Archive for the Theater and Performance Category

Images of Sound

Posted in Art, Art and Philosophy, Art Exhibits, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Film, Theater and Performance with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Applying Deleuze theories on temporarily to sound and music is very interesting. First it is a reminder that image is not only the visual image but any fluctuation within the fabric of the environment that affects our (or any organism’s) perceptual sensors. More importantly the temporal characteristics of sound is different from the moving image. Sound necessarily unfolds through time and a still or snap shot of sound is not imaginable. Music has also been created for thousands of years with primitive tools and without a technological apparatus mediating between creator and the images. One of the first mediation affecting the temporarily of music, at least in terms of its production, was the invention of systems of musical notation. Recording technologies pushed this separation further but at the same time created a reaction to emphasize on the zone of indeterminacy in improvisational music.

Roulette was hosting an opening concert for the 3 day event on ‘Improvisation and Technology’ in conjunction with Department of Music at Colombia University and NYU. The interesting irony about that event was that unlike most of the times that technology, as mentioned above, is being used to decreases virtuality, in this events, it was used to intervene into the regular flow of music to make unexpected happen.

The setup of the stage, with more than 30 computers and different conventional and experimental instruments on the stage, was promising failure to some extent from what had been planned. In many pieces improvising machines were being used to create effects based on what the musician was playing and forcing the musician to change what she was playing, creating a loop of reactions to make the result of the piece completely out of control of the musician. In some other pieces looping machines were recording and looping parts of the performance based on some algorithms creating overlaying and juxtapositions of time.

In overall there were very interesting and state of the art experiments in pushing improvisational music into the extreme to allow the most unexpected to happen. This is also in relation to Deleuze’s idea of desert island that something bold and novel does not happen as a continuation of what had been but as an eruption.

Deleuze, Gilles. Desert islands and other texts, 1953-1974. Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e) ;, 2004. pp. 9-14

“Fragile” and some other fragmented bodies

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Theater and Performance with tags on May 7, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Eiko & Koma, Fragile, 2012

Eiko & Koma, Fragile, 2012

Things and thoughts advance or grow out from the middle, and that’s where you have to get to work, that’s where everything unfolds.

-Deleuze in Negotiations

In Postproduction, Nicolas Bourriaud discusses how postproduction artists, by making new relations among existing cultural artifacts, erase “the traditional distinction between production and consumption, creation and copy, readymade and original work” building on the Situationist International’s tradition of subversion and appropriation. (Bourriaud 4) In these artworks, the spectacle of images is not for the sake of representations, but the artists are making use of them to reach a network of signs, “a temporary terminal of a network of interconnected elements, like a narrative that extends and reinterprets preceding narrative.” (Bourriaud 19) Isn’t this the perfect way to engage in schizoanalysis? Instead of old family pictures, or a recollection of childhood memories, the cultural artifacts ready at the artist’s disposal for her/his act of choosing, a mixing of codes for new assemblages…

Richard Hawkins, Ankoku series, 2012

At the 2012 Whitney Biennial, Richard Hawkins’ Ankoku collages are exhibited, for which the artist cut out and pasted smaller prints of well-known works such as Picasso’s Guernica, Willem de Kooning’s Woman series, Hans Bellmer’s Dolls and Francis Bacon’s various paintings. These visuals are accompanied by texts from Jean Genet, Lautréamont and Antonin Artaud, as well as Hawkins’ own. The artist states that he was inspired by the scrapbooks of Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of the Butoh dance. Hawkins adds how in the Western scholarship, the Butoh dance is contextualized within the traumatic history of post-war Japanese culture and how he is not convinced by this common trauma tale. He guesses Hijikata’s intentions for creating Butoh are overlooked, perhaps, because it was something far too challenging and uncontainable for the Western academia. Hawkins adds that he recognized something sexual, something erotic in the journals of Hijikata, who performed under the name of “Tatsumi Genet” in his earlier years. Inspired by his method of making collages, Hawkins makes his own. Perhaps, by cutting and pasting these works by Picasso, de Kooning, Bacon and Bellmer together, he tries to see something else that is left behind, something else that is seen better when they are together. He cuts out and reassembles the pieces of the works of art in which their creators dismantled the body, whether they are painted as fragmented and disfigured or photographed as tied up. The name Hawkins chooses for his collages is “Ankoku”. He refers to the darkness he recognized in Butoh but he is far from being satisfied with the word “darkness.” When asked about the title, he answers, “The darkness, I wish there were another word –“unspeakableness” or “threatening uncontainableness” might do- but perhaps it’s best merely to use Hijikata’s word, ankoku.” (Sussman and Sanders 133)

