Re: [-empyre-] networked_performance 2

Like some others, I'm currently engaged on multiple other tasks, but this thread is thoroughly stimulating. Perhaps also vast in scope!

This may mark me out as a member of the 'old guard', or perhaps I am just slipping into a customary habit. When questions emerge about new forms and how a tradition will move forward given new technologies, I often feel that interesting perspectives are gained from looking at early uses of the technologies which are entering new (and different) phases. As Fluxus, EAT et al were cited, I guess it's okay...

Two important markers for me along the timeline for "telematic events":

The "Slow Scan" telephone/TV experiments between Vancouver and various locations in the world, from 1978 (?) onwards I think. Particularly memorable for me was a performance by Mona Hatoum, "So Much I Want To Say", 1983 was the date if I remember (it was recorded on video and shown widely in this form). The limits of the progressive scanning of the "live" image were used as a very effective performance constraint.

"The Mashed Potato Supper", a live Internet performance between New York and Edinburgh in 1996. It used webcams and CU-SeeMe, the video/audio compression pixellation giving a presence similar to the slow scan events in some ways. Participants included Cary Peppermint, Simon Yuill and Pernille Spence.

Despite the different technologies, and the post-"Electronic Cafe" status of the latter event, the performances seem similar to me in certain aspects. The use of geographical distance: the foregrounding of this aspect lent a wistfulness to proceedings despite the use of humour by some artists; and the exposing or hiding of visual elements, used to add ambiguity or mystery to the characters/personas/avatars invoked by the performers.

Obviously the interface for both events was televisual in form, which in itself formalises and distances the performative gesture. For me the use of telematics in itself seems to point towards a difference in the possible levels of intimacy for the performer/user/audience, at least when comparing telematic events to forms/spaces in the other categories. There are different implications for telerobotic forms, and the spaces currently possible via haptic interfaces. More intimate and unexpected/informal experiences could be possible (if that is the intention). I wonder though if the layer of technological mediation still necessary in most interfaces is another kind of distance? When does the 'real' give way to the 'hyperreal'? 'Live' to 'programmed to react'?


On 2 Jul 2005, at 02:48, Helen Thorington wrote:

Hello again.

Surveying the blog we identify four areas of networked performance practice
which current work explores in various combinations. We have categorized
these as (1) telematic events, (2) locative media, (3) wearables, and (4)
active objects and responsive environments.

Telematics connect people to people or people to objects through a network,
such as telerobotics or haptics; locative media provide location aware
engagement; smart environments enable architecture and objects to respond to
environmental changes of state generated by occupants/inhabitants; and
wearables extend the body's senses through technological prosthesis.

We see lots of overlap and combinations in the works we survey, so these are
not to be considered rigid categories but an effort at broad representation.
We’re keenly interested in the commonalties across emergent art/technology
practice with attention to artist/audience/object/environment,
performativity and the open work.


To date this has been the most prolific, comprehensible/understandable area
of practice, encompassing the exploration of networked performance by the
traditional performing arts where new technologies are integrated into
existing forms (dance, music, theater). Examples of this would include the
musical performance. InteraXis with Jesse Gilbert, Mark Trayle and Wadada
Leo Smith and dance performances such as those created by AdaPT, an
interdisciplinary association of artists, technologists and scholars.

Others move us onto new terrain. Jeff Mann and Michelle Teran, for instance,
create performance events that explore new ways for computers to support
social experiences in the physical environment. Their objective is not
performance for an audience but creating a shared experience in which
everyday social spaces become “electronically activated play environments,
capable of transmitting the physical presence and social gestures that
comprise…human interaction” across time and distance. No longer dependent on
the work-based screen and keyboard, in these environments ordinary goods and
wares – furniture, cutlery etc. – “come to life as both kinetic art and
telecommunications interfaces”.


