20191104

Returning from a teaching gig at Villa Arttu youth art school in Hyvinkää. I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with 28, 12-17 year olds, teaching “Performance Architecture” (as defined by Schweder) by using various movement, body awareness and voice based exercises. Participants came from Rovaniemi, Hämeenlinna and Hyvinkää. The group was divided in two batches which alternated each day between my workshop and a sound/media sessions taught by Simi Ruotsalainen.

The “Performance Architecture” workshops started with fake-laugh yoga and an exploration on how voices resonate inside bodies. Voice-making was framed as an internal-organ sculpturing exercise. Participants massaged the insides of their mouths using their tongues and attempted to identify where different tones resonate from. The idea of sound-making as an internal-organ sculpture practice was inspired by әṾӨȻΔ𐐉 -exhibition by Jenna Sutela & Lars TCF Holdhus at Sinne (2015). After the warm up we begun massaging your imaginations in a “What if…” session, in which participants only communicate by asking “What if…”. This exercise is something I picked up from a seminar called “Performative Utopias” organized by Reality Research Center in 2013 (for Baltic Circle).

Then we continued doing echo-izings: Each group member was expected to utter a word or tone, which others repeated. The word or tone had to relate to the space we were in. The exercise continued until everyone had shared their voice. The idea that everyone has to speak out for an exercise to end, was motivated by Peggy Pierrots community talk-shop guidelines from 2017. We practiced deep breathing, standing and walking in a confined space. These exercises were based on basic contact improvisation teaching techniques: The group begun by moving in a rigid grid pattern (90° turns, slow and fast walking). After a while they were allowed to stop their movements when they felt like it. The act of stopping was framed as a personal political strike, which offered an opportunity to reflect the situation. Striking as an action comes from an idea by Jussi Koitela: Activism becomes political, when people stop being “active” and reflect their situation.

After the trust within the group was founded, they begun to use the space more freely and we combined echo-izings to the movement. When people spotted motivating objects, shapes or things in the space, they were advised to stop, to point at the thing and voice their observation. Group members then followed the action: Stopped, pointed at the same thing and repeated what was said about it. This method of reading a space collectively was inspired by Patterns of Life by Julien Prévieux (2015). Participant were then advised to use the same technique for reflecting the joined movements and actions, that were emerging from within the group. Then the group spend a long silent session moving and exploring each others clothes, garments and jewelries. This lead into a very nice session, were people touched each others softly and recognized each others. Each phase of the exercise was discussed collectively before progressing.

Then we performed a repetitive minimalistic stepping dance choreography, which I saw executed as a part of the “Monstera” performance by Essi Kausalainen. I consulted Kausalainen about using her pattern in teaching and got some insight on it. The movement was framed as something intrinsic to living things and when setting it up for the participants I compared the dance to the movement of plants when they are seeking light. People associated the movement with something they do while “idling”, when waiting for a buss etc. We then performed very long sessions following the choreography and discussed what it felt like. People experienced the movement as soothing and enjoyed performing it collectively. We executed it in a large circle and the size of circle alternated during each session. It felt like we were breathing. I recorded the rhythm of our feet and we listened to the recordings, discussing how movement can be documented and how we can hear movement articulated. People seemed to really like listening and spend up to 10 minutes in silence, returning to the rhythmic noise they had produced earlier.

The group was then divided into 3-4 sub-groups, which were tasked to invent their own movement patterns. I presented the authoring of these patterns as a process were we write shapes inside our brains and recall them using muscle memory. We contemplated the ethics of writing inside an other persons brain and tried to visualize how our brains were altered by this experience. Reading was presented as a method of writing into oneself. The sub-groups then developed their own patterns in semi-privacy. After a while we returned to the collective circle, groups taught their pattern to others and performed them for as long as it took for everyone to incorporate them. After this we performed all of the different dances, so that they followed each other with out any forced direction. These sessions were recorded and we listened to them reflecting the experience. Here is a clip from the first session (12 students moving).

The event ended in a soft-lecture, trough which I attempted to explain what “performativity” and “post-structuralism” are. These sessions were more like chats as participants could ask questions and share their ideas during the presentation. The lecture was loosely based on Richard Schechners Performance Studies book from 2013 and the group was tasked to contemplate how repetition inscribes attitudes to our bodies. The workshop was a continuation of the “Post-Structuralism for Kids” sessions I taught in the same school in 2017. There is a short text about it in Finnish: Kehittäkää itsellenne lukihäiriö ja istukaa lattialla [Develop Dyslexia and Sit on the Floor] (2019).

20191030

Re-reading Performance Architecture (2011) Alex Schweder: “Which came first, the buildings or the actions they house, is perhaps not the most productive way of asking the question” he begins and continues “[w]e build buildings so that we have a place to perform habituated actions, and conversely the buildings that preceded our arrival in part determine our behavior.”

