[-empyre-] into what midst? which collective? whose imaginary space?

Erin Manning erintango at gmail.com
Thu Apr 18 06:44:55 EST 2013

Dear Johannes, and everyone else,
I do know the work of BADco and really appreciate it, both in terms of their writing/teaching and their choreographic experimentation. In fact, we almost had a SenseLab collaboration going at one time, which reminds me I should set it in motion again! It is certainly our practice to find connections with different groups - sometimes I think if we could only put all collective efforts in touch we would produce a very different mapping of experimentation!

What the SenseLab tries to do in relation to these kinds of practices is to experiment with a gesture of making/thinking that precedes the "actual" work. We are a shifting (always shifting, as there is no "membership" as such, just a desire to join, for now, or for longer) group of artists and philosophers who have their own practices, practices that cut across a wide swath - from explicitly interactive/new media work, to choreography, to fine arts, to philosophy, etc. What brings us together is not an existing connection, but the force of a singular project. These projects emerge sporadically (usually every 2 years or so, but lately more often as the group widens and experiments on a wider scale in techniques of co-invention). I stress this because I think it's different from an existing collective. We are an emergent collectivity that feels, I think, an urgency in relation to modes of collaboration. We know we can make individual work, but we seek ways to come together to do it that enhance the very experience of making (as opposed to bringing ideas together, or bringing aspects of our work together that we can co-combine, what we try to do is connect at the level of our techniques without a thought - yet - of what kind of form the collective work can take). Our hope, when we come together as in the case of Into the Midst (Oct 2012) or for our Enter Bioscleave event in October 2013 is to see how these intense technique-generating sessions provoke future emergent collectivities. So, in a sense, what we spawn is always beyond the reach of the actual event.

This desire is of course political. What we hope to do is to generate modes of living and doing that can exist beyond the events, acting in their local constituencies in ways that can perhaps create the conditions for new modes of existence. This can be quite humble, and usually is: new ideas around pedagogy, new encounters with modes of exhibition and publishing etc. A kind of activism in the thinking-making.

Recently, Brian and I did a TEDx talk entitled For a Pragmatics of the Useless. I have come to think that this is our gesture: a desire to value a doing-thinking that isn't already something "productive" in the sense capitalism gives value to that term. Our work certainly has value, but I hope its value can't so easily be captured. Of course, to make such a claim is to immediately acknowledge that this is a collective practice of working out how to connect with and at the same time leave behind modes of value-added (prestige value, for instance) so often associated to how art operates in the market. And the fact that many of us are academics also keeps us on our toes. But our point is not to suggest that we can create conditions that escape capital. Our hope is that in developing techniques that can create conditions for emergent collective processes, we will better be able to negotiate these subtle allegiances all of us participate in, and create lines of resistance that are curious and open-ended.  

Patrick began this conversation with the question of failure. I wanted to wait a bit before attending to that question, but it clearly is at the core of everything we do. We experiment, and with that comes a lot of "wasted" effort. This waste has become our work, in a sense, our pragmatics. Useless, in the best sense of the word.

So we experiment and waste and in the midst, we meet and experiment again. Whatever creates intensity, as Mayra suggested, is further experimented with. This is not a consensus-based technique - no democracy here! Find the intensity and go with it - see what it can do. If it dies, leave it behind and create another technique... But not without rigour: each event is preceded with a year of working together - reading and making. But the making or reading not necessarily directly connected to what we will do - an experimentation, at each stage, with modalities of coming together to work through an incipient proposition. And then we meet and see where what we have done so far takes us, starting with quite a clean slate as everything changes when we are suddenly together with people we know and people we've never met - but bringing always, our techniques (the concept of the "enabling constraint" mentioned earlier is key to this). And then we part and continue the work in our own collective ways, further experimenting. The event is the point of inflection - it is an expression of a singularity. But it is neither the beginning nor the end. The point of the event is perhaps to experience the Dionysian joy of a kind of delicious waste, coupled with the enthusiasm of how our techniques will breed new discoveries. And from this, something emerges that will take us to the next event.

I have a sense that whatever our mediums, and however we experiment with media, this question of how we come together, and how we invent the very notion of "together" is key. What can "new forms of knowledge" mean in a world that believes that the new must always be the newest new?