Over the spring break, I had the chance to see the retrospective exhibition of Eiko & Koma, the Japanese performance/dance duo who began their artistic career when they joined Tatsumi Hijikata’s dance company. For their retrospective show, they performed Fragile, a version of their previous work Naked accompanied by the Kronos Quartet. It is a four-hour long “live installation” that involves the duo, the musicians, a sound collage and set design.  The performance began as they were lying on the floor covered in bushes and feathers. Their bodies were naked and painted white as if they were covered by dust. As the sound collage started, they began moving very slowly; their movements were repetitious, incremental, almost indiscernible. Their performance was hard to define, a blurring of dance and almost, sculpture; hence they called it a living installation. They moved their bodies in such an incremental and slow manner, their bodies looked nonhuman with their twisted limbs in the middle of all dust, bushes and feathers. Their dance wasn’t an expression of ideal movement like the perfect circles of the whirling dervishes of the Islamic Sufi tradition, nor it was a dance that sacrificed the intervals for the sake of the poses. Instead, their movement was the dance of the intervals, constant movement without any poses or ideal routines. No poses, no routines, no representations, but constant movement. The score of the piece was a collage of audio including President Truman’s address on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an interview with J. Robert Oppenheimer, and reports on the Tohoku tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster accompanied by the Kronos Quartet. Even though the score of the piece points out to the traumatic history of Japanese culture, contextualizing Eiko & Koma’s performance only in reference to that would be awfully reductive. Their movements were not only the dance of bodies that attempted to recover under radiation, but also, they looked pre-human. I think there is a lot more to the piece: a different perception of time, nonhuman bodies, moving to find new ways of inhabiting the body and relating to each other…

Hawkins, through visual and textual collages, tries to find new relations among existing works, “testifying to a willingness to inscribe the work of art within an network of signs and significations, instead of considering it an autonomous or original form”, as Eiko & Koma moves to find other ways of inhabiting the body and the environment they are on. (Bourriaud 16) Perhaps, new ways of existence emerge mostly after a trauma, an atomic bomb, the Spanish Civil War, or under the terror of fascism, especially in the absence of a collective imagination and some kind of mythology, at a time when Deleuze is “doubtful whether the individual imagination, unaided could raise itself up to such an admirable identity.” (Deleuze “Desert Islands” 11) Nevertheless, it is too reductive to assume a perfect causality. Art by its capacity to affect can create the necessary zones of indetermination where new ways of being emerge without trauma being a prerequisite or the most common trigger. “Schizoanalysis, or pragmatics, has no other meaning: Make a rhizome. But you don’t know what you can make a rhizome with, you don’t know which subterranean stem is effectively going to make a rhizome, or enter a becoming, people your desert. So experiment.” (Deleuze and Guattari 251) Isn’t this what art is for?

Piril Gunduz

References:

Bourriaud, Nicolas. Postproduction. New York: Lukas and Sternberg, 2002.

Deleuze, Gilles. Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. New York: Semiotext[e], 2004.

Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism And Schizophrenia. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Whitney Biennial 2012 Catalogue. Edited by Elizabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders. New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art, 2012.

Ba lance. Rep it tish ion. Com pose zish ion. Mir rors.

Posted in Art, Deleuze, Immanence, Theater and Performance with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Before The Books called it quits, I was fortunate enough to see them perform live. For those who don’t know, The Books are an experimental duo who make music with found sound, recorded sound, and instruments. As Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson says, “Their music is easy to appreciate immediately because they use pretty sounds – it’s not harsh, noisy, they use space […] Ringing guitars, cello, melodic – but it’s also hard to put a finger on, and there’s an in-between-spaces aspect to The Books that I find really appealing” (qtd. in Ganz). Unlike many other artists who use found sound, The Books only use analog audio (most of which is found in thrift stores or other random places). Instead of taking audio from the Internet, they use old answering machine recordings, self-help audiobook cassettes, ancient exercise tapes, etc.

One of their first songs, “Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again,” will probably give you a good idea of the kind of music that they make:

When they perform live, The Books project videos that they’ve created (with stock footage). Some of these videos, like the one for “Smells Like Content,” are simple but effective:

The album that houses this track, Lost and Safe, is a deviation from their earlier work. Thought for Food and The Lemon of Pink (their first two albums) both used very few vocals and focused mainly on found voices coupled with sparse instrumentation while on the other hand, “Smells Like Content” contains a full set of lyrics. What I like about the songs with vocals is that they’ve put into words what they’re trying to initially express solely with sound. In other words, if you weren’t sure what their agenda was after listening to the first two albums, pick up the third and everything will begin to come together.

