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Richard Hooper

Richard_Hooper

10/12/2013

Bits_and_Bytes

 

Richard spent his talk explaining his transition from bits to bytes, from the material to the virtual. Though his CAD/CAM sculptures share little with my practice practically the questions raised by his work and the theory behind it resonates, perhaps more than any speaker so far, with my work.

Hooper regularly drew from Walter Benjamin’s seminal ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ with reference to how his CAD sculptures are, in theory, infinitely reproducible. This caused some members of the group to question its status as art. However, Hooper countered by arguing that the machine is merely a tool, like a paint brush (or, perhaps, even an idea?). Programming a machine to execute the many complex cuts takes an underrated amount of skill and practice, in a similar way to how a traditional artist must practice his craft with a brush.

“but the work is not unique, it is one of many, it is just a copy of all the others that will be brought into existence”

The markings on the mould, the slight imperfections on the drill bit, the miniscule diversions of the tools do, in fact, make each piece unique. Each ‘copy’ the machine makes will wear the drill but down, slowly destroying itself and making each piece after it slightly different. Like a gramophone on a vinyl, or a tape that slowly decays after each viewing.

Maybe with CAD/CAM, there is no original. If the CAD file exists only virtually, as an abstract idea, subject to loss, deletion or, human error, then each physical iteration of it is an ‘original’, or, a copy of the abstract idea; a copy with no original. This, of course, is the definition of the hyper real.

Hooper’s work is an attempt to copy the ‘perfect’ virtual model into reality but the materials always prevent this from happening. Each original, then, is that specific machines interpretation of the score provided to it. The score itself is not the work and it is in this way that the machine performs.

Perhaps this is why Hooper showed us so much footage and pictures of the machines at work. We are admiring its artistry and the realisation of its interpretation.

I print a poem from my word-processor through my printer (the ink draining, the jets degrading, the paper imperfect) which prints my stated number of poems, each an interpretation of the score provided by the code ingrained in my word-processor.

Some would say that the first print out is the original but, what happens if the first print out comes out wrong? Jams the printer? Are those failed attempts the originals? Or is it only the original once it is presented and perceived as such? I could then present you with any one of my  poems and call it the first, the first that you perceived. I, of course, have no idea which one of poems was found ‘first’, and I suspect the first person to tweet about the poem was not the first to find one. The ‘original’ has been lost. There is, however, no original. Only my cheap printers attempts at interpreting the score I give it. Each one, then, is both a unique original but the sheer volume of originals created completely removes the aura surrounding the work….. I think.

Watching machines perform in response to input is as a good a definition as any for video gaming. We react to the abstract rules (score) provided, perform in relation to it, and then the game performs back. There is, again, no ‘original’ game play, no ‘original’ game. The game exists only in relation to the player, the original is the first time we play it. The same could be said for any art form.

Peter Brook suggested that as long as there is a body walking across a stage, there is performance. Does this stretch to watching machines? Watching ourselves?

Click to access richardhooper.pdf

http://richard-hooper.co.uk/

Zoe Zontou

Zoe_Zontou

Applied­_Performance_and_Addiction_Recovery

19/11/2013

 

Zoe Zontou’s work on performance and addiction raises some questions regarding my practice, her observations on addiction, art and performance have potential links to my work with new media.

Zontou’s documentary theatre centres around some complex questions, as well as some illusive moral and ethical ideas;

what is addiction?

who are addicts?

are we all addicts in some way?

Firstly, she discussed the politics of representation and how Nixon’s war on drugs has coloured our perception of addicts as junkies and wasters who do not deserve our time, let alone our help and =, therefore, they should be segregated from society. Zontou’s work resists this, in the true documentary fashion, by telling the untold story., de-mythologizing to re-mythologize. However, as always, documentary theatre is wrestling with its own morals and validity. Onto actively raised questions about the moral implications of exposure to addicts and even spoke of a few incidents where a performer may have over-expose or when the stress of performance lead to an addicts relapse.

Something the group were hesitant to question, perhaps it is insensitive to discuss, was the authenticity of the addicts stories. Maybe it is immoral for me to suggest that some of the addicts testimony may be exaggerated or fabricated. I don’t, however, believe this to be the case. I do believe, though, that it is naturally human for our memories to be polluted by the present, denying that this is happening to a group of people, even if their story is particularly horrifying, is denying that they are human. I am not suggesting that we should begin calling addicts out, far from it. I am highlighting the fact that documentary and applied theatre should remain aware that it is theatre and is created as such. We should be aware, Zontou touched on this, that peoples stories do, and should be given the freedom to, change in reflection to the present. Having had a talk from Lena Simic and seen one of her performances, my trust in the human memory is at an all time low. This is amplified by the new media bubble we, and the rest of our generation, have been brought up in. Where facts are just wikipedia articles that anyone can change.

Zontou’s discussion of the representation of addicts reminded me of some observations on class. The representation of addicts as poor, junkies, on benefits and criminal fits neatly into the conservative chav stereotype. This representation, fronted by politicians and the media, is, of course, not entirely true. There is a lot of higher class addicts but, due to their higher income, they can fund their self destructive behaviour and, indeed, pay for better and longer help during recovery.

