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... Nowiswere refers to the unrepresentable state of ‘now’, its sublimity. Now evokes and challenges the one with a dedicated presence: Involving and evolving in, not judging and claiming... Nowiswere will be accumulating ‘now’s of recent past, sourcing arts, music and any social interactions or events. It will be the gathering of (re)productions engaging a critical perspective and revising the norms of criticality every now and then.
Cover commissioned by Rudolf Steckholzer © 2008
Impressum: Co-Editors: Veronika Hauer, Fatos Üstek Contributors: Heman Chong, Maria Diekmann,Veronika Hauer, Henriette Heise, Charles Heller, Adeena Mey, Marianne Mulvey, Flora Peyrer-Heimstätt, Fatos Üstek, Ola Wlusek, Manuela Zechner Layout: Luca Hauer Contact: email@example.com www.nowiswere.blogspot.com
TH The Location of Now............................................4 Charles Heller TH Untitled...................................................................6 Henriette Heise AS Stefan Saffer.........................................................10 Marianne Mulvey CC Laughing a loss of critical distance...................12 Veronika Hauer TH The Visible And The Invisible...............................16 Flora Peyrer-Heimstätt CC Sarah Beddington.................................................18 Ola Wlusek EF How to overcome geographical attributions of art practice OR How to construct a what-ever community..................................................20 Fatos Üstek EF For Immediate Release........................................25 Heman Chong CC Taku Sugimoto......................................................26 Maria Diekmann CC Jimmy Robert........................................................28 Veronika Hauer TH I will have spoofed the future............................30 Manuela Zechner CC Can Altay...............................................................32 Fatos Üstek CC It says what it does on the tin............................34 Adeena Mey THematics: hosting texts up to 1000 words or image material of four pages, focusing on a single theme. EF Expecting Future: Is a sub section of THematics, hosting texts pointing out possibilities of future and positioning the potentials of the to-come-true. As expecting future requires awareness of present, the section will be the gathering of the today’s variety of practices, attitutes, tendencies... AS Artist Specials: hosting evaluations on or interviews with artists. CC Critics’ Corner: hosting reviews on current exhibitions, performances, events, happenings...
The Location of Now
April 2008 ‘Now is where’. My misreading of the title of this online journal sparks a number of questions. Isn’t ‘now’ the moment of political transformation? The instant a struggle crystallises, and brakes the empty time of the status quo? If ‘now’ is the moment not to miss, in which dreams and nightmares come into being or/and crumble, my misreading also points to the question of the location of that moment. But the ‘where’ of ‘now’ has no evident answer in a time when location itself is recognized to be unbound and in flux.1 Furthermore, such an inquiry - taken up by many social scientists, activists and artists as they engage with the struggles of other social groups within a same space or in another - is fraught with problems: the first being that in a world characterised by unprecedented economic, political and cultural inequalities, such an enquiry necessarily entails entering hierarchical relations. These are questions, which are not so new as they constantly demand to be reactivated if critical practices wishing to engage with the struggles of others are not to crumble under their own contradictions. The work of JeanLuc Godard may be of some help in this endeavour. ‘Now is where’, almost automatically recalls the title of Godard’s, Miéville’s, and Gorin’s 1972 film Ici et Ailleurs (Here and Elsewhere), on the struggle of Palestinians. But Godard had already addressed this problematic in his 1967 manifesto-like section of the film Loin du Vietnam: Camera Eye. Loin du Vietnam was an anti-imperialist collective film coordinated by Chris Marker, which brought together - among others - directors William Klein, Agnès Varda, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Luc Godard. Overall, the film relies mostly on a documentary aesthetic with directors showing images of the imperial war against the Vietnamese and their resistance. Godard’s section starts out looking very similar to the previous contributions: scenes of the war, sounds of explosions, punctuated by flashes of light. But as the camera zooms out and we discover Godard behind his camera on the roof of a Parisian apartment, he comments: ‘Well, I think that if I was a news cameraman, this is what I would have filmed. But I live in Paris. I never went to Vietnam.’2 Godard had attempted to go to Vietnam, but his demand was rejected by the North Vietnamese delegation in Paris. This refusal proved to him that since he lived in Paris, there was no reason not to do cinema in Paris, without abandoning transmitting the cry of the Vietnamese people and struggling against imperialism.This meant, rather then invading Vietnam with a false generosity, ‘to let Vietnam invade us, to see what place it occupies in our daily lives, everywhere’. For the moviemaker like him self, it was necessary to struggle against the economic and aesthetic imperialism of American cinema. This is a paradoxical piece, which both uses the images of Vietnam it criticizes -somehow subcontracting the problematic work of going to Vietnam and confronting TH + 4
hierarchical relations- and actually does what it advocates: breaking with the means of production and distribution as well as the content and aesthetics of American cinema. In this position, Godard is close to that proposed by Walter Benjamin, for whom the solidarity of the cultural producer with workers on strike remained reactionary as long as it was expressed in terms of content - for instance by showing the workers on strike - and not as a revolutionary practice in the field of cultural production itself.3 And yet again Godard does not abandon completely giving an echo to the struggle of the Vietnamese. Rather, as he mentioned in an interview, he considered that in order to speak of others, it was necessary to also speak of one’s own social condition and the ideas related to it.The aim was to ‘speak of one’s self in order to better listen to others’.4 Ici et Ailleurs represents another take on this question. The film was initially shot in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in 1970, and was to be called Victory. But shortly after, all the actors had been killed, making the initial combative tone impossible. It is only in 1972 that Godard would finish the film with Anne-Marie Miéville. As in Camera Eye, the motives of the film crew are considered critically: ‘We wanted to crow victory right away, and furthermore at their place’ says Godard’s voice over. Miéville’s continues: ‘If we wanted to make the Revolution for them, it’s perhaps because at that time we didn’t really want to make it where we are, instead of where we aren’t.’5 But contrary to Camera Eye, here Godard actually went on site and filmed himself, thus confronting hierarchical relations which are self-critically scrutinized. As Godard’s voice introduces a young Palestinian woman who is ‘proud to give her son to the revolution’, Miéville interrupts: in the scene, she argues, the most interesting are Godard’s injunctions, shaping the voice and body of the woman: ‘Can you say it one more time? Would you straighten your head a little?’. She continues: ‘It’s always the one who is directed that is seen, never the one who is directing. The one that commands and gives orders is never seen.’ The relation established between the director and his interlocutor is thus shown to be highly hierarchical and manipulative. Ici et Ailleurs then offers a second position, one which confronts enquiring into the struggles of others and shooting documentary footage, but refuses to make the struggle of others the main focus of the film. Rather Ici et Ailleurs is as much a film on the problems of filming people located in distant countries then it is on the Palestinian struggle. What these two projects by Godard point to is not to abandon ‘looking for now there’ - inquiring into the struggles of other social groups and locations, and giving an echo to them. But his practice reminds us that this engagement should be self critical of the hierarchical relations we are necessarily inscribed in in a hierarchical world. And if changing the overall context which determines these relations is not within our immediate grasp, the least one can do is criticize them by indexing those we enter ourselves. Finally inquiring into the
struggles of other social groups should not blind us to the immediate struggles related to our own conditions. Now may be here and elsewhere - in other countries and social groups as well as in our own practice. Now will be wherever a ‘we’ emerges that is strong enough to create it.
