PRESENT MEMORY AND LIVENESS IN DELIVERY AND RECEPTION OF VIDEO DOCUMENTATION DURING PERFORMANCE ART EVENTS
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding (series) is the outcome of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project, when post doc Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (University of the Arts London, 2004/06).
RESEARCH PROPOSAL (extract, April 2004)
Abstract. This project is based on an hypothesis that notions of liveness and presence can be questioned by allowing manipulation of documentation in the live event to be the performance’s opening stage rather than its point of closure thus generating a form of present memory. The practical work will partially draw on Derrida’s notion of ‘supplement’ and theoretical collaboration with Prof. Thomas Suddendorf. I shall position the results of my exhibited work within the debate on liveness and media led by Ausslander and Cubitt, and also in relation to Suddendorf’s psychological concepts.
The Derridean notion of supplement as document in performance, is inspirational for the production of the work. The latter focuses on the concept of present memory (my own definition of my process of memorising and recollecting memories) and time delay, which I may find through this project, to be a paradox in the contemporary debate on liveness.
This project investigates, through my mediatised performative presentations, the relationships liveness/present and memory/past in performance art and studies, and the process of memorisation in relation to that of video documentation within the delivery of the piece itself. Hence the notion of Mnemonic Present. The body of work produced is formed by 2 versions of the Video Live Installation ‘Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding’. I first published a position paper to contextualise the aims of the project: Cologni, E., ‘FRUITION: perceptual time ‘gap’ as location for knowledge – Mnemonic Present Un-folding’, in Perspective section of Body, Space & Technology, ISSN 1470-9120, School of Arts, Brunel University http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/vol05/index.html. I then started to position the results of my exhibited work within the debate on liveness and media and also in relation to psychological concepts in the conference paper published Cologni, E., ‘Present-Memory: Liveness Versus Documentation And The Audience’s Memory Archive in Performance Art’, in International Conference Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, ed. Meyer-Dinkgrafe, D., Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005.
Cologni, E., ‘FRUITION: perceptual time ‘gap’ as location for knowledge – Mnemonic Present Un-folding’, in Perspective section of Body, Space & Technology, ISSN 1470-9120, School of Arts, Brunel University, http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/vol05/index.html
Cologni, E., ‘Present-Memory: Liveness Versus Documentation And The Audience’s Memory Archive in Performance Art’, in International Conference Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, Cambridge Scholars Press, January 2006.
Cologni, E, ed, Mnemonic Present, Shifting Meaning, Mercurio Edizioni, Vercelli, 2009, texts from Amelia Jones, Kelina Gotman, Andrea Lissoni, Helena Blaker
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 1, ‘Performance Studies international # 11, Becoming Uncomfortable’, Brown University, Providence, RI (USA), 2005.
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 2, ‘International Conference Consciousness, Theatre, Literature and the Arts’, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK, 2005.
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 3, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAMeC), Bergamo Italy, 2005
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 4, proposal per PARIP, Breton Hal Leeds University
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 5, ‘Diverse Attitudini’, a cura di BOArt, Villa delle Rose, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bologna, Italy, 2005.
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 6, ‘Transversalities: crossing disciplines, cultures and identities’, Departments of Film, Theatre & Television and Fine Art, University of Reading, 2005.
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 7, ‘Warmhole Saloon’, curator Joel Cahen, Whitechapel Art Gallery London, 2006.
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 8, in ‘Wonderful (Ibiscus section)’, Trieste, Italy, curator Maria Campitelli, June 2006
Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding # 9, Tapra Conference, Central School of Speech and Drama, London, October 2006
RESEARCH CONTEXT (extract, 2004)
This research will problematise the notion of liveness and investigate the hybrid form of mediatised performance art. Artists’ work like Carollee Schneemann, Vito Acconci, and Hannah Wilke, based on enactment through the artist’s body ( Jones, A., Body Art, Performing the Subject, Minnesota University Press, 1998) have frequently been documented to be experienced subsequently through photography, film, video, and/or text that could be defined as ‘supplements’ (Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Baltimore, 1978). By building on my understanding of these issues in more recent artists’ practice I will focus on a context for the research and become very specific in my own practical contribution.
The recent exhibition Art, Lies and Videotape: Exposing Performance at Tate Liverpool suggested an historical reading of the broad context within which this research can be placed, including works by young performance artists like Hayley Newman and Franco B, who have dealt with issues of documentation. However, my proposal and the Video Live Installation format focuses on the simultaneous ‘coexistence’ of the live event and its documentation and the strategy of the work relates closely to Dan Graham’s Past Future Split Attention (1972), the more recent Bill Shannon’s The Phenomena of Projected Narrative (2003) and Station House Opera’s Mare’s Nest (2002), and encompasses questions regarding the ontological nature of memory and liveness in mass media culture referring to Auslander (Liveness, London, 1999) and Cubitt (Timeshift: On Video Culture, London, New York, 1991). In the art work I will produce, the document of the event will be presented in the form of video as part of the performance itself. My methodological approach in the creation and delivery of my works, exploring the continuous shift between artist and audience, will build on my experience of producing works addressing the same relationship in self-portraiture (e.g. Ancora Cerca 1999, National Portrait Gallery, London; BluX 2000 Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, Morning Toilette, 2001 Tate Modern.). I have adopted the term ‘fruition’ to express the creative role of the audience in the encounter with the work.
In my recent pieces (2001 onwards) defined as ‘Video Live Installation’ (VLI), the ‘live-recording’ and ‘pre-recording’ projected during the performative event has opened up questions regarding the involvement of the audience and their perception of what is present and represented. VLI, including its own simultaneous documentation can be regarded itself as a form of ‘present memory’ of the event, as perceived by the audience.
In the new work I will create a ‘real time distancing’ from the event as part of its delivery at the time of its perception, to draw a parallel between the production of the performance’s documentation and methods of memory archiving. In this context, the video documentation of the event is a ‘supplement’ to the performing body/self, which can itself become a ‘supplement’ to the event. The implicit continuous temporal and spatial shift of the event’s meaning is thus created together with the temporary presentation and representation of the performer’s self in relationship to the spectators – participating in the creative process through the interchange that takes place during its production. This process of constructing and recording of the documentation as ‘supplement’ (part) of the live event results in the paradox of its status as documentation, no longer just proof of the live event. With the possibilities offered by digital media, this stage is expected to generate new discourses around ‘aperture’ – the opening onto the work – within live performance art.
The consultation for this project with psychologist Dr Suddendorf aims at initiating an understanding of the implications involved in the perception of ourselves in the world around us, through media. In this climate of, so called ‘reality TV’ we as spectators overlap concepts of presence, immediacy and reality with video representation. The emerging of the self, as it has featured in my own artistic research, is related to the field studied by Suddendorf (‘Children’s understanding of the relation between delayed video representation and current reality: A test for self-awareness?’ Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 72, 152-176, 1999). This scientific research will inform my own artistic development in terms of performance-audience-artist relationship and interchange based on perceptual dynamics within performance art. The scientific aspect of the project is particularly relevant in relation to Auslander and Cubitt’s notion of liveness involved in broadcasting, media culture and the moving image.