Found an embarrassing text on live-art broadcasting I wrote 10 years ago: Stream? (2011). At the time we were attempting to build a collective channel for streaming culture events live. It was called CEL and we, the T.E.H.D.A.S organization, made broadcasts four to eight times a year. The regular events were PERFO performance nights from Tampere which managed to develop an audience and we also made annual multichannel streams from PERF festivals, Pori. All of the streams are archived in the Pori Art Museum in the D-ark archive (I don’t think they are accessible online currently). Our streaming system was advanced, we had multiple cameras and multiple parallel streams. In later phases we also worked with live-text.
I wrote it out of spite towards the national broadcasting company YLE which, at the time, was also experimenting with the late Bambuser streaming service (which we had adopted after Floobs closed in 2010). For us at T.E.H.D.A.S the live broadcasts felt like a lifeline trough which we could reach out to the unknown and to meet new people. For me it felt like the stream helped us to define ourselves and our craft and as YLE started using the same platform, I felt we were being pushed out and wanted to stand our ground.
In my part, live-art streaming culminated in the development of “Perfo-style” event documentations. This is a type of live-blogging which seeks to give an opinionated but sharp analysis of events trough text, which is written and shared live trough an online-writing platform. For me the most relevant experiment with this was a Perfo-event in 2012 which was documented simultaneously as text and a video-stream (using two feeds). The text part: perfo_raportti_29_5_2012_to_pdf.pdf is still available online (in Finnish) and the same text was later published in English in the T.E.H.D.A.S ry 10 year celebration book (my review on the book in Finnish).
The Stream? text is very coarse. It is arrogant at parts, even misinformed but feels sincere – Written before my MA degree. I think the best part of the text is the celebration of glitch esthetics in relation to live-streaming. I copied some relevant quotes below
… there are already so many cameras at live-art events that the illusion that things are live has been shattered. Performers work for the camera and this shapes the nature on performance art. It is only honest to admit that artist produce “images using their bodies” precisely because they want to look good in still photos which will later on to be posted on facebook, catalogues and portfolios. There is nothing wrong with this it is just that we have become so skilled in posing that our skills have turned against the nature of live-art. Artist are more concerned with the documentation then of the audience. …
With this in mind I think we should force ourselves to think critically on how to document performance art. Digital cameras have been capable to produce near same quality images for ten years now and it is impossible to determine from which era still photos are from. The gruesome reality is that they all look the same and the only way you may see time passing is when you recognize a particular artists aging. Try something different. There are bound to be art students with strong live drawing backgrounds in the audience, why not apply their skills for documenting the event or audio recordings, 3D animation etc etc.
Live streaming is a great tool to hinge performers out of their comfort zone. Every moment of the event is streamed so a performer has to consider all of their actions to be visible. The “money shot logic” of a still image showing the most dramatic sequence of a performance does not apply when the entire event with it’s preparations, audience reactions is also shown. The presence of “the internet audience” superimposes the artists a feeling that audiences which they are unable to control will evaluate their gestures critically. The stream embodies the idea of the other. An artist is pointed by a camera which streams events for unspecified and radically different audiences. A camera streaming online becomes a representative of audiences which you cannot seduce by editing your afterimage. This is a great challenge. If there is to be only one camera at a performance event this camera should be the one broadcasting.
When working with live streams it does not help if the broadcast is streamed trough a 100mb connection as people viewing it will anyways see it compressed and optimized for low bandwidth connections. But I don’t think image quality is a problem. Rough image gives events a sense that they are really live and differentiates us from mainstream medias. If we’d be working to produce HD-quality streams we’d be in the same category as all the other TV channels and if the image quality is close to standardized TV people begin to expect TV like structures from the stream. To replicate such quality is not necessary as we are not orchestrating an event into a studio setting, we are adapting into the site as it changes. The current robust system we have designed can handle changes, mood-swings of performers and surprises during a happening better then conventional TV-broadcasting tools do.
Glitch serves live online events well.
I feel that the liveliness of live events is in the element of danger, non-censuring mistakes made by the performer(s), pushing the camera operator outside her/his comfort zone and working with hazardous technical devices and beta-software. Such explorations inevitably results to glitches. Which is good. Pixelated image stresses the eyes and demands a different logic of viewing. Watching something aesthetically unpleasant forces the viewers to make sense of things them self’s. A “new media gaze” is being crafted. People on computers consume different sorts of media on the screen simultaneously. The textual elements of a performance (placed on the shout box or webpage) might be read during a pause in stream or the viewer might engage in a chat. There is currently no data on how or what people watch during a live stream. The viewer logic is being constructed based on what we offer.