1 See for instance Appadurai, Arjun, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 2 Translation of the writer. 3 Benjamin, Walter, ‘The Author as Producer’, New Left Review, I/62, July-August 1970, pp. p.3. URL: http://newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=135 4 Godard, Jean-Luc, Godard par Godard, Des années Mao aux années 80, Paris: Flammarion, 1991, pp. 120. 5 Translation by Freakyflicks, 2007. URL: http://thepiratebay.org/ tor/3650100/
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Henriette Heise Untitled dry point 2008
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KATE MACGARRY, London April 2008 Dear Stefan, You spoke about dialogue and theatre that night at your opening in Kate MacGarry gallery. Now I’m trying to remember exactly what was said: did you mean actual conversation – or imagined? I went back to the gallery again to look at your curious sculptures on their purple carpet backdrop, and engage in a dialogue with them. All alone in the space this time, it was so quiet that I noticed the sharp ticking of the clock: its face hidden underneath a big orange box, with the chimes hanging down. I heard a feeble cuckoo coming from inside it that made me smile. Presiding over the whole episode the hidden clock creates a peculiar tension, frustrating it’s usual time-telling. Functionally dysfunctional, it is a recognisable stage device that borders on cliché, the sound effect signals something about to happen.Time passes tick tock tick tock in this unreality waiting for moment when – And what would it be like to walk on stage and interrupt a performance? I had the notion it could be like interrupting the flow of words as you explained your work. We couldn’t get a word in edge-ways, all these wonderful concepts spilling out of your mouth fast and furious. Various people tried delicately to intervene and offer their greetings and compliments about the show, but you weren’t reachable. I was captivated by Bertolt Brecht’s notion of Epic Theatre: rather than providing an imitation of life, a play must allow the audience and actors to make judgements on it, through the representation. Engagement with ideas is actualised through performance and thought. On my return to the gallery I too tested those ideas you presented. Stepping boldly onto the carpet running from the top of the far wall in a regal swathe to the opposite floor, I found myself on a stage for sculptures and spectators alike. I walked right up to the object-actors – each one carefully cut, felt and placed – and mingled amongst them. Out of a clumsy hole cut right through the carpet a small block extended, decorated with coloured dribbles running down its sides, with a head-massager stuck on top. It was both alien and familiar: the delicate fronds reaching out and glinting in the spotlight taunting me with remembrances of those creeping tendrils lifting the roots of my hair, stimulating the scalp beneath and sending hundreds of minute shivers all over my head. And down there tugging at my knees a box like an open mouth with colouring pencil teeth asks me to laugh at its absurd joke. You spoke of a certain Bauhaus aesthetic. On closer inspection a pure line of red paint has a hand-painted wobbly edge: how pleasing it is to notice this touch of humanity quietly to oneself. Crouching down, breathing silently on your sculptural assemblages atop their wonky scaffolding supports, the soft rough edges of shapes presented themselves to me
unabashed. Splinters sticking out, paint soaked into woodgrain or lying in visible strokes on the undulating card. They reminded me of how we reveal our rough edges and fluctuating surfaces to one-other for mutual appreciation. Consciously I turned to address these works, as to a fellow actor about to deliver her lines, and thought myself into a play. (My dreams of dramatic interruption are less frequent now. I often used to find myself unexpectedly on the set of a soap-opera, compelled to begin speaking. Words and words and words pouring forth as soon as I got into character –such dreamed improvisational experience was simultaneously embarrassing and liberating-. Taking my place in the frozen little mis-en-scene, I tried to adopt their pose, and invent something equally innovative where these actors left off. Upstage right a broom leant nonchalantly against the wall accidentally left behind perhaps by the crew. In place of bristles are the pages of a book entitled ‘The Middle Classes’, which will sweep away the nightly detritus of performance, knowledgeable words brushing up against the incoherence of those irregular carpet letters. You said something about your hand-cut capitals representing our perfect inability to make sense: an acquisition of language that fails to elucidate the experience of the object-actors in the scene. Meaning that strokes meaninglessness, cleaning and sustaining it. Like the broom mixing up all the words, I’m adlibbing wildly around your concepts. But I overheard something else about Brecht last week: it is those who participate in the drama that are transformed by the action of play, not those who look on from the lip of the stage, or that empty runway between the gallery door and office. As both audience and actor in your scene, I exited downstage right, this unreality quite uninterrupted by my little improvisation, the clock still ticking away.
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Image source: Stefan Saffer Installation View
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Photo: Mussacchio / Laniell
Laughing a loss of critical distance The Show Must Go On (2001) by Jérôme Bel
All essays will start with an anecdote.1 Let me map out the circumstances that brought me here. I am hosting a friend who is visiting me in London. Back in Vienna we shared a preference for dance performances and even before she arrives she lets me know that she wishes to join tonight’s performance of Jérôme Bel‘s The show must go on (2001). I have heard neither recommendations nor premonitions about the piece. I have no expectations. I have never been to this theatre and I will be late. I jump off the train, bump into each and ever one of my fellow passengers and dash down from Angel towards the street where I assume the theatre to be. I arrive just in time, to see the imaginary curtain rise. Slightly sweating I unzip my jacket and rip off my sweater. The show starts but the lights remain unlit. By the time the performers enter the stage we have all gone through 5 minutes of absolute darkness listening to Tonight (West Side Story). As if this hadn’t been enough, Tonight is followed by 6 minutes of a fade-up of lights going along with Let The Sun Shine In (Hair). Finally, to my relief, I recognize an element of dance performance slowly invading the stage: 18, performers,
men and women casually dressed, non-professionals mingled with half steeled dancers. The following choreography will involve me over the next 90 minutes or so in an intense form of positioning and participation. Not the kind of participation you have to leave your seat for. Rather a participation of the voice. The piece aims to entertain its audience by utilizing means of slapstick, triggering laughter due to an exaggeration and repetition of dance and movement. In The show must go on, grace and professionalism swap places with the most conceivable simple dance movements accompanied by a soundtrack of common pop songs. The audience remains puzzled, torn between the request for a much higher level of entertainment and the merriment that spills over by being ‘just’ entertained. After the first wave of enthusiasm about the choreography’s straightforward entertainment has ebbed away, doubts arise, whether such a both affective and effective engagement (laughter and music) could provide the audience with something more than pleasure and delight. My doubt extends in regard to the couple sitting next to me. With folded arms, seriously watching, they literally keep their spectatorship during the entire duration of the performance. Looking at them, I wonder if I have missed an essential detail due to my affective involvement in the show? Have I lost the insight into the greater truth inscribed in the content of this piece due to my affirmative engagement?
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The show must go on arrives as a choreographed assemblage of pop songs,2 ‘which each and every one of us can hum and which play as much with our collective as with our individual memories.’3 For the duration of each song, the performers follow a very minimal choreography, either literally dictated by the lyrics of the song or by dance movements contingent on the song that have become part of our collective memory. Affected by the tune’s melodies the viewer is automatically fed with associations, feelings of empathy and sympathy. Whenever a song sounds the theatre voices are raised acknowledging their recognition either in accordance or rejection. Sighs, laughter and applause follow. When Krassimira Kruschkova writes in her review on the performance: ‘The production is literally diverted into the imagination’4, she not only refers to the very little theatrical references used,5 providing the piece with a simplicity that throws the audience back to interpretation and projection in full strength. Kruschkova also refers to the oddles of imagery the spectators have brought to this theatre and which they now immerse, given the flatness of the piece. ‘Jérôme Bel thus abandons the show to the idea of the show.’6 Or as Gerald Siegmund has described Bel’s use of words, language, script and the body of the dancers: ‘Not to be a body and then have words, but to be words and only through them to have a body (…). The bodies of his dancers are letters and words which are written on the stage as on a sheet of paper.’7 Hence one could say, that the idea of a show is predetermined through the lyrics of the songs, written on the stage by the bodies of the performers. Bel literally choreographs the piece according to the lyrics of the songs. Even more, he seems to have picked the songs in accordance to what it needs to build a classical show upon. To regain one’s critical distance It took me a few days to regain the distance it needs to write about a performance. Akin to the assumptions Amelia Jones has made in her investigation on whether the writer of a scholarly investigation must have actually seen the performance under consideration or could equally be informed by reading about it, I found it infeasible to start my analyses while being still strongly ‘embedded’ in the preceding course of events.8 The reason for this lack of distance was of course that I didn’t want to tear apart what I had found wonderful and towards which I had committed myself strongly. Maybe exactly due to my affection, seen from the required distance, I felt that there seemed to remain not too much to write about. During the performance I had been strongly influenced and absorbed by the music and I had laughed very heartedly alone and together with my fellow audience members. But while moments of joyful affirmation sounded the theatre I occasionally felt the need to laugh about the literality Bel had built his choreography upon. Due to this counter laughing and giggling, my affection became slightly diverted and I could distance myself again from the emotional engagement I seemed trapped in. In fact
