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

Charlotte Farrell charlottefarrell at gmail.com
Thu Apr 25 01:47:38 EST 2013


On Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 1:47 AM, Charlotte Farrell <
charlottefarrell at gmail.com> wrote:

> An excerpt taken from Beth Hoffman's, 'Radicalism and the Theatre in
> Genealogies of Live Art', *Performance Research* 14 (1), pp.95-105
> "As director and playwright Charles Marowitz recalls, he, San Francisco
> artist Ken Dewey, New York-based Allan Kaprow and others were invited by
> Calder to present a ‘sample of a curious art form called a Happening’ as an
> example of what might constitute the ‘theatre of the future’ (Marowitz
> 1990: 56). The group of artists developed the piece over the course of the
> conference, driven by feelings of frustration with what Marowitz
> characterized as tired debates about whether the actor, the director or the
> writer is the primary artistic figure in the theatre, and about how to
> breathe new life into the problem of establishing political ‘commitment’
> through arts practice. To underscore the empty pontificating that Marowitz
> felt comprised the general conversation, the performance of the Happening
> began when Marowitz stood up within the context of an actual conference
> debate and made a proposal. To mitigate against ‘a multiplicity of
> interpretations [in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot] making it difficult to fix
> [the play’s] “true meaning”’, he argued that the delegates should take this
> opportunity to determine an ‘official’ interpretation, which, ‘when passed
> by the conference, would become “standard” and appear in the appendix of
> each printed edition thereby removing any confusion about the author’s
> intentions’ (57). Marowitz then proceeded to declare that Waiting for Godot
> was an intricately coded allegory for racial politics during the American
> Civil War: Pozzo was Jefferson Davis, Estragon and Vladimir were the
> Generals Grant and Lee, Lucky a plantation slave etc. (57). Despite his
> sense that the whole proposal was obviously absurd, a patient audience
> allowed him to go on for quite some time until a planted heckler tried to
> interrupt him. Marowitz pointedly ignored the interruption; he recalls with
> glee that he ‘droned on as if nothing untoward was happening’ (58) – until
> a series of surreal actions began to unfold in and around the edges of the
> auditorium, on and above the stage, and in the dome of the main hall. A
> nude model was wheeled in on a trolley, actress Carroll Baker scrambled
> across the backs of the audience as though mesmerized by Allan Kaprow, a
> bagpiper marched down the aisles, animal skeletons were suspended over the
> conference logo, a large number of white plaster heads were exposed at the
> rear of the speakers’ platform, a woman with a baby and a toddler son
> walked through the spectators behaving as though the conference delegates
> were figures on display in a museum, and on and on. This strange cacophony
> of spectacles was accompanied by a jumbled ‘tape-collage’ of many of the
> speeches made at the conference. The actions lasted about 7 minutes."
> On Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 1:16 AM, stamatia portanova <
> stamatiaportanova at yahoo.it> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>  Dear all,****
>>  ****
>> as a long-distance friend of the SenseLab, and having enjoyed the
>> conversations developed on this forum so far, I  would like to join in
>> and share some thoughts. ****
>>  ****
>> It was for me of particular interest to read about Erin and Brian’s idea
>> of a ‘pragmatics of the useless’, of giving value to what is not already
>> valued as productive in contemporary capitalist societies, and I
>> particularly enjoyed the notion of a ‘wasted effort’ and of the delicious
>> dionysian joy that comes with it. Kristine also gave us Filliou’s beautiful
>> words about the good-at-nothing and good-at-everything (which I read as an
>> ode to open access, or a collectivization of aesthetic sensibility as a
>> political aim, if that makes sense). So I get this to be one of the core
>> concepts to think, in order to understand the SenseLab and its various
>> practices and events. Indeed, the first thing all of this reminds me of is
>> Chuang-Tzu’s story of the serrate oak, which was ‘broad enough to shelter
>> several thousand oxen and measured a hundred spans around, towering above
>> the hills’, and yet remained untouched by carpenters for being ‘a worthless
>> tree’. “There's nothing it can be used for”, the wise man says, “That's how
>> it got to be that old!" It is of course not a lack of value that is
>> attributed in this case to the tree, but what is at stake is a rethinking
>> of value in itself, and a questioning of the conventional economic and
>> moral senses we, as human beings, usually give to it and to our actions.
