Joining the dots, contemplating cool: art, music, event
In the July to November 2007 Art/Music/Event issue, Dialogue collaborated with artist and editorial panellist Rebekka Kill to develop an issue that explored a range of hybrid and synaesthetic artistic practices. This editorial responds to Rebekka's interest in 'spaces of conviviality' and documents a range of projects located in club spaces, bars, event spaces, festivals, cabaret clubs and galleries.
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Hi Fidelity Hi, 2007
Costume, slideshow, Portable Record Player, Records, Microphone
Performance at Itchy Park, London.
I'm really interested in the amount of art and performance that seems to be happening in bars, cafes, clubs, festivals and in the streets 1. These events look a bit like performance art, or sometimes installations or video art. Often they are interactive, performative and often the audiences are invited to participate. Is this a new type of practice? Or is it just cool at the moment; the 'in thing'.
In the Tate publication Art, Lies and Videotape: Exposing Performance, performance art is characterised as 'spectacular events never recorded and iconic performances for the camera' (George, 2003, pp 11). These types of events are tracked back to happenings in 1962. I would like to start mapping these practices from a much earlier date. For Roselee Goldberg radical performance art practice began with the Futurists. She states that, 'Performance has been a way of appealing directly to a large public, as well as shocking audiences into reassessing their own notions of art and its relation to culture.' (Goldberg, 2004, pp 8). Goldberg describes how these types of performance may not happen in theatres or galleries but often shift into what she describes as an 'alternative' space - a cafe, bar or street corner. She goes on to say that 'unlike the theatre the performance is the artist'. So, here we have it, art and performance colliding in a bar. The beers are cold, the audience is ready to be shocked, there's music playing.... This space is tolerant but rebellious, it's defined by its publicness, its eventness, its liveness not by its medium or method.
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Cold Water Quartet, 2005
Live at the ICA, London, 2005
(Click on image to enlarge)
The first Futurist event happened in Trieste on the Austrian/Italian border on 12 Jan 1910 (Goldberg, 2004, pp 16). This was the beginning of a series of chaotic events that involved burning things, a fruit and vegetable battle, dancing, a rain of cigarettes, poetry, marionettes, non-sense prose, projections of mathematical equations, music, lots of manifestos and enormous home made instruments. In particular, this marked the beginning of noise music (Marinetti 2 referred to it as 'onomatopaeic artillery'). These events continued well into the 1930s, and became more elaborate. A later event included two aeroplanes that made love behind a cloud and gave birth to four human performers (Goldberg, 2004, pp 30) and in 1933 Marinetti and Masnata 3 composed a number of works for radio called the 'Futurist Radiophonic Theatre' using noise music, interference, and silence.
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I'm going to antler you, 2006
Mixed media Dimensions variable (installation)
Photo credit: Courtesy of the artists and fa projects
A collaboration with two groups of young people to create the music and costumes of imaginary rival bands the embers and the ebony angels.
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In Russia early examples of performance also included elements of music, dance and cabaret. An important moment in this type of performance was the Cabaret Voltaire that began in Zurich in 1916. In a press release Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings 4 stated that 'the idea of the cabaret will be that guest artists come and give musical performances and readings at the daily meetings. The young artists of Zurich, whatever their orientation, are invited to come along with suggestions and contributions of all kinds' (Goldberg, 2004, pp 56). What's interesting about this press release is that the initial call (if you like) was about music and readings and this provided a frame for a range of practices. These types of avant garde, DIY, cafe and bar located and music related performances can also be unearthed in the documentation on both the Bauhaus and Surrealist movements.
According to Goldberg, 'performance art, until the late 1970s, was hidden from history, not because of any deliberate omission but because it fitted no category' (Goldberg, 2004, pp 20). Furthermore, the evidence of these events is often ephemeral; a press release, a photograph of a moment or some props. These events were rarely framed by the gallery space or the curator or by the theatre or director. They were much more likely to happen in a cafe or a club in Berlin, Milan or New York.
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Worm Cam, 2004
Video cameras, video mixing desk, projectors, screens, lights, milk, molasses, flowers, snails
Photo credit: Chris Macfarlane
(Click on image to enlarge)
So, what does a cafe have that the other spaces don't? A less well defined audience, the opportunity to avoid the art crowd or theatre crowd; the audience could really be anyone. What about a bar, well, where else do you encourage the audience to get drunk while watching? And what does this do? It means that participation is much more likely and that the tract between audience and performer is lubricated. The other thing that cafes and clubs always have, that other spaces might not have, is the popular music, which exists at that a particular historical and geographical point in time.
