[-empyre-] Translating 'Performance' (Digitally)

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina gabyvargasc at prodigy.net.mx
Wed Apr 9 07:06:00 EST 2014

Dear all, I am a big fan of Professor Taylor's work, and have used her 
books published on paper and some of her digital work in my courses at 
the Autonomous University of Yucatan.  Yes, there are many problems with 
the notion of 'performance' as it is used in English when the texts are 
read in other languages; the readings in English and in Spanish do not 
always seem to be talking of the same thing, and I am not sure there is 
quite a good solution to this dilemma yet.

Also, my colleague Michelle Bigenho (at Colgate) and I have tried to use 
your work on performance to look at our data on music and musicians, and 
we have found it very useful; however, many people find it difficult to 
understand what we are trying to convey, because 'performing music' is 
already an established concept, somewhat different from 'performance' as 
in the borderlands concepts she is developing.  Perhaps one of the most 
important results from all this is that both music studies scholars and 
people doing work on different types of performance in Spanish speaking 
nations, especially in academia, have to pause to re-think about what we 
are doing, and see our whole body of work from a different perspective.

The Scalar platform Prof. Taylor uses does not appear to be so 
self-explanatory to students.  Prof. Taylor, I can see why you are using 
it and can see its advantages, but perhaps we still rely too much on 
some kind of presential contact and this is something that has to be 
worked out on one's own.  I sometimes teach with another professor and 
group of students at the other side of a satellite-connected large 
digital screen.  It is hard to explain the workings of Scalar other than 
through having students look at a single screen, operated by a 
demonstrator, then let them experiment on their own, and then come back 
to the same single screen.  It is difficult to have two classrooms at 
different places of the world do this jointly, and it has worked only 
partially for me and my co-instructor in our anthropology of performance 
class, who is at UC Irvine, so we join our groups via satellite video.  
Some students complain that the class becomes too unstructured, since 
there is no prescribed way to wade through the materials and each 
student comes out with his or her version of them, so that some times 
many of them do not understand what the others are talking about.

The other thing is that we necessarily need to use concurrently 
platforms that are easy to understand and use, for the students' 
projects.  Maybe in the future something with less of a high learning 
slope can be devised, so that students can also exchange more easily 
their own work with other students without straying too far away from 
the study materials?  I guess many of these may have become mute issues 
for those who use Scalar and other such complex platforms all the time, 
but this is not the case for everyone just yet.  We still have a long 
way to go, even in our current digital world.

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina
Professor of Anthropology
Facultad de Ciencias Antropológicas
Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico


On 4/8/14, 9:01 AM, Diana Taylor wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Translating 'Performance' (Digitally)
> I'm a humanist who turned to the digital as a way to solve problems 
> posed by Americas wide scholarship on performance: how to build a 
> digital library of performance videos in order to openly share access 
> to materials? How to publish multilingual and multi-media journals and 
> books online so we could read and understand each other? How to offer 
> team-taught, multilingual graduate courses using digital platforms 
> that allowed for real interaction and reciprocity in pedagogy? The 
> Hemispheric Institute which I founded in 1998 (see 
> hemisphericinstitute.org <http://hemisphericinstitute.org/>) addressed 
> these problems in attempts to lay down a digital, hemispheric 
> infra-structure for ongoing, multi-sited, and multilingual 
> communication. For many of us now, the digital 'solutions' to these 
> issues are so oh hum we can't even remember when they were problems. 
>  We know how to put video online now and build digital archives and 
> teaching platforms.
> Nonetheless, the technological 'solutions' posed new ways of doing 
> research and in turn created new scholarly problems and challenges. 
> Digital platforms, we learned from Hemi's Digital Video Library 
> (HIDVL), participate in the creation of new objects of analysis and 
> creative processes to be interpreted and understood by scholars.  We 
> can now study performance practices in ways deemed impossible even 
> twenty years ago, especially transnationally.
> Given Hemi's reliance on digital technologies for the production and 
> sharing of performance work in the Americas, we recently began to 
> develop digital books in the hope of transcending the structural 
> limitations posed by the lack of multilingual, transnational 
> publishing.Work being done in Argentina is not known in neighboring 
> Chile, and far less in neighboring Brazil because of the language 
> barrier. In the U.S. we know more about 16^th century practices in 
> Mesoamerica than contemporary performance acts in our hemisphere.We 
> needed digital books. Scholarly writing about performance becomes more 
> intelligible when readers can simultaneously see the performances 
> drawn from the digital video library. It's great that they can click 
> to the resources page and find the online interviews, transcripts, 
> scripts, photo galleries, and supporting archival materials. In these 
> books we position the reader as a archival actor, surrounded by 
> pertinent forms of documentation that will allow him or her to more 
> fully understand why and how these performance works are important.But 
> we might go so far as to suggest that the books are not just 
> 'archival'---they are potentially experiential, staging a 'living' 
> archive of materials to be accessed and reactivated by the 'reader.' 
> Or do we now refer to the 'user' who enjoys a more immersive sense of 
> these materials, animated through the act of moving through them?We 
> have choreographed some of the pathways into the materials but others 
> they might discover on their own.The digital, then, promotes not only 
> new ways of transmitting and interacting with materials, but also 
> enables new objects of analysis and ways of thinking.
> Yet the fact that our books are multilingual 
> (English/Spanish/Portuguese), unexpectedly and additionally provoked a 
> profound change in the nature of the 'book.' (For the moment, I will 
> not go into the debates about whether or not we should call them 
> 'books' or something else.)While the text needs to be translated, the 
> media remain the 'same'---only the subtitles and captions change.So 
> our books now tend to be built around the media, not the other way 
> around. /What is Performance Studies/, our book built around thirty 
> interviews with scholars throughout the Americas, is massive (165,000 
> words) but reads like a 'slim' book, as one reader's report put it. 
> The emphasis on media skews our traditional notions of scholarship.Is 
> scholarship one "pull-down" menu option among others? If the 'same' 
> academic work is part of this rich multi-media creation, is this still 
> scholarship? Or what if the scholarship looks different-- say shorter 
> pieces favored by online reading instead of the longer scholarly essay 
> of print culture? Does the format trivialize the analytical project?
> Multilinguality and translation also asks scholars to re-think some of 
> their basic tenets. Much of the vocabulary in contemporary performance 
> studies comes from English.The words 'performance' and 'embodiment' 
> for example, so central to theorizations of corporeal practice in the 
> English-speaking academy, do not exist in any of the other languages 
> we work with. Are these words redundant? Or do they convey ways of 
> thinking about the body as itself a product of social regimes and 
> performativity? Again, thoughtful scholarship that develops around and 
> within these linguistic issues will expand the limits of all our 
> scholarly universes.But, again, these theoretical questions trigger 
> different problems that affects our tags, annotations, visualization 
> options and so on.
> So while we aspire to create books that elucidate (and even help 
> create) a field of hemispheric performance studies, we want them to 
> reflect the challenges and promise of thinking through multilinguality 
> and the digital, not simply rendering traditional scholarship in 
> digital formats. These attempts create new problems, new 'solutions,' 
> and (happily) new things to think about.
> Diana Taylor, NYU
> -- 
> Diana Taylor
> University Professor
> Professor, Performance Studies and Spanish
> Director, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics
> New York University
> 721 Broadway, 6th floor
> NY, NY, 10003
> 212 998 1632
> 212 995 4571 fax
> www.hemisphericinstitute.org <http://www.hemisphericinstitute.org>
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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