>> Another useful (!) reference in relation to this reverted pragmatism is
>> logician and philosopher C.S. Pierce, for whom the success of a pragmatic
>> action can never be seen as definitive and always has in it germs of
>> failure and traces of denial. It is exactly this character of novelty in
>> experience, Pierce goes on to say, that produces an evolution in our ideas.
>> Thinking does not derive from thoughts, but from the necessity of action,
>> and continuously mutates with it. On this matter, I would really point out
>> Pierce’s writings and thoughts on non-utilitarian pragmatism, and his logic
>> of relations and signs, as one of the best theoretical keys for entering a
>> collaborative midst. ****
>>  ****
>> But beyond these very philosophical reflections, what is important to
>> highlight here I think is the fact that all this pragmatic uselessness, in
>> research-creation events, is the plane from which new modes of
>> subjectivization and of social relationality can very concretely and
>> usefully emerge. This has been already well articulated by all the other
>> participants, and what catches one’s attention from the whole discussion so
>> far is indeed how generosity is emerging here as one of the main attractors
>> of this relationality. The SenseLab is certainly a creative hub where
>> challenging philosophical, artistic, aesthetic practices are experimented
>> with, but as such it is also a place where issues emerge and are dealt with
>> that go beyond these practices, such as the modulation of social relations
>> between its components, or money and fund-raising for its projects, or as
>> Erin was also pointing out, other pedagogical and distribution issues. The
>> rhizomatic composition of the Lab (of every lab at its best) therefore
>> extends, in all senses, much beyond the realm of art, to life itself. A
>> creative lab is an open model for life, and a modulation of life itself.
>> The way in which Sense Labbers are stimulated to deal with this modulation
>> (if ONE main way can exist) is generosity. From this comes the political
>> importance of its (and all such) projects, for they significantly manage to
>> replace the key notion of ‘debt’ (one that is today dominant in any form of
>> capitalist exploitation, from immaterial labour to power mining) with that
>> of the ‘gift’. Instead of trying to fluidify relations and exchanges and
>> instead of making them increasingly and illusorily abstract (as in the myth
>> of total virtualisation proposed to us by forms of digital economic
>> commonality such as that, much discussed today, of the bitcoin), the goal
>> would be to pay the right attention to differences, to the various bodies
>> and qualities implied in all our relations, those same bodies and qualities
>> that still represent a hindrance for contemporary algorithmic and financial
>> capitalism, and are at best to be simply dismissed, or thrown away as
>> ‘waste’ (think of the tons of local fruits thrown away each year in many
>> countries in the name of import and profit, and think of all the wasted
>> efforts of unknown artists striving to produce some work and survive with
>> no support). ‘Waste’ is really such, of course, only in the capitalist
>> markets, where the very notion of value is totally submitted to a logic of
>> qualitative in/equivalence and debt repayment: would it be possible for the
>> unknown performer to repay the services of a prestigious lawyer with her
>> work? Under this light, all forms of recuperation, redistribution, of play
>> with what is excessive and wasted (wasted efforts, wasted matters, wasted
>> ideas), generously bestowing it without expecting anything in exchange,
>> become a vital for  not only of political critique but of creation (in
>> the sense of an excessive and dionysian political economy, as Georges
>> Bataille would define it). But I’ll stop here, before I start to waste time
>> philosophizing again…****
>>  ****
>> Best,****
>>  ****
>> Stamatia Portanova****
>>   ------------------------------
>>  *Da:* Toni Pape <tonipape at gmail.com>
>> *A:* soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> *Inviato:* Lunedì 22 Aprile 2013 21:37
>> *Oggetto:* Re: [-empyre-] into what midst? which collective? whose
>> imaginary space?
