The Snark Dance

collaborative choreographies of collective memory

Dancing with the dead May 11, 2008

So I have been thinking more and more about what graveyards means to media ecologies (which just seems like a new way of explaining society or networks).  There is a long history relating machines and ghosts and the supernatural and technology is definitely an interesting area to explore.   Should this be viewed as being more than just a translation of the enchantment produced within us when faced with the finesse of impressive technical achievement?

My project for the Laurie Grove Bath House in November was an installation dedicated to the building’s ghost who was affectionately called Charley as he whistled the Charleston by James P. Johnson. For my installation I recorded someone whistling the Charleston and played it from the top of the stairs in order to lure people to a step, that when stepped on, projected old footage of people dancing the charleston on the walls accompanied by an old big band playing the song. The following video is nice cause it shows the ghosts of Al Minns and Leon James dancing the Charleston to daftpunk:

Also footsteps to the charelston were lit on the ground so you could dance with the figures.

The point I was trying to make with dancing with the dead was about the history of space and how media is actually able to capture the spectre. As cinema and the phonographs are mediums of disjointed time. Disjointed time is key to hauntology so that these media enable us to see and hear the dead. Due to this I think it is no wonder that phonographs and radio have been used to talk to the dead.

I now see the snark dance as an elaboration of this recognition for the ghosts which inhabit us and who we inhabit. My understadning of psychogeography is a practice in which I may hunt for the spirits encrypted in space that are just as responsible for the active production of space as the living, as the dead are written in the living. Our identities are both breathing and haunted. Furthermore, seeing our own apparitions might be the process that Lefebvre describes in the production of abstract space.

In Nadja by Andre Breton, considered by many as the first psychogeographic novel, Breton answers the question of Who am I? with Whom do I haunt? This I think is important to the interactivity involved in my project as well as the camera with which I implement in this production. In order to escape the colonialist discourse i must commune with the dead and know that the ultimate other to myself is the apparition of my nonbeing. And even this polarity must intersect. Rituals put this pace of in betweeness into action where we dance in th footsteps of our ancestors and our bodies become allegories of the past.

If the camera is the technology of the gaze and therefore in the habit of othering can we not reinterpret the gaze of desire stemming from the void and the mirror as the confrontation of our own apparition? If hauntology is the inversion of ontology then through the looking glass is the realm of hauntology, the spector. And so in complicating the gaze we enter the realm where we are not fragmented but inhabiting many places at once as we haunt through our traces and the inversion that inhabits the spaces of reflection. Ritual is about reenacting the traces of our being in order to bring together one’s being with one’s nonbeing. Ritual creates a space for authentic expereince because it thrives in this entanglement. For more haauntology fun see here.

To conclude i have included a photo from an old newspaper of my late grandmother when she was young. In it I see my own apparition as hauntology finds relationships in encrypted patterns as it uses similarity to create binaries and not difference. In this picture I understand that it depicts a ghost of myself. A piece of myself has died with her and in turn a piece of her lives in me. In our interactions we haunt each other so to ask whom do I haunt? is to ask with who have I invested with my spirit. Our exchanges shape who we are. This is the fabric of spacial production and the essence of place. By experimenting with the fabric of ritual maybe we will find some clues in discovering place through the crypt and how it might be decoded. This is the soul of art and how I can think more deeply about the poetry inherent in media, movement and dancing with snarks.

Picture of my grandmother at far right, courtesy of Florence Morning News,

Florence, SC (Oct 20 1955)

THE FUTURE:

Reform the ritual in graveyard and possibly a night walk in the country side utilizing constellations

Divination practices in order to find ways of moving in a decoding space

Look into how the hauntology of the internet and the digital medium. If internet is a place then what are its ghosts? Myspace pages of the diseased come to mind.

Also how can the web andinteractive technologies allow us to understand the multiplicity of the gaze or the spector in the production of space. I am thinking installations that utilize mirrors and other technologies of reflection or recursion. How might the phantasmagoria influence the way in which footage can be presented? How can these shows be recreated?

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Spaces of loss and ritual May 9, 2008

Filed under: magic/divination,the gaze,theatre/performance — danceswithsnarks @ 5:53 pm

escher mirror

M.C. Escher (1935): Hand with Reflecting Sphere

To aid my research I attended the Material Theatre/ Theatre Materials Conference held at the Central School for Speech and Drama. The conference was dedicated to how performance could be inspired by materiality. I found this conference extremely useful in thinking about how the material environment might help me to develop projects, especially a hunt which requires interacting and reinterpreting the environment. I was surprisingly uplifted by the conference even though I had just lost a dear relative just before it.

One of the talks that really inspired me was the keynote speaker Anne Bogart of Columbia University. I really enjoyed her speech as it reflected upon in the theatre as a technology of memory and understanding desire.