I desperately hoped of this bodily involvement (laughter) to have the power to interrupt my emotional engagement (laughter) threatening to ruin the remainder of my critical distance towards this piece. Carnival The show must go on is full of bodily elements, which provoke an affirmative laughing reaction, very familiar to the affirmation at work in carnival laughter described by Mikhail Bakhtin. During the 4th song, I Like To Move It, by Real to Reel, each performer moves one part of his/her body while laughing with their mouths open wide. They move their genitals, behinds, tongues, legs, arms, eyes and every other moveable part of their bodies. Their literal performance of the song’s lyrics mocks the representational character of the theatre and the differentiation between spectators and performers, professionals and non-professionals. It makes fun of the audience’s expectations towards dance performance to represent something different from the choreographies we inhabit in reality or in our fantasies. But while mocking these official representational structures, the choreography doesn’t shame the audience for its expectations, but produces pleasure in allowing it to indulge the banal and simple steps performed on stage.9 Besides the many passages where the audience’s affirmative laughter resembles the carnival laughter described by Bakhtin, there appear also moments of minor laughter among the audience and on stage.10 While I Want Your Sex, by George Michael, the performers stand at the edge of the stage looking around in the auditorium as if in search of a potential sexual partner. Some members of the audience, possibly friends or relatives of the performers, try to make them laugh in distracting them with explicit gestures and insinuations. Even though the performance is quite lowthreshold concerning the stage characters the performers inhabit, there exists still a lot of the theatrical apparatus that is likely to break down by the corpsing of the performers. In regard of this example, I would like to emphasize that minor laughter not only happens either in the spotlight or in the darkness of the auditorium, but can also result from an aimed interaction between audience and performers used as a feature of participation to intentionally manipulate and disturb a performance. This possibility of interaction results from the space created and given to the audience by Bel in The show must go on. Tim Etchells has described this space as a space within which everything could happen anytime.11 It is the space where the individual gets the chance to involve herself, to transgress the threshold that normally divides auditorium and stage. In that sense, The show must go on is not only the place were one becomes aware of the possibility to participate, but where one actually participates, using one’s own tool, the voice. In the ongoing call for participation, whether as an attempt to activate a mode of seemingly passive spectatorship by disrupting the narrative or whether to involve the audience more physically in the process of creation, I would like to
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define more precisely how laughter positions itself as a tool of participation. * * * As I have mentioned above, to laugh during a performance clearly stops the laugher from being a spectator and positions her in a variety of relations towards the performance, communicating towards both the exporters and other viewers of the ongoing performance. Although Brecht used comedy and laughter to distract the audience from the narrative, I believe that being an audience today already implies a high awareness of keeping a distanced spectatorship. In that sense, laughter might have the opposite effect as Brecht imagined and drag us into the performance instead of distancing us from it. Especially affirmative laughter temporarily raises emotions and captures the laugher in a state of bodily involvement that might be comparable to emotional absorption. It is only when laughter exhausts itself that the laugher/viewer regains control over herself and the capability to watch the events from a distance. What lies at the heart of the distinctions between distanced/absorbed, active/ passive, interior/exterior, and what I deeply experienced being a spectator/participant of The show must go on, is the question whether one knows more when watching from the outside or whether one knows more when participating from the inside. Jacques Rancière has suggested recently in his investigation of spectatorship in the theatre,12 to end these common distinctions by accepting the spectator as an emancipated spectator and cease the attempts to categorise her as an ignorant pupil in need to be instructed and taught in the theatre. Instead he proposes to accept her as capable of her own decisions, associations and interpretations of the events on stage in relation to what she has brought to the theatre: her own history and knowledge. Laughter participates in this process of interpretation and association. It both involves the laugher and distances her soon afterwards, when one is left alone confronted with the remainder of this strong feeling that will affect the forthcoming happenings even after its disappearance. In that sense, laughter inhabits an ambivalent position, carrying a deep scepticism of the laugher herself, biased about the unserious and merely entertaining aspects of the phenomenon. I therefore suggest that due to this ambivalence of the phenomenon, although we involve in laughter, we remain to some degree distanced, conscious of this involvement as possibly manipulative on our spectatorship. Therefore laughter serves as a means of participation, that both contributes to the performance on stage and to the spectatorship of the individual. * * * This ambivalence of stepping in and stepping back, affirming and distancing, uniting with the other viewers and giggling in isolation might also be inherent in the position laughter inhabits as a voice. Laughter takes up a threshold position, between phone and logos.13 Phone, the mere voice, ‘is what animals and men have in common, it is the animal part of
man. It can indicate only pleasure and pain, experiences shared by both animals and humans.’14 Logos, expresses as well as ‘manifests the advantageous (useful) and the harmful, and consequently the just and the unjust, the good and the evil.’15 Laughter thus inhabits the position of an utterance on the threshold between phone and logos. The laugher enjoys sending a signal to her environment that unveils something about herself, but at the same time doesn’t include words and hence does not have the same impact as a verbal utterance. In that sense laughter, although it serves as a legible gesture of communication doesn’t position the laugher in a comparable rigid framework as speech does. In the realm of the theatre the assemblage of laughing voices, ambivalent in their longing to participate loudly and individually but yet hidden in their collectiveness and covert by the darkness of the auditorium, constitutes a power that defines the space of the audience. This collective power might not result in an accurate action to suddenly penetrate fully the membranes16 that surround the ‘modern bounded self’ due to ‘nineteenthcentury biology and ego psychology’, which make the ‘collectivising moment’, Bakhtin hoped carnival laughter to evoke, no longer possible.17 Nevertheless it surely generates the potential to constitute a voice that can be political in its very appearance and in its use as a tool of participation. This voice communicates responses, intentions, wishes and claims of the individual towards the other viewers and towards the theatre. I conceive this potential of laughter as a form of participation, that sits with the audience but does not dominate them 18 and as an act of participation that arises from the agencies we enjoy most to inhabit. As such, laughter breaks the critical distance we seem to have to take up whenever confronted with art and performance. It breaks with the often comfortable sitting back and watching from a distance in a seemingly objective position that apparently enables us to evaluate the relevance of the performance on stage. If we are emancipated spectators, we should allow ourselves to be immersed in manipulation and distraction as an essential part of the experiences we participate in as viewers. I therefore propose a usage of the laughing voice free from anxiety to be manipulated, but in the consciousness that the just and the merely aspects of our existence constitute maybe the most revealing perspectives on life. I suggest a usage of a laughing voice in a somehow akin way as the ‘shifting modalities of attention’ proposed by Irit Rogoff in her essay ‘Looking Away’. A usage in that sense would provide us, the audience, with a voice that dares to stride ahead against laughter’s dominant voice, that of affirmation and universal validity and inhabit a usage of the laughing voice that dares to request and within this request dares to disrupt. It is in these sidetracked appearances of laughter, that we involve ourselves maybe most vulnerably as spectators, who dare to permit a laughter that carries their associations and thoughts from the inside to the realm of the public.
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Image Source: http://thewinger.com/words/wp-content/images/360/20071021_045807.jpg
1 Jane Gallop cites in her book Anecdotal Theory, the dictionary definition of an anecdote as ‘a short account of some interesting or humorous incident.’ Jane Gallop, Ancedotal Theory (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 2. In what follows I will give an account of my experiences during The show must go on in Sadler’s Wells, London on the 9th of February 2008. My intention is thereby to bring the real to the theory, to exceed the anecdote’s literary status and use its ‘referential access to the real’. Fineman cited in Gallop, Anecdotal Theory, p. 8. 2 Tonight (West Side Story), Let The Sun Shine In (Hair), Come Together (The Beatles), Let’s Dance (David Bowie), I like to move It (Reel 2 Real), Ballerina Girl (Lionel Richie), Private Dancer (Tina Turner), Macarena (Los del Rio), Into my Arms (Nick Cave), My Heart Will Go On (Céline Dion),Yellow Submarine (The Beatles), La Vie en Rose (Edith Piaf), Imagine (John Lennon), The Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel), Every Breath You Take (The Police), I Want Your Sex (George Michael), Killing Me Softly with His Song (Roberta Flack) and The Show Must Go On (Queen). 3 Gerald Siegmund, ‘Singing life with bodies,’ www.jeromebel.fr 4 Krassimira Kruschkova, ‘ The representation is the representation (the image of the imagination),’ www.jeromebel.fr 5 The performers engage in a simple choreography based on reduced lighting, an empty stage and almost mute/wordless performance. 6 Ibid., www.jeromebel.fr. 7 Siegmund, ‘Singing life with bodies,’ www.jeromebel.fr 8 Amelia Jones, ‘’Presence’ in Absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation,’ Art Journal, 56 (Winter 1997), p. 12. 9 Bakhtin has stressed about carnival laughter that although the serious rituals of official culture were mocked within these festivities ‘(…) medieval parodies were not formal literary and negative satires of sacred texts or of scholarly wisdom: they merely transported these elements into the key of gay laughter, into the positive material bodily sphere.’ Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 83. 10 Minor laughter such as corpsing, recently described in detail by Nicolas Ridout, appears ‘unwanted, untimely and in the wrong place’. Without any political or moral intentions it depends more on the occasion than on a cause. Nicolas Ridout, Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 129. 11 Tim Etchells, ‘More and More Clever Watching More and More Stupid’ in Adrian Heathfield (ed.), Live: Art and Performance (New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 199. 12 Jacques Rancière, ‘The Emancipated Spectator’, Artforum (March 2007): 271-7. 13 Mladen Dolar, A voice and nothing more (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), p. 105. 14 Ibid.
