[-empyre-] Narrative, and speaking traces

Hana Iverson hanaiver at gmail.com
Sat May 30 14:22:31 EST 2009

This is a continuation of my first post, but I want to refer to these  
projects and somehow draw some relationships between the gesture as a  
political performance (which is obviously possible) and the politics  
of public space, (which is obviously contested), and the site of the  
body (also contested) in space.  Somehow, all these projects  - The  
Walking Project, Tesserae of Venus, and Core Sample, bleed between  
these actions, sites, relationships, but I am trying to sort out  
where the connections lie, what are the problems that they share in  
their address.

Tesserae of Venus seems to have an interesting shift between interior  
and exterior states.  Using as a description motif the reference to  
skin -  folds of the skin related to geological layers are very  
interesting - referencing age, surface, compression, density - in  
other words elements of physicality - weight, mass etc.  In other  
words, the "narrative" if one even would call it that, is written on  
the surfaces of the physical site in a very visual way: textures,  
colors, results of physical exposure.  And they are embodied in the  
alteration to form: compression etc.  By suggesting that the piece  
takes place on Venus, Christina McPhee is adding a fictional layer of  
language to the real images of place (California).  And all of what  
she is photographing is highly contested public site.  Somehow, in  
thinking about normative and non-normative, everyday and anxiety,  
these images create a tension between what I am seeing and what I  
know they mean.   But if the artist did not refer to these images as  
skin, I would have no idea how the body functions in relationship to  
this work.

In Terri's project, the body is moving in space and triggering the  
invisible tags that have been added to the landscape that give verbal  
form to the idea of embedded stories.  Walking has a very different  
spatial component to it than the idea of the documentation of a  
fixed, physical form.  I was thinking about embodiment in space and  
place and how to understand its central function.

"According to Freud the best way to return to place is through the  
body and its
senses – smell, sight, touch, hear, taste – and through movement. In  
space, the
body’s role is that of providing directionality. Without this,  
material entities would
be disoriented, lacking the definite directionality of “right and  
left,” “up and down,”
“front and back.” Things are not oriented in and by themselves; they  
require our
intervention to become oriented. Nor are they oriented by a purely  
operation: the a priori condition that exists independently of  
orientation, belongs to the body, not the mind. What supplies the  
missing ground
and fills the lacuna is the body. Only as ourselves in our own body  
are we able to
grasp that the spatial world is oriented in certain directions. The  
true basis of
directionality is not absolute space but our own oriented/orienting  
body – the
absolute source (Casey, pp. 229-231)."

By this reference, the body is the central source of cognitive  
behavior.  Cognitive behavior (walking) is the only way to access the  
elements of embedded narrative in Teri's project.  The Venus project  
is ABOUT something to which I am not there (the storyteller).  The  
Core Sample project relies on the behavior of the flaneur, the  
drfiter, who is willing to wander and trigger the embedded  
narrative.  Core Sample opens the spatial arena where the "narrative"  
takes place. She is filling a spatial arena with invisible tags that  
are to be discovered by the moving body. In other words, she is  
embedding a non-linear narrative to be discovered ala a treasure  
hunt.  But this is narrative in the cinematic sense, or literary  
sense, these are stories.  Teri is using geological layers as her  
'screen'.  In the first project, I think the body or site is creating  
a kind of monumentality over time, a physical form that is written  
upon and writes by its own changing form.

But we took some leaps here that altered the issues that I think we  
were discussing - normative, non-normative, cultural inscription,  
political gesture - and somehow went into screens and stories - and I  
am wondering if you could fill in some of the connections here so  
that I can understand fully what is being debated.