For me, The Books are a very philosophical group. After many listens, I have noticed bits of Hume, Nietzsche, Sartre, and (recently) Deleuze in their work. “Smells Like Content” is a song that explores the purpose of life and asks the same question as modern philosophers, “How might one live?” At their show, Nick Zammuto (the half of the duo that provides vocals) said that his brother went on a hike and recorded his stream of consciousness ramblings which were then used as inspiration for the lyrics. In “Literature and Life,” Deleuze says, “Syntax is the set of necessary detours that are created in each case to reveal the life in things” (2). For this song, syntax is very important: each word is placed in a specific way so as to create a rhythm that exists on its own, without the addition of extra sounds. In “Smells Like Content,” the extra sounds that are included act as a form of repetition and as what Deleuze and Guattari would call a refrain.

In “Of the Refrain,” D&G talk about territory, deterritorialization, milieu, and assemblage (among other things). From what I gather, rhythm is the difference created through repetition and repetition is what moves us from milieu to milieu (while simultaneously creating those milieus). D&G say, “A milieu does in fact exist by virtue of a periodic repetition, but one whose only effect is to produce a difference by which the milieu passes into another milieu. It is the difference which is rhythmic, not the repetition, which nevertheless produces it . . . (346). In simpler words, the difference is what creates the rhythm. I don’t feel it’s necessary to summarize the whole essay, but I will say that in the end, D&G basically say that something called “the Cosmos” is the end game (which probably isn’t the right phrase) of music. They say, “[. . . ] modern philosophy tends to elaborate a material of thought in order to capture forces that are not thinkable in themselves. That is Cosmos philosophy, after the manner of Nietzsche” (377-8). So then music (not pop music, but music that D would deem worthy) does the same thing as philosophy, it seems. The Books are one of my favorite experimental duos because I think it’s obvious that they are trying to express that inexpressible through their music.

For me, “Smells Like Content” is a great song, albeit it doesn’t play with space, silence, and sound in the same way as their earlier material. Essentially, the entire song is about process ontology, the idea that the world is always in flux and that all we can do is think about what is coming into existence. The lyrics tell us, “But then again, the world without end is a place where souls are combined,/ but with an overbearing feeling of disparity and disorderliness./To ignore it is impossible without getting oneself into all kinds of trouble,/despite one’s best intentions not to get entangled with it so much.” The world is complicated and it makes sense for people to want to try to understand it; however, it is impossible to know for sure what the world is and why we’re here, etc. Philosophy is often hard to understand because it is an exploration, not an explanation (and it’s easy to get entangled when exploring different ideas). It’s also notable that the words in the video are spelled out phonetically and that some of them change as they are changing (that sounds confusing, but for example, look at “overarching paradigm” as it appears on the screen). By breaking the words up into other words, we are given a visual example of how everything is just a fragment and part of something bigger.

This fragmentation also reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s “Susie Asado.” In this poem, Stein was trying to recapture the rhythm of a flamenco dancer, to paint a portrait of her with words. Stein’s writing uses phrases that almost make sense, but not quite. She forces us to toss away our conventional expectations and accept the open-endedness of her writing. When The Books say, “Meanwhile,/ the statues are bleeding green,” I am reminded of both Stein and Noam Chomsky (and of course, Deleuze). Chomsky’s sentence, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously,” makes grammatical sense but really means nothing (15). How can ideas be both colorless and green at the same time? Because both “colorless” and “green” have figurative meanings, we interpret them a certain way. Stein’s poem strives to be nonrepresentational, even though the words that she uses also have figurative meanings; the meaning of her poem does not rely on what each of the individual words mean or what they are associated with. There would be no way to paraphrase Stein’s poem. To me, the lyrics of “Smells Like Content” are trying to tell us (with words and music) that conventional categories and ideas aren’t going to work if we’re trying to figure out what life is/what it means to be.

The Books describe how/why we created artificial categories and concepts in order to explain the world. They say, “Then finally, we opened the box, we couldn’t find any rules.” We’re born and never given any guidance about how to live our lives, what life means, what it means to be, etc. There are so many possibilities for what life is and what it could become but because of “faith,” we “decided to go ahead and just ignore them,/despite tremendous pressure to capitulate and fade.” There are so many possibilities that instead of considering them, we usually just fall into the routine/trap of artificial constructions (“So instead, we went ahead to fabricate a catalog/of unstable elements and modicums and particles”). The song ends with, “Expectation -/leads to disappointment. If you don’t expect something big huge and exciting . . ./Usually . . ./I dunno,/just, uh yeah . . .” While these maybe don’t seem like brilliant lyrics at first, I think that they say a lot in very few words. In a world that’s constantly changing, how can we have expectations for anything? As the video progresses, the images trick us. First, it seems like I’m looking at outer space. When I see jellyfish, I now assume I’m looking at the ocean. When the video ends, it is revealed that I was just watching footage from an aquarium the entire time. What if the world is just an aquarium and I’m just a fish? Does it matter?