15 Ibid. 16 Ridout, Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems, p. 146. 17 Ridout assumes that the corpse ’marks the point at which this suturing closed of the opening-unto-others comes under intense physical pressure but does not, quite, come undone.’ Ibid. As I have cited above, Ridout describes corpsing not as an entirely bodily outburst, but as a moment of both falling apart and pulling oneself together. 18 I imagine this form of laughing participation to be somehow akin to Bel’s wish to create a piece of dance performance that would not dominate the audience but ‘sit with them’. Jérôme Bel cited in Etchells, ‘The show must go on,’ www.jeromebel.fr
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The Visible And The Invisible
In a work of art, how much weight should be given to description in the face of its context? If there is no art without context, then that is only art con text. The question is whether text has the ability to make art meaningful, reveal the hidden layers of significance inscribed in the artwork, or whether its relevance revolves a posteriori via contextualisation? For the aim of transferring the objective into the written implies that there be a straight line between the two, that there lies a true meaning within the object of art – only waiting to be teased out – something that can then be translated without ambiguousness. But this suppositional intrinsic value is questionable, for, as Derrida has pointed out, there is no context that can be defined exhaustively. Yet, the immediate outcome of this thought is not that effective signification exists without context, but rather that there are only contexts without an active centre – and: that there is no outside of text. On the other hand every attempt to describe an artwork automatically animates its own marginalisation and invisibility. Every attempt at archiving artwork via key wording simultaneously stimulates a process of elimination, as every translation indicates an instant of concealment. Additionally one might argue that the emphasis on keywords poses a further threat not only to the piece of art, but also to text production itself. After the keyword has altered its text and it has obtained evidence in its own right, the text is then only retrievable through a catchy phrase; otherwise it stays invisible. This invisibility in return marks the periphery from where the visible retrieves its conspicuity. What you see is not only what you get, but also the reason why. For the significant is constitutive too for the sphere of the unthinkable, the irrational and the abjected, which makes it matter the more (Butler). There is no post-production of signification, since the only visible art has to be significant a priori in order to be seen, in that sense that it follows the coherent structure of the discourse it’s in (since there is no outside either). The question remains: What is the relationship between a piece of art and a piece of text? The text does not only illustrate an artist’s construction, but is a constructing element in its own right, creating architecture of coherent argumentation. Every form of translation not only reduces the object of its text, but has an evocative or, as one could say, a performative effect. Even the seemingly neutral and appropriate simplification is anything but simple, for the claim of articulateness and clarity in a text is already based on the assumption of a self-evident consensus, which only facilitates certain benefits or interests. And by masking the specific intention from where the text sets off, one does not make the task of understanding the object of description any easier. Derrida in contrast argues how communication and
scripture is characterized by an irreducible absence of intention (différance) and is not to be misunderstood as an instrument producing understanding or transmitting true meaning. Instead the appreciation for something can be well established without the addressee it once was intended for – and in this sense text can be ‘understood’ as a freelance producing non-specific signification. Yet the performative proposition can only be (successful), if a reproducible proposition underlies its formula, meaning that it is already the quotation of a quotation of a quotation … and so on (or rather iteration as Butler calls it); otherwise we would not even call it an argument, for it would not be ‘understood’ in a system of approved conventions and norms. Yet where does the argument start? Can it be integrated into a work of art as an aesthetic figure without supporting the Heureka-effect? As Derrida suggests, it is the momentum of iteration, which on the one hand makes text possible, but on the other hand poses a risk for the figure to break with its context and outstrip it in favour of another route of argumentation. Butler too sees latitude only in re-signification or rejection of coherent argumentation through antagonistic acts of speech that undercut the order of things. As in regards to the dependency of art and text: The text is not the context. For, as Derrida suggests, it is not only the written which constitutes a context, but it can also be art itself. Yet it is highly questionable whether there is a scope of development for an ‘unusual practice’ of argumentation or art itself, since any exercise would stay invisible until it has been integrated into the ordinary (e.g. the postulate that art work has to be able to be sold on the market - be it in the form of actual paintings, photographs of work in pogress like Land Art or video documentations of performances). And how could we see the invisible or think the unthinkable anyway, if ‘the limits of my language are the limits of my world’(Wittgenstein)?
Literature: Derrida, Jacques (1988): ‘Signatur Ereignis Kontext’, in: Derrida, Jacques: Randgänge der Philosophie. 1. Aufl. Wien: Passagen, 291-314. Butler, Judith (1993): Bodies that Matter. On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York/London: Routledge [dt.: Körper von Gewicht: Die diskursiven Grenzen des Geschlechts. Aus dem Amerikanischen von Karin Wördemann. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1997]. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1973): Tractatus logico-philosophicus. (Logischphilosophische Abhandlung). 9. Auflage. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp.
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SARAH BEDDINGTON Places of Laughter and of Crying
Bloomberg Space, London February, 2008 I have made the trip to the Bloomberg Space in February 2008, and it was my first visit to this exciting exhibition venue. As I reached the building’s main lobby I was warmly greeted by a gentleman at the front desk, and encouraged to enter into the main gallery space through a tall entrance veiled by a heavy curtain. I was aware of the man watching me make my way to the other side of the partition. I found myself standing in a dark room surrounded by an absolute silence. In slight discomfort I watched the long sliver of the lobby’s light that escaped from the partition, which I disturbed, suddenly disappearing before me. It must have been the man from the desk who rearranged the curtains back to their meticulous position. I was paralyzed by the total blackness of the space. I listened to the only sound, which was produced by the soles of my boots as I slowly dragged them on the concrete floor in search for some kind of a marker. Suddenly I stumbled upon a rectangular shape of what I predicted was a bench. As I sat down, the sound of a ship’s horn filled the space along with a moving image of the large vessel projected onto a wall in front of me. My first encounter has begun with the work of the Winchester-born and New York-based visual artist Sarah Beddington. The initial space contained Shanghai Moon (2005), a fourchannel video installation, in which Beddington explores the rhythms of the dense cityscape and zooms onto public encounters in a detached manner of a surveillance camera. The interchanging images are populated with the capital’s inhabitants;construction workers balancing on the scaffoldings, dinner guests sitting cramped around circular tables in a busy restaurants, and multiple pedestrians conquering the street traffic. The images are presented in a panoramic view of poetically orchestrated segments, which fade and reappear in an unpredictable visual pattern. The viewer is in constant visual suspension of the sporadically changing screens. The cohesiveness is found in the mere repetition of the imagery, such as the bird-eye-view of a mass of people waiting on the edge of a large crosswalk. An entire herd of them is standing patiently, withheld by an invisible gate, which is preventing them to cross in advance of the signal. Most of them are holding opened colourful umbrellas. As the screens change, the viewer is able to follow along in the pedestrian’s united mass procession to the other side of the crosswalk. The pastel coloured umbrellas are vivid against the glistening blackness of the wet asphalt. They run into one another in the density of the crossing crowd, rearranging their colour sequences, changing the spectacular colour composition right before the viewer’s eyes. The innocence of this observation stems from the pedestrians’ anonymity. They are a part of a kaleidoscopic formation in which their personal identities are irrelevant. Their participation is exploited through the
artist’s preoccupation with the operations of the public sphere instead of an examination of the personal agendas of her subjects. The street and the umbrellas become the principle focus of the scene, whereas the flock of people is nothing more than a machine that instigates the relationship between these otherwise dead objects. However, the work moves from general observations to a close investigation of a single individual. Beddington invades one’s privacy when a scene presents a man walking along a path in a lush garden. The screens become saturated with the richness of the green hue. The man comes to a stop, he sees a bench and sits down. In a lurking fashion, the viewer is confronted with the back of the man’s head and torso. He sits there for a while in what appears to be a sheer enjoyment of the natural scene before him.The overwhelming greenery is seductive to the eye. Suddenly he begins to touch, poke and stretch his ears as in some sort of a ritualistic relaxation method. The viewer remains a spectator of the man’s pantomimed gestures. The serenity of the exotic garden is interrupted with the ridiculousness of the spectacle. But it is difficult to look away. There is safety in the position of the viewer’s gaze directed from afar, hidden in the dimness of the gallery space, indulging in their newfound vantage point. Even though the identity of this man is concealed, his private ritual is exploited by the camera’s watchful eye. He is no longer abandoned in his solitude. Shanghai Moon is a treat for the viewer’s eyes and ears. Beddington moves beyond a snapshot portrayal of Shanghai. The thirty-minutes long video is a portrait of the contemporary city, where the artist makes social and spatial observations. She celebrates the complexity of the city’s vibrant character, even at late hours of the night.The escaping and resurfacing images echo the repetition of movements found in the daily routines of the city’s inhabitants. The sporadic focus on a single person juxtaposes the ambiguity of a huge crowd. The viewer is simultaneously in a privileged yet diminished position.Awarded with the voyeuristic power, the viewer cannot access the subjects’ privacy beyond a visual analysis. The sound of the city’s daily traffic rush, abstracted restaurant noise, and loud disco music prevent the viewer from eavesdropping on private conversations. Speculation is the only comfort. The second exhibition space was dedicated to Beddington’s large-scale commission work titled Places of Laughter and of Crying, created especially for the Bloomberg Space. The balcony, which was flooded with natural light, contained thirty industrial unit LCD screens of various sizes installed in a salon style format. Each screen appeared as if it was effortlessly suspended in the air while elegantly framing its contents. The even distance between each screen allowed for a smooth transition from one video to another. These real-time films are filled with uninterrupted action but unlike Shanghai Moon they contain no sound and are a collection of multiple unspecified locations from around
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Sarah Beddington, Places of Laughter and of Crying, 2007, Image source: www.bloombergspace.com
the world. In one instance, the viewer is standing in front of a rural scene depicting a large tree growing on a side of a grassy trail. Only a careful observation reveals the extremely subtle movement of leaves and branches.Was that a butterfly that sat on a plant in the distance? The scene is alive. It changes before one’s eyes as the moments escape from its prerecorded reality. Another screen presents a domestic interior enveloped in shadows. A white rose glistens in the dimness of an indistinct room, sharing its vase with a withered red rose. The red rose, escapable to the eye due to its inferiority, stands almost unnoticeable in the shade of its glorious companion. A crevice of sunlight emerges from an invisible source, hitting the crown of white petals and casts its reflection onto a wall. Highlighted by the bright rays, the white rose dominates the domestic scene. The stillness is removed from this still life.Will the viewer remain captured long enough to observe the flower’s decay? Each of the films calls for the viewer’s concentration, demanding the persistence of their voyeuristic nature. In another film the viewer once again becomes a spectator, this time of a number of young boys shown sliding down a sandy hill using plastic shopping bags as vehicles. These young subjects add an element of innocent child’s play and humour to the work. They take turns sliding down the slope of dirt and their mannerisms reveal the genuine excitement and their serious approach to this trivial activity. After some time, the children leave the frame. All that remains are the lifeless plastic bags. Places of Laughter and of Crying seems to be an invitation for a chance encounter with the strange and the familiar. Each film is a new opportunity to learn about a new unspecified place, its contents and its inhabitants. The viewer is always in
a state of suspense accompanied by anticipation, never truly knowing when the film’s climactic moment will occur; will it be extraordinary or banal, unforgettable or gone unnoticed? Yet Beddington breaks the banality of a scene by offering each and every one of her films as a separate physical unit of time, its contents neatly packaged in a shiny exterior, presented to the viewer as a relic of a specific moment worthy of their worship. The artist navigates between empty spaces that suggest a human presence and occupied locations revealing direct encounters between individuals. The viewer is left with a large task of employing their quizzical approach and narrative imagination when confronting such images.The salon style presentation of the screens, and the traditional subject matter ranging from still life, domestic interiors, rural scenes, to figures in the landscape, captivatingly juxtapose with the high-tech digital video medium of the work. Beddington effectively extends her role as a painter into that of a filmmaker who finds the eloquent transition from the medium. Places of Laughter and of Crying provokes a profound meditation equal to an eighteenth century oil painting that is suspended in time, and despite its inanimateness, through viewer’s contemplation it reveals a story.
