[-empyre-] Participatory Art: New Media and the Archival Trace

sarah drury sdrury at temple.edu
Sat Jun 6 07:03:18 EST 2009

I wanted to respond to another of Margaretha¹s ideas, ³but I also think that
to some degree participatory, relational, dialogic art disrupts the
objectifying gaze by its nature, in that there is not longer a passive
viewer/ active performance situation.²

Margaretha points to participatory, relational, dialogic art and
³relationships between bodies² as an intersubjective strategy to counter the
fixed traces of the subject/object in the gaze.  While she proposes a
³traceless² model of relational interaction between bodies, i.e. an
envisioned instance of undocumented, unmediated experience, I think it¹s
also crucial to consider such intersubjective models as they occur within
and through the inescapable archiving processes of digital traces.
Kristine Diekman¹s UNITED AND SEVERED
<http://www2.csusm.edu/diekman/un_sev/index.html> is a video and sound
installation developed collaboratively with participants who have
experienced physical trauma and resulting dis/ability. ³Wireless headphones
allow viewers to internalize the women¹s voices and other ambient,
environmental sounds while experiencing their own mobility.²  Diekman
writes: ³Amelia Jones coined the term ³technophenemonology² to press ways
that performing subjects are politicized and socialized in their embodied
relationship through technologyto self/other and self/world.[3]  Enacting
technophenomenology, our installation becomes an interface for
intersubjective understanding and invokes a sensate response in the public.²
Through wireless sound, the installation seeks to draw the viewer into the
body experience of the other, to induce an internalization of the other¹s
body, a perceptual center from which to understand the experience of the

Another project, a work in progress, MIXED BODY, by Lisa Marie Patzer and
Marcelo Rueda, ³about the ways in which our legal identities as citizens and
as tourists are determined², in which the artists have built touch screens
that ³read² fingerprints at various kiosks around the campus and transmit
the data as trace-drawing graphics to a performance space, where dancers
work with this live imaging in a performance.
<http://astro.temple.edu/%7Elmpatzer/MixedBody.html>.  In this project, the
documentary trace, ³fingerprint², as a cipher of social control becomes a
trace of the Œtelevisual body¹ or hybrid live representation that actively
engages relational processes  with other bodies.  The fingerprint, the
criminalizing identifier, becomes a gestural tool, anonymously contributed
from multiple input points to a performance space as dynamic scenery for
dancers.  Anonymous live participants generate through physical/digital
traces in a reversal of their documentation.  A social/performance event is
created by these documented and undocumented bodies.

I am interested in the way these 'mixed body' projects (particularly the
second) sustain "participatory, relational, dialogic" processes that
actually create a "social interstice", the body as an intersubjective
experience that takes into account the cultural formations and controls
exerted on the body.

> dear hana, sarah & empyre folks,
> i'm usually an intermittent lurker on this list, now drawn in by this rich set
> of ideas and inquiries as well as the call to "participate!"
> hana, i do think that matter, "if it could be traced, would be the narrative,"
> as you said in your previous post. i think immediately of bakhtin's
> chronotopes, and of hayden white's plot points. bakhtin terms chronotopes as
> "'points where narratives are tied and untied,' and where time is bound to
> space" (rose, 37). white reminds us that the definition of plot can refer to
> positions of bodies in space, points in narrative, and the "final resting
> place," or the grave plot. i propose that it is at a plot point that one might
> experience desire, or confront it, perhaps consider its transcendence, as a
> wasp to the orchid. processes of witnessing, becoming, encountering put into
> motion or undo the fixity and finality usually associated with plots and
> points. i can see how the projects mentioned, The Neighborhood Narratives
> Project, and Sonic Interface by Akitsugu Maebayashi both employ this process
> of reorientation through a relationship with bodies and plots....
> as we move from a disciplinary to a control society, i suspect the agency of
> one body, or one individual becomes less relevant; indeed, the negotiations
> between bodies becomes more of a focus, and the tension here in a
> participatory work becomes one of power relations -- or perhaps just forces --
> and how power, and certain kinds of power, are negotiated. so the agency of
> one individual becomes less important than the kinds of relationships we have
> (haughwout, 6). ie. relationships between bodies.... i am curious how it is
> possible to speak of *the body* at all and expect it to resist
> objectification... the body as always becoming helps, and is helped further
> along i believe in that bodies are always becoming because of other bodies.
> but i also think that to some degree participatory, relational, dialogic art
> disrupts the objectifying gaze by its nature, in that there is no longer a
> passive viewer/ active performance situation. ideally, all bodies in a
> participatory piece are engaged with the place and the other bodies; the gaze
> is subverted at least.
> which brings me to questions around resistance and complicity more broadly; in
> a control society where participatory art seems to an art form on the rise,
> must the art still always resist? are there different kinds of resistances and
> can we outline them? are there ways complicity becomes something to work with,
> something to witness in ourselves? i confess the resistance/ complicity binary
> seems somewhat outmoded to me. i feel always complicit. i wonder if there is a
> more descriptive and useful way of talking about the social and political work
> being done in these relational arenas.
> i also wanted to touch on some of the thoughts that have come up around time,
> and to draw on hana's comments around the archive, seen and unseen bodies, and
> the complexities of the new social order. image technologies can be seen as a
> partial cause of this complexification. with digital photography and video we
> constantly create a past for the future. this activity, where cameras
> "document" experience, takes away the present moment and creates a past. this
> making of a past is for an imagined future: for a Facebook audience perhaps,
> or MySpace -- for an imagined future audience. The Retort Collective asks,
> "what is the current all invasive, portable, minute-by-minute apparatus of
> mediation we have pointed to if not an attempt to expel the banality of the
> present moment - the dim actuality of what is happening from consciousness?"
> the process of documenting becomes literally all consuming of the present; the
> activity obfuscates the present, so that the presentness and physicality of
> sentient bodies is given up as energy and labor in the service of "some
> nonempty, non-fantastical vision of the future."(Retort Collective, 183) this
> is one of the ways bodies can be managed in a control society; a willing labor
> force constantly working according to a hyperlinear time -- born of
> Industrialized time, and encouraged by Taylorism -- to create a false
> future.(haughwout, 14) i too have created relational artworks that play with
> and overlap different periods of time to induce a re-orientation, but
> increasingly i am intrigued by practices that might bring people into the
> present moment, and that remain completely undocumented. it fills me with a
> sense of release and relief to even think of it - a moment in this hyper media
> saturated world, a moment without feedback, without a document, without a
> traceable trace - think of it!
> xo,
> margaretha
> cited:
> Haughwout, Margaretha. Intimacy: The aesthetics of space and time in new media
> and participatory art. 2008.
> Retort Collective. Afflicted Powers.London: Verso, 2005.
> Deborah Bird Rose. Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation.
> Sidney: University of New South Wales Press Lrd, 2004.
> White, Hayden. "Bodies and Their Plots." Choreographing History. Ed. Susan
> Leigh Foster.
> Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
> On Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 10:36 PM, Anna Munster <A.Munster at unsw.edu.au> wrote:
>> Hi Hana and all,
>> I found what you had to say interesting re the trace-body-media relation
>> generally but also specifically in relation to t

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