The Public Space is not Common Place - Performing the Archive

Date : Thu Mar 22nd 10am-1pm
Event : The Public Space is not Common Place - Performing the Archive
With : Snifflin' Elanor Bonny, Cowerin' Norm Smithe, Bloody Mary Rackham, Marylin the Back-Stabber, Smugglin' Lucy Smithe

The Greatest Chapter of Art History in the World.
Goldsmiths, MA Contemporary Art Theory, Critical Encounter Lab Group 3: "Yokoonoesque"

Salty Pirate Tales please

Hi pirates!
How did it go, what did it look like, how un-common was the experience. Tell us a long salty tale! Show us your scars (and perhaps link to a few pics and mixes)


after the show

hi Ruth!

Our actual performance was a bit more serious than any of the previous rehearsals we had in order to learn / practice the VS's tools. Less Yokoonesque, less pop, less anti-Bush-political... But still, it was really powerful, absolutely fit to our intuitive idea of the possibility of mixing an archive in the real time, by few different individuals, in a way it produces something new and surprising also for us, the archive's producers.

The audience was amazed, very much concentrated on what we did while mixing. My impression was they hadn't treated it as only a kind of a nice and rhytmic nothingness. They were rather attempting to simultaneously pulsate with this peculiar rhytm that VS framework allows to generate and to follow the content we were constantly infusing it with. This way somehow all of us were able to exceed the limits of traditional way of producing/presenting knowledge or experience. The tool plus our own readiness to follow its risks made us able to do it.

What was equally important for me, though, was this simple and incredible energy this whole experience generated. No longer just a college assignment - it started living its own life, with us involved, engaged completely. Sort of a permanent scar left on us by the experience :D

thanks for your help!
hope some more salty pics will be posted soon

Bloody Mary Rackham


Most of the group presentations of the 'Critical Encounter Laboratory' more or less worked out, enacted, represented their internal struggles; their unwillingness to work together; their lack of understanding what the lab was good for in the first place. Things like that. Our group had huge conflicts because strong ideas and opinions continuously clashed. But we managed to utilize the energy of these tensions for our topical discussions concerning the notions Public Space, Event, Archive etc. We had two main currents within the groups, one more strongly driven by the concern of having to meet the framework of the course in some way than the other one; thus the emergence of the question of, and especially how to, tresspassing the conventions of the institution (although Goldsmiths is perhaps one of the most unorthodox of its kind - well, then again sometimes fixed within certain self-reflexivity...but that's another story). About half of us really pushing the group wanting to have fun with the theories, to try out things, see how they'd work by actively doing something. That tension was good because it prevented us from slipping into a rather uninteresting 'anything goes' attitude.

We got obsessed with Visitors' Studio. It offered us a tool for showing in a quite open, unpredictable way our archive, opening it up even, instead of closing it by pre-ordering things etc. We began making files for it, images, movie and sound snippets. I think, in the end we had more than 600: partly of all our activities, discussions which we had continuously been recording, partly from theories we'd been working with, partly other more associative but of course still related stuff. One of the big notions became 'smuggling', understood intelectually/conceptually: moving theories, concepts, ideas, terms around, lifting them out of their original context, trying them out somewhere else... That's how we became pirates ourselves so that in the presentation each of us had some pirate accessory, like an eyeflap or, like me, a drawn beard.
Part of the underlying idea was also the problem of untranslatability/inarticulation (10 voices plus the problem of how to present truthfully what our project had been about for half a year). So therefore the attraction to cutting things up and mixing them again live during the performance. By throwing our archive into the net, it got freed and could be remixed each time anew. As we were researching into the potential of 'public space', it seemed more faithful and coherent not to close our performance by prescheduling an exclusive session on VS. Rather, we decided to leave it and hence ourselves open to possible 'outside invasion' like we had very much been during the lab process itself when we'd go on sort of field trips in order to explore what effect the exposure might have on our development....

Our audience later compared us to a jazz improvisation band, always slightly looking over to the other ones, but reacting spontaneously and in real-time builing up a climax together on that big screen. Especially with the sound we had fun because we edited all those discussions and fights and built new contexts with them, adding music and lyrics that fit like for example 'original pirate material' or 'use your body in any way you want', or slices of Dada poetry like Schwitter's Ursonate or John Cage asking 'Is sound enough? What more do I need?', or one of the situationists saying 'You have to take the notion into your own heart and redesign it according to your own principles', or Marcel Duchamp stating nasally 'Every century has a new definition of art' etc. etc.

Our live performance, however, consisted of more elements than the VS alone.
Those who weren't such proclaimed tech-nerds, teaching themselves and each other ever more new computer programs in one week, formed a very charming choir in the spirit of sound poetry. There was the idea to smuggle a public space vocally, moving it into the performance room but also twisting and distorting it, making a new space and especially involving our bodies in this...musique concrete? We recorded a big public elevator (by Greenwich foot tunnel which goes from one riverside to the other underneath the Thamse). We extracted several noises; as well of the machines as of the passengers and the lift guard('s radio). The five of the choir then practiced these noises (which of course kind of became noises in their own rights). In the performance, we'd from time to time leave the soundscape of VS continuing by mixing visual material only while the guys were performing gutturally. Also that was an improvisation between all of us. They'd react to the electronic material and we'd react back to them... sometimes even by answering with audio; sentence fragments from our archive.

Amazing what can emerge from improvising collectively, that act of being attuned to each other. The thrill of surprise: new narratives coming together to culminate and disperse again. The whole spectrum: melancholic, beautiful, hilarious, ridiculous, respect-less, threatening, tender, full of pleasure, adrenalin, shock, humour....
It seemed like, in this flow, we had found a way to exceed our archive in a way we could have not done if we had decided to keep it under control: it sort of gained a life of its own; still needing us to flow through us but only in order to traverse us and to release the potential and energy it had been smuggling along with itself. Capt'n Archive capturing and captivating us all.

Snifflin Elanor Bony

I'll add images or a mix soon.