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How to overcome geographical attributions of art practice OR How to construct a whatevercommunity*
Questioning the established will to categorize art practices along the artist’s geographical or national indication, did not appear on my agenda all of a sudden on a sunny Sunday afternoon.** The history and practice behind the will to define, describe and categorize, schematize and classify can be linked to the transformation of anthropology in the 18th century, which was dominated by the urge and reality of colonization. This paper will not go through the historic assessments of researching the roots of national identity or nationalization of practices. Nonetheless, this paper aims to answer the two titling questions and to elaborate the meaning space, which emerges where they coincide. It will be proper to begin with citing the term ‘culture’, which is a product of the mid 18th century produced by the British Empire to define the strange, exotic series of manners, words, rituals and customs taking place in various other geographies, which the colonial invaders came across with in the course of their journeys. Leaving three centuries behind, the will of today and the mode of life in general are being structured around ‘multi-cultural societies’, in big cities. As spatial metaphors have become a predominant means by which the social life is understood, ‘theoretical spaces’ have been explored, mapped, charted, contested, de-colonized, and everyone seems to be ‘travelling’ under the influence of epochs of simultaneity, juxtaposition, the places near and far, side by side and dispersed. The mode of travelling has been highly classified and regulated in the means of establishing orientation. That is to say, the exoticism of globalizing the form of living has resulted in the categorisation of categorisation of categorisation of … categorized entities, feelings, experiences, and understandings. Recalling Zizek’s rejection of a multi-cultural society, which threatens to embrace the Other with hostipitality***, ‘today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness’. The Other is regarded as absolutely negating the self, rather than forming the third space, or the necessary and sufficient factor of constructing the subjectivities. The trend to attribute a concentric world of national societies as a multi-cultural global village plays a significant role in producing/reproducing of the Other, the enclosure/disclosure of the stranger. Through that means, the diversity that is of n-dimensions is projected upon twodimensional platforms. In other words, the sensation of being together is brought on a thin line and togetherness is experienced on a give-take basis where involvement in a dialogue is shattered. Disciplinary generalizations of, mimetic narratives on, homologous time attributed to the Other, should be rejected
on the basis of the statement that every other subject is an other to the self (i.e. every other being than myself is an Other for me). Between being and meaning, between conscious and unconscious motives, between instinctive categories and conscious rationalisations, between little acts and traditions, the space of inter-relations is defined by emotional resonance. That is where intentionalist strategies of the modes of representing otherness are brought to redefine their foundations. ‘The experience of thought that is here in question is always experience of a common power. Community and power identify one with the other without residues because the inherence of a communitarian principle to any power is a function of the necessarily potential character of any community...We can communicate with others only through what in us – as much as in others – has remained potential, and any communication (as Benjamin perceives for language) is first of all communication of not something in common but of communicability itself.’ Multi-culturalism, the antagonism of mobility – moving between/beneath the structures of nation, race, religion, etc-, the issues of Otherness and locating, defining the Other, the cultural plurality and the difference are significant terms in order to construct the description of whatever-community. At this point, before constructing the norms of whatevercommunity, it is important to cite how Giorgio Agamben positions whatever-being: ‘The coming being is whatever being. In the Scholastic enumeration of transcendentals (quodlibet ens est unum, verum, bonum seu perfectum – whatever entity is one, true, good or perfect), the term that, remaining unthought in each, conditions the meaning of all the others is the adjective quodlibet. The common translation of this term as ‘whatever’ in the sense of ‘it does not matter which, indifferently’ is certainly correct, but in its form the Latin says exactly the opposite: Quodlibet ens is not’ being, it does not matter which,’ but rather ‘being such that it always matters.’ The Latin always already contains, that is a reference to the will (libet). Whatever being has an original relation to desire… The whatever in question here relates to singularity not in its indifference with respect to a common property (to a concept, for example: being red, being French, being Muslim), but only in it’s being such as it is. Singularity thus freed from the false dilemma that obliges knowledge to choose between the ineffability of the individual and the intelligibility of the universal.’ Whatevercommunity, then, is where active involvement, constant revelation of positioning take place; where the protagonists of such being are being as such and perform, activate and affirm their realms of understanding in a togetherness which replaces as-if dialogues supporting the dominant monologues by conversation.The absorbed artifice of the experiencing of the other is replaced by the significance of experience in an absolutely unrepresentable community, where the coming to itself is reflecting each singularity, its being whatever, i.e. such as it is. The condition of singularity/multiple singularity flourishes from the ‘whatever’ being of the community and
vice versa. For every form of a community, the notion of belonging is at stake. Only, for each form of a community the modes of social belonging, the dynamics of constructing sense of belonging differs. ‘Such-and-such being is reclaimed from its having this or that property, which identifies it as belonging to this or that set, this or that class (the reds, the French, the Muslims) – and it is reclaimed not for another class nor for the simple generic absence of any belonging, but for its being-such, for belonging itself. ‘ In order to establish a social structure that is in a constant flux of inter-relations, that structure should be based on acts of contributing to the social realms rather than mere act of imagining those realms. The relation between contribution and realms must be such that the contribution is not merely an integration of singularity into a pre-established structure, but that this structure is constantly open to its transformation through and by the singular contribution. Let us imagine the realm as constantly expecting and awaiting the contribution. The contribution: the way in which singularity and realm simultaneously come to being. The base of coming to being is the presence of all participants without assigned hierarchy. An actively involved community based on multiple singularities, as Lefebre says: ‘as object opposed to subject, as res extensa opposed to, present to, res cogitans, space came to dominate, by containing them, all senses and all bodies, no limits at all have been set on the generalization of the concept of mental space, no clear account of it is ever’. Thus, the enunciation of difference becomes the lovable in a face-to-face collectivity. Such a state of belonging/togetherness can be possible only if the Other is affirmed as the lovable rather than the vulnerable****.That is to say the Other is not vulnerable since he/she recalls death but lovable since he/she recalls sensations.***** ‘A global cosmopolitanism… readily celebrates a world of plural cultures and peoples located at the periphery, so long as they produce healthy profit margins within metropolitan societies. States that participate in such multicultural multi-nationalism affirm their commitment to ‘diversity’ at home and abroad, so long as the demography of diversity consists largely of educated economic migrants – computer engineers, medical technicians, and entrepreneurs, rather than refugees political exiles, or the poor.’ In reaction to or in resistance against such attitudes art is a discourse about the necessity of recognizing what is omitted or avoided in the realms of social structures. Through sharing, turning into a recognition of otherness, positing beyond the representable, the captured, the known, art has the vital capacity of proposing change. As art produces perceptions, each encounter with an art work is performative. That is to say, the act of coming across defines a space of interaction of thinking, understanding, evaluating, producing meaning and especially feeling.The art practice that is defined by pre-given
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ethnic or cultural traits on the fixed tablet of expectations stands in an a priori meaning. The meaning that is formed through the presuppositions, presumptions of such and such national, racial, geographical understandings. That meaning of the artwork is on the very first hand endangered under the label of belonging to here and there, telling of this and that: Scandinavian art is about sound and light, Turkish art deals with identity and land, Balkanian art is about blood and conflict… The generalization of an art practice not only produces the cliché, but also transforms the artwork into a cultural product that can be put in trade. Where, the question of cultural codes (the experience of other cultures) becomes a hermeneutic project for the restoration of cultural ‘ essence’ which, sooner or later, results in the ‘loss’ of a meaningful cross-culturalism. The attempt to emancipate the practice of art from the national, racial, geographical attributions is an attitude towards receiving art works as products that have been produced by singular whatever-beings. The innovative and crucial act to bring out is the need to think beyond narratives and to focus on the moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of art practices. The re-instantiation of an artwork through experience****** provides the overlap and displacement of the domains of difference.The art that posits whatever’ness, being as such and expressing as such provides the space of communication, which is in the emergence of interstices. To paraphrase Agamben, the omnivalence of whatever being is neither apathy, nor promiscuity, nor resignation. These pure singularities communicate only in the empty space of the example, without being tied by any common property, by any identity.  Art can be such an example through which the unrepresentable can nevertheless be referred to, thus communicated upon. The state of perceiving art works, then will be of another dimension. A dimension that is defined through the relation that artwork structures and produces by itself. The newly announced dimension will be, surely, a proposal of a new attitude and approach to establish understanding. Not only this, but as art is the sphere of possible challenges and representations of the unrepresentable, it can also be regarded as the first step to form tendencies of whatever-communities. ‘Whatever is the figure of pure singularity. Whatever singularity has no identity, it is not determinate with respect to a concept, but neither is it simply indeterminate; rather it is determined only through its relation to an idea, that is, to the totality of its possibilities. Through this relation, as Kant said, singularity borders all possibility and this receives its omnimoda determinatio not from its participation in a determinate concept or some actual property (being red, Italian, Communist), but only by means of this bordering. It belongs to a whole, but without this belongings’s being able to be represented by a real condition: Belonging, being-such, is here only the relation to an empty and indeterminate totality. In Kantian terms this means that what is in question
in this bordering is not a limit that knows no exteriority, but a threshold, that is, a point of contact with an external space that must remain empty.’ Whatever-community does not position a single unique community, but functions as a common term in order to define variety of being as such.Art taking the first challenge to perform itself ‘as in the Klein bottle or in the Mobius strip where exterior and interior in-determine each other’, will influence an awareness that results in transforming the multi-cultural society and posit to go beyond the normalized state of individualities and community. The structure of an artistic act is an example of the contribution that extends the realm. For the realm that art produces spheres of meaning to resemble its potentiality, and vice versa.