His description of a performance called Flatland (2007) brings to mind our recent Trans-Siberian cabin arrangements: The compactness of the cabin space authored our social interactions. Interestingly he also questions how to document embodied experiences: “[…] the most accurate documentations of Flatland are the divergent and immaterial oral histories, rumors, grudges and friendships. Through Flatland, I came to understand architecture as a series of social relations intimately constituted by and tied to an object.” […] “we have found immaterial performative factors such as duration, emotional predispositions, and interpersonal chemistries are what most impacts our experiences of a space. ”

I agree! Spatial and social relations are indistinguishable. Social relations are performances of our spatial distance from other bodies. If we take for granted that concepts such as “freedom of speech” are not about legislation or cultural norms, but about relations between people. Then how public spaces are build, determine if “freedom of speech” can be performed. I.e. If there is an affordance for self- and co-determined relations or assemblies (as Butler calls them) to form autonomously. Similarly the perceived comfort / discomfort of a space manifests the performative affordances the design offers occupants. Interestingly distances can only be measured between separate bodies of mass, which implies that entities which maneuver spatially perform a sense of self-awareness (Movement is awareness #ॐ).

As budgets are slashed, attention spans shorten and professional activities become eventalized; the cultural object – no longer preeminent – veers into product, turns into activity, de-materializes into performance. Cultural production as process. […] Notions of building performance, performance as construction, the rendering of the socio-political experience of the individual in space, or the architectural program as an urban script reaching beyond the specification of typologies to prescribe behavioral patterns are all converging to formulate new paradigms of spatial practice.

Architecture, like performance, has always contained the energies of live bodies. Both fields structure the behavior of their participants, but until this time architecture had always named the bodily actions and relations it contains and constructs ‘program’. For example, the program architects call ‘house’ uses its built form to instruct occupants where to enter, eat, sleep, fornicate, wash, socialize, et cetera. The partitions in our buildings are built to script the actions of those who inhabit them. Architectural cues let people know what to do where, when, and for how long – much like the script for a performance.

The way a performance is documented impacts the way it will be historicized. For those who do not experience the performance live, visual documents coupled with the oral history of the original performance take on a life of their own. Photographic documentation of architectural performances can play a large role in the way that we use architecture to construct our subjectivity.

There are also an interesting passage on “building-time” which Schweder argues as being slower then human-time. I think he’s right. Buildings perform across generations. They are also lived, meaning they are modified, remade and demolished simultaneously by their habitats. Materials can which make the building can also be repurposed. I’d like to extend this concept to cover “tool-time”: Tools also perform across generations and convey the technical thinking of the episteme they were conceived in. The grip of a tool educates a used on how it is yielded. They are also lived (modified and remade) and adapt to changes in technical thinking (or demand). Sometimes tools conceal their functions, to pass trough times when their intrinsic use-value is not in demand (I have a set of surgical knives and pliers I use for hobby-crafts, when the time is right they can be recommissioned as surgical instruments). Art as a technic is packed with concealed functions: Performance art is the tai-ji of social change.

20180806

Bought a book by Michel Serres and started working on an application for the Doctoral Studies Programme in Artistic Research in Performing Arts at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. I’ve written a 12 page research proposal called “Horse & Performance” (it’s taken me two-to-three weeks and I’m currently waiting for comments/guidance from friends). The English summary is the last part (I’m having trouble with it). Apparently I want to spy on people, talk to horses and ask them what they think about our perception of them.  I can’t read the the summary without giggling – Which has to be a good sign.

The “Horse & Performance” research investigates “what do we talk about, when we talk about horses” at Finnish horse-stables. The research is rooted on an ethnographic study which analyses how horse-hobbyist and professional construct the figure of the contemporary-horse. The ethnographic part of the research will focus on situations were people explain the animals behaviour trough unintentional utterance, murmured while working with them. I will also engage in an “performance architectural” analysis of the sites, where people meet with horses, trough which I will formulate an understanding on how particular sites (and particular technologies presented in them) affect our perception of the animal. The fieldwork will be contrasted to the work of artists and theorists who have contributed to the development of the “animal-turn”.

From these sources I will develop a set of post-humanistically geared exercises and grooming techniques, through which I will direct the question to the horses themselves and ask for their feedback. These exercises will be presented as public performances, organized in urban spaces. The feedback audiences provide will be used to further develop an understanding of the contemporary-horse. Performing publicly with an animals cause conflicts through which we can access views and assumptions people project on them. Techniques developed through this research, can be used to ask animals for feedback on how build environments should be organized. The research aims to advance the wellbeing of animals and to advocate ethical environmental design.

