After two days of intensive work around the topic “Accessing Performance” and condensed exchanges around our respective projects within the Academy of Finland funded research project How to Do Things with Performance, a moment for rest and reflection is a much-needed opportunity to try understand what happened. Accessing performance after the fact is nearly always difficult, although we did our best to document the workshops, presentations, discussions and performances that took place on 17th and 18th May in the studio space next to the Research Pavilion.
The experience of doing everything twice, repeating the same basic structure of workshops, seminars and performances and screenings twice was perhaps the most exhausting and exciting part of these days. We were all four of us doing either two completely different things, or then the same thing in a new variation in our seminar presentations and performances or screenings. Sharing and exploring various writing exercises during the two morning workshops was the least spectacular, but in some sense the most inspiring part. The workshops were led by Hanna Järvinen and Pilvi Porkola on the first day, and by Tero Nauha and me (Annette Arlander) on the second.
The seminars in the afternoons were probably the most fruitful for the research at hand. Hearing each other’s papers and adding comments and questions was useful. My task was mainly to provide brief introductions to the topics, to How to do things with performance? on the first day and How to do things with documentation? on the second. When listening to my colleagues well prepared and thoughtful papers I feel I should have done much more on my part.
Hanna Järvinen experimented with the format of performance lecture or lecture performance in her two versions of From Document to Performance to Document to Performance to – What? She asked what is the significance of past performance and documentation in the present and what is the role of the absences and silences in allowing for epistemological inquiry about performance, documents, and re-performance? What happens when a performance about a performance about a performance is re-performed?
Tero Nauha, in his paper Superposition of performance? proposed to shift focus from the economic apparatus, the request for accessible knowledge that is economically viable, useful and productive, into fictioning, where performance thinks, already. In his second paper, Performance thinking Nauha regarded the level of indeterminacy and indifference of performance as a practice of thought. Rather than focusing on the accessibility in knowledge or the ‘standard’ of art his presentation inquired on non-standard postures taking place in performance.
Pilvi Porkola described in her paper The Library Essays – between different spaces her project in Maunula Library, where she explores how the performative turn can be understood in the context of public institutions; how institutions can be understood as experimental places; and what performance art can do in that context. In her second presentation Porkola presented the online publication ICE-HOLE and launched its latest issue.
The performances in the evenings, despite being polished performances, where moments of artistic experimentation, too. Translating and relocating a site-specific audio work is a challenging task, as is performing live with the same raw material in ever new variations, for instance adding freshly recorded local sounds. Pilvi Porkola recreated in Fragments of Library Essays some parts of the Library project, including the recorded audio play performed in English. Tero Nauha performed A thought of performance? using a pre-recorded text on vinyl record, mixed with live sound with a Theremin and voice, demonstrating the queer cloning of some gestures of thought. For my part I (Annette Arlander) showed for the first time a compilation for screening of Animal Years 1 (2003-2009) on the first nights and Animal Years 2 (2010-2014) on the second. Watching these together with others was an important experience, although I realize I am quite bored with the work after all these years.
That is one of the problematic dimensions of accessing performance through documentation. For the artist, the act compiling and showing old works can be illuminating and necessary, but it can be frustrating, too, since it is often much more exciting to create new work. Here combining documentation and live performance can be a solution; the work has some continuation but is nevertheless constantly evolving.
What are your thoughts on accessing performance now, Pilvi?
Well, when speaking of the question of open access I have been thinking about the library as an institution, as a kind of fulfilled utopia of open access. The library institution is changing; some libraries offer today much more than books: music studios, working rooms, customers’ workstations, space and equipment for workshops, a small stage and so on. If I think for example of Library 10, in the center of Helsinki, there are many events going on there all time, like advice for seniors, Finnish language cafes, discussions, talks and workshops organized by citizens. So, how to think this change in the context of knowledge production? I read this transformation as a good example of the performative turn.
As for artistic research, I think there are still many existing forms we can use for sharing the things we do and the thoughts we have. For example, I’m happy we launched ICE HOLE – Live Art Journal issue 6 (www.icehole.fi) here at the Research Pavilion. ICE HOLE is an online magazine based on videos and texts, published by Reality Research Center (an artist society based in Helsinki). Issue 6 is created in collaboration with our research group; it is focusing on the Kick off – seminar we organised last autumn. This special issue works as a kind of documentation of that event as well as a platform to share multiple perspectives and aspects on the question how to do things with performance.