Accessing Performance

Preparations for “Accessing Performance”, a two-day event on Wednesday May 17th and Thursday May 18th in the Artistic Research Pavilion on Giudecca, are in full swing in the studio space neighbouring the exhibition. Access is key: access to the space is possible when the right key is found, access to the local internet is granted with the proper password, and then there are all the technical practicalities of access such as finding the right adapter between the HDMI cable and a USB port to connect the computer with the video projector, to find the right cables for the loudspeakers and the computer and so on. This is all mundane and simple compared with the adjustments needed in building the complicated performance instrument consisting of a record player, a theremin, a sampler and more that Tero Nauha constructs for his performance “A thought of performance?” Meanwhile, Pilvi Porkola is setting up a tiny skeleton sitting on a book, photographing it for an updated version of the poster for her Library Essays, an audio work translated into English for this occasion. At the other side of the studio, Hanna Järvinen is finding access to her laptop, a challenge at this day and age when the tools we use are the property of the institutions that employ us and limit our access to what files can be moved where. As the video refuses to be embedded in the plans, circumvention of the technical controls is required, a simple hack that allows documentation of a past performance be included in this performance.

Both days have a full program, divided into three sections, all of which can be attended separately. In the mornings, from 10 to 12 there is an open workshop on performative writing and related practices. After a break for lunch, from 14 to 16 there is an afternoon seminar, featuring presentations related to the Academy of Finland funded research project How To Do Things With Performance. And in the evenings, from 18 to 21, there are performances and screenings. Besides Pilvi Porkola’s Library Essays and Tero Nauha’s A Thought of Performance, Annette Arlander will screen her video works Animal Years 1 (2003-2009) on Wednesday and Animal Years 2 (2010-2014) on Thursday, making this the first occasion where the whole series is shown consecutively.

So, Hanna, how does it feel to prepare for this event today?

As someone dealing with documents of past events and documentation of presentations, limits posed by both copyright and technology are a constant frustration. It is one of the points of this Research Pavilion that there is a tension between Open Access and art. Open Access is an ideal in academe, but it is in a perverse relation to art and to copyright: an artist should be able to make a living with their work, and the aura of the art work has traditionally relied on limited access, as Walter Benjamin noted.

Performance art in particular is all about its ontological scarcity – the fact that you had to be at a particular place and at a particular time to really have access to a particular work. Yet, paradoxically, artists and academics are all in the same boat, today. Open Access rests on the idea that the researcher does not make any money out of what they produce, that their salary is paid by an institution – which is increasingly not the case. In Finland, over 70% of teaching and research faculty is on short-term contracts, most with no hope for tenure or even career development. Academics are becoming like the artists whose work seems to be important only when it lines the pockets of institutions. In the case of academe, these are the international publishing conglomerates that demand payment in exchange for access: either access in the form of payment for publications or payment for imagined revenues lost in exchange for publication as Open Access.

For artists and researchers alike, current copyright law seems only to serve the dead, their heirs, and the institutions owning the actual product we others strive to access. Technology creates only further obstacles, particularly apparent today when the document on the institution’s property – the machine I used to edit a document of a performance I was taking part in making – tells me I have no rights to access. At the moment I placed the documentation into the machine that is the institution, the reverse of Benjamin’s dream of loss of aura took place: the work acquired a scarcity unimaginable at the time that Benjamin was imagining his utopia of technological reproducibility.

And Tero, what are your expectations?

The performance is a complicated apparatus, which makes it so exciting. I am interested in the gesture of thought, which is not correlated with philosophical thought, or philosophising. So, performance is not only based on these forms of thought based on philosophy, which is somewhat decisional and in that way how we build the world in every instant through decisions. The decision cuts and produces the world, the world that it is reflecting on. So, performance has this also, which makes it accessible, but it is also something we can analyse, reduce or reflect upon and withdraw from. Still, I have built an apparatus, which seems to be expanding. At first, some time ago, it was only my voice recorded on the vinyl record, and then the experimentation with Theremin was joined with it. Very recently, I have joined a simple sample sequencer with this apparatus. It is something that I can barely control, and I have very little access to all of its possibilities. But, through this, I have come to realise, that I am not interested in possibilities or potentialities, but in the virtual and inaccessibility. That is, something that will not be in my control of decision, but each and every time creates something else. The apparatus thinks in the same gesture, where I am partaking in it as a one, rather limited and decisional operator. I am not able to reflect on the performance while I am in it. Moreover, the afterthought is another kind of register. So, what I am interested in this is that performance is for quite the most part inaccessible for reflection, but at the same time the performance is really thinking while doing it’s thing — saying what it’s doing and doing what it’s saying.

(to be continued)

 

 

Word from Commissioner Anita Seppä

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Uniarts Helsinki’s Research Pavilion for artistic research opens its doors in Venice on 10 May, the same day as when the Venice Biennale opens. The Pavilion’s venue Sala del Camino, a beautiful ex-monastery located in the Island of Giudecca, is an ideal place for art exhibitions, as well as workshops, concerts, performances and artistic interventions. Just on the other side of the Canal lies Giardini, the heart of the Biennale, with its energetic art tourists and souvenir shoppers. The island of Giudecca that’s surrounding the Research Pavilion, on the other hand, has a very different atmosphere: it is characteristically domestic and quiet.

Two years ago, in this uniquely rich cultural environment we hosted the first Research Pavilion under the theme Experimentality. The Pavilion for 2017 builds off of that, but also presents a radically new concept. First of all, the Research Pavilion will be a distinctly shared project, a joint effort set up by the talented people from all the academies of Uniarts Helsinki: the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy. As such, the Pavilion will extend its scope to cover not only fine arts, but also music, performing arts, dance and theatre.

Second, this year’s Research Pavilion has a strong Nordic presence. We have invited the central networks of artistic research in Sweden and Norway (altogether 22 arts institutions of higher education), and their representatives Ingrid Elam, Cecilie Broch Knudsen and Geir Strøm are members in our Scandinavian steering group. This group of experts serves as an advisory body in the project and will also contribute to future strategic planning. In this political climate, as new walls are built up on a daily basis to hinder free mobility and international cooperation around the globe, it feels especially important to intensify the cultural partnerships between our closest neighbours and other transnational networks.

During the summer of 2017, the Research Pavilion will host three art exhibitions, which also present new international forms of collaboration with the famed Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Zurich University of the Arts. In addition, the tremendously interesting series of artistic research activities called Camino Events will bring over a hundred professionals and students from around the world to Venice as guests of Uniarts Helsinki.

The first exhibition in the Research Pavilion is You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access, which will give thirteen Nordic doctoral students the chance to work on this year’s theme of the Pavilion, the Utopia of Access. In July-August, Florian Dombois from Zurich University of the Arts will go to the lagoons of Venice on a boat with golden sails to collect material that he’ll use to build a wind tunnel in the Pavilion for his exhibition, Galleria del Vento. The final exhibition Hauntopia/what if features works by doctoral students from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. They will study traces of “ghosts” of the past and their effects on both the present time and our utopias of the future.

The Research Pavilion will articulate to an international audience how contemporary artistic researchers and researchers in the arts process topical questions and utilize fresh methodologies with respect to the theme Utopia of Access.  During the summer of 2017 we’ll see how experts of fine arts, music, dance, theatre, performing arts and curating produce art, research and pop-up events in the Pavilion and the surrounding urban space. Without a doubt the outcome will surprise us, in one way or another, as is to be expected when it comes to utopias.