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.

20191014

My report Mitä jää käteen kun saa aivan liikaa ja vielä enemmän? [What do you get when you are offered too much and more] on the Ural Industrial Biennial 2019 is out on Mustekala.info. It starts with a short description of the organization and an overview of the biennial’s this years theme “Immortality”. I’ve based my examination on texts offered in the catalogue and a very light reading of philosopher Yuk Hui’s work (he’s cited in the texts, as mentioned and felt very influential for the show). I had a lot of time to study material on the train! I recap a funny Rostec representative who tried to appropriate the theme during a panel by calling their corporation immortal and ponder if the seminar talk about contemporary art conservation was a way to deal with Lenin’s corpse.

The text continues as an easygoing account of my session with a biennial “mediator” Dennis. We browsed artworks which he deemed important for the exhibition. This suited me well as the focus of the tour turned out to be on post-colonial thought (largely dealing with China and specifically Hong Kong). I try to assess how (or if) the presentation of works refers to contemporary Russia. I celebrate the biennials pedagogical program and ponder if the gigantic amount of art on display is an attempt to make the biennial more accessible for the diverse Russian art audiences (something for everybody) or to silence everybody with the volume of works. Depictions of my chats with Dennis exposes the various technical hassles shadowing the exhibition.. But I’m not judgemental of the hassle. I enjoy them and the affordances they offers.

I conclude my review by summarizing our visit to the Uralsbest mine and factory, which was organized by the biennial. (There is a photo by Elina!) I try to think what it means that media surfaces used for contemporary art exhibitions, are made from minerals hauled from similar mines and try to frame of the mine visit as an opportunity to radically question how toxicities should be addressed. The text ends with me regretting that I couldn’t take the people we met in Asbestos city “seriously”. I regret not having a register to hear what they said about asbestos, because they must have very specialized knowledge on how we (in the global west) could learn to cope with toxins in the future.

20191008

Coping with post Trans-Siberian railway blues. It’s been a week now and I’ve yet to unpack. I just pulled everything on my table, keep my stuff in a pile and shuffle it when I need things. Our return trip from Vladivostok to Helsinki took 180 hours. We only had a few daily breaks and a 10 h train change wait in Moscow. I managed to (almost) complete a review of the Ural Industrial Biennial during the ride, made some train ambient recordings and fixed a sock. Despite the discomfort, working on the train felt rewarding. Everything we saw and did fitted into a context. The travel and our group forged a dense social framework which I experienced to be supportive. Back here in Helsinki, I feel vague and I don’t know what to do next. I’m dreaming of new travels and looking for odd-jobs (barista for Starbucks, office cleaning -> edit: got invited to a job interview but the 3h/5d a week gig only pays 550 a month, which is impossible).

I have small gig in a week and I’m preparing for some teaching next month (post-structuralism for kids continues). Swapped my KP3 for a Leploop Multicassa v2. It’s superb and compliments my rack. I’ll miss the KP3 thou.. I had it for 3 years. It seems I’m into electro-acoustics, ploppy filter resonances and organic mutant drum patterns. I’ll try to build a dark techno setup using Multicassa with my softPop. I think they come from the same universe (edit: they really do). Build my first 1u module TRS breakout 1u. The closet I use for work is a mess.

20190928

Cybernetics for the Twenty-First Century: An Interview with Philosopher Yuk Hui (2019) Geert Lovink. Hui sees the technological dominance of the Global West coming to an end and turns to models found in Chinese philosophy that aren’t rooted on a binary division between nature/culture.

We live in an age of neo-mechanism, in which technical objects are becoming organic. […] Being mechanistic doesn’t necessarily mean being related to machines; rather, it refers to machines that are built on linear causality, for example clocks, or thermodynamic machines like the steam engine.

[…] evolution is creative, since it is fundamentally organological in the sense that evolution is also a process in which human beings are obliged to constantly create new organs (e.g., figures), while not being blinded by them, i.e., by not regarding them as the totality of reality. Mechanism wants to explain life, without realizing that it is only a
phase of life, e.g., a figure.

