(Re)Connection: I want to be seen

Space. Site. Architecture. Mapping. Performance.

Words that will be explored quite deeply the next six weeks within the module of performance writing as I am called to create a performance piece in response to a site. This is the (web)site that I will have a dialogue with. Welcome.

Air, Water, Earth, Fire: Home Edition

I have completed the Video Art project and I would like to share my experience, thought process and approach. You can experience the film via this link. The video is called “I’m ok”. Content Warning: It delves into the concept of suicide and it contains -fake- blood/pills.

Having as a base Bill Viola’s work “The Martyrs (Fire, Air, Earth, Water)”, I have decided to recreate such concept as a response to his work, within the context of the pandemic. So, I came up with the concept of mental health, a matter very important to me and that I would like to put it on the spotlight via this piece.

Extract from the film:

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and its quarantine restrictions, mental health issues have been impacted drastically. Around 40%* of adults have reported struggling with mental health or substance use with 11% seriously considering suicide.

Having that in mind, I started visualizing images of suicide, in many different ways relating them with one of the elements that I would use, fire, air, water & earth. With the element of water I had the vision of a bathtub and blood. As this was my starting point, I thought out the rest of the images in relation to that. I wanted to create four different images of four different suicide situations. The second image that came to my mind was a portrait shot with someone wrapped with the cable of a hairdryer whilst drying their hair. It is a connotation of asphyxiation and using the hairdryer as a symbol of a gun. Ironically enough, that image portrays the element of air. Next I thought about the shots in general. I already had a portrait shot and a far away shot, so I wanted to create a balance and have two shots of each. I also thought about the environment of the shots. So far I had two shots within my flat and I wanted to keep that as a common element, in order to portray and give emphasis to the fact thta quarantine and isolation are important factors in our mental health. Also, I was inspired by the work of Fischli & Weiss “The Way Things Go” (1987), where they created a video art piece in a garage by household items, so in a way ithis is my attempt to capture that piece within my flat with things that I have around.
Having set the environment and the shots, I started thinking about the element of fire. I had these thoughts of portraying different situations of someone commiting suicide, so as to bring forward the many different aspects of mental health and for the element of fire I had this vision of a candle burning. I placed that candle on a night stand alongside a bed. The bed is closely related to anxiety, stress, depression and it fit the aesthetic as well. Having in mind the short clips of Roy Raz and his aesthetic, I tried to navigate my piece  similarly.Finally, I was left to capture the element of earth. That was the trickiest to do as I was stuck within the mindset of having 4 similar images and I was trying somehow to portray another scene of suicide but luckily, going through the past artists from the lectures, I remembered Pipilotti Rist and her usage of color and flowers in many of her pieces and immedaitely made the connection of earth and flowers. For that reason, I decided to jump to the other side of the coin, that of life instead of death, and create an image that inspires and captivates life. As this image would be on the opposite side of the three previous ones, i decided to play around the concept of binaries, as Bill Viola and Roy Raz, so beautifully portray, hence I decided to use the technique of time-lapse which is essentially the opposite of slow-motion.  The final image that I had in mind was seeds blooming out of the soil as the element of earth.

Throughout my whole process I took into consideration many artists and tried to analyze how they would approach the creation of a piece, what they take into consideration whilst composing an image etc. but also things that had been discussed throughout the lectures. I took into consideration each composition’s color and set, always keeping in mind the rule of thirds as well.

Video Art Project: Bill Viola

Throughout my classes of video art, I came across many video artists that I wasn’t aware of but there is one video artist that caught my attention: Bill Viola. Bill’s aesthetic of high definition (HD) videos in slow motion, really resonates with me. I was so impressed in so many levels by his piece “Martyrs (Earth, air, fire and water)” in St. Paul Cathedral in London, which I only experienced via a recording of that piece, though still made such an impact for me that I am thinking that people experiencing his work at the Cathedral, will be affected even more.

I started researching about Bill Viola, his art work, his biography. I came across a documentary where he talks about his process of creating “Martyrs (Earth, air, fire and water)” but it also offers an insight of how he approaches the creation of many of his pieces.