Nicolas Bourriard, in his influential book, Relational Aesthetics
, posits a notion of relational art, that is
'an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space' (Bourriard, 2002, pp 14). This, he also characterises as essentially urban, as a game, as immediate, as a life force, as specifically sociable, he says, 'art is a state of encounter' (Bourriard, 2002, pp 18). In this editorial I am attempting to map these states of encounter in a social and historical context. As Bourriard states, 'art is a dot on a line' (Bourriard, 2002, pp 16), and this line extends in many directions; it weaves its way through our homes, our social spaces, our conversations, our thoughts, it slices through geography and history. But, where can we find this dot on a line? According to Bourriard this dot might be an object like a painting or a sculpture found in a gallery, but equally it might be found in 'meetings, encounters, events, various types of collaboration between people, games, festivals, and places of conviviality' (Bourriard, 2002, pp 28).
Lights Go On. The song of the nightclub cloakroom attendant, 2001
Single screen video projection with sound
A nightclub cloakroom attendant was asked to describe her job. These words were set to music and sung by a lead female voice backed by two other voices. This forms the soundtrack to static video shots of a nightclub on a Sunday morning.
The line that I'm drawing is not simply one that links early twentieth century practices to the contemporary practices discussed in this issue of Dialogue. It also seems to be a line that runs through a surprising number of 'spaces of conviviality'. The dots on this line include Fluxus, and happenings in the 1960s, other dots include events initiated by Glenn McKay, Sophie Calle and Vito Acconci in the 1970s, we can include Laurie Anderson, and Throbbing Gristle in the 1980s, and Mike Kelley, Liam Gillick, Jeremy Deller and Angela Bulloch in the 1990s. Indeed, Bourriard mentions many more artists whose practices scatter dots and weave lines all over the twentieth century. These artists make work in galleries, city centres, cafes, festivals and clubs. They make work in which participation is often the catalyst. Where events, appointments and invitations transform audiences into participants, or a 'society of extras' of the spectacle, as opposed to consumers. Where the work of art itself is partial and we complete it.
In this issue of Dialogue
, the writers and artists selected make or discuss, works that could be described as relational. In my audio interview with Alice Bayliss, we talk about our own practices in convivial, or party spaces and how we try as teachers and academics to integrate these practices into the curriculum and into our conferencing activity in this relational arena. We both know that 'knowledge found in clubs is an embodied knowledge that you can feel deep in your guts' (Jackson, 2004, pp 1). For us, the Digital Live Art conference, Bad Girls, Gadgets and Guerilla Performances
(10th September 2007, Leeds) is a repository for those types of multimodal, hybrid, relational practices that we might find in galleries, or theatres or clubs all over the world. However it is also a statement in action, as later in the day, as the sun goes down, we see this conference context transform into a club night and open its doors to the city.
Track 12, 2007
PC, Audio Mulch
Twelve sound pieces played in a random order.
(Click on image to enlarge and play audio clip)
Lina Dzuverovic is the co-founder and Director of Electra, a London based contemporary art agency established in 2003. In a specially commissioned article for Dialogue called 'The Love Affair Between The Museum And The Arts Of Sound. But Will It Last?' Lina discusses the way in which museums and galleries have worked with what she describes as the 'arts of sound'. These range from relatively superficial engagements, a DJ at the opening for instance, to a much more profound and faithful commitment seen in a number of recent projects and contexts. Lina speaks in a heartfelt and dedicated way about the curatorial aspects of working with the arts of sound.
On the road to my horizon, 2001
Compilation cassette tape, multiple
The tape is made up of tracks heard on the radio and tracks heard during a Road Trip across America. It was produced along with a set of drawings as a multiple for On The Road To My Horizon, (360 degrees Blue), at parkingspacegallery, Liverpool.
(Click on image to enlarge)
Vivienne Gaskin is a contemporary, interdisciplinary curator and producer with over ten years experience within the contemporary arts. Her expertise is derived from the performing arts and digital media genre, whilst spanning the complimentary fields of visual arts and event based projects. She has pioneered the genre of cultural re-enactment and she previously worked as Director of Performing Arts and Digital Media at the ICA. When you read, or listen to her interview with Lucienne Cole, you get a feel for the breadth of experience she brings with her. In this conversation she explores Cole's, highly personal and autobiographical, practice.