One thing she discussed was James Joyce’s distinction between Kinetic art and art that makes you stop. For Joyce art that made you stop was superior to kinetic art as it made you ask questions. Bogart explains that this is due to the fact that kinetic art deals with desire. The trouble with kinetic art is when it manipulates the audience in order to direct their desires. This sort of art is indeed fascist. Commercials and Spielberg films, deploy such methods. However art which allows its audience experiment with movement allows for spaces in which to understand the complexities of desire. Spaces of authenticity are created by invoking the past and the future into the breath of the present.

If theatre is the art of ritual then it finds itself attached to tradition. This presents a challenge to how new technologies should be used. ew technologies should be used to accentuate the soul of the art and not take it over. I take Hegel’s side in where I believe that art should marry the intellectual with the sensual. Too much technology or conceptualizing defeats the soul of the art form. Furthermore I would like to argue that art should also strive to reinterpret tradition in order to recreate spaces and the dynamics of desire therein.

Why should expirementing with space allow for us to reflect upon our desires? What is the correlation between space and desire? Here I think of a paper I have recently read by Derek Gregory on Lacan and Geography which is essentially a comparison of Lacan and Lefebvre. Lacan’s project defines desire in terms of a lack or the empty signifier. Desire transposes the lack in the subject on the object. The symbolic order or the distinction between signifier and signified in Lacan’s system is how the human makes sense of the diruption between the fragmentation of the real and the imaginary whole through the self’s reflection in the mirror. Lefebvre’s critique, however, understands the mirror image in reverse. It is the mirror that abstracts the experience of the body from its natural rythm as the domincance of the visual takes over all other aspects of experience. The mirror becomes a site for the production of abstract space via the gaze where experience undergoes scotimization. Abstract space is then replicated in the landscape producing architectures of alienation where are desires become subject to violence. In abstract space everything becomes textual and therefore fragmented as experience is politicized through the symbolic order which produces binary distinctions.

DIscussion/ Future Projects?

What i see as interesting in the politics of space and the abstration of space is how textuality can be exchange for intertexuality in order to create new spaces. I believe this is what good art tries to acheive; the third space. How can reinterpreting the gaze ritual server to reinterpret spaces that produce social rather than anti-social behaviours.

Also if theatre is an area for realizing desire is it not also a place for realizing loss? If desire is something that is derived from an empty source rather than an empty object then how does getting lost confront issues of loss and death? I actually think that the poetic of the snark reveals the absurdity in politics to evade death. Does entering into the mysterious help us to create a meaningful ritual in which to defamliarize from abstract spaces of alienation?

For future projects I want to conduct walks in cemeteries. Also I know some ghost hunters I contacted for a project from last year, I wonder how they might be able to help me correlate the kinetic poetic with loss and understanding the traces of the past which the spaces we inhabit now have inherited.

 

Just thought I would throw this in… May 8, 2008

Filed under: enchantment and technology,hotdogs,processing,the gaze — danceswithsnarks @ 2:54 pm

 

Messy Reflections: snarks, dialectics, surrealism and mirrors May 7, 2008

Here I would like to speak about the difficulty Caroline and I encountered in reflecting upon the snark hunt and how we wanted to take our psychogeography further.

We found the absurd, circular-like logic of the snark dance as something useful. We loved absurdity in so far as it made thoughts move in messy directions so that ends could not meet. Even still there is something in this movement I find very meaningful. I think this makes a mess of dialectics and I am pretty sure this is what the surrealists had in mind in their use of strange juxtaposition as a creation of new spaces for thought to roam freely from the fascism of linear logics. The cycle of absurdity is very interesting especially when we look to how this can apply it to the space between polarities (which might be understood as the gaze) in relation to recursion or the application of the absurd to reflection and the infamous gaze.

A side project I had been working on was a documentary or ethnography of a pie and mash shop in East London. A major challenge to this project were the many mirrors within the setting that kept revealing the camera in our footage. This made me very aware of my own Western gaze towards East London. Seeing myself behind the camera and in front of the camera made a maze of my thoughts in determining where I could situate myself in a responsible representation of this project. I reconciled the situation by juxtaposing the mechanics of my cinematic project to the mechanics that were in the shop. The winding sound of the machines used to make pies echoed the sound of a film projector. Using the allegory of mechanical production was actually a very interesting technology with which to confront the gaze. I think that allegory is a useful device in which to make some sense or meaningful experience within the labyrinth created by complicated modes of reflection.

