[-empyre-] Documenting & Dancing Repair

McIntosh, David (Academic) dmcintosh at faculty.ocadu.ca
Fri Nov 29 03:52:44 EST 2013

Hi all,

A fascinating set of questions and experiences is emerging here. The links between performance, ephemerality, artefact, documentation, archive, digital networks and infinite manipulability/recombinance of digital materials are clearly still being built, notably in activist contexts, and this is exciting. One thinker on at least a portion of this set of practices is Philip Rosen in "Change Mummified" in which he addresses the seeming battle between analogue indexicality, where there is considered to be a physical contact between real objects, ie light and chemicals in the form of photography, and the digital, supposedly an arbitrary code binary sets, numerical operations and algorithms, a pure simulation of thought.But he challenges this disjunction between the epistemology of the historical-indexical document and the supposed obliteration of the referential, accompanied by infinite manipulability, in the realm of the digital. He doesn't see an opposition between the indexical and the digital, rather that they are intertwined, that the digital has no meaning without real pre-existing references which imbue the digital with informational value. He offers the example of digital guided missile systems that have real targets. 

In terms of my own practice in this realm, two of my earlier mobile locative works have taken on this set of questions at least in part. The first such project, The Haunting 2006, was a cellphone based live action game set in the park on top of Mount Royal in downtown Montreal. Six people collectively tracked spirits of the dead through the park at night and judged them, releasing or condemning their souls. The difference from most such games was that the spirits were of actual people buried in the cemetery also on Mount Royal, including Canada's last hangman and several of his victims. The game activated lost, buried, forgotten histories of real people, and situated them in a contemporary context. There is no online version of this game, it was entirely performed. There is no archive of this game, it was entirely ephemeral. There was no installation in the park, no objects, no artefacts, just digital transceivers and sensors. In this way the forgotten indexicality of the dead was intertwined with a revived digital instantiation and made to interact with the live game players and the living physical environment of the mountain. This project did not have an overtly activist intent. 

My second mobile locative project, Qosqo Llika 2010 (www.qosqollika.org) is set in Cuzco Peru and extends many of the principles from the first project in an entirely different context. Cuzco is former capital of the Incan empire and the gateway to Machu Picchu; it receives 4,000 new tourists a day, all people who have come to have the experience that they were sold, not the experience of people who actually live in Cuzco now. As a result local history is being forgotten, notably the massive explosion of indigenous cultural expressions in the 1920s to 1940s - music, photography, theatre, dance. One of the core activist intents of this project was to research this period through archives and documents and then project it on the present for all - residents and tourists alike - to see and hear. Historical research in the field of photography was extensive and involved many hours in the archive of Martin Chambi, the first indigenous photographer in the Americas, whose work is considered among the finest documentary portraiture. one element of the entire installation involved 4 performance artists, one of them Chambi's great-granddaughter, projecting Chambi photos on buildings throughout the city. (An aside: the Chambi archive is now in the process of being digitized) Another element of my project involved music, which was much more difficult to research and reactivate, partly because no audio recordings of the material from the 1920s exist, and many of the instruments from the period are no longer played or made. So much of the musical research and reconstruction involved field trips to remote mountain villages, to find people who remembered the songs from the 1920s and people who had the instruments. The question of original and copy in music production is very complex - is a song ever sung the same way twice - even without the recomplicating factor of digital reproduction. A remarkable result from the musical research and recreation was the performance of the historical/traditional tonal scale, which has been abandoned in favour of a more western tuning of instruments to one tonal scale, but the traditional scale we recreated had physical effects on people in provoking memories. The other key element of this work was voice, based on poet-philosopher Jose Uriel Garcia's groundbreaking anti-colonial history "el Nuevo Indio". The voice component of the project I call a distributed documentary, presented on a network of devices; in fact, i developed the voice content in conjunction with a particular local application of digital/cellphone technology. In Cuzco, and some other Latin American cities that I know of, people sell cellphone calls on street corners, they are like human phone booths in many ways. There are many such cellphone call sellers throughout Cuzco, and i brought them into the project. People experiencing the project could approach a cellphone call seller, ask for a specific number and hear the a history of the exact spot they were standing. There were 30 such cellphone access points throughout the city. Please feel free to look at the website link I included earlier for more details on the project, but please remember that the website is not the project and that the website is not an archive of the project. It is a storage site for many of the elements of the project that you are encouraged to download to your own mobile device and recreate the original experience as you walk through the streets of Cuzco. The project intertwines material artefactual and architectural history with digital image projections and sound events. It is an ephemeral networked performance that activates documents and histories in and with the local context. 

Looking forward to more thoughts and experiences from folks on these matters.  

David McIntosh PhD
Associate Professor
OCAD University
Toronto Canada
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Johannes Birringer [Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk]
Sent: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 1:53 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Documenting & Dancing Repair

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