Michal Sapir wrote a paper for us on Mikhail Karikis. She's a writer and musician based in London. Her discussion of Karikis' work explores sonic innovation and digital manipulation of the voice, in his practice. These works are also extremely interesting in relation to the kind of hybrid forms that might be found at the Digital Live Art conference as they map the digital against the corporeal.
Binaural field recording and voice Variable
A sound-walk exploring urban navigation and daydreaming in the city of SungNam, Korea.
(Click on image to enlarge and play audio clip)
As part of this issue of Dialogue we were able to send Alan Carter to the Fierce Festival to review Duckie. If we think about that squiggly line that joins formal live art to the club space, then the dot that is Duckie is much closer to the club space end of the line. The Fierce Festival is a ten year old international performance festival based in the West Midlands. This year it has come of age and the programme included some of the most important names in live art including Ron Athey and Franko B. However, my personal favourite from the festival was a work called 'Sky Orchestra', made by Luke Jerram, Dan Jones and members of the CBSO Symphony Orchestra. In Sky Orchestra members of the orchestra performed 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', from hot air balloons, as dawn broke over the city of Birmingham.
|We are 10: Duckie gets childish|
Fierce Festival, 2007
Hidden Club, Birmingham
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Duckie is a long running club night normally based at the Vauxhall Tavern in London. Duckie celebrated Fierce's 10th birthday with party games and disco dancing, with compere Amy Lame and performance artist David Hoyle (formerly The Divine David).
So, what do all these practices have in common, and why bring a discussion of them together in this issue of Dialogue
? Firstly, I suppose, I wanted to make it clear that this type of work is not new, not a novelty and not a passing phase. These kinds of practices can be tracked back for at least a century, probably much further if we dig a little deeper. Secondly, I wanted to make a point about what I mean by 'this type of work'. These works are multidisciplinary, they are where art, performance, music, and (often urban) cultures intersect, often at an event, or an encounter. These practices are hybrid, ephemeral, difficult to document and categorise, and above all they are relational.
When I was in a recent editorial meeting for Dialogue
, someone said, 'there just isn't the critical language to talk about this work', I hope this issue proves that wrong. There is not only a critical language, but this critical language is the same language that we might use to talk about any type of practice. The notion of a lack of critical language is peculiar for two reasons. Firstly as we, in the visual arts, routinely use criticism that was designed to analyse words, and books (Derrida, Barthes, Foucault) to talk about the visual, and secondly, for me, this seems to represent a kind of snobbery. By this I mean that once art shifts into those convivial spaces, like cafes, bars, clubs, festivals, and out of the 'white cube', suddenly people seem to get nervous about its validity, its status, its academic credentials, its legitimacy. I also think that this statement about critique and language is an attempt to locate this work as low culture, as fashion, as something the 'cool kids' do, and therefore probably a passing phase, something that is so fleeting that blink and you'll miss it, that it's probably not worth thinking about. I say, there'll always be cool kids, the Futurists were very, very cool, and there'll always be art, performance, music, events, happening in clubs, bars and cafes. This work has a high profile genealogy and it's got great credentials, there are lots of dots on these lines. But, for the reasons I have already described, and also for the reasons discussed in this issue of Dialogue
very little work seems to have been done to join the dots.
Bourriard, N., (2002), Relational Aesthetics, Les Presse du Reel, Dijon.
George, A. (ed), (2003), Art, Lies and Videotape: Exposing Performance, Tate, London.
Goldberg, R., (2004), Performance: Live art since the 60s, Thames & Hudson, London.
Goldberg, R., (2003) 'Hidden From History: Performance Art and the Imagination' in George, A. (ed) (2003) Art, Lies and Videotape: Exposing Performance, Tate, London.
Jackson, P., (2004), Inside Clubbing, Berg, Oxford and New York.
1. See Situation Leeds, Razor Stiletto (Sheffield) and Latitude (Southwold, Suffolk) as examples.
2. Founder of the Italian Futurist Art movement. See futurism.org.uk/futurism.htm and tate.org.uk/collections/glossary
3. An Italian Futurist. See futurism.org.uk/futurism
4. Hugo Ball was the chief organiser of the Cabaret Voltaire, an avant-garde Dadaist club in Zurich. Some accounts cite Emmy Hennings as equal co-collaborator, some cite her as his 'wife'. See spa.ex.ac.uk/drama/dada/page7.html
Rebekka Kill, 2007