On the surface, transhumanism seems to want to get rid of the concept of the human. However, this gesture is only camouflage. Transhumanism is a quintessentially humanist approach to the world, since all is captured within a metaphysical gaze

Huis talk What Begins After the End of Enlightenment? (2018) for e-flux is great. He argues that accelerationism is an direct continuation of enlightenment philosophy and identifies recent AI hype as a desire for a sublime man-made intelligence, trough which (western) men hope to transcendent themselves. He looks at technology as philosophy, referencing Heidegger and wants to find an alternatives to the prevailing (western) ethno- and technofuturism from “cosmotechics”. To achieve this he asks us to identify the locality of our technological thought. I think he’s talking about crafts.

I’ve been reading The Question Concerning Technology in China (2019) Yuk Hui. It builds thoroughly articulated links between Chinese and Western philosophy. Almost like an anthology. Tim Ingold is mentioned frequently. Hui is the philosopher cited in Ural Industrial Biennial catalogue by curator Xiaoyu Weng. Works in the exhibition feel almost like illustrations to this book.

In Chinese cosmology, one finds a sense other than vision, hearing, and touch. It is called Ganying, literally meaning ‘feeling’ and ‘response’, and is often […] understood as ‘correlative thinking’. I prefer to call it resonance […] It yields a ‘moral sentiment’ and further, a ‘moral obligation’ (in social and political terms) which is not solely the product of subjective contemplation, but rather emerges from the resonance between the Heaven and the human, since the Heaven is the ground of the moral.

20190927

I think we still have four night on the train. Some kids on their way to serve the army engaged with us. Most drunk, one sober and hungry for knowledge. He stayed a bit longer asking for advice on career paths. He wanted to learn how to organize studies abroad. We all hugged as he left. Socializing on the train reveals the density of our situation. During a gang-chat with the posse, I made a gesture indicating a flat surface. The person I was talking mistook it as a sign of me making fun of their height.

We engaged in a conversation with the train attendant. Each compartment has one, they maintain order, clean corridors and opened cabins on a daily basis, check tickets on stations and keep the samovars warm. They have numerous responsibilities behind the front. She worked hard to keep the posse constrained, coming inside the cabin, sitting close to them, making jokes, touching the lads on shoulders or calmly on their chests keeping them grounded. Perhaps she knew them forehand but at the time it felt like she was an emotional labor specialist, shifting focus, providing attention and keeping the situation just light enough. Once she laughed hysterically and crouched to wipe tears. I payed attention and noticed that while crouched her impression was numb. Her mother works the train too. Interviewing them on tape would be incredible. Today she’s been locked in her cabin. A cellphone alarm was heard at a station and her mother took the responsibility of opening the compartment doors to let us out.

I’ve been writing a travel-log-critique of the Ural Industrial Biennial and negotiating a synth trade trough a Finnish music gear forum (if it goes as planned I’ll be really happy!). We only get online on stations, for two to five minute on stops and a daily 20-30 minute break. Occasionally the train slows down and I pick up an email. Luckily there is a restaurant cart. I’m developing a habit of sitting there in the mornings for coffee and writing. I’ve been reading Yuk Hui in an effort to grasp “techodiversity” and “cosmotechics”, which are referred in the biennial catalogue.

Listening to Soviet Nostalgia In The South Caucasus (2016) SRB podcast with Maxim Edwards made me think of Donald Trump as a weaponized politician for a hybrid war, a spectacle designed to overshadow Putin.

Later in the night, after Ulan-Ude our train hit a person. The cabin attendant informed us he was taken inside the train to be transported to the closest town. Later we were informed the man had died and he was carried out at a stop. I went to the restaurant wagon in hopes of meeting people effected by the event and met Pavel. I believe we chatted about his career as a fire and rescue officer. He drew a map which showed a planet, much like earth and drew himself in the center of it. Then he performed a pantomime, showing himself carrying people to the surface and performing cpr. We smiled, he asked me to share drinks but I was too tired.