Locative media practice has exploded since the public availability of GPS
and its consequent inexpensive and ubiquitous availability in mobile
electronic devices. Some of this practice makes urban areas into game boards
and city infrastructures into play spaces. Blast Theory, a London-based
group, is renowned internationally for their contribution to this genre with
works that make a public space ‘playable’ by participants in the street and

Others create “geo-annotation projects.” This involves assigning geo-spatial
coordinates to media content so that it can be accessed at a specific
geographical location with an enabled device. While the “true” location of
the content is a database, by making it possible to access that content from
a particular location, its place (so to speak) migrates into the physical
environment, making urban streets and the landscape “programmable.” Urban
Tapestries and the Aware Platform are examples of this. Both are
location-based wireless platforms that allow users to access, author and
share location-specific content (text, audio, pictures, and/or movies) – But
there are many more: Yellow Arrow, Grafedia, MapHub, and, as Anne Galloway
says, “ and oh, about a million others now.”

There are also projects specifically designed to enable communication and
shape transient networked communities. Yuri Gitman’s Magicbike turns common
bicycles into WiFi hotspots that broadcast free WiFi connectivity to their
proximity. And Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki’s
develops ad-hoc networks based around the haphazard and unpredictable
patterns of weather and crowd formation. The system consists of a set of
umbrellas as nodes that can spontaneously form a network when unfurled.


Wearable computing enlarges the use of computers to include wearing them on
ones body—much as eyeglasses or clothing are worn—and facilitates
interaction with the user, and between users, based on specific situations.
Fionnuala Conway and Katherine Moriwaki’s Urban Chameleon, for instance, is
comprised of three skirts: 1) “Touch” changes visual properties upon
contact; 2) “Speak” reacts to urban noise; and 3) “Breathe” visualizes
pollution and urban exhaust as it travels through the garment.

Tina Gonsalves’ Medulla Intimata is responsive video jewelry. The overall
function of the piece and its video content is to reflect the full character
and content of the wearer’s emotions and thus present a fuller living
portrait: the wearer as he/she is in unmediated interaction and the wearer
as he /she feels at that moment.


Increasingly, through ubiquitous/pervasive/ambient computing paradigms and
wireless sensing, artifacts, objects and physical space itself are being
charged with properties traditionally associated with living bodies.

In their recent Benches and Bins, Greyworld creates furniture that is able
to roam freely through the new public square in Cambridge, England and
respond to its surroundings and ambient movement. Bins___Benches

While Chris Salter, in the environment-inhabitant interaction
Suspension/Threshold, focuses on the theme of thresholds or bardo (in
between) states, and creates a body responsive environment where the
aggregate breathing patterns of the collective audience/participants lighten
an otherwise dark environment.

Much of this work is conceived to provoke interaction between people, and
between people and their spaces. More than not it encourages people to be
performers within the work and thus to enable or realize the work. This
calls into question the accepted nature of performance and introduces a
shifting relationship between the artist, artwork and audience.

We locate this practice within an historical continuum (Kaprow’s
“Happenings,” Galloway’s “Electronic Café,” “Experimental Art and Technology
(EAT),” the Situationists, Fluxus, etc.) and suggest that this trajectory is
redefining the performative as a socially networked, collaborative model for
artistic and cultural practice.

The overarching question, then. is:

“How do we understand performance in relation to these new activities that
are between the existing and the developing, and what can we learn by
stretching our understanding of performance in light of these perspectives”?

Other questions we are interested in include:

1. How is performance changing in response to networked computing
technologies (mobile, satellite/GPS, internet)?

2. What is the relationship of 'real-time' computing to liveness and

3. What is the relationship of agency and authorship to performativity? Is
performativity synonymous with being an actor, agent, or author? Is
“performer” another label for the user/viewer/visitor/ of an interactive

4. As the use of the network becomes more social, adopting the peer-to-peer
model, what does this imply for performance and as performative?

5. How are network processes (algorithmic, procedural rule-based systems,
generative) influencing or being investigated by performance?

6. How are networked concepts as modes of communication (granularity, open
source, emergent behavior, affordance, latency, ubiquitous computing)
impacting performance?

-- Helen and Michelle

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