Bill has a very distinct aesthetic across his artwork. He uses mainly the element of water and the slow motion technique. In general, I believe that the element of water is one of the primordial elements of nature, which makes it easier for people to ressonate with, in a deeper subconcious level, hence Bill’s work is so touching. In addition, slow-motion technique, gives the audience, spectator, the opportunity to observe, in a micro-scale, elements and phases that the artwork offers, later reflecting upon it on a macro-scale which gives the audience a more spherical approach.

Bill, within the documentary, talks about his experience as a child, nearly drowned in a body of water, explaining the reason he uses that element in many of his artworks. His near-death experience can be experienced via his artworks as well, if one will take into consideration his relationship with religion.

Bill has exhibitioned some of his artwork within cathedrals and chapels, through a site-specific video art installation, taking into consideration the architecture of the place.

In his work “Ocean Without a Shore (2007)”, San Gallo, Venice, Bill uses the architecture of this chapel in order to create three inter-dimensional portals between life and death. One can see the so-called “visitors” crossing over for a few moments before returning back to the abyss. Bill used the pre-existing architecture of the chapel with three large stone altars, translating them as the linkage, the portal, between the two realms.

Another work of Bill that has relegious elements is “Martyrs (Earth, air, fire and water)” that has heavily influenced my way of approaching video art and specifically the project of this module. Bill exhibitioned his art piece within the cathedral of St. Paul, once again taking into consideration the architecture, the location and the way that the artwork will be exhibited. In this piece, Bill uses the 4 core elements of nature, fire, air, water & earth, to portray four martyrs in their final moments of being turtured, or about to be released from their suffering, as another point of view. He once again, plays with the notions of life and death. He also decides to hang those four panels from the ceiling, as a way to further build on the notion of “heaven” whereas the other artwork that is also exhibited in St. Paul cathedral, “Mary”, is set on a plinth, to show the connection with the earth, as Mary, was initially a human. Within that piece of art, Bill sommunicates ideas of catholicity by portaying Mary as a woman of colour, breastfeeding her baby, with a background that time-lapses from day to night and then back to the day again, portraying eternity. Another art piece that Bill has created called “The Messenger” (1996), Durham, England, was exhibited with the Durham cathedral, showing a man descending and ascending in a body of water in a neveredning loop where one is unable to understand the beggining or the end of the sequence. That could be translated as the neverending cycle of life and death, the higher questions of life after death, not knowing when one’s life begins. Bill again plays with the notion of crossing between life and death, primarily using the element of water.

In general I can see many similarities between Bill’s work. He is mainly focusing on binary concepts such as life and death, man and woman etc. and he is focusing on the liminal space, the crossing space, between the two binaries.

Taking all aformentioned elements into consideration, I will embark in the creation of a short (3′) video art project, details of which, I will communicate in the following blog post.

Goodbye (Just for now)

Heya all! It’s that time…My residency with “Present Futures” festival has come to an end.

It’s been a pleasure being part of the festival and experiencing such energy and creativity online. It has been very inspiring, especially for an artist, like me, who struggles to create and respond to the pandemic.

My initial enquiry about materiality and performance was met to a degree, via such a unique lens of the festival. Even during the festival I was so blown away by the artworks, that it made me re-conceptualise what performance is/could be. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), are all concepts and most importantly technological tools, used in order to create, amongst other things, performance pieces, a usage that caught my attention.

The festival helped me remember that contemporary performance is not an art “in-a-can”, and that it has such variety hence my intention to showcase that by responding to the festival via different artistic mediums. The multi-faceted nature of the festival offered me an unspoken invitation to respond to it in my own multi-faceted artistic practice, pushing me to further develop my praxis.

Now, after the festival, and my residency, is over, I feel invigorated and ready for experiencing and approaching contemporary performance with a fresh pair of eyes and mind-sets.

A big thank you to everyone who dedicated their time to follow my journey but an even bigger thank you to Kat and Jill of “Feral Arts” who were by me every step of this residency, welcoming me from the very beginning. Hope we meet (in-real) someday soon.

Bests,

Rafael.

PS: This week, the police in Greece, attacked and brutally hit one person for speaking out because a person of the police force was about to fine a family who were taking a walk at a square, following all the governmental restrictions of wearing masks etc. #stoppolicebrutality #liveyourmythingreece

Simon Senn - Interview

I had the opportunity to sit down with Simon Senn, the performance artist behind ‘Be Arielle F’, and further discuss his creative process for that piece, his relationship with technology and have an insight of his next project.