The most applicable part of the discussion came when we talked about whether we are all addicts in some way, particularly artists. The group spoke of how euphoric they often feel during a performance, or how they seem to become numb to the world, in a high state of focus. In my own experience, myself and performers I know have always spoke of the buzz and the jealousy involved when seeing others perform, as if they are getting the fix you want. A group member also mentioned how the addicts, and performers in general, must take a feeling of power from being placed on the stage.

These points all conspire to translate into game mechanics. The euphoria of performing translates into the epic win, the focus refers to the mental state know as flow that game play actively produces and the power refers to the agency, the ability to affect your surroundings. These are all basic human needs and desires and explains how video games can be addictive. Taking it further though, it also shows how gaming and performance are linked and, on a bigger scale, it illustrates how reality is broken. People are turning to new media spaces because it satisfies basic human needs that reality can no longer provide. New media has become hyper real; it is now more real than real.

http://theatreanddrugs.wordpress.com/

Tony Smith

Tony_Smith

The­_Last_Gang_in_Town

5/11/2013

 

Tony Smith appeared to me as a well aged punk, his stories of Eric’s in Liverpool and adolescence stirs up feelings of jealousy. I sat there, shaking my head, as he told the room about his exploits as a youth and how they were fashioned around The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Magazine, Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and other punk/post-punk of the late 70s and early 80s that were even too obscure for my pre-birth nostalgia.

Punk, it’s irony, its politics, and, indeed, its contradictions serve as the centre for Tony Smiths artistic orbit.

I could easily write for hours on Smith and his work as his talk was given in the passionate, seemingly nervous, speed of someone who’s mind works faster than his mouth can articulate. His hands performing the perpetual fiddling of a musician. However, it would be more useful for me to pinpoint points of interest that I find particularly inspiring, questionable or applicable to my practice.

As the title suggests, Smith spent most of his time talking of gangs, mainly from his punk/mod/rocker point of view, contextualising his work using film footage from the time and from fictional films like the warriors.

He smiled at the fireworks outside, saying that they served as a good soundtrack to his abstract semi-autobiographical paintings. The violence of the fireworks, juxtaposed to the periods of silence, reflected the competing colours, lines and angles the characterise Smiths work.

Smith says the his work borrows from punks taste for irony and dislike for high-brow art. This can be seen in Smiths work through his paintings on click together floor tiles and his work that is something shown, literally, on a skip.

Smith’s work seems to grapple with its status as high, or fine, art much like the first wave of art school punks were forced to confront their higher social class with their new political and punk ideals.

The high income of some of the early punks is not the only contradiction in the movement, another example is its notions of freedom. Punk spoke of anarchy and freedom of expression but, very quickly, a punk uniform emerged, which eventually drifted into a self parody that left many punks disillusioned, arguably causing post-punk bands like Joy Division to emerge.

Smiths work, true to its roots, also embodies a kind of contradiction of terms. His work has an absence of figures and, as soon as he sees a figure in his paintings, he consciously destroys it. This would clearly align his work with the abstract. However, he says that he puts a part of himself into his work and hopes an audience will pick up on these remnants of him. Thos raises an interesting question, by painting elements of autobiography into a work, do we effectively paint a figure?

By creating a self portrait of our minds do we make a self portrait? A figure of how we perceive ourselves?

Smiths work contains elements of postmodernism, a penchant for irony, referencing and play but still hangs on to the idea of a ‘self’. In this way, he inherits the latent contradictions embodied by punk.

Smith’s work with grid-painting interested me as I saw parallels between other practioners. He would, for example, do a painting and place a geometric grid over it before applying some form of chance, or score operation. Where, John Cage used the I Ching, Smith used [rime numbers, a passionate fascination of modern mathematicians due to their importance in codes. The prime numbers then revealed partial, and random, parts of the painting, casting chance as the author over Smiths semi-biographical intention. Prime numbers as score could serve as an interesting point for my research into hypertexts.

 Smith seems to have made an effort to not exist on the network, save a twitter account and a few obscure references on other websites….

Lena Simic

Lena_Simic

29/10/2013

 

He was ******, although he wasn’t. ****** implies he was helpless. He was not. He could have acted. Reacted But he didn’t. He just stood there like a dumb fucker when he said

come on then

By the time he reacted (legs flailed, arms on head) it was too late. He was on the floor, so he stood up and saw the shoulders walk away, and leave through the door.

He checks his face.

fuck

not panicked, or afraid.

More of a ‘why?’

As if he knew the consequences of the events.

He didn’t.

A broken nose and a fractured jaw.

Now, he smiles.