In thinking about the history of cinema in relation to the history of anthropology and this thing called colonialism I began to think about the surrealists. One thing Caroline and I loved about avant-garde cinema was its creative use of the mechanics of documentation in order to produce surreal content. One major critique of surrealism is the feminist critique as the surrealist movement has a very sexist undertone. For example the ubiquitous objectification and disfigurement of the female body in surrealist painting (think Dali). The surrealist manifesto was not signed by a single woman and female contribution to the surrealist project is severely marginalized. Leonora Carrington (a contemporary of Breton) has produced writing and paintings that blow many surrealists out of the water! But I bet even some of the biggest fans of surrealism have never even heard of her.

Magritte (1929): Je ne vois pas la (femme) cachee dans le foret meaning I do not see the woman hidden in the forest. A great example of the surrealist objectification of the female, it depicts prominent figures in the surrealist movement. This image was found in a fantastic article on the blog: Letters from a Librarian.

Now I would like to argue that the objectification of the woman in the surrealist project stems from the movement’s relationship to the history of cinema. The camera is the technology of objectification as its very mechanics are the gaze hatis higly gendered. The cinema allows for the audience to see as flaneur not flaneuse (the prostitute).

Now I do not want to go into this much further. But why the gaze whether it be gendered or colonialist is important to this blog is that it presents something for the interactive project to think about. The gaze should be complicated in interactive based projects and media. The potential for reflexivity in these projects could compromise the simplicity of the gaze and therefore the process of objectification. If the gaze is reflected upon itself it was in my recent experience then what is then objectified?? Does this not echo the complexities of the digital postcolonial age. Do internet networks do the work of multiple reflections opening up passages for the gaze to be distorted?

Using the mirror or echo allegory has really helped me in my filmmaking but I also hope for it to challenge my research for the creation of interactive activities. I think part of role playing is our individual rituals of gazing… Who are we allowed to gaze at and in which context?

Returning to the snark… how does an empty signifyer affect this discussion? What happens when a hunt is for an object that does not exist? This is something that caroline and I did not take into enough consideration before hand. I think in order for this to work we would have to really implement our theatrical skills. Maybe our acting abilities just arent up to par for such a task. However until then, I think something to take a away from this experience is this rethinking of the dialectics that I believe the surrealists were aware of in their praise of the absurd. Through the absurd I think we are able to fill inthe gaps of strange juxtaposition in order to form a new space for synthesis. I am not saying that the surrealists advocated the unraveling of absolute spirit. However, I think there is something to be said for this process.

Also the Surrealists were able to create a playful atmosphere for our thoughts to roam. This is something I really love about the genre. So what I ultimately would like to do is to take surrealist technique and exorcise the gaze. I think this has to come from reflexivity from all sides.. the technology of recursion could underline the labyrinth of our being inorder for us to escape modes of othering. Now if this soundslike a complicated mess, I think it is supposed to be, but maybe such a mess can be magical.

FUTURE PROJECTS?

I think that putting absurd cycles into movement would be great. Maybe tryingto walk in a perfect circle around the city. Or playing with the circle line. Implementing different typesof cycles in these walks…The moon cycle, the day cycle, a bicycle?

circulation as allegory: This again approaches my interest in documentation. Circulation of products, the body, etc. Reproductive cycles and the digital age.

Using mirrors in order to create interesting film projections or installation.. This is something I have been thinking about using besides editing for film experimentation.

recurssion in programming and networking…messy feedback loops to reflect the messy dialectics

the technique of absurd juxtaposition in networking

 

Immersing into theatre May 6, 2008

Filed under: Networkin',processing,the gaze,theatre/performance — danceswithsnarks @ 4:54 pm

My partners in crime in Interacive Media at Goldsmiths mostly seem to be allergic to the word theatre. Everyone except the Baroness Von Heron who is in a wild love affair with Judy Garland, so go figure. I think that many of them they see the gimmick light flashing on Broadway whenever I bring this up…I guess they are revolted by the idea of it in a similar vein to myself and other artforms that uses gimmick tactics. With that said, yes the theatre is just as guilty for employing these tactics as any other. However, I think that there is a lot to learn from the theatre. As someone interested in creating processes rather than products, I think I am a performer by default. Where I find the theatre particularly interesting for participatory practices is where performances question the role of the audience. London, especially, has many interesting companies that have moved out of the theatre and into other avenues and venues. One site that comes to mind is the Shunt Vaults. This is a site for performance and art installation. In fact, the founders consider themselves curators rather than dramaturgs. So maybe even contemporary performers are starting to be allergic to theatre. Places like shunt (which began as a site specific theatre venue) is where I think the future lies in terms of practicing processual artforms, especially for the psychogeographically inclined.

Now I want to discuss a few of my theatrical encounters over the past few months and what I have learned from them in terms of being a person with a vested interest in participatory art practice. As Bill Shakespeare once said, life is a stage, and this is exactly why performance art might have some good insight for interactive projects no matter what stage they may leap from.

