[-empyre-] regarding grief and mourning

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Tue Oct 9 06:08:12 EST 2012

dear all

it's not easy to write about grief and mourning, to comment on other's (Monika's) reports of others crying or feeling sadness of happiness. Responses to a funeral can be very complex, and I asked Ana what catharsis she keeps invoking, just think about the commuuity here, the tiny virtual one, the disaffected one?   Ana's references are to historical/ personal facts and experiences of dictatorship, war, persecution, aggression, torture, pain, and exile, and Monika has given us a range of approaches to understand how, and how powerfully, works or art can evoke pain or memories and emotional affect, what Monika call "emitted/porous emotion/affect."  My questions were directed at the art contexts, and thus the performance nature of the work, indeed the "spectacle and the interactivity," and "the gesture and the response-ability".  Who is responsable for anything in the reception, the receiver?

 I do wish to own my weary irony, and the questions it generates for me, and irony is enough for me when i try to look at what a work produces or seeks to produce perhaps (can one evaluate what such installations and animations evoke and how they try to "induce any emotions or intellectual epiphanies worthy of the space of the polis, especially in the case of [the] work's preoccupation with public ritual of lamentation" (Monika).  When is it not enough?

I just watched and listened to Patrick Lichty's "Dido's Lament,"  Alan's Berber/Droste, and also to mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly singing "When I am laid in earth", from the opera, Dido and Aeneas, by Henry Purcell.
I am watching them all on the small screen of my laptop, and that was one of my questions about context (polis). Public installations are another matter, depending also on how you define public and gallery/museum spaces which i would consider privatized/commodified. The mezzo-soprano sings the baroque lament at Royal Albert Hall, in a recital version, and the voice conveys/evokes (with the orchestra) the elegiac sincerity one imagines from the content of the lament. 

Ana's references (and the discussion between Alan and Sandy) seem to be to the Real (and yet I sense so much slippage to the virtual in Alan's and Sandy's discussion, surely intended, and if we follow through the idea of
the virtualization (opera, machinima, manga comic, poetry) of pain, its dis-location to other "genres", then my weary irony finds itself in a discussion, say, about opera, where I'd agree with what composer Thomas Adès ("Wagner is a fungus") suggested we "feel" when we watch opera, namely we may very well feel the power of the music, but what are we watching? Operas, Adès argues,  should indeed "be absurd in a way that is truer than reality. But that's just the most absurd form of something that is absurd from the start: music. Music should have no excuse, other than itself. Music is its own excuse....." 

I was not sure how to watch Patrick's work, except to enjoy of course its bizarre scenario and performative (sometimes clunky) constructedness live in Second Life ("set" to a an emotional sound track that does the bit, Monika, that I mentioned earlier "as" a "gesture" -- elegiac sincerity in the face of emotional distress.  It's terrific, but it is pastiche, and it is comic, in that sense, for me (not to mention my potential dislike of Koons' work)...... as are performance installations at times, body art works at times, S/M and fasting performances, and political-activist gallery works, one might think of them as operas, no?   So yes, my question is about projected environments. I do not feel the pain or a pain in Patrick Lichty's "Dido' Lament." 

And listening to "Sustenazo (Lament II)," 2010  Part Three, on video,  I am touched but do not know what touches, i listen to the german language and try to hear the polish voice underneath, i strain to listen.... and understand..
and now could go on telling you what i experienced.  but it does not matter.

I'd be interested in figuring out this here, this space here,

ps.       and of course one might agree with Monika that emotions have often been frowned upon  in the landscape of analytical slepticism.

Johannes Birringer

[Monika schreibt]

There was a question earlier in a post, I think from Johannes, which is an important one and has many implications. The problem of the projected and cinematic environments' capability to induce any emotions or intellectual epiphanies worthy of the space of the polis, especially in the case of my work's preoccupation with public ritual of lamentation. Along those lines, I think you Johannes asked to what extend (if at all) installation work with live presence has any impact outside of the internal "feasts" that happen inside the museums and for the museums' trustees (as in case of the gradually more and more devaluated and also openly married to financial establishment practice of Ambramovic). This is possibly a question that should trouble many or all of us, and it definitely troubles me to a great extent. 

One of the ways that my work has been overcoming this predicament is for example in my series of "open drawing landscapes" -- where passersby would be invited to inhabit the territory of the work for any period of time, often by lying down in its space, and experiencing sound as well as interacting with the landscape by leaving marks of their presence. The process would be filmed by an overhead camera and the contingencies that would result would be later visible in the film,  for example in my "Drawing Lethe" project at the World Financial Center Winter Garden etc. With less interactive pieces or with those made for and inside art institutions, I would often receive a lot of unexpected feedback, at times (actually it happens a lot) the people who either attended a performance or viewed the projections, would proceed to cry. They would tell the guard or the curator that they felt happiness as they were crying.... Or they would talk to me directly about the experience. This is not to say it's a given or a guarantee that someone would be moved to tears and I never set this as my goal... This seems to just happen. As I am using these words, "tears" or "emotions" or "happiness" I realize that they have been forbidden for a while now.... The Duchamp's expulsion of emotion from contemporary art took place for a good reason originally, when it felt as a bourgeois method, as a misleading trope, that has nothing to do with the more desired analytical skepticism . And yet,  today, as Adriana Valdes spoke in Berlin last summer in her talk titled "When Irony Is Not Enough" -- skepticism, irony and their deconstructive skills are not enough indeed.

The relationship is/needs to be dialectical and dialogical -- between the spectacle and the interactivity, the emitted/porous emotion/affect and the analytical agency, the gesture and the response-ability, from merely institutional, towards public and dispersed among many.

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