net art, video, performance

Annie Abrahams

Live or Faked.

Theme Song Revisited – After Acconci will be screened during the ISEA2012 Latin American Forum on the 22nd of September.

I found some notes on the piece and on Low Lives (published on New Media Curating mailing list) that I would like to share here again :

“One of the important things about Low Lives, is that it tries to open up webperformances to the regular art world and on the other side may help regular performance artists think about what is specific about performing using streaming. This means the festival contains a lot of performance that only sees it as a performance venue, but there are also some exceptions.

Last year I did a performance called Theme Song Revisisted – After Acconci. Acconci at the time when he made Theme Song reflected in this work on the difference between cinema and video (on the intimate qualities of video) in a time artists started using video, but when videoart in galleries and museums wasn’t accepted yet. By taking Acconci’s protocol and adding just a layer on the image with my telephone numbers I tried to stress the difference in communication possibilities between 1964 and 2011. Unlike Acconci I was available directly for contact, the public just had to call me and I would show my face, start a live conversation with who ever might call. To my surprise nobody called but my friend Helen Varley Jamieson when the performance was almost over. Of course, I thought later (and reading Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together” confirmed this) telephone has become an intimate, almost private and dangerous way to contact people.

This example illustrates an important issue in webperformance: Is it live? Isn’t it faked? Yes this time it was life.
But does it make a difference? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I have assisted in webperformances that turned out to be videos. I didn’t bother me because I believed in the story and it could have been live (fake glitches, time lapses etc. were carefully mounted in the video)
In my own work it always does make a difference. This is because I don’t tell stories, but do research :).  At the same time you can find lot of videos of my performances online. Why not? Some are proof or witnesses; some have the status of stand-alone videos others of remixes or even cinema. They are as real as the performance moments were, but they exist in a different conceptual frame and serve other goals.
Because in these performances the performers control their own image, a performance can also be staged as a live production of a video, and sometimes I think that this might be the only thing that makes it different from reality TV, but that is another subject.

For me the most important aspect of the live issue is the way it relates to control and power. Life performance always means accepting to show one’s own vulnerability, it includes the possibility of mistakes, errors, breaks, failure, etc. This absence of total control leads to extra excitement for the public (whether online or offline)”

When I showed the video of the performance in the show Training for a Better World in the CRAC in Sète, I had about two to three calls a week of amazed people checking if I really used my own phone numbers – Will people  call me again during this screening at ISEA?”

Cinzia Cremona, PhD student at the University of Westminster, London. asked me some questions about this piece by mail and on that occasion I wrote her another detail : “to be honest – I also wanted to play with my age. Giving the public only my voice and skin and then suddenly appearing as an older lady – I thought might de-stabilize my caller and so give the whole some extra “pepper” / I thought this augmented it’s potential to reveal honest human behaviour. It was a way to go against stereo types.”

More info on the Low Lives presentation at ISEA :

Read the rest of this entry »

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Networked proximities

“…  Effectively, an ambiguous play between hiding and revealing, simulation and authenticity, and intimacy and voyeurism runs through the artistic practices that emerge from digital networks. In this respect, attention must be drawn to Annie Abrahams’ body of performance work in which ‘communication’ and ‘intimacy’, in their myriad variations, become ‘problems’ in the Deleuzian sense of the term (Deleuze, 1990: 56)...”

from Networked Proximities Artcle for ISEA 2011 Istanbul by Margarida Carvalho

“This ar­ti­cle un­der­takes a crit­i­cal re­flec­tion on ex­per­i­ments with au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion in artis­tic prac­tices in­volv­ing net­worked per­for­mance and cy­ber­for­mance. The per­for­ma­tiv­ity of we­b­cam­ming and, in a more gen­eral sense, the pre­sen­ta­tion of the self and par­tic­i­pa­tion in dig­i­tal net­works are con­sid­ered in the con­text of the cur­rent in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of self-sur­veil­lance and par­tic­i­pa­tory sur­veil­lance on so­cial net­works.”

http://isea2011.sabanciuniv.edu/paper/networked-proximities

Margarida Carvalho holds a BA and a MA in Communication Sciences by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities of the New University of Lisbon (FCSH/UNL). She has been a faculty member at the School of Communication and Media Studies (Lisbon Polytechnic Institute) since 1998 where she currently lectures the courses of “Art and Communication” and “Semiology”.