Erin Manning
Research Chair, Philosophy and Relational Art
Concordia University


On 2013-04-17, at 3:40 PM, Johannes Birringer <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> dear all
> as i remember the first posting, vaguely, this month's discussion forum deals with >out of the midst: Deterritorialized Collaboration in Technological Spaces> and from the recent posts I gathered a strong
> interest amongst the guests that Patrick had invited to discuss issues of collaboration and collective work, techniques of engagement (of participants) and as Andrew calls it -- " experimental gathering/scanning of environments/objects/people"
> and the discussion departed from that dome, initially (and Brian gave us more to reflect on regarding domes). 
> This forum seemed attractive and thought-provoking, and thus our conversation perhaps does reflect - Nathaniel, yes I agree, various kinds of shared affinities or if you like, modes of generosity, and I would include of course cultural workers and artists in many other locations, not just Furtherfield or SenseLab as organizations and as networks  (I looked at the SenseLab website and its affiliates and was amazed at how they are connected with so many others).  On a more humble level,
> i cannot say that I have any of such experience connecting multitudes, or locally (in the event of "into the midst" or "Generating the Impossible"), propositional groups.  The philosophical language and the abstract terminologies (quotations, as just occasioned by Mayra Angélica's post which I had a bit of difficulty with) are vexing and of course really do challenge all of us here, so thank you for raising the questions you have raised so far, and the descriptions you have offered, the Parc ecvent did strike me as a very interesting instance of reflecting perhaps on how you work, and your "services" (as Nikolina and Sergej Pristaš would call them), but also your tools and expectations (in organization, if not in politics as you have not mentioned the latter). 
> I did not feel confident entirely to introduce an eastern postcommunist perspective but it really does interest me now to reflect on my conversations in Zagreb with the small collective of BADco (the name in Croatian, Besimeno autorsko društvo, means 'Nameless Author's Society), especially on labor and ideology, dance and choreography/cinematography, and to understand more  -- perhaps in conversation with colleagues here -  about this notion of the "choreographic unconscious". So if there indeed is interest here, I shall be glad to give you links to the texts (in Croatian, German, some in translation), not all are available on line.   I happen to think these practices that they refer to could "attune" well with the propositions that you have to some extent set afloat here  -- and Mayra even goes so far as to speak of an unrigid atemporal (?) "self-organizing" & "constantly rescheduled"  (collective) event (?) and that made me wonder how a public space (street,  park, plaza) can get stimulated, how its self/organizing reschedules itself,  and how nearby the "gallery" or dome gets reloaded? 
> here a quotation  from the BADco newspaper distributed at the Croatian pavilion during their exhibit of "Responsibility for Things Seen: Tales in Negative Space" (Venice Biennale, 2010):
>> We've always had trouble with the kind of prescriptive opinion coming from certain curators or colleagues, which would dismiss any dancing that didn't function interpretively or conceptually.
> Thus we've often heard stories about how there's too much dancing in our performances, or how our dancing is not clear enough (whatever that might mean). Like any other aspect of performance,
> dance has always been a part of our poetics, but it's been differently instrumentalized, or alternatively, it would lose the function of the dominant frame and become noise, redundant, it would
> just become labor, or an intensity, etc. It is also true that our conceiving of choreography is conditioned by historical thinking about it and so since dance is one of the forms of our work in performance,
> we were interested not so much in what it means but how it works. And another reason to re-examine choreographic thinking in other spheres, be they media or social, is bound up with our need
> to re-examine our relation to dance as labor today, when labor no longer necessarily results in manufactured material objects but rather - in services.> [Nikolina Pristaš interview with Marko Kostanić,
> TKH [Journal for Performing Arts Theory] no. 18   “Dance/Theories Re-loaded,”   (December) 2010.
> The links or references that I can think of thus are to TkH (Walking Theory), and the "Re-loaded" issue is available as a pdf file. 
> http://www.tkh-generator.net/en/casopis/tkh-18
> http://www.tkh-generator.net/files/casopis/!!!%20tkh%2018%20web.pdf
> The Croatian journal Frakcija's issue on "Artistic Labor in the Age of Austerity"  (no 60/61, zima 2011/12)  is not online. 
> I refered to essays in it by Goran Sergej Pristaš and Ana Vujanović. 
> Frabcija cooperates well with the Slovenian journal Maska, and in 2010 Maska collaborated with CORPUS in a special issue on "Doubles and their Bodies", and here one remarkable and often discussed essay is by Boyan Manchev, 