Here is a list of texts I refer in the full proposal:

  • Barad, Karen. 2003. Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter
  • Butler, Judith. 2015. Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly
  • Cull, Laura. 2012. Theatres of Immanence – Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance
  • Despret, Vinciane. 2016. What Would Animals Say If We Asked the Right Questions?
  • Haraway, Donna J. 2007. When Species Meet
  • Haraway, Donna J. 2013. SF: Science Fiction, Speculative Fabulation, String Figures, So Far.
  • Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene
  • Hribal, Jason. 2003. “Animals Are Part of the Working Class”: A Challenge to Labor History
  • Hribal, Jason. 2012. Animals are Part of the Working Class Reviewed
  • Ingold, Tim. 2011. The Perception of the Environment. Essays on Livelihood
  • Korhonen, Pauliina. 2014. Ratsastusreitit kaupunkialueella – Suunnitteluesimerkkinä Länsi-Vantaan ratsastusreitit
  • Leinonen, Riitta-Marja. 2013. Palvelijasta terapeutiksi – Ihmisen ja hevosen suhteen muuttuvat kulttuuriset mallit Suomessa
  • Mbembe, Achille. 2003. Necropolitics
  • Mitsuda, Tatsuya. 2007. Horse in European History 1550-1900
  • Kaimio, Tuire. 2004. Hevosen kanssa
  • Malm, Andreas. 2016. Fossil Capital – The rise of Steam-power and the Roots of Global Warming
  • Mejdell, Buvik, Jørgensen & Bøe. 2016. Horses can learn to use symbols to communicate their preferences
  • Morton, Timothy. 2017. Humankind
  • Ojanen, Karoliina. 2011. Tyttöjen toinen koti – Etnografinen tutkimus tyttökulttuurista ratsastustalleilla
  • Salminen, Antti & Vadén, Tere. 2016. Energia ja kokemus: Naftologinen essee
  • Serres, Michel. 2010. Malfeasance – Appropriation Through Pollution?
  • Schweder, Alex. 2011. Performance Architecture
  • Urry, John. 2004. The ‘System’ of Automobility
  • Weizman, Eyal. 2015. The Roundabout Revolutions
  • Weizman, Eyal. 2017. Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation
  • Wright, Stephen. 2014. Toward a Lexicon of Usership

20180416

Wearing my spring jacket which I surface treated using a boiled linseed & beewax mixture. Spring rain doesn’t penetrate the cotton cloth but the downside is that the jacket smells faintly like freshly cut grass. The wax-coating made the denim fabric darker and the jacket looks cool. Droplets of water stick to the surface, I feel like a cowboy or sailor. Tuned an old hoodie too, lengthened its sleeves and replaced its backside with a lighter fabric (for better ventilation). The jacket and the hoodie work well together.. Only the front and top of the garment is waterproof and the backsides allows inter-garment climate control.

Collected synths and controllers for our Oodi modular presentation from Pasila library. I received a Make Noise 0-Coast and a Arturia Beat Step Pro. They are the first instruments of the Oodi modular system and I’m the first person to loan them! We will use them with Viktor at Kontula Elektronic to demo services that Central Library Oodi studios will offer for library users. I have week to learn how to use them. I’m now a (fake) synth-expert, demoing instruments which I don’t own. I hope someone will make musicmesse-style awkward interview of us.

Preparing for a live radio interview regarding our work (Neighborizome) at the Kone foundation Lauttasaari mansion. I’ll have 5min of airtime to introduce people to Performance Architecture (I’ll refer to Alex Schweder if possible). Used the little time I had to build a case for “new mansion culture”.

20161108

Burning Man at Google lecture by Fred Turner explains how companies like Google foster (and capitalize) creativity and a sense of community using architecture, mailing lists and other nasty schemes. Turner argues that engineers and coders are the primus motors of social change and culture (like artists and poets were in the past). The talk makes it easier to understand what artist/facilitators like Andrew Gryf Paterson are after with their work- and talkshop activities. Technology (and art) is a tool for social (re)organization. It is made and used to express desires. The talk also discusses the growing role of self-reliance (and how survivalism is related to it). “Vocational ecstasy” (Ideological work) is also an interesting concept. It describes a creative mode people can arrive to when working in teams on creative tasks. Individual egos fade away through joined unpaid labor and participants feel transferred something else (work on modular technology is key in the experience).

I’ve been trying to motivate myself into editing Horse Porsche Show documentations I shot with Hanna. Also contacted the Workhorse hobbyist association in regards of their winter forestering workshops. Trans-Horse activities are progressing slowly and I’m having trouble with setting goals for next years activities. The funding I’ve managed to accumulate is not adequate for building collaboratory schemes together with professionals in the horse-community. Making mere representations (videos, texts etc.) of their work and horses feels boring.. Particularly as the reception of our “Come Together, Leave Together” (2015) movie was so lame (We didn’t get it into any festival screenings in Finland and it’s been rejected from the YLE (Uusi kino) programming too). We got positive reviews from peers and horse culture collaborators but the movie has failed to reach audiences through mainstream channels.

Alex Schweder continuing on Performance Architecture (lecture).