Friday, April 07, 2006

Blogging: Theory As Performance

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog this morning: I realized that, as a few of my European colleagues noted in conversation, my writing in this relatively free-form open space is not so much a theory of performance - as when I digress into my wordy rappinghood solos on concepts like hyperimprovisation and proprioceptive-body intuition - but rather theory as performance. This is an important distinction, and one that is liable to frustrate both my PhD scholarly friends who want the theoretical premise of my supposed arguments to relate to specific content and contexts that easily connect my thinking with what is hot (and bothered) in contemporary critical theory - as well as my less theory oriented (sometimes anti-theory) art collaborators and students who are suspicious of artists who use theory as the Meta-Muse for their performance art practice.

So be it.

UPDATE: It also occurs to me that as my blog becomes more like a collection of scraps or an accumulation of doggy bag "leftovers" from my principle art and writing projects, the Reader looking for "deep insights" into my current theoretical investigations as they relate to my ongoing art practice may feel like I don't take this open publication space serious enough to warrant repeated return visits. But I would say that these "leftovers" are sometimes better when heated up than when they were first made, and that whereas they may not provide "deep insights" into anything, they may begin to help glas my simultaneous and continuous fusion of art, theory, fiction, film, video, politics, and performance. For example, why am I, as one of the progenitors of the early net art scene, and who playfully (and metamediumistically) had the first-ever net art retrospective of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London only 4.5 years after the release of GRAMMATRON, so eager to create historical linkages between the early work of 60s computer artist Frieder Nake and myself, while highlighting the fact that he and I together attended the memorial/homage to Nam June Paik in Bremen? And why am I attempting to use this blog space to create significant links between my own D-I-Y "theory as performance" and, say, the handwritten notes by Nam June Paik, one of the progenitors of the early video art scene? What could be motivating the writer of this blog to not-too-subtly equate his recent net art and VJ theory with Paik's idea of "ecstasy" and the courageous act of "going out of oneself..." as if lost in "completely filled time" where the artist embodies "the presence of eternal presence" while tappping into "unconscious, or super-conscious" acts of composition the way "some mystic forgets himself (goes out of oneself)" in the most "abnormal" of ways so that "the world stops for three minutes!" (for the original context of these quotes, go here)? Hint: it has less to do with subjective ego and more to do with intersubjective leggo.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Return of Professor Everywhere

As the title of this blog entry suggests, Professor Everywhere has returned - but returned to where? Home? What is home when you can transport yourself, physically and metaphorically, to the outer reaches of your nomadic Life Style Practice? Over the course of the last 12 days, I returned to Bremen, I returned to Wiesbaden, and finally, I returned to Berlin. And now, for the time being, I have returned to Boulder.

Damien Hirst once produced an autobiographical work entitled I Want To Spend The Rest of My Life Everywhere, With Everyone, One To One, Always, Forever, Now. To my mind, he is referring to the networked space of flows we float through when navigating the dreamworld of international culture: that non-place place where nomadic Life Style Practice experiences its aesthetic potential in asynchronous realtime.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wiesbaden: 1963 and 2006

More from Professor Everywhere and the on-again, off-again 2006 Euro Tour:

Flying into Frankfurt, artists Tjark Ihmels and Julia Riedel pick up VJ Persona at the monstrous international airport and proceed to take him to Wiesbaden where Persona will have his next live gig in nearby Mainz. And, as long as we are on our Nam June Paik kick, we might as well mention that Paik participated in "Fluxus. Internationale Festspiele neuester Musik" in Wiesbaden in 1963, the same year that he had his first video art exhibition in Wuppertal (although as mentioned, he was still referring to the work as "experimental television"...)

...but back to the hosts of the Persona gig, especially Ihmels. Ihmels and Persona first met in the early 90s in Leipzig at Ihmels studio where he was sharing studio space with an unknown and underappreciated painter named Neo Raush. Another artist hanging out with us in Leipzig in those days was Olaf Nicolai. There was also an upstart young gallery dealer who Ihmels, Raush, and Nicolai showed with named Gerd Harry Lybke whose gallery was (and still is) alled Eigen+Art. To my mind, Ihmels was always the wildest of the bunch ("naturally stoned," as his friends like to say), creating multi-media installations, public illumination art, and digital theatre performance. Of course, this meant that he was never meant to become absorbed in the hottest trend in all of international art these days, that is, the Leipzig School of Painting, led by the provocative Rausch, his Champion-in-Chief the resilient Harry Lybke, and all of the derivative painters who have since moved to Leipzig in search of fame and fortune. But that's another story altogether...

Ihmels new project is huge. Entitled "Posing at Three-Thirty", Ihmels has created a "generative" net art movie that uses a database of almost 12,000 small movie sequences (approximately 30 hours of material). As you'll see when you launch the site, these sequences are very short and composed of only one take. Programmed by several generators that have been networked, the distributed "machinic" system not only develops the storyline in a continuously new and 'never-ending" version, but also makes aesthetic choices on what scenes to include in what order while remixing all of images and sounds contained in the film library. For example, there are dialogue generators, camera generators, mood generators, and sound generators. The central storyline takes place in the Central Eden hotel (which is visible from the large window inside the Institute for Media Design and Kontrastfilm where Ihmels is Director). In the hotel are 12 people who do and do not meet each other but whose lives overlap and allow for various interactions and confrontations, although how these all play out over time and a create a semiotic stream is never certain, always in flux, and open to interpretation.

This work looks and feels different than soft cinema. Instead of imposing a singular theoretical vision over alienated tourist videos, here the film director (Ihmels) is scripting characters played by professional actors and allowing for all kinds of improvisation on the set which, being professionals, they are able to adapt to as necessary. In this way it is something like a cross between Mike Figgis' Hotel and the old Hypertext Hotel from Brown University. The actual net art or generative film plays like a stream and so the uninformed viewer might think of it as just a quicktime movie that plays on your web browser, but that would be a slow take on the discreet design of the operating narrative framework, database architecture, and basic aesthetic premises of the piece which challenges much of today's conventional new media theory. This has led to both intentional and unintentional misreadings of the work's value, and like so much interesting work available today, it falls in between the cracks of net art, film, generative art, and theatrical performance. This blurring of the disciplinary boundaries presents problems to conventional new media curators, i.e. since many cutting edge digital film works are not easily absorbed into the theoretical visions of those who write or curate contemporary new media art, oftentimes this kind of work does not get the recognition it deserves in the sometimes closed world of so-called new media. For example, you will not read about the Wiesbaden School of Generative Cinema at a major European media art festival nor will you hear about it in Artforum. Besides, there's already a Frankfurt School of Philosophy - and now there's a Leipzig School of Painting too...

What else matters?

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