On May 29, 2009, at 6:48 PM, sarah drury wrote:

> Hi all,
> I've been on the road all day and have just found a rest stop with  
> wireless.
> More on narrative: I’d like to branch out from projects that  
> explore the
> body  as “the site or sites of multiple struggles, ambiguously  
> positioned in
> the reproduction of social habits, requirements, and regulations  
> and in all
> sorts of production of unexpected and unpredictable linkages” and  
> look at
> projects that track artifacts of the body in space and place, with  
> various
> ways of referencing the body as a tracking device for reading the
> landscape.
> Earlier in this month’s conversation, Christina McPhee discussed  
> her project
> Tesserae of Venus, that explores the buckling or folding of skin:  
> the skin
> of the body, the skin of drawings of technological landscapes as these
> drawings buckle and fold over time in the weather, the skin of the
> photograph documenting this deterioration over time, the skin of  
> the earth
> as it submits to processes of energy extraction and other kinds of
> technological deformations, the skin of the buckling surface of the
> carbon-saturated landscape of Venus, the cultural/architectural  
> buckling
> that occurs as  “biological systems clash and meet with technological
> landscapes at the urban edge. In an online interview, she refers to  
> this as
> an exploration of “some sort of granularity of scale between the  
> human body
> and geologic form.”  Ultimately the photographs and video are the  
> top layer
> of skin, shed as a narrative form from this process. . “Fault-seeking,
> fault-finding, the performance drawings suggest field notes to a  
> geophysical
> and psychic space that can only be realized in brief.”
> In a project that focuses more on memory and the archaeology of the  
> ground
> one stands on, Teri Rueb’s “Core Sample” creates a GPS-equipped,
> headset-equipped  sound walk in which the walking body reads the  
> landscape
> of Spectacle Island in Boston Harbor, a former dump and reclaimed  
> landfill
> park visible just off the coast.  This project does not focus on  
> issues of
> body trauma, but on the wanderings of the walker as a kind of  
> playback head
> on the landscape, with the walker’s coordinates, including elevation
> relative to sea level, corresponding to exact points of narrative  
> in the
> geological, archaeological, industrial, the more current  
> recreational layers
> of the island’s geological surface and including the
> technologically-determined atmosphere above the island as well.    
> With each
> step, the walker encounters geospatial tags and engages audio  
> narrative of
> the many layers of density of information: the geological record and
> satellite communication, air traffic control of the nearby airport,  
> the
> archaeological record of native cultures on the island, the  
> artifacts of the
> increasing speed and violence of usage of the last 150 years, the  
> current
> recreational use of the island as a park.   Engaging the  
> unselfconsciousness
> of the walker as a kind of empty state, the walker moves over and  
> through
> the layers of human and nonhuman activity, engaging a four- 
> dimensional map
> of narrative of the landscape.
> The body’s movement through the gentle recreational location spools  
> out its
> embedded narratives, “all sorts of production of unexpected and
> unpredictable linkages”.  The body’s path reveals the location of  
> the place
> in space extending from the geological core to the orbital’s of  
> satellites,
> its location in a historical continuum of production, consumption,
> forgetting, cultural erasure.
> Sarah
>> hello all
>> thanks to Sarah and this discussion that has been springing forth --
>> i was really interested by your emphasis on narrative, and hope we  
>> can come
>> back
>> to asking more questions about "narrative"  (different narratives) in
>> relationship to voice (sounding/sound making/
>> vocals/music) and movement, and in relationship to  body movement   
>> and
>> gesture,
>> and following the last statements you made, also in regard to the
>> interactional design
>> you describe in some of your examples (the narrative in design is  
>> a tricky
>> issue, i would
>> suggest, since working with interactivity, in my mind, is always
>> counterintuitive and
>> abjective.
>> Her movement was counterintuitive in the degree of learning and  
>> control
>> required to manipulate her wearable accelerometers to achieve a  
>> specific
>> graphic quality.  Practicing was about finding the movement that  
>> is both
>> expressive in itself and also "draws". Lezlie's performance was  
>> highly
>> controlled, highly choreographed, and was about control in some  
>> sense.
>> i am not sure now how to address the many issues related to  