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

When I first started thinking about the snark hunt I went to the Masque of the Red Death, produced by Punchdrunk. I found this project hugely inspiring as it materialized many thoughts I had pertaining to the snark project. Soon after I saw the performance I began working as a steward for the production. This was not the average steward job as it required that I dress in a cloak, black mask, and top hat. Immersive theatre turns the whole stage/backstage distinction on its head. Being able to take part in immersive theatre, and a relatively successful one at that, helped me better understand my role in my own work as an interactive mediator.

The performance took place over about 30 rooms in the Battersea Arts Centre, where different narrations inspired by the work of Edgar Allen Poe, were performed in two loops over the entirety of the building. I learned from the Co-Director that music helped synchronize the performance that, as it happens, was all over the place. I could relate to this through my experimentation with editing and documentation. Music greatly guides me through choreographing, if you will, the clips into a continuity. This is especially helpful when dealing with non-linear narrative structures. What was special to me about thinking about my editing work in relation to theatre was how I might think in spatial terms about narrative. This also has interesting implications for issues in documentation. The impossibility of the camera to capture the experience of narrative theatre is fascinating more me as an editor that wishes to push the limits of cinematic capability. However, key to the success of this show was that the audience was masked. This masking cut perception to the cinematic gaze, a gaze that was not confined to the walls of the cinema.

The masks also allowed for audience members to find more freedom in movement through anonymity. In fact, many found so much freedom they began to really push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. One time where I was watching over Pluto the cat in the seance room I was tackled by a huge man because I was trying to guard the Victorian wonderland that was the set from being polluted by the image of the office in the next room.

None the less, masking the audience was a very sensible decision. I think masking is key to creating participatory artforms. Again why I think theatre can inform those of us working outside the theatre is that it allows us to see the world for the role playing of daily life. These roles are scripted through ritual and to interrupt these rituals can cause embarassment to the participant. Therefore the role of the mask is very helpful. This need not be an actual mask but something that might relax the constraints of daily identity. This allows for the actor to become more playful and investigative.

One thing I was very surprised to find in conversation with the co-director of the producution was that psychogeography was not something they had thought about in creating the production. Perhaps I had superimposed my own research, but still many things in the setting alluded to the history of psychogeogeographic practice. Perhaps this is due to the recreaton of Poe’s man in the crowd and his obsession with the flaneur. I have come across many comparisons of flaneury and the cinematic gaze. It is interesting that the mask could perform as a facilitator of this sort of gaze turning the audience member into the wandering silent observer, a flaneur. The gaze is something that strikes a chord with psychogeography and situationism. Situationism is one that experiments with the spectacle put what happens when we play with the gaze? I think thinking of media as masks should be very fertile ground and crucial to the documentation of snark dancing.

THE GOLDBUG HUNT

What really made the MOTRD a special experience for me was the Goldbug hunt that, as it turned out, was a separate production from Punchdrunk. It stll remains a mystery to me who exactly is responsible for these hunts but I know that rabbit is key. This is interesting as before the snark became a key feature of my own hunts, I was thinking of using the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland as a symbol of invitation. The Matrix also comes to mind.

Anyways, I found out about the hunt by following instructions from the woman that led us into the entrance of the play. She told us to seek Benoit in the Palais Royale if we dared. I went to Benoit who gave me a note instructing me to go to the Opium Den at half 8 to see what I found and then report on the blog they had set up. Here you can find my report to the goldbug website. I cannot go into full detail about the hunt as it was a very impressive project. However the blog serves as pretty good documentation- gotta love the blog! This blog enabled a community of very curious hunters to crack codes in order to reenter the play and discover more clues. In the end everyone involved (about 80-100) were invited to excavate the treasure from the BAC basement. This Rabbit whatever it is, is very very good. However I think their success was hugely about being able to work in the fantastic world that Punchdrunk had created. This I think is key to Caroline and I’s problem for the snark hunt. We do not know which world to set it in. I think site specific work is good food for thought. Dealing with the city as a whole is a project far too ambitious for the time being but one |I am still willing to consider in the future.

FUTURE PROJECTS, DISCUSSION?

I am still thinking about the snark hunt and how we could contextualize it to make it work?

Also I am thinking about a project where the masking happens behind the camera or the screen?? Something that can point out the mediations that shape behaviour and experience.

Also Sherlock Holmes fever! I have been seeing treasure hunts everywhere. Turns out that idea was not so original after all. However, I am still thinking of how media ecologies can be used to solve a mystery or create a mysterious setting.

Last but not least….The blog! The goldbug hunt would have been impossible without blogging, what other clever projects can blogging provide….I am thinking of gaze play implementing the blog…