If anyone is interested, here’s a link to the videos that The Books play at their shows: http://zammutosound.com/videos.cfm

— Kilgore Trout

Chomsky, Noam. Syntactic Structures. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter, 2002. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles. Essays Critical and Clinical. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1997. Print.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. trans. Massumi, B. (1998). 1837: Of the Refrain.
In A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum.
pp. 342ñ386.

Ganz, Jacob. “The Books: Making Music Through Found Sound.” NPR. NPR, 04 Sept. 2010. Web. 07 May 2012. <http://www.npr.org/2010/09/03/129607098/the-books-making-music-through-found-sound&gt;.

Sleep No More

Posted in Deleuze, Relational Aesthetics, Theater and Performance with tags , , , on April 15, 2011 by immanentterrain2

“For Hitchcock, the spectator must also be inscribed in the fabric of relations. Hence, the director’s version of suspense which is based on the coefficient to involve, to implicate” (Ishii-Gonzalez 135).

Last week I entered an abandoned hotel wearing a white pointed mask surrounded by other bodies in the same face-erasing masks. I explored a taxidermist’s office, wandered through a hedge maze, read through cryptic typed letters, chased a wailing Lady Macbeth through her bedroom and witnessed a cold Mrs. Danvers plotting poisonous tricks. Each move I made through the space changed my unfolding experience, as well as the unfurling shape of the performance I was taking part in. Through it all, I thought of Deleuze’s time-image and his reading of Alfred Hitchcock’s work.

Sleep No More is an immersive theater performance in a huge space in Chelsea. Based   loosely on Macbeth and Hitchcock’s Rebecca, there are multiple floors filled with over 100 rooms and environments that spectators in masks are encouraged to explore independently, indoor and outdoor, tiny and cavernous. Each room is full, replete with objects that are there to be touched, explored, opened, and moved around by spectators. The actors perform scenes on loops that overlap and intersect differently, even as they repeat.

You might find yourself in a room where a man in a lab coat silently cuts words from a book with a blade and hangs them from the ceiling. Suddenly, a man runs by and you run with him down three flights of stairs into another scene, watch a murder or a seduction. The assembled disconnected spaces, empty and full, are in the realm of Deleuze’s time-image. Minute objects and moments take on meanings that don’t lead to. The structure of the performance–though structured–makes it impossible to see the “whole thing,” and while there is surely a story, it is not one that can be followed, and or be performed the same way. The spectators are as ghostly presences to the actors, who react to their presence and their effects on the objects surrounding but not to them as human individuals. Or they might lead you into a hidden room for an individual interaction, as happened to a friend of mine.

There are moments of tension, excitement, action, boredom, banality, solitude. The in-between moments of emptiness and boredom become huge. I found myself alone in an old hospital wing, waiting for  “something to happen,” and then realizing, I was what was happening in the space. I spent what felt like hours touching strange medical implements, or writing with a quill–moving the objects in the space, altering it. When trying to get to a different part, I kept ending up in the same places, with the anxiety that I was missing “it” and then what could have been minutes or days later, found myself in a strange new land through doors I don’t remember walking through. David Lynchland, perception and exteriors riding a mobius strip.

There are no spoken words, either from actors or participants, and this, combined with the fragmentary, ever-changing experience of the performance subverts traditional theater by subordinating plot and meaning to situation and presence. Here, the suspense is less about what is going to happen in the sense of a building of successive actions that narrow the field of possibilities until one finally guesses the only possible outcome. Each moment is virtual, each scene is fragmentary, and enters into a network of relations with what came before and after, also changed by the fleeting now.

The always missing creates a heightened awareness of what is, and what is unknowable. Plot dissolves into situation. Time changes, the space becomes a shot in depth. Spectators attune their own movements to a gliding one, others try and interrupt the actions of the actors, or simply sit alone without moving, all changing the perpetual performance and those to come.

This is not to fit this performance tidily into a theoretical box, or impose a reading onto the experience. It is not radically political or community-building, and does not purport to be. I felt the presence of cinema’s time-image in this performance, another level of my own experience of this shifting one.

Ruchi

http://www.sleepnomorenyc.com/