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Exercises in remote collaboration – Huis Clos / No Exit – (or, “how cyberformance reveals intimacy”)

by Annie Abrahams for ISEA 2011 Istanbul

In 2009 I started the artistic research project Huis Clos / No Exit. In this project I use a specially developed interface to unite several people remotely in a shared performance space that becomes subsequently both a laboratory and a playground. The performance experiences using this interface, suggest that today’s intimacy is no longer revealed through private images but through behaviour captured in real time interactions.

Nowadays, people use webcams to film themselves and to express their ideas and feelings to the unknown other that will look at their videoblog. People rarely use their web- or phonecam to talk to someone else. The use of Skype is either very business like or restricted to family members. In Internet applications as Chatroulette people rarely exchange more than a glance. What they look for is their alter ego or an opportunity.
In her book  “Alone Together” Sherry Turkle [1] describes how we hide more and more behind technology, how intimate communications start being something to avoid rather than to look for, how smartphones help us to flee our fear for the other, how we learn to control our relations via interfaces and how we are adapting our behaviour to this new situation.
Facebook teaches us how to simulate intimacy, how to make relations easy, clean, and without danger.  At the same time these relations also become superficial and makes us ask: Who are we when we don’t perform? Why can’t we show our vulnerable, messy sides? Why can’t I be boring and cherish solitude anymore?
In a society where authenticy and privacy become endangered it is important to find ways to access our vulnerabilities and doubts, to make them public, to cherish our messy side, to make place for the beast in the beauty, to go back to reality, to claim the human.

In 1998 I worked with at least 8 other French artists, I never met, on a collaborative website called lieudit.org . The site and the collective died in 2000 but I still have very nice memories of for instance our IRC rendez-vous during the launches of the virtual exhibitions we organised. Collaborating in a shared website was very stimulating, but in the end we couldn’t find a common goal to make us negotiate better our differences and so we split up. It was very frustrating to learn that behind our machines we couldn’t overcome these political and philosophical and emotional differences, that problems were exaggerated and stayed insurmountable.

This was the first time I noticed that collaboration using machine wasn’t easier, maybe not more difficult either, but different from ordinary face to face communication. Later experiences with online collaborative creation interfaces as for instance Furtherfield’s VisistorsStudio confirmed this.

So when in the early 2000 people started talking, dreaming and glorifying the advantages of Internet collaborations, I was very doubtful and somewhat vexed and decided to start thinking about how to use the recently developed streaming interface of panoplie.org for working on these problems. (1)

In telematic performances intimacy is not there where you think it is. The Big Kiss performed with Mark River (of MTAA) in New York in 2007 [2]  might have looked as an intimate performance, but in fact it was closer to a “drawing à deux” session than to a real kiss. (even if it did awake intimate feelings as drawing on paper of a kiss might have done too). In the telematic performance “One the puppet of the other” with Nicolas Frespech (Paris 2007) [3], we felt most intimate, most close together when we didn’t exchange, when we were waiting, when nothing happened.

In 2008 I started Huis Clos / No Exit :  A networked performance series investigating collaboration  at a distance – the project was also about relational dynamics in a dispersed group. [4]  With an interface developed by Clément Charmet (panoplie.org) and Estelle Senay (x-réseaux – Théâtre Paris Villette) I could unite the images and sounds of the webcams of up to 6 participating performers in a mosaic. The physically separated performers could share borders and interaction surfaces in a common virtual space and become co-responsible for the mosaic image projected in front of the public during performances. At all times they had this same mosaic image on their screen.

A first experiment took place in November 2008 in the International Laboratory Interactive digital media on stage organized by NU2’s in L’Animal a l’Esquena, in Celrà, Spain. In one of the tests I asked three performers to execute a protocol that stated that, before leaving the performance interface they were to compliment the others after having insulted them. It was strange and beautiful to see how they couldn’t stop complimenting and saying nice things to another. Later I became more and more aware of how the performance interface, besides allowing observation of behaviour in collaboration and auto-organisation, can also reveal private, intimate behaviour to the public. The cyberperformers are so occupied by their interactions, that they don’t have time to negotiate their image as they mostly do on the Internet.