*The term whatever-community suggests an application of Agamben’s idea of the coming community and his term whatever-being. **My enthusiasm stems from past and especially current experiences: I have been invited to curate a video festival of Turkish contemporary artists’ in Stuttgart and in Berlin. My aim to avoid the cliché approaches to nationalistic representation of art practices and attributed geographical indications of artists and the dynamics of their production made me produce a concept rinsed of these attitudes. Thus, although the festival is composed of works by artists who are in some ways related to Turkey, it does not aim to create disciplinary generalizations or mimetic narratives of ‘`Turkish Art’. Nonetheless, the reinterpretation of the concept by the hosting institution (through translation!) resulted in a misconception of the whole frame-work and the content and the reproduction of some of the very attributions I was trying to avoid. ***Hostipitality is a term produced by Derrida, makes reference to the duo condition of the hosting condition where hospitality and hostility are at stake, simultaneously. ****Vulnerable is the positioning of the Other by Emmanuel Levinas in his essay titled Ethics as First Philosophy. That essay is on the reading list of Core Course A. *****Sensations can be of any sort, not only the good feelings and best intentions but also the envy, hatred, the challenge… ******Experience of art can be of: coming across, reading a review, listening a comment, searching from a source…
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Photo: Tobias Hering
 Slavoj Zizek, Welcome to the desert of real, 2002,Verso, p. 10  Giorgio Agamben, means without end Notes on Politics, 1996, theory out of bounds, Volume 20, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.9-10  Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 1990, Translated by Michael Hardt, Theory out of bounds, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p.1  Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 1990, Translated by Michael Hardt, Theory out of bounds, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p:1-2  Homi Bhabba, The Location of Culture, 2004, Routledge,Classics, Routledge, preface to the Routledge Classics Edition, p. 14  Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 1990, Translated by Michael Hardt, Theory out of bounds, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p:1-2  Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 1990, Translated by Michael Hardt, Theory out of bounds, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p:68  Giorgio Agamben, means without end Notes on Politics, 1996, theory out of bounds,Volume 20, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.25
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OPEN CALL FOR 2 CURATORS FOR SINGAPORE BIENNALE 2010 We are currently in the midst of preparation for the 3rd edition of the Singapore Biennale, which will take place in September 2010. Therefore we would like to invite anyone who thinks that he or she might be a good candidate to be considered for the role of the curator. We are looking for 2 curators to create 2 separate, parallel exhibitions under the auspices of the Singapore Biennale 2010. The 2 curators can choose whether to relate their exhibitions to each other or not. The organizing committee will respect their decision and will not interfere with the final conclusion of their discussion. To facilitate our selection process, please provide the following via email: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. A A A A A A A short story that you have written in the last 2 years. list of 10 films that you think have changed your life at some point. thesis subject + synopsis you would like to have worked on but never did. photograph that best represents the centre of your universe. track in MP3 format of a piece of music that makes you dance. link to a website that you read on a daily basis. 500-word recommendation from an artist you know best.
The selection panel will be made up of an international collective of 6 specialists whose names will only be released after the closing date of the open call. The dateline for applications 11th of September 2008. Please send all applications to: firstname.lastname@example.org 2008 © Heman Chong
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TAKU SUGIMOTO - Influences on ‘sonic event’
Taku Sugimoto works with the bringing together of instrumental sounds and environmental sounds. Mixing sounds of instruments with the surrounding sounds of the concert, he defines the space inhabited by his music. Thinking about Sugimoto’s practise, as a way of defining the sonic event, I will speak about the possibilities within silence as a break between habitual sounds. In this case the event will be understood as all possible situations of spontaneity and the sonic as the situation where water meets rocks. To listen attentively to silence, reveals a multiplicity of sounds within the nature of silence, hence reveals silence as a concept that mainly exists to define a hierarchy of sounds. If we make an attempt to think about silence, we realize the imaginary nature of the concept, since the surroundings are not silent: silence supports the very idea of focusing but doesn’t present itself in the light of attention. Thinking about silence, it becomes the word that signifies the absence of sounds; listening it becomes a concept, which encompasses a multiplicity of noises that do not inhabit fixed forms of interpretation. Thus to analyse the conditions of silence blurs the definition of the sonorous object under consideration and thereby the stable position of the listener who recognises this object.1 Taku Sugimoto has developed and prolonged an understanding of the capacity of silences in musical performances. His sound is created by means of extending the break between the sounds emerging from his guitar i.e. he is framing moments of suspense.Aiming to give an account of what these silences might express, and thereby to propose the possibility of a sonic event, I would like to describe more in detail the setting of a concert/performance by Taku Sugimoto. It was on Thursday the 29th of November at the London Musical Collective’s 16th annual festival of experimental music, hosted by the Cochrane Theatre. Sugimoto enters the stage. He places the score on the music stand and unpacks his guitar. Next to him on a stool he arranges a bottle of wine and a glass. He pours some wine into the glass and takes time to get ready. When seated, he opens the concert by playing one tone on his guitar, he looks intensively at the score and after a while he plays the same tone again. Keeping his gaze fixed on the score, he exercises an importunate concentration although the number of tones is highly restricted and appears in prolonged durations of no action. He continues with different lengths of silent breaks between the tones in an unbearable amount of time. Sometimes he takes a sip of wine, or turns a page of the score, maybe to indicate the shift from one movement to the next.After these interruptions he continues playing the same tone, followed by a chain of tones with different length of silent breaks in between.Throughout the piece Sugimoto keeps repeating the
same note.What is striking about this act is the unbelievable length of this repetitive action and the impatience among the audience created by the long appearances of silence. Waiting for something to happen I realized that it was already happening and nothing else would appear. Hence I started to engage. The artist’s intense concentration directed towards the score made me think about bureaucracy and its way of legitimation by the use of paper. Bureaucracy as an organ that utilises paper as a standardising tool so that, with the right stamps it allows you to enter an institution. The paper he looked at, as the score of his composition, could be interpreted more in terms of its aesthetics and humorous aspect rather than as a tool for remembering the complex structure of the composition. Henceforth, his gazing at the paper provided him a seat on the stage in an institutionalised setting. After a while the performance didn’t catch any more of my attention - since not much has happened for at least 30 minutes - and instead I became aware of the restless feeling arising among the audience. Some people had already left the establishment and it became an issue whether one should leave or stay. I was wondering how long he would keep on performing. Maybe until the bottle was emptied, or maybe he would continue the whole night. I didn’t have a clue. While thinking about leaving, I recalled that it had been my plan for the evening to go to the concert. To leave with the excuse of having better things to do, important work, would be mendacious, while in fact, for the hours of the concert, I wanted to make a break and experience something else. This consideration made me stay. To fight the will of making sense left me with a feeling of satisfaction. The experience made me quite sure about the fact that music is not only a form that enables cultural output; it is furthermore a platform for critical reflection, and a social space.2 Due to the staging of silence in a concert hall, silence not only replaces what was before the vibrato of the tone, but also extends the dependency of the musician’s hand and its relation to the string and the resonating instrument, to an dependency on the surroundings.The tone dematerialises and vibrates in its relation with the surroundings, responding not only to the physical room, but also to a social room: created by the gathering of individuals. In Sugimoto’s performance, the question about what is the sonorous object, vanishes alongside the dissolution of the staged performance with the performance of the audience. Whether one considered staying, or leaving the theatre, the long silent breaks sounded the stage of the audience. All possible sounds became part of the composition and disclosed the sonic event as a more or less spontaneous flow of sounds. Sounds appearing from the setting as a whole: the guitar, a distant noise of traffic, ambulances and police cars, audiences coughing, moving around on the seats and footsteps of somebody leaving the theatre. Listening to the experience of silence in a concert hall
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Image source: Maria Diekmann
conveys an encounter with a regulated social space.To grasp the social is not only to understand and identify a sonorous object, but also to understand the pragmatics of listening and thereby the capacity to invent new modes of listening. This may be part of what the cultivation of silence, as a staged discipline, conveys to the encounter: the notion of a resonant body’s capacity to contain the tension of its sensible capacities. Utilising silence in an intentional manner as in the case of Sugimoto brings awareness to the separateness of music and brings back those actions to a larger context of social space. Moving into a concert hall, where the conventional behaviours of the audience be deeply rooted, i.e. Sugimoto may have created a small crack in the enclosure that dissociate these behaviours.
