Category Archives: Performing Participation

Re-Enactment: Lygia Clark & the Body

For my re-enactment/recreation assignment, I will be facilitating a fusion of two of Lygia Clark’s works, Viagem (Journey) (1973) and Estruturação do Self (Structuring the Self) (1976-88).

Program:

  1. Participants cover my body/mummify me in butcher paper.
  2. Participants are able to draw on the butcher paper and place objects (collected from the ITP shop) onto my body.
  3. Participants then rewrap me in plastic wrap.
  4. Participants carry me in a procession from the ITP shop to our classroom.
  5. Participants remove the wrapping.
  6. As a group we discuss the process of the event and what it called to mind for the group.

Materials:

  • Butcher paper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Masking tape
  • Random objects
  • Sharpies/Markers

Program: Utopia Without Choice

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Personal Utopias

Song, Nick Bratton, AV, Changyeon, and I began our attempt to construct a utopia by asking ourselves, “what makes me feel liberated.”  We were trying to pin down what our own personal utopia might look like, in terms of discrete parts, so we could think about how to combine them into something collective.  We generated responses on post-it-notes, and tried to see if there was any convergence.

Examples:

  • “Antagonism as invitation”
  • “Liberation from personal choice”
  • “Lack of knowing people/being judged by people”
  • “Feeling of constant confinement”
  • “Feeling that each person matters”
  • “Whose utopia is it?”
  • “No wrong/right”

What began to emerge very fast was that as long as we wanted to include the rest of the class in our utopia, which we agreed we did (as opposed to say staging a utopia ourselves before or during class), it would be very difficult for us to facilitate an open-ended or autonomous situation that allowed for everyone to access their own elements of utopia.  The reason, we surmised, had to do with choice. Our own choice, the choice the each member of the class would have to make.  And as we looked at our conceptual map laid out on post-its, we noticed that much of what we associated with utopia, even on a personal level, could be boiled down to freedom from choice.  What was the factor that we could point to as a main constriction, or limitation, barring us from feeling liberated?  Choice.  Economist Barry Schwartz’s concept of the Paradox of Choice became a central element of our thinking.

Schwartz lays of some key observations about choice.

  • More choice ≠ more freedom
  • More choice ≠ more welfare
  • Choice leads to less satisfaction because of
    • Regret and anticipated regret
    • Too-high expectations
    • Higher awareness of alternatives that are lost when one choice is made
    • Self-blame for our choices

Utopia of No Choice

We will be instantiating a Utopia of No Choice in the classroom.  We will give everyone a blindfold to remove their choice of what to look at, and provide a soundtrack of pleasing noise to remove choice of what to listen to.  We will restrict everyone’s motion with a gentle binding to remove choice of movement/interaction.  People will be free to break out of the constructed situation and rejoin the world of choice at any time.

Materials:

  • Blindfolds
  • Noise track
  • Headphones
  • Fabric for binding hands

We are curious about which choice moments in life are paralyzing for people, and which ones they would remove if they could.  We hope to have a moment in the experience (perhaps after everyone has chosen to exit the utopia or when the time we allot is over) where these thoughts/feelings/preferences can be shared.

We also need to decide exactly how each of us — the creators of the utopia, will participate, whether we join in, we provide some sort of additional stimulus to the experience of the participants, or we exert energy to convince those who have left the utopia to rejoin.

Reading Response: Sound as Social Currency

Sonic Etiquette

Reading Relational Aesthetics alongside preparations for Christine Sun Kim’s visit to our Performing Participation class, I was struck by the question of how relational dynamics emerge differently when interactions occur across less familiar communication lines.  There is an approach to creating social moments that draws on comforting, mundane, or habitual elements such as cooking, sitting together, brainstorming in an office, workshopping in an educational setting.  What about when the elements are novel for most participants?  What about when they speak to senses we don’t typically activate?  What about when they lack cues that we normally depend on (like a visual aspect alongside the sonic, or text/language as the basis of social exchange)?  

Sun Kim puts forward a notion of “sonic etiquette”.  Here she seems to be referring to sounds that are meaningful to an individual because or their relation to other people — whether the sounds bring annoyance or pleasure or another response.  If I choose such a sound to share with someone, in the absence of an explanatory context, then I open up a channel for understanding and exchange that is both rich and more demanding than if I were to merely describe what I’m sharing.  How might this extra demand placed on the recipient be productive?  Is there a politics of sonic etiquette that is able to put forward a different critique than verbal communication?  Is there an aesthetics of sonic etiquette that impacts the body, the heart, the observational self in a new way?

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Reading Response: Towards Intentional Community-Building

Why Create Communities?

I found immediate resonance with Claire Bishop’s critique of Relational Aesthetics in our reading from this week for Performing Participation: “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”.  Bishop calls attention to the necessity of rigor when it comes to asking “What is this for?” as we assess works that attempt communicative, interactive, relational engagements with an audience.  She points out that Relational Aesthetics author Nicolas Bourriaud considers this question only to a shallow degree, if at all, as he presents his examples of artists working in a relational mode.  She refers to Rosalyn Deutsche’s assertion that democracy is contingent on “conflict, division, and instability”.  I recognize alignment with her critique because it’s a fundamental concern of mine, and it presents me with the beginnings of an argument for more rigor both in assessing and also creating works that adopt these formal strategies.

The contemporary artistic projects Bishop profiles, such as Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (Still), that generate what Bourriaud calls “microtopias”, ad hoc and ephemeral communities, are both appealing to tangibility-starved citizens and problematic when they lack a guiding premise.  Their very accessibility and sense of comfort — best described by the German word gemütlichkeit — is the factor that complicates their ability to meaningfully operate as conversational, connective, relational spaces.  If you are surrounded by your friends, steeped in easy bonhomie, what impetus is there for exchange that raises consciousness, provokes critical thought, or foregrounds understanding across contentious divides?  How does the artistic context, without an intent for what type of community will arise within the work, afford anything useful or more meaningful than a church picnic or a dinner party?

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