Simon Senn is a Switzerland-based performance artist who studied Fine Arts in Geneva and started exploring video & performance quite early on his career.

He enjoys this piece as it deals with “Digital stuff” that “can change us as humans” but also the fact that he is able to tell the story of “something that I experienced for the first time” and “share it with the audience”. We both agreed that it’s a “beautiful story” which enables “to start a conversation to deal with all those technologies”.

I wanted to learn how he ended up creating that kind of performance piece as, I, as a personal experience, have not come across many artists with a similar praxis. As he elaborated

“I started creating the performance without knowing it, without realising it”.

That performance was created quite spontaneously. He was looking to expand his skills so he taught himself, via tutorials on the internet, how to utilize virtual reality (VR) and he quickly got interested in motion tracking technology as he found fascinating the fact that “you could move something in the physical space and it moves something else in the virtual space”.

That led him to try out an avatar of a body which resulted in his current piece ‘Be Arielle F’. But what is his relationship with the real-life Arielle? Simon says that he has one rule with Arielle: to exchange e-mails only regarding the performance piece and ‘talk’ only during the performance piece. Now, after many shows, Arielle and Simon have a more trusting relationship but this trust “comes a lot from the audience” “because a lot of people from the audience told her about the show” “and she now trusts me a lot because of the audience”.

Before that trusting relationship though, there was a legal aspect of using her body replica with various questions rising, including the borderlines of what is considered ethical or even illegal. Could a lap-dance be considered sexually explicit? What would happen if the artist were to add an element such as a ‘swastika’ on the replica of the body? A Simon informs me, technology develops in such a quite fast pace that the laws are not able to keep up with that pace which means that “they wait for cases of victims and then they make new laws about those cases”. In his process of trying to find out what could or could not do with the replica of Arielle’s body, he came across the question of whether a lap-dance could be considered sexually explicit material. He was informed that in some countries that could be the case and with the way the show could ‘travel’ to many countries, it would be an issue to further look into. Another lawyer, brought to his attention a hypothetical situation of the artist adding an element such as a swastika on the body, something that Arielle could sue him for but he then could sue the company that sold him the replica for not making it clearer in the contract the do’s and don’ts. To that he says “The company, needs to make individual contracts every time someone wants to buy a replica, for a specific usage, for a specific time”.

Performing a piece during the pandemic via zoom, a piece that was created before the pandemic, not being specifically designed to be shown remotely from home, which was how it was presented to “Present Futures” festival, brought up the question of what this new way of demonstrating a performance piece adds or subtracts, from the quality and the total experience. Simon sees clear differences between performing at home and performing live on stage. “Not one is better that the other; they are just different. When I do it at home I really like the fact that I’m telling the story from where it happened. There is a documentary aspect that I really enjoy”. On the other hand, for Simon, working live in space, creates an atmosphere of a safe space, hence his sharing of a lot of his personal experience, and he really enjoys meeting people after the show as “they [audience members] come to me and tell me also a lot about their lives, their relation to gender for example or technology and there is that direct way of interacting with people that I miss” “and also what I miss with the stage” “is the dance that she [Arielle] asked me to do”.

What’s on the horizon for Simon Senn? He is already working on his new project that deals with Artificial Intelligence (AI), an AI that is modelled out of Simon’s personality, to which Simon refers as “he”. It is a performance piece that also came alive accidentally whilst Simon was mentoring a student, Tammara Leites, for her diploma, for which she wanted to create an AI that is able to write books. Simon could see a lot of his personality within the texts generated by the AI, who (or which?) would also offer to Simon, many new ideas for future projects. At times the work-in-progress AI could be “super sexist and super mean”, something that Simon and Tammara are looking into and further research.

There are not upcoming scheduled performances of Simon just yet, but you can visit his website “Simon Senn” and get the latest information about his projects and any upcoming events.

PS: This week, the police in Greece, attacked and brutally hit one person for speaking out because a person of the police force was about to fine a family who were taking a walk at a square, following all the governmental restrictions of wearing masks etc. #stoppolicebrutality #liveyourmythingreece

Day Three Response

Heya! It’s been long since the end of the festival but the experience was so intense and ground-breaking, that it feels like day three was just yesterday.

