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THE LATHSHEV-FITHSHNEV-PROZESS (2009-2010)

Gívan Belá and Michal Kindernay (Praha)

 

 

 

0. What happened before

 

LATHSHEV.

Spring 2009, the artists Natalia Borissova and Gívan Belá started to fantasize about a world without the current remnants of 19th century cultural forms. Theatre seemed to be the most likely one to start with and reinvent, due to its utterly frozen state and imploded innovations, while still acting at the same time as a sovereign discipline towards other forms of performance, especially the more media-related arts. In a loose collaboration they started to organize a workshop that was to be called "The Last Theatre Show Ever." Natalia arranged a research site, the experimental I-Camp theatre, as well as some funding, and together they worked out a program for realizing LATHSHEV. Immediately it was proposed to divide it into two parts: LATHSHEV and FITHSHNEV, adding "The First Show Never".

In the following months, a series of texts were produced with the purpose of defining theatre ontologically, and analyzing its essential categories with the properties that had to be reversed. Soon afterwards a programmatic text was published, proposing a couple of research issues. The general idea was to invite people from the larger field of media performance and together "dismantle theatre by making an electro-digital instrument out of it". The system would allow a few people to go together as deeply as possible into several components of the making of theatre in a short time, and try to come up with a different definition for each. A longer text provided only a little more background, although at first we were afraid to guide or orient participants too much in one direction.

 

PAMPHLET

This is an experiment about trying to build a new future for an old discipline in 7 days. Electronic and digital artists use their tools to change all the aspects and parameters of conventional theatre. A computer and electro-acoustic solution has to be invented and put together.

The participants have to subscribe to at least 2 of the following modules:

 

1. text, concept, play = online collaborative writing with all possible
media: ascii, photo, movie, sound...

 

2. actors = theremins, coils, autonomous and coded objects

3. props = the people that are accidentally communicating with the
actors

4. light = using dmx control, controlled by actors and props

5. sound = the actors performing in a spatial distribution

6. the break = when the world stops for a while

7. audience = virtual and real, in a mixed situation, disturbing one
another

 

Time frame = 7 days, monday through sunday and the last day is the last theatre show
Daily schedule: all participants spend the morning working together; in the afternoon they work alone or in small groups.
Coordinators: none
The preparations are done online over summer.
Advice: Avoid making things conventional.

See: http://writingthrough.societyofalgorithm.org/node/18

 

During the months before, preparing for the event, we gradually drew the hypothesis that no discipline, inlcuding theatre, can change unless we provide a controversial, and “different methodology to replace any of the ones currently used (anywhere)”

To us it seemed obvious that the way a play was made - within the context of audience, building venue, actors’ skills, administration, etc ... - was driven mostly by obsessive, unquestionable standards and norms. Breaking these rules would not be enough, since we can only appreciate innovation if our evaluation of what we experience has already been changed. Instead of immediately discussing what had come first, the chicken or the egg, we decided to give credit to the dinosaur. Oskar Hansen, a Finnish-Polish architect, had first developed the concept of 'open form' within architecture to apply it later to a generation of early media artists while teaching in Warsawa. He had introduced the system of collective interpretation into early Polish video art and performance. The translation of the original becomes the real work. This neutralizes the individual status of the maker, as well as that of the interpreter. We simply decided to try his open method for the setup in order to determine whether it could work in a similar way for breaking through our preconceived ideas about performing, recording and manipulating the audiovisual, or simply take us out of our habitual way of perceiving theatre, set in a specific space with given time frames. What had to be prevented was doing an activity as a dogmatic series of predictable energetic movements by using the given media in a repeated and repetitive (formalized) way. What was important here was the fact that it had to take our belief in the collaborative subject as a motor of change into account. Thus, it was suggested that the methodology be implemented in a simple, objective way, in order to come to collaboration as a working issue automatically. Then a call was issued, open and free to everyone creative, from whatever discipline they claimed to be coming. On a side note, we discard the notion of amateurs and professional artists, beginners and virtuosos. As Marx was hinting at, we believe that everyone has a creative faculty in himself/herself that can develop within a beneficial context. The advice mentioned earlier, to "avoid making things conventional", was for the purpose of stimulating self-evaluation rather than allowing any hierarchical arguments to rule.

 

PROPOSAL FOR A SIMPLE METHOD
(homage to oskar hansen's open form)

1. specifically here

person one:
A makes an object [+ or - human]
B creates an action towards this object

person two:
C comments, describes this action (audio, visual, text, code)
D transforms this description with another action in another medium [modulation, convolution but cross-media]

all participants go through this, par example: 10 people each make an object and perform an action, and all of them additionally go through the 9 other objects/actions to create 100 results... and if there is time, all of them can go through the entire process again!

before you start it is important that you read the pamphlet and action and think of one of the 7 provided modules you want to work with

 

0. a general framework for making an object

an obligatory loop where the artists make the environment in an environment by recreating the context, or better, a framework for behaviour

INPUT
1 observation
2 perception
3 analysis

OUTPUT
4 extract material/physical features
5 create a comparable model
6 relate to synthesis by generating a construction with audio, visual, text, code

FEEDBACK
7 send back to initial environment
8 observe the resulting changes from the activity and feedback
9 adjust the parameters until an in/out state of equilibrium is reached

the audience is part of the changing activity itself and at the same time the environment in which it occurs, and as such occupies the same space as the artists

See: http://writingthrough.societyofalgorithm.org/node/21

 

In passing, we would like to introduce a text by Oskar Hansen, which provided the basis for the above methodology.

