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)
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?
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.
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