I remember quite intensely the discussion panel that was held in the morning part of the day called “Rejecting the species binary”, with artists talking about interspecies surrogacy or merging contemporary performance with graphic design.

Day three had also a very interesting presentation of a work-in-progress project by Laura Fisher called “Hot & Bothered”. She presented to us her collaboration with the material of aluminium and thermostatic imaging technology in relation to her chronic-pain.

The last performance of the festival, “Be Arielle F” by Simon Senn, was the perfect ending of such an eye-opening festival, with the artist buying a digital replica of a woman’s body online and using motion tracking technology and Virtual Reality (VR) in order to ‘wear’ her body in the digital sphere. I had the opportunity, within the context of my residency, to interview Simon Senn the following day so as to have an insight of his artistic process and further discuss and explore this unique theme. I will post the interview in my next post, so stay tuned!

I have decided to respond to the discussion panel of “Rejecting the species binary” with a performance score:

IN THE MIRROR –

  1. Put on your air pods, wireless headphones or simply turn up the volume of your PC
  2. Put on this track “Ulver – The Future Sound of Music
  3. Strip naked
  4. Get in front of a whole-body mirror
  5. Start observing every inch of your body with the help of the mirror – keep doing it for at least half an hour
  6. Get a notebook and a pen/pencil and start a continuous free writing for 5 minutes
  7. Choose a favourite part/phrase/word of your writing and repeat that phrase/word/part, in front of the mirror for as long as you want.

Enjoy! See you in the next one.

PS: This week, the police in Greece, attacked and brutally hit one person for speaking out because a person of the police force was about to fine a family who were taking a walk at a square, following all the governmental restrictions of wearing masks etc. #stoppolicebrutality #liveyourmythingreece

Day Two Response

Hiya,

Day two was full of such wonderful pieces and discussions.

It started with the short film “Dear, can I give you a hand” by Wong Ping. A such a bizzare animation that kept me on my toes for quite some time after it has finished, popping in my thoughts in waves with so impactful images and notions. I really enjoyed it.

That was was followed by an equally thought provoking and engaging discussion titled “An index finger tracing a thought” with the artist Siri Black, offering us an insight of their researching process behind their short film “500nm”. Lots of ideas and concepts that I found interesting with one of them being very inspiring. That is the idea of “Pareidolia”, the human (need?) to see a pattern in the clouds, turning them into animals or to see “faces” being formed in the moon. I do that with the mosaic floor in my mother’s apartment every time I’m there.

The discussion was then followed by another discussion titled “Artist to artist conversation: Subverting the dataset” where artists Jake Elwes, Libby Odai, Libby Heaney and Bani Haykal, discussed among themselves (Along with some Q&A), the concept of dataset and its usage within the context of art. Personally, I found myself rethinking parts of that conversation and each time I would feel my mind expanding on artistic ways of perceiving AI, algorithms etc.

The showstopper for me was the performance piece “Carrion” by the amazing artist Justin Shoulder. I was looking forward to it from the very beginning and it did not dissapoint me at all. On the contrary, it was even better than I thought. I caught myself numerous times during the piece where I would not even blink as I was so ecstatic. Anything I say about the piece will do it no justice so I would definitely suggest if you have the chance to experience any of Justin’s work, go for it. It was a piece about a persona called “Carrion”, showing the process of exploration of the world surrounding that persona. Costumes, movement, materiality, all these elements uplifted the piece. The aesthetic of Justin Shoulder is an inspiration and a personal goal.

After such a moving piece, the discussion following was equally groundbreaking in my eyes. “Sonified body” was a presentation of the work of Tim Murray-Browne and Panagiotis Tigas where they use Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to translate the movement into sound. We as an audience got the chance to witness how that works, but also we had the opportunity to listen to the artists talking about their artistic process along with the mechanisms behind that AI.

The day finished with a very mystical, mesmerizing and capturing film by Alicia Matthews & Robbie Thompson called “Standstill of the moon in the north – part 1“. It was a film where the moon (as it is evident in the title) was a core element, exploring the effects it has over the sea. What resonated with me were the soundscape of natural sounds of water, images of the moonlit night sky and the rocks. I believe it was a perfectly curated end of day two.

At this point I’d like to offer my response to Justin Shoulder’s “Carrion”:

On to day three that has already begun. See you there!

