we had with the
musicians, and between us, on the notion of the contradiction between
dance/performance (on memory) and installation (projection, monitors,
scenography, objects).

The visual art dimension of the "exhibition" (all four events we did were billed
as visual arts events although the term performance was used in all) dominates,
I think, or at least contradicts the time-based or processual dimension of the
film tracks that are interlinked with choreography and sequences. Even if we
integrate/include samples, loops, computer modulated and stored sound/images),
in our consciousness as performers we are progressing through time-choreography,
i.e. movement, while the scenography and the configuration, especially in those
environments, were perceived as object exhibitions, emplaced physical-tangible

These contradictions may not exist in internet art or telematic experiments,
when the spatial reality is dissolved; yet spatial actualities, the time factor,
the connector factor (between producers and users or interfacers), and the
variables in the design factor are crucial and limiting, and will always
influence how we experience what we processually create, re-perform
(choreography) in front of, with, in midst of others and audiences, and I think
once again I feel humbled, truly inspired, by subtle, emphatic differences in
audience interactions and reactions we were able to experience.

I am also able, I feel, more and more , to be critical about our own
implementations, extensions, shifts, and recorganizations of our materials,
triggers, adaptations, and the camera functions (we had cameras in the space, in
midst of audience, and they were moved or blocked by the milling crowd, I
assume that sensor devices would have freaked out or been useless) -
critical in the sense that the technological components challenge our
"performance" convictions, knowledge, asumptions, i.e. our thinking through
choreography, and the technological dynamics also now influence how we conceive
of our choreography theatrically and nontheatrically, since I think a theatrical
installation is a weak notion, and combining screens and projections and digital
sound-image with live action is problematic.

The processual dimension of the actual interaction of us with the space and the
changing space, the audience with us and the sequences, the audiences with the
"choreography" that is not perceived as choreography but as exhibition --- this
is, in my mind, now a problem we need to work on, since I, definitely, am by no
means able to or interested in recreating the event on the Net or a website or a
documentary performance, except that the variables and unstabilities of the
configuration could lead to a work for-on the Net. But I'll miss the water and
the earth I fell onto.

I wanted to share this progress report with you, any responses are always
welcome, even if you didn't see the event. In a sense I am also responding to
some earlier post by Scott on our physical sensibilities in interactive/internet
art, our connection to uncontrolled audience action, audience action as a
subject we have discussed but not so very deeply.

I hope everyone is well. Have there been posts-discussions of the Vancouver

I will later contribute also to the recent effort to think through the history
of intermedia-interactive performance in dance. I find this a very fruitful
contribution we can make.


Johannes Birringer