[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 54, Issue 7

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Mon May 11 15:44:15 EST 2009

> Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 09:34:03 +0100
> From: Sally Jane Norman <s.j.norman at newcastle.ac.uk>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] abstract gestures / digital virtuality
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Message-ID:
> 	<38ACA5EE9BB2474E8B3ECB1A38C5FB2C1BCA8DA37B at EXSAN02.campus.ncl.ac.uk>
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> Hi Alan, all
> Thanks for these exciting exchanges. Alan, your 'cosmologies in the 
> small' is a wonderfully evocative concept, and connecting a performing 
> avatar to an object designed to move away from the avatar for me chimes 
> with some deeply archaic images ? e.g. the puppet trying to escape its 
> master in Henk Boerwinkel?s unforgettable piece where the sulky puppet 
> in its booth pulls so hard on the strings manipulated by the visible 
> puppeteer that it brings down the wooden ?cross? to which the strings 
> are affixed ? then miraculously gathers itself together and picks up the 
> cross to use as a crutch to limp triumphantly off the booth stage? - 
> exhilarating and spine-chilling. Please don?t see this comparison as a 
> thoughtless long shot from the algorithmic virtuosities of digitally 
> programmed attachments. I think it generates a gnawing poetic image for 
> the same reason: it artfully tapping into the metaphysics of 
> connections, proxemics, interactions. A blasphemously demiurgic ?black 
> art? no dou bt ? in Tadeusz Kantor?s/ Bruno Schulz?s terms ? essential 
> to my broad definition of theatre, which involves the creation of live, 
> viscerally perceptible fields of relations AS AN ARTEFACT. In other 
> words, as a living, aesthetically invested construct where (Artaud?s) 
> hybrid materials, energies and scales of being get chucked into a single 
> unholy crucible to generate something previously unthinkable.

Yes, yes, yes! I also think it's important, at least for Foofwa and myself 
and others of course, to keep the thickness or inertness of the flesh, the 
real body, at the heart of things - the puppet example is an excellent 
example. I don't see reason to make distinction among technologies, only 
among phenomenologies in a sense, which are fuzzy and grounded in related, 
but not exact differentiations. I like the idea of proxemics here; Sandy 
and I are working with a script/program/object complex within which we try 
to reach one another through gestures that are constantly thwarted - the 
result is a kind of shuddering - here's 
http://www.alansondheim.org/dduueett.mp4 that I put up today.

> I?ve been working with motion capture and other ways of exploring 
> gesture and movement in technologically extended performance since 
> organising a workshop at the International Institute of Puppetry in 
> Charleville-Mezieres in 1994 (ouch!), in collaborative situations with 
> artists who?ve been immensely important to/ for me, and am always struck 
> by the ways experiments imbued with/ triggers of the yearning Alan's 
> avatar-performer connection embodies, seem at the same time to form part 
> of this ancient theatrical realm of unholy alliances. This might be 
> where plays on scale, ?cosmologies in the small? (or big) come into the 
> picture. When you can parachute gods into the action ? in ancient 
> Greece, India etc, or bring inert matter alive as in puppetry (and 
> intermediate arts of masks, effigies, automata, Lunar and Martian 
> Rovers, etc), or ascribe autonomous, evolving behaviours to digital 
> entities, this brings about a potently in vivo remapping and 
> inspirational stretching of our usu al frames of reference.

I keep thinking of trickster figures in this regard; I've also been 
influenced by the Japanese Kojiki, perhaps the oldest Japanese text in 
existence. There's something uncanny about all of this, which for me 
connected to the idea that we live, our bodies live, within the imaginary.

> It?s a 
> process of estrangement (ostranenie) in Victor Shklovsky?s terms ? and 
> underpins the Russian avant-garde?s concept of sdvig ? displacement, 
> shift, dislocation ? brought about by subverting rules, scales, 
> foreseeable logics. Forgive me for paying idle lip service to such 
> massive concepts ? I loathe name dropping but feel that these movements, 
> like historical areas to which Stamatia is referring, grasped ? or tried 
> to ? many of the paradoxes we?re focussed on, and that diachronic 
> thinking can crucially inform turn-of-21st century hidebound readings of 
> technology.

It's strange, for me the roots are moreso in Weimar performance, in 
particular Anita Berber and Valeska Gert...
> Where we?re dealing with live motion, it involves generating and working 
> in a kind of synaptic space, i.e. the space occupied by creative 
> performance energies which uniquely legitimates otherwise inacceptable 
> degrees of hybridisation of diverse materials, forces. Erin?s account of 
> the switch to slow moving tag taps into this somehow ? when the 
> spontaneously frenetic agility of young kids modulates itself to 
> accommodate another quality of movement in street savvy teenagers, 
> there?s use of this gap as a space for relational opportunities, a place 
> for devising a new creative, shareable experience.  I?m not sure how 
> techno-futurist or baroque it is, Stamatia, though appreciate your 
> eloquence on this perspective ? for me this ?strain-feeling? that you?re 
> so aptly quoting from Whitehead is simply a quality/ goal of live art.
> may this go on for loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong
> kia ora
> sjn

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