Day One Response

Hello All,

Υesterday was such an amazing start of a very promising festival. The subject of the panel’s discussion felt so alive and each artist’s contribution to the discussion brought to the surface many of the concerns that came up to me as I was researching for my dissertation such as the accesssibility that the digital space offers (or not) and the payment of the art(ists).

Then we delved into the world of KEIKEN through “Feel My Metaverse“. It was a short film that captured the human/non-human entaglement in such an inspiring way. Sounds of nature came together with images of body vessels…

The film was followed by a soundwork of Samir Kennedy titled “Death Drill”. It was a soundwork of 5 parts with each part titled differently that we were asked to listen to, in the dark with headphones. That way, the piece sat within me for the whole duration of it and because of the lack of any external stimuli other than the piece itself, I was able to create a context for myself, containing text, images and smells.

The first day (or better yet, night) finished with a DJ set from VAJ.Power & Jake Elwes. Both artists offered the audience the perfect closure of the first day with music tracks of queer artists and a splendid video following those tracks. The set was on twitch.tv, a platform mainly known for its gaming aspect but what made this performance unique was the feature of twitch.tv to be able to interact with the rest of the audience and/or the artists through a chat box.

At this point I would like to respond artistically to one of the pieces that I had the opportunity to experience yesterday. So, following the performance “Feel My Metaverse” by KEIKEN, I created the following photo:

 

Tune in for day two of “Present Futures” festival! See you there!

Day One - Panel Discussion (Introduction)

5th of February, the beginning of the festival, seems pretty far yet so close. I’d like to take these days leading to the festival to present to you, according to my understandings, concerns and interests, the upcoming artists and lecturers of the festival starting from day one with the online panel discussion “Performance in  Pandemic”.

That subject is very dear to me as my dissertation was based on excaclty that concept. I have spent my days as an artist in isolation, because of the pandemic, researching and writing how art scene is shifting, going towards the digital sphere and now I’m here writing to you within the context of “Present Futures” festival, a festival that, up untill now, was a festival “live in space”.

The impact of the pandemic is massive in every sector and the arts would not be an excemption. Actually, especially the arts could not be an exception because in my opinion arts, and specifically my art’s practice, reflect the times and that shift seems quite prominent with our sector.

The discussion of “Performance in Pandemic” feels of great importance in order to investigate how performance is affected during these times, especially for myself, a performance artist, who is living and experiencing the pandemic.

I am looking forward to this panel and what will be discussed. I’d like to pose a couple of questions that were some of the main questions that I’m dealing with, within my disertation and that they feel quite relevant to this panel’s discussion: “How the pandemic has shifted the production of performance work?” “Could that shift be an opportunity for artists who otherwise could not create a piece of art in a live space, to access that pathway within the digital sphere?”

At this point I would like to offer you an article that my supervisor pointed me at. It’s an article by Claire Cunningham, a disabled performance maker who poses questions of empowerment of disabled artists through the digital sphere and also takes a stand on what she thinks of the audience “intruding” in her private space. You can read the artcle here.

Enjoy the panel in day one, I know I will!

Andrian Tomine, “Love Life”
  • Tomine, A., 2020. Love Life. [Art].[Online] Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cover-story/cover-story-2020-12-07 [Accessed 29 January 2021]

Present Futures - Live!

“Present Futures” programme is LIVE!

I was really looking forward to this blog post…the moment that the programme would be up and running. You can (and in my opinion should) check out the programme of the “Present Futures” digital festival here.

At this point I would like to personally give my thanks to the people behind the festival that made it happen and brought together such an amazing line of artists. My “thank you” speech feels more like an ending-of-things speech but the truth is that this is has only just begun!

From now on I would have the privilege to reflect on the artists, their work and the festival through this blog that you are more than welcome to revisit at any point. My goal is to be responding to the festival, artistically through my own artistic lenses and aesthetic, bringing an extra layer to the mix.

could point you to some of the artists that just looking at their websites I found particurarly interesting and that resonated with me a bit more than others but I’d suggest for you to have a better look at the programme and see what really speaks to you. Though through my reflections you will definitely be able to grasp what I found particurarly interesting, without spoiling it for everybody.

For now, I say “Get ready!” because “we’ve only just begun…sharing horizons that are new to us”…