1 Rogoff, I., 2005. Looking Away: Participation in Visual Culture. In: G. Butt, ed. After Criticism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 117-135 ( p. 121). 2 Labelle, B. 2006: Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. New York/ London: Continuum. p.3
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Image source: www.cubittartists.org.uk
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JIMMY ROBERT Figure de Style
Cubitt Gallery, London January 2008 Jimmy Robert’s performance at Cubitt Gallery invited the audience to remove pieces of whitish tape applied to the body of the artist. Dressed in a pair of jeans, the artist sat barefooted on a couple of white sheets of paper, outspread on the stone floor. Next to his hands, on each side of his body lay another piece of paper with what looked from the distance like a poem or a reminder of his script or even the script itself. I had enough time to count the exact number of people that had come to witness Robert’s performance. Robert himself looked down to avoid the glances of the audience, while the sloppily applied tape was bit by bit removed from his body. Now and then Robert commented the tearing off by reading out a sentence from his script. I can’t refer in detail to what it said, but I remember names at the end and 1966 at the beginning. Now from a distance it could have been extracts from a review on Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece. Relating to the tradition of participatory performances Robert’s performance unveiled more about the audience than about the artist. As nothing extraordinary exciting was performed, the beholders started to observe each other ripping off tape from Robert’s body. Some went twice, others didn’t even once. Some smiled, some concentrated, some grinned, others spilled their beer and wine. Some remained motionless observing the artist. Some smiled a knowingly smile while others smiled a painful smile, in empathy with the artist and in awareness of the power of a gaze. I find it hard to tell what exactly happened yesterday night. I picture the artist entering the room from the back door, taking his position on the floor and uttering in a soft intonation, ‘I now invite you to take a piece of paper.’ Reacting to his request for participation two men started tearing of scraps of the paper Robert was sitting on instead of removing the tape applied to his body. Broken tension. Some started to laugh. I felt the dignity of the performer had been tarnished. Ten minutes later a girl picked for a single piece, but ripped off almost all the tape from the back. Embarrassed by her greed, she flushed and put the tape back. Another girl spilled her beer on the floor, while she approached Robert. Some sneaked on tiptoes others staggered. The way up to the performer was unluckily too short for a close observation of outfits, gestures and mimics of the participators. Robert didn’t look at their faces, but I was reminded of churchgoers over enacting their habitual ritual gestures, demonstrating their engagement and respectfulness towards the performer. A woman I remember most clearly fought her way from the back to the front. She positioned herself slightly behind the performer. Akin to my German teacher, she gazed over Robert’s shoulder, trying to read his script. Her appearance pictured Robert as a pupil. For her, at least she signalled that to
rest of the audience, his performance had been legible apart from the notes he read out. For her his script presented the meaningful remainder of the performance. The script could have formed content, a clarifying of what this was supposed to mean. Facing my German teacher vis-à-vis, I appreciated to stay unenlightened in regard of the script’s content. Instead, I participated and ripped off tape from a stranger’s body. I remained with the faces of my companions. I laughed when the mobile phone of a guy rang, and he, instead of turning it off, incidentally turned it even louder. He blushed and as if he wanted to apologise for his misbehaviour, he quickly ripped off some tape from the artist’s body. Then again, it is only a game. One of us sat in the middle and he could have touched us. But he didn’t touch us but we touched him. When it was over he left the room through the back door, and the guy in the yellow jacket who had been standing closest to him said: ‘Thank you for coming’.’
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I will have spoofed the future
I’m back in the future again, nothing’s changed. It’s all just like I left it. Bishop, X Men, 1992 I don’t know anything about ‘the future’. But a few things could sketchily be said about the notion of future as a component of a wide range of theories, systems and apparatuses. To be sure, there are various ways of conceptualizing, projecting and investing in futures, and of understanding futurity. According to most dictionaries, future means a mode of thinking a time to come; this could be structured by desire, infinity/ ends, paranoia, potentials, hope, faith – and indeed, by the present. There are various fields that concern themselves with future, offering divergent approaches to the concept as such. The future can, much like anything else, not only be read from any perspective, but also imagined as being anything – because future refers to an open space for projection, it almost inevitably entails the imagining of an entire reality or a set of conditions and possibilities. Our imagination of the future is always informed by ideas, practices and movements of the present (or past) – future as dispositif allows us to project those into a space where they can potentially affect all spheres of life (this doesn’t have to mean that all such projections are totalizing). Because it is not determined by anything other than our (present) knowledge and hopes, we might say that future allows us to think difference and change on quite open terms. Imaginings of futures are up to us to make or transport, and as such we are responsible for them. Unsurprisingly, this is difficult and furthermore complicated. Stories of the future… While future is (something else) for everyone, there are people dealing with (specific) futures on a paid and daily basis. Future studies or futurology aims to reflect on how changes in the present might affect a reality of tomorrow, offering a broad perspective, using strategic foresight to create scenarios. Scenario planning has been on the rise since its introduction by the Shell Corporation in the 1970s. It is similar to horizon scanning, which refers to the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments, including (but not restricted to) those at the margins of current thinking and planning.1 Another related term is forecasting; again a
process of evaluation of probabilities, often geared towards business (as demand planning), but also meteorology, land use, sports, policy, science, etc. While future studies opens a broad field of research, study and consultancy that analyzes images of the future via the collection of quantitative and qualitative data about the possibility, probability, and desirability of change (Wikipedia), its being geared towards consultancy and policy often means that desirability is reduced to a factor which is accommodated in a market-research like way. The more or less generalized futures (and their trends) of policy and business are made to be foreseen and approximated through statistics and probability. On the more creative end of futures production is science fiction, which departs from predominantly imaginary future visions to create fictive accounts of what another reality could be like. Needless to say that much of this is linked to sites such as Hollywood – however there is a broad range of alternative sci-fi around too (queer, feminist, anarchist, spiritualist…). Also, there are also prophets and fortune-tellers whose trade is ‘the future’, relying upon divination and other non-scientific methods. Finally, politicians as well as other people use future (mostly in the singular) frequently when making promises. Future plays an important part in politics, science, business and technology – policy makers, nanotechnology labs, venture capitalists, consultants, stem cell banks, insurance brokers and eco designers rely upon future scenarios, but also activists, therapists, artists, and so forth. Either way, future denotes a political agenda and plan for action, which constantly changes in relation to the present. If Europe is to flourish and create the jobs of the future, enterprise is the key. Margaret Thatcher, Bruges speech, 20th September 1988 I understand future as an apparatus for projection, which can be mass-produced as well as singularized. They are open to all kinds of epistemology and politics. Interestingly, while referring to a broad perspective on issues, future raises responsibilities. Sci-fi writing can be a useful praxis for engaging with the world of today. Imagine a future without oil; what would people move in, would they pay for fuel and who would govern transport, etc. Even if we just project one aspect of the present into the future, this begs a lot of questions, because any future potentially could be different, and it is entirely up to us to judge it desirable or not… This is where the text breaks off. To continue reading it in a very near future, please go to http://futurearchive.org/i%20will%20have%20spoofed%20 the%20future.html
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CAN ALTAY EY AHALI! / Setting a Setting/Letting a Setting Go
Spike Island, Bristol October 2007
fox in a city.The artist meanders through the streets, stalking a fox, in order to prolong an unexpected encounter. The unexpectedness is what differs Ahali from Cemaat. Cemaat is another wording in Turkish for a community; a community that is bound by a commonality of belief, kinship and origin. Cemaat has certainties of belonging and expressions. Whereas Ahali is a gathering of whateverbeings. Altay exemplifies these two terms on the cover of his journal which includes texts, proposals, sketches on support, control and letting go; modelmaking for the socio-spatioeconomico-political; co-habitation and parasitical practice; locatedness (and education?); recycling and reconfiguration /sustainable axes; community and contingency. The listed issues are reflected upon by artists, curators and writers. Each contributor has his/her own space of expression in the journal. The contributions are placed next to each other on shelves of a wooden structure and the audience is free to compose his/her own journal in accordance with his/ her own choice. The openness of the journal happens to be another metaphoric attitude towards the notion of Ahali. The journal in a constant composition – of content, of order of appearance-, becomes the forming of Ahali each and every time. The second section also hosts a long table for scheduled and unscheduled but initiated discussions. Altay invites various artists and theoreticians to open up several concepts and analyse and evaluate certain notions related to autonomy and community and socio-economico-political. The second section also hosts Altay’s first well-known video piece titled Minibars. Minibars is an action taken by youngsters living in Ankara and have started to meet up and engage across the bars after the increase in the prices of alcoholic drinks. Streets and the pavements become the alternative meeting and hanging out place. This shift has alerted the locals and caused them to invent discomforting structures in front of their houses. The meaningfulness of Altay’s exhibition does not only stem from the autonomous gatherings of sharing a certain ground or a happening but also his timely recall for an autonomous community. The concept of such a community is put into practice through the structure of the exhibition.The blurring of the line between being a spectator and a participant and a camp person evoke a commonality. The exhibition is a ‘becoming’ of a ground for involvement, participation, reflection and reaction.