Lena Simic’s performance practice is coloured by her understanding of feminism and her situation as a foreigner which influences her assigned role as a mother, an academic and a citizen. She spoke of how autobiography plays a huge part in her work. She admits, or explained, how she often tints her experiments with different filters to make it more appealing to her. She asked if we put ourselves into our work and I was struck by how, if anything, I consciously try to resist it. My work with scores and chance was centred around removing my ‘self’, the author, from the text. The same can be said of my poetry, where the words take on a ‘self’ which is a reflection of the reader. My work with chance, score and poetry seems to be in opposition to Simic’s autobiographical practice and aligns itself more with Barthes’ death of the author concept. However, Simic incorporates questions of memory into her work, best seen in a short film collaboration with Julieann O’Malley. The film was played in public, through headphones to make it more intimate and consists of multiple re-writings of one of Simic’s memories, referred to as

‘the basics’.

The Basics

The car. Me in the car. Waiting for you. You approaching the car. Me looking at you. You see me looking at you. You notice me and you. Together.

The film was very beautiful, some re-writings causing me to emote, but it called into the centre the ultimate construction of memory and how our past is continually constructed by the present. Simic’s work also seems to discuss the erosion and un-obtainable nature of memory. I was reminded of Gertrude Stein’s “we cannot retrace our steps” and it is these elements of multiple narratives and ‘present-ness’ that I can take and apply to my practice.

If I can capture, or at least appear to capture, the feeling of an audience creatively branching narratives as Simic’s work reveals memory does then I can imitate the narratives of videogames.

Simic’s other work centre, again, around autobiography. She says she prefers to ‘root’ her autobiography to something bigger than herself as in her upcoming ‘1994’ where she plants herself to Nirvana, Kurt Cobain and the Balkans war. I’, sure this piece will (omitted)…She justifies the autobiographical elements of her work using the feminist mantra of ‘the personal is political’.

This is best illustrated in her work for her research PhD., ‘Medea/Mothers Clothes’, the score for which, among other things, can be found on her website.

The score, of course, instantly engages me, as Simic showed us a section of the performance. This allows me to study the gaps between the text and Simic’s original performance. As with all scores, the beauty lies in the interpretation, they ask questions of us, they ask us ‘how do you define me?’

How do you define banal?

How do you hang the clothes?

The way you perform the gaps in definition casts you as the author.

This relates to game logic, the game, as score. The game provides you with lines, with limits, with rules that your react to. Anything within those lines is up to you. You define the gaps in the score.

How do you define win?

How do you define fun?

What will you do from the fourth wall perspective of player?

Will you play the game as intended?

or apply your own rules of success and fun?

Is pac-mans death a tragedy? or comedy?

In the cracks, the gamer is reflected and refracted.

Interestingly ‘Medea/Mothers clothes’ includes a recording of Simic reading/recounting texts but she is repeatedly cut off, her englich corrected by the thick, deep, scouse accent of her husband. This reminded me of ‘Krapps Last Tape’. The presence of recorded sound and video could be viewed as uncharacteristic permanence for Simic. However, the ‘sound’ of the recording is, of course, subject to the venue which is, in turn, subject to the contents of the room which will be slightly different each time. The sound will also be different every time it is played through the speaker, as they age into eventual distortion.

The film and slide slow were subjected to the whims of the sheets they were projected on to. As the definite and fixed roles of women are projected onto their forever-in-flux personalities.

I must make my new media inspired practice one of score in order to retain the cooperative authorship of player and writer and, as Semic has shown, this does not rule out the possibility of recordings…

(forgotten)

http://lenasimic.com/

http://lenasimic.com/phd/medeamothers-clothes/

David Fleming

David_Fleming

Museums_and_Social_Responsibility

27/10/2013

David Fleming, director of NML, spoke passionately about a subject evidently close to his heart; the social responsibility of museums. Although not directly linked to my practice, his talk raised some interesting points. Particularly how museums have a right, almost a duty, to incite debate and questioning.

He sought to establish a difference between the old Victorian concept of passive museums where the focus is on the collections rather than making a comment on history. He seemed to argue that, to be politically neutral, to be passive, is to align in opposition to activity and engagement.

I am inclined to agree.

He spoke of how collections feed people ‘the line’ that a time period can be summed up by a few items. He mentions how a Jane Austen style collection omits the presence of the majority who could not afford the luxury table set or, indeed, the slave labour used to make it.

In this way museums have a responsibility to tell the whole story. Also, Fleming touched on curational choices, on how a museum curator can filter and design the truth. This is perhaps best distilled in his international slavery museum which caused quite a stir in the museum community as it directly opposed the notion that museums should not comment on political matters. Fleming finds these suggestions mad, as he fails to see how a museum cannot be political. Citing that even a pencil museum would raise questions of literacy.

Fleming’s attitude is could actually be quite worrying. Though I may agree with him, his opinion that a neutral museum is actually in opposition to his cause could create a dangerous ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ logic. Surely this should be avoided.

However, it is hard to imagine the existence of a neutral museum, as he rightly says.

His talk of curators and construction recalls certain literary theories around authorship but also open up the larger question of what constitutes as history.

The curator of a museum is given the power of authorship of history, over the perceived truth of anyone who walks into the building. What they choose to show, or more importantly not show, effectively constructs history around a visitor. This brings to light the narrative qualities of all our history which can only be understood as a series of selective and unfinished narratives that exist only in relation to the present.

 Image

http://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1001738