>> hello
>> from erin's phrasing I would think that she means our "subtle
>> allegiances" with capital. if i may paraphrase in a somewhat simplistic
>> way: even the most anti-capitalist among us cannot escape capital. the goal
>> is therefore not to naïvely try and step out of capital but to step in and
>> navigate our complex entanglements with it differently.
>> a really short note on friendship: we've had a lot of conversations about
>> this and here's what i took out it. friendship can be (but doesn't have to
>> be) an *outcome* of collaborative practice. it *cannot* be its basis. it
>> has to do with taking collaboration out of the personal. i'd be glad to go
>> over that one again if people are interested. :-)
>> concerning "new forms of knowledge." this may sound evasive but i hope
>> you trust that it's not: i believe you cannot know *what* a new form of
>> knowledge is because it doesn't exist yet. that's the thing with novelty.
>> and taken seriously, this poses quite a demanding task:
>> if you go to a conventional conference, you know that the form of
>> knowledge you'll get is the 20-minute-paper. if you go to a
>> research-creation event, you will have to invent that form in the first
>> place. in any case, you will only ever know afterwards (and we've talked
>> about what that was in the case of the dome project). we obviously have
>> ideas and propositions. but you never know how the process will play out,
>> what will stick, what will fall away. speaking of "what" and "how", i'm
>> reminded of the first *Inflexions* issue which was called "How is
>> research-creation?" <http://www.inflexions.org/issues.html#i1> instead
>> of "What...".
>> i'd say the point about failure and uselessness is not that our
>> collaborative efforts *have to *result in that. but failure is always an
>> option. obviously, one doesn't need an instrument for failure. i'd say
>> failure has a habit of falling into place all by itself and doesn't need
>> much help. also, it would be weird (paradoxical?) to have instruments for
>> failure. applied correctly, they would allow us to "succeed in failing."
>>  sadly enough, failure still feels like failure to me.
>> and the notion of uselessness, for me, simply implies that the standard
>> by which you measure value does not pre-exist that which is measured. for
>> instance, it's very easy to say *Logic of Sensation* is useless because
>> Francis Bacon hated it and he was a good painter. so it's of no use to the
>> obvious authority in place. fine. but a more interesting and generous
>> question would be to ask: what can a book, or movement of thought, a
>> creative process *generate*? how might it *create *its own use?
>> toni
>> Am 22.04.2013 um 13:53 schrieb Johannes Birringer <
>> Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk>:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> dear all
>> on a less humorous note, i have been thinking much about the recent
>> response posting by Erin, which I felt was
>> thought-provoking and frustrating at the same time, so i wondered how
>> others here responded to the language
>> and the philosophical stance (the term failure has been mentioned
>> repeatedly but so far was excised from the discussion
>> - and I'm glad it was as I don't particularly enjoyed recent academic
>> rhetorical valuations of the merits of 'failure' in theory and
>> praxis), so my question is rather simple - in response to the valid
>> claims that might be made in favor of trying to un-align oneself
>> with "value"  or prestige in the art marker or art system ...
>> [Erin writes]
>> ...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. >>
>> could you elaborate what keeps you on your toes  -- that you have to
>> produce something that is not waste?
>> Claims that art is useless had been made a long time ago and repeatedly,
>> of course the ironies abound.
>> Yet collectively, cultures tend to remember art works and performances
>>  and certain beliefs/rhythms (here I remind you of the
>> text that Olu Taiwo had sent and which I quoted last sweek) they found
>> useful and very much worth remembering or
>> reinventing, that were instrumental in more than one sense.
>> So what is your instrument of waste, of rigorous effort resulting in
>> nothing? or anything (work) but only "affinities" and "subtle allegiances"?
>>  What are these subtle allegiances,
>> and where to they take us? are they your friendships?  surely that is
>> fine, so are work-related creative temporary partnerships and production
>> teams, we all enjoy them. What then
>> are the "new forms of knowledge" you speak of?  and how could they be
>> collective beyond your particular affinity group? is this the collective
>> mode you meant to introduce?
>> respectfully
>> Johannes Birringer
>> dap / interaktionslabor
>> _______________________________________________
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>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
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