>> control and
>> control systems
>> (in such interactional settings of performance), but initially, i  
>> thought, the
>> discussion was
>> heading somewhere else, when you began to recount your work with  
>> Lezlie.
>> I didn't understand what "normative embodiment" is, I also don't  
>> know what
>> "fear of ephemerality" is.  I always consider it a joy  
>> (ephemerality).
>> The "challenge to normative embodiment" may rest in Lezlie's body  
>> presence and
>> movement themselves,
>> in terms of the role of the gaze in the social construction of the  
>> body with
>> dis/abilities,
>> paralleling postmodern theories  of the gaze in the construction  
>> of the female
>> body.
>> I think you perhaps would have to talk more about what you assume  
>> such
>> constructions to be like (gender -specific?
>> age-specific? culture-specific? abilities-specific?), and how a  
>> behavior or
>> performance performed can critique
>> the gazes (which are all differentiated), and how such  
>> differencing works.
>> I am in rehearsal and cannot fully find the space to reflect and  
>> think of
>> examples where i might have been confronted
>> with : "existential anxiety" about the functioning of the body  
>> being seen, and
>> by extension,
>> the body of the viewer [my body?] , and "aesthetic anxiety"  
>> generated by fears
>> of bodily difference in a society "with a quest for 'supernormal  
>> bodily
>> perfection'."
>> I would like to hear others respond to this challenge.  I don't  
>> recall
>> aesthetic anxiety, unless you assume that we all are insecure about
>> our "lack" or or difference from some assumed "norm"  - i don;t  
>> think there
>> are any norms that anyone believes in except of course on the surface
>> of consumption and sexual selection display.  Or are you also  
>> including
>> "religious anxiety"?
>> well, there is so much to say now.
>> I hope we can come back to  the question of movement narratives.
>> I certainly think that all movement is inherently story telling  
>> and telling.
>> And naturally so, it is also always also lying, no?  it is  
>> fashining our
>> selves as movement characters
>> in the stories we invent and retell ourselves and others every  
>> day, faking it,
>> and being also quite serious about that.
>> In the everday sense [i would also think there is no everyday, but  
>> that we
>> tend to live under constant or increasing stress symptoms and in
>> symptotopographies, and so the question of anxiety is of course  
>> real, a kind
>> of performance anxiety, and we smile now because that too is  
>> institutionalized
>> and rhetorical now,  cliché) , the movement through our  
>> environments is
>> something i assumed you'd be also addressing,
>> when i think of walking or audio walks (Janet Cardiff and others),  
>> they sound
>> is voice is oral culture of whispered and shouted memories or  
>> associations,  i
>> love to listen to audio art and radio dramas,  they are rich to me  
>> and full of
>> e/motion...
>> and then the notion of the trace as walking is something i came  
>> across this
>> morning, in  preview of Richard Long's new exhibit at the Tate  
>> (Heave and
>> Earth) in London, and the preview mentions the walking/ tracing in  
>> the
>> landscape as a motion leaving shadows or foils,  i never saw the  
>> term foil
>> before,  and apparently it refers to hunting vocabulary and the  
>> track that
>> might be left by some legs or feet when they touched the dawn of  
>> the grass and
>> its wetness, as first sunrays fall across the land.
>> I remember viewing DV8's "Cost of Living" and wondered how they  
>> wanted to foil
>> me into taking it, feeling confronted by it?
>> What’s a movement worth? £5 for a plié, one performer suggests in  
>> this piece.
>> With arms  that’s a tenner, add some emotion you double the fee. “
>> Heard you can do  some tricks”, another man pesters a dancer. “Do  
>> that thing
>> with your leg. I can pay you,”
>> I wondered how such critical work (if that is what it is, or is it
>> exploitational? experimental? anxietal?)  is received by different
>> communities/audiences, and how you narrate the work  
>> organizationally when you
>> produce software interaction design with abled and differently abled
>> performers in company or in schools or therapeutic environments;
>> I noted recently also the work of Petra Kuppers (The Tiresias  
>> Project , an
>> Olimpias Disability Culture Production), featured recently in TDR,  
>> with a
>> stunning photograph of one of her collaborators on the cover.  It  
>> is certainly
>> the case, i think, that methods are altered when dis/abilities are  
>> involved as
>> a conscious /acknowledged fact.
>> regards
>> Johannes Birringer
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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