During his three-months residency at Spike Island, Can Altay has produced a solo show depicting a timely concept: Ahali. ‘Ahali is a Turkish wording for a community that is based on being at a particular location at a particular moment in time’, as Altay explains on the cover of the interactive publication he has realised for the exhibition. The exhibition has various components on different levels of communication: images, video pieces, texts, books and sounds. The exhibition welcomes the audience with the togetherness of residency artists, in particular their hang together portraits. The artists of the Spike Island during Altay’s residency are a community that has met at a certain location and time and share that certainty with each other. Altay pictures the residency artists in non-hierarchical means. Each face, each artist shares the same ground of participation in the premises of Spike Island. The exhibition space has two sections both are participatory and function on a relational and discursive level. The entry room includes a platform for sound titled A Damaged Plane, which has been produced in collaboration with William Turner Duffy, Luke Slater and Barnabas Yianni. The sound platform is open to participation, so that on demand one can play his/her own sound piece in the exhibition. It is not only open to autonomous submissions but also Altay organises sessions for collective hearing and sharing the space. That is to say, in the organised sessions the audience can sit or lie on the sound platform, engage with the crowd that is there at that moment, hence become participant of an Ahali. The interactive open form of the exhibition also embodies itself in transparent support structures that have been placed in the space and exclaim a differánce and togetherness. In other words, the wood structures, as they are placed in the space claim a space of presentation on their own, and belong to the whole. The video pieces and the images mounted in and on these structures start up another discussion on the notion of community. The photographs titled Exercises in Sharing question the norms of sharing through displaying a pigeon eating food from a plate on a restaurant table or the green flourishing under the drain inlet.These appear to be parasite presences entering and reclaiming the established relations. The irregular and the extraordinary enter the discourse of the everyday, the modern, the city, and society as such. The sharing without certain will or consensus appears to be a challenging intervention. Challenging not only the moment of realising that a pigeon is eating your food but also the positioning of yourself and the pigeon and the food, in broad terms. As in one of the video pieces, showing a follow up of a
Photos: Can Altay
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∗ This event has taken place on the 12, March, 2008 at E:vent gallery, London. For further information: http://www.eventnetwork.org.uk/programme/exhibitions/1554
Adeena Mey (DATERU)
IT SAYS WHAT IT DOES ON THE TIN : an expert encounter∗
‘It does what it says on the tin’. Taking an ironic stance towards this UK super popular advertisement’s slogan, DATERU’s (Discourse and Attitude Transversal Expertise Research Unit) motto, ‘It says what it does on the tin’ rather tried to look for what’s inside the notorious tin. A collective formed of artists and theorists, DATERU’s ‘expert encounter’ took place as a presentation of – as part of but also parallel to – multiple investigations around the notions of ‘expert’ and ‘expertise’. While on a daily basis, carried by the medias, expert’s speeches, opinions, recommendations and advices give us the impression that ‘someone knows’, thus fostering representations of managing and controlling risk in the eponymous society that is ours, expertise revealed itself to be a much more elusive notion, an aspect that is to some extent related to its pervasiveness. Indeed, aside official positions, which grant someone the right to speak – to speak a legitimate language, often in the name of legitimate decision-making – aren’t we, in fact, all surrounded by ‘experts’? And after all, aren’t I one? Can’t I become one? ‘It says what it does on the tin’ precisely offered a context allowing the intrigued, amused or curious participants to become an expert or be the expert that is otherwise shadowed by the everyday persona and, to encounter others. ‘Oh, so you’re a real chocolate expert!’ This reaction, from an expert of the World Bank to one of the participants who happened to be an actual chocolate maker, nicely illustrates – for it underlines that ‘actual’ and ‘fake’, yet all performing, experts were blended, – the type of encounters and interactions taking place during that evening. Hybrid, these encounters blended sociality with performance, while at the same time stressed the performative aspect of everyday conducts, being an expert or acting as one included. The event, among many others, featured a Buddhist monk telling fortune of the interested audience; a lung expert making tests to find out the lungs’ ages; a ‘Black Rock N Roll’ DJ playing some of the finest tunes of this repertoire, often confused with Rockabilly, differences which he was happy and very keen to make clear to the interested ones. Also, the audience could get answers to ANY of their questions – thanks to the presence of the Wizard of Oz – inscribing expertise within its phantasmagorical dimension. But above all, the audience who came to see the event was also invited to choose a field of expertise for itself. The audience as a participant could perform whoever (s) he wanted to be and behave accordingly to the chosen expertise. This was rendered possible through the use of badges, which displayed one’s field of expertise. The badges thus acted as a device that mediated the encounters, most of the time resulting in incongruous idea and knowledge sharing, as could be reflected in the chat between a doll expert and a media psychiatrist that I witnessed. The badge, as a ‘conviviality device’, also allowed for a constant play
with ‘real’ and ‘faked’ identities. Indeed, many participants to the event first acted as if expertise was only theatrically represented, or even parodied. Interestingly, after they encountered ‘real’ experts, many of them rewrote what their field of expertise was or could be to engage with a more ‘serious’, maybe more genuine type of encounter and knowledge sharing. This suggests that while irony served as the ‘tin opener’ or as a tool to explore the notion of expertise and its vicissitudes, the event didn’t aim at producing an ironic situation or context. It rather suggested a constant self-reflexivity towards one’s position(s) and interactions with the ‘other’, an otherness conveyed through expertise, as mutual sameness. Of course, since it surely engaged with the production of conviviality and a form of ‘coming-togetherness’ (the intense exchanges and feedbacks tend to prove it), the issues raised by ‘It says what it does on the tin’ have to be brought close to the debate around the notion of ‘relational aesthetics’, a notion open to criticism. It is here worth mentioning that ‘It says what it does on the tin’ was inspired by DATERU’s multiple investigations in trade fairs, sites saturated by experts en tout genre and where any object gets reified to its sole economic value. In the context of DATERU’s event, notions that recurrently traverses contemporary cultural discourses and rhetorics such as ‘network’, ‘creativity’, ‘critique’ and precisely ‘relational’ were the object of a ‘concept auction’. The intention behind this was to underline the value of such concepts within cultural economies, value deemed valid by cultural experts and, created and maintained through the play of power structures that cross the cultural field. Here, the parodic act of buying a concept such as ‘relational’, by raising one’s hand, symbolically equals the democratic gesture of the vote. This, along the fact that encounters and interactions were never static but always the object of constant self-reflexivity and re-examination might distance ‘It says what it does on the tin’ from a ‘relational’ work. Indeed, unlike relational works, participation, or the turning of the audience into participants could not be predicted or predefined. Moreover, the type of participation was not reduced to one type of exchange or interaction but was rather fluid and subject to constant change. This stresses another difference with relational aesthetics, whose paradigm posits a collective production of meaning through an ‘activation of the viewer’, which, as Claire Bishop points in her critique of the notion, tend to erase all kind of productive antagonism. In this regard, ‘It says what it does on the tin’ rather generated a multiplicity of meanings. But if ‘conviviality’, ‘coming-together’ and the corollary ephemeral utopian democratic values attached to works known as ‘relational’ seem to have become pompous in criticism, works that imply participation and reflect on the audience/participant divide nevertheless remain relevant as ‘tin openers’. If ‘relational’ has become too paradigmatic a concept to be truly ‘experimental’, thus our ‘tin openers’ might allow us to, as Georges Bataille once proposed, ‘exit the domain of the project by means of a project’.
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Nowiswere is open for submissions, thus we are inviting you to join, jam and produce: The deadline for the next issue will be the 5th of August 2008. Please send your contributions to email@example.com