I talked about machine-mediated  revelation of intimacy in an interview with Maria Chatzichristodoulou published in Digimag in Oct 2010. [5]

I always look for situations that make any attempt at escaping from exposure impossible. In general I do not rehearse my pieces. If this is necessary –for instance, due to technical reasons­– I write new protocols for the final performance. I try to find ways to penetrate the other performer –just for a second I want them to expose themselves to me (and to our observers) in an action, or a response, that is out of their control. I want them to unveil something they usually hide or only disclose in situations of complete trust, of complete intimacy. I want to know how they function, not by them telling me, but by me almost forcing them to reveal an instance of their ‘hidden code’ in public. I want us to go beyond self-representation and the control that this requires. Am I really forcing them to do this?… No I am not. What happens is that the situation in itself –that is, the telematic performance interface, the protocols, the flaws in the streaming connections– rewrites the conditions of communication in a way that makes this revelation possible, if not inevitable.”

Because I think we need to counterbalance the tendencies to make our Internet-mediated relations cleaner, faster and more and more secure I started paraphrasing Rancière “The real needs to be trapped in order to be available for thought”. [6] (2)

Notes

(1) From 2006 – 2009 I organised with panoplie.org the Breaking Solitude and later the Double Bind webperformance series . While they started out as performances around the idea of the internet as a public space of solitude they became more and more involved with experimenting “different ways of being together” What can we share, what do we share, how are we interacting and what is this technology doing to us? http://2008.panoplie.org/2008.panoplie.org/#//DoubleBind

(2) Because the Huis Clos / No Exit interface makes people film their own image, a collaborative cyberformance using it can also be staged as a live production of  an autonomous video, available for reflexion. http://bram.org/huisclos/toutvabien/indexang.html

References

[1] Sherry Turkle, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” (New York: Basic Books, 2011).

[2] Annie Abrahams, “The Big Kiss”, 2007, http://www.bram.org/toucher/TBK.html (accessed September 7, 2011).

[3] Annie Abrahams, Nicolas Frespech, “One the puppet of the Other”, 2007, http://www.bram.org/confront/sphere/indexeng.html (accessed September 7, 2011).

[4] Annie Abrahams, “Huis Clos / No Exit”,  2009, http://bram.org/huisclos/indexang.html (accessed September 7, 2011).

[5] Maria Chatzichristodoulou, “Annie Abrahams, Allergic to utopias”, Digimag 58 October 2010, http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=1902 (accessed September 7, 2011).

[6] Rancière Jacques, Le Partage du sensible. Esthétique et politique (Paris: La Fabrique, 2000)

Panel : Intimate TV: Webcamming & Social Life-logging In the Surveillant-Sousveillant Space.
Chair: Paula Roush, Maria Lusitano
Presenters: Annie Abrahams, Margarida Carvalho, Cinzia Cremona, Eunice Gonçalves Duarte, Helen Varley Jamieson
Date: Sunday, 18 September, 2011 (13:00 – 14:30)
Location: Sabanci Center,  Room 3, Levent

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ISEA2011 Intimate TV etc.

Panel Intimate TV: Webcamming & Social Life-logging In the Surveillant-Sousveillant Space

Chair: Paula Roush, Maria Lusitano
Presenters: Annie Abrahams, Margarida Carvalho, Cinzia Cremona, Eunice Gonçalves Duarte, Helen Varley Jamieson

Date: Sunday, 18 September, 2011 (13:00 – 14:30)
Location: Sabanci Center,  Room 3, Levent
Report by RadioCona

Annie Abrahams’s presents: Exercises in remote collaboration – Huis Clos / No Exit – (or, “how cyberformance reveals intimacy”).
(My presence at the ISEA 2011 is made possible by the Roberto Cimetta Fund)

Panel SENSORIUM: Interdisciplinary Practices of Embodiment and Technology

Chair: Janis Jefferies
Presenters: Ghislaine Boddington, Maria Chatzichristodoulou, Anna Dumitriu

Date: Sunday, 18 September, 2011 (09:00 – 10:30)
Location: Sabanci Center,  Room 1, Levent

Maria Chatzichristodoulou presents: Annie Abrahams’s Experiments in Intimacy

Panel: 6×6/36 : An Artists Book/Exhibition project

Chair: Cyril Thomas
Presenters: Jean-Luc Soret, Clarisse Bardiot, Annick Bureaud

Date: Wednesday, 14 September, 2011 (13:00 – 14:30)
Location: Sabanci Center, Room 3, Levent

At ISEA 2011 in Istanbul, the French-based Collectif NUNC (Clarisse Bardiot, Annick Bureaud, Jean-Luc Soret and Cyril Thomas) is launching the first notebook in the 6 X 6 / 36 series on the theme of mobility.

The six participating artists are : Annie Abrahams, Beatriz da Costa, Nicolas Frespech, Antti Laitinen, Albertine Meunier, Servovalve.

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