The Snark Dance

collaborative choreographies of collective memory

Present Attempt May 9, 2008

Filed under: Networkin',processing,theatre/performance — danceswithsnarks @ 6:18 pm

During my attendance at the Theatre Materials conference I met a company called Present Attempt that were developing a new play called life at the molecular level. They opened their rehearsal to the conference where we were able to sit in and have input on the development of the show. The show was developed through applying constraints to a series of improvisations over about a day and a half. One of the constraints or rules was that anything small that was noticed by a performer should be amplified and exagerated. The show that they ended up producing was fabulous and almost seemed like a digital manipulation. Using very few props such as a microwave and a kareoke machine they told a story while recreating the strange behaviour of when you are all alone. This created an intimate and uncomfortable relationship with the audience.

Also these fancy people have a rehearsal blog…Seems like we are on the same wavelength 🙂

Discussion/ Future Projects

I think that scripting projects via setting constraints is a great way to play with ritual and to comment on the mechanics of digital technologies and the technologies of social interaction and art. I wanted to mention this group as I think that questioning rituals and the making of space could be done through setting up games which required that we perform according to new rules. This is what made me start thinking of games that might be played besides a hunt in order to reinterpret the city and set the stage for live collaborative development.

I was also thinking about how mechanical algorithms could be used to guide movements. I know that Caroline has a formula from K-punk which causes participants to bump into each other from different starting points. Could be a nice editing project if each participant had a camera.

All photos courtesy of present attempt


Spaces of loss and ritual

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.


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.


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.


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.


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…