> "The Resistance of Dance."    I take up a little bit of this whole discussion in my recent "Gesture and Politics" (VLAK 2012, Czech Republic) where i talk about the kind of futilities that I  to a certain extent see in the presumed radicality of the
> collective "affinities" described in some of the earlier postings this month, and Manchev can be accessed in various languages: “La Résistance de la danse,” Mouvement  47 (2008);  English/Slovene version: “Odpor plesa/The Resistance of Dance,” Maska 25 (2010), pp. 9-19 / german version and other texts on the precarity/labor discussion are on my small lab website of Interaktionslabor, if you go to the Theorie page of the 2011 lab:  http://interaktionslabor.de/lab11/index.htm
> Marko Kostanić, "The Choreographic Unconscious"  was published in the program notes of a recent BADco performance and thus is addressed to the dance "Semi-Interpretations, or Or how to explain contemporary dance to an undead hare" (2010, and this addressing I find quite wonderful as the choreographer, in an interview printed in the same program brochure, also shares/readdresses her notes with us the audience and mentions their conceot of a "side position" - which i think speaks to the into the "midst project."  I shall share these two texts that i transribed in the next pst with you, as they are not otherwise accessible unless you witnessed the dance. 
> On the matter of immaterial labor and precarity, I'd reference:
> Maurizio Lazzarato, "Immaterial Labor" (1996), available at:   http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcimmateriallabour3.htm
> and
> Paolo Virno,"A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life" trans. 
> Isabella Bertoletti,
> James Cascaito
> , Andrea Casson (New York: Semiotext(e), 2004), available at: http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcmultitude3.htm;
> Paolo Virno, “Virtuosisty and Revolution” (2003), available at: http://www.makeworlds.org/node/view/34 
> but also Boyan Manchev again on 
> "Vermögen, Ausbeutung und Widerstand der Subjekt-Körper:  Für eine transversale Veränderung" (Übersetzt von Stefan Nowotny). available at:   http://eipcp.net/transversal/0811/manchev/de
> So my question basically was directed as a question addressed to the political / choreographic unconscious of what Erin called "attempt to create situations where philosophy is both practiced and formed" - in a public Parc
> or a SAT Dome or in-between?
> Since -  like many others - I also work in a small lab/ensemble (we make dance work but we don't only do postchoreography), I am interested in how others make their work work, and produce.  I think i am very much still adhering to manufacture, and I know many who also worry about the materialities of our/their work, and yet, a colleague of mine, Olu Taiwo, a fabulous dancer and drummer, someone with whom I've had many endless debates about the "post-choreographic",  just sent me notes from other streets (involving as you can tell, an African & spiritiual perspective
> "I have currently been working in Europe on the reference framework SAWA, a
> European network of street art practitioner and educators, which is proving
> very interesting. The nature of the performances that I am working on at the
> moment is situated somewhere between playing music and a subtle flash mob
> with animation, installation and performance. The performances are not
> 'theatrical' as defined as performing a play for an invited audience;
> however, it does employ 'theatrical elements' in so far as I am interested
> in impromptu performances where various act, devised by the
> performer-artist, occur in site specific areas with a view to stimulating,
> entertaining and provoking a passing public. There is something about public
> places that I have always been interested in. 
> So the plan now is to bring the post-choreographic strategic aesthetic to the street. The translation
> and reinterpretation of the Ifá is gathering pace. This is bearing fruit in
> that each verse in the Odùs reveals a poetic formula related to that Odù."  (04/14/2013)
> with regards
> Johannes Birringer
> dap-lab / interaktionslabor
> [ Nathaniel  schreibt]
> I have to admit I kind of like this free radical bit, with only a few provocations now and again...
> Anyhow, while I'm unfamiliar with the Kostanic essay (perhaps you'd like to make a case here so we can all be on the same page?), I believe that while their techniques and practices are quite different, the modes of generosity that are inhabited by both Furtherfield and The Sense Lab are not that different (I am very active with both groups). Of course all on this list understand that neoliberalism (etc) poses a threat to the now widely recognized malleability of bodies and identities, being and becoming. And where groups like Furtherfield critique exploitation, an opposition if you will, The Sense Lab explores becoming otherwise, a proposition. Both are absolutely vital to [insert too many words to begin listing here].
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