 

The original 1959 Open Form manifesto

Is the difference between contemporary sculpture and the works of Michelangelo in terms of difference and their relation to space still a matter of superficial changes? ... Was the primary idea behind the compositional design of the housing structures of the Interbau estate in Berlin (1957) focused on the representation of the differences between the individualities of their inhabitants? Were those buildings ready to absorb the changes and events taking place during the lifetime of the form? I characterize here various kinds of visual intervention just to call attention to their helplessness in meeting our contemporary needs. Those works are above all personal monuments to their authors. Therefore, it seems, they ought to be more or less alien to each of us. As hermetic compositions, filled up to the brim, they become peremptory, and thus evoke imperviousness on various levels ... Those monuments are the corollary of composing by way of closed form, in which the formal and often also the contextual components are fixed. They are passive towards changes in time. The moment they are born they become antiques ... Closed form. The decision taken in my name. I am standing next to the process. There is no way to find your identity here - your own self. All these are somebody else's souvenirs, feelings, somebody else's houses and housing settlements.
How to find the way out of this situation? It seems that, today - utilizing the large output of the closed form, with the support of new ways of visual education, and with the new organisation of resources - right now we are able to begin the creation of a new organic art of our time, the art that is compositionally based on the open form. It will awake the desire of existence for every one of us; it will help us to define ourselves and find ourselves in the space and time in which we live. (This new art) will become the space which suits our complex and yet not unexplored psyche, and it will become so because we will constitute the organic elements of this art. We will walk through it, and not around it. Diverse individuality, in all its randomness and bustling, will become the wealth of this space, its participant.
Being a composition of spatial sub-text - it will become a multi-layered phenomenon, constantly alive. In relation to the conventions of the closed form, entailing mainly the craftsmanship of the manufactured object, the conventions of the open composition will imply the activity defined (as) "passe-partout" to the changes taking place in space. It will be the art of events. Time acts more forcefully than it used to, when we could still trust the wholly unchangeable, the once-for-all fixed relation between the elements (of form). The open form is not exclusively a speculative discovery of our times. It is above all the post-observational conclusion of the existing configurations.

From O. Hansen, "Forma Otwarta", Przeglad Kulturalny, vol 5, no.5, 1959,
p.5. Translated by Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius.

For further notes on Oskar Hansen, see: http://writingthrough.societyofalgorithm.org/node/33

 

In August 2009, we organized a preliminary public event intended as a discussion, a think tank, and an exercise. It was set up in the framework of Letní Dílny, a yearly DIY workshop week, organized in Prague last year. We had a daily scheduled meeting in the afternoon, reserving one hour for discussion and one hour for performance. It soon became obvious that the participants were not dedicated to trying out the methodology, and actually were merely interested in the traditional forms of performance. There was tremendous hesitation and reservation to work on something new, such that some performers started repeating their usual material on their instrument or computer. So much for the neutralization of performance and the individual! However, we realized that removing the action from the performance was going to be the pivotal moment in the upcoming production. As an example we also suggested a possible exercise , which was not attempted. We carefully recorded the entire workshops. An impression was written in advance:

 

[ENVOI]

Maybe the first actor is an environment: an obsolete gigantic machine from a past industrial era. An obsolete site in itself. The idea of an ecology frozen in time, becoming its own myth, a space that was left by time long ago. A carcass hoping for its regeneration. A waiting. In a colourful field with cold darkness underneath.

See: http://writingthrough.societyofalgorithm.org/node/25

 

Then the real show came. Five days with people who were not used to working with one another, with different objectives and purposes for attending, with different ways of working, communicating, looking at performance with or without technology. Most of the participants were against any methodology. Was it too hard to set aside the objective, the individual, the given space and time for exposure of skill and knowledge? Or did it emanate precisely through the technological means? When, instead of the actor, the instruments are left to perform the acting, do they become myths as well? Like strangers to life itself? Why were they hidden under the audience’s seats? The theatre crew was supportive; the theatre building always there, open. And we opened more doors and tried to visualize what had never been visible, and create a faint and abstract coloured light from the surrounding environment’s behaviour. When the play was finished, controversial and contradictory reactions from organizers, participants,and the audience followed. The questions remain. By removing the action, controversies and problems are created, hypercorrected by bringing back the performance as familiarly done. The list of interested people, all participants in some way, remains. The last show was finished.

Later we wrote the following impression.

 

WHEN THE ACTION BECOMES AN ANECDOTE. DURATION THE MAIN EVENT.

a call for change. a request for making theatre end. theatre as an unsettled environment for performing. the disruption of the action, actions that are disruptive. like waiting. simply waiting.

like the request long ago to open the windows and keep them open. to let some real world in. the contemporary in two senses - what is happening today and the way it could be happening today.

the technical availability of a view into a world with nature as it presents itself outside the building. bringing a representation with merely six lights. as a fake imitation and reductionalist colour palette. while the computer smart as it is has already taken out all change to the image, change due to wind, people, plants, sunlight. inertia in a short endless series of memory plays. a flashback of non-activity.

the unnoticeable intensity changes. as supporting a dense drone. a short series of fade-outs. eliminating identification of tone and pitch. on the rhythm of the absent movement. its non-presence in repetition.

a last theatre show. the implosion of performance. a blanking out of the individual. the erasure of the virtuoso. the invisibility of meaning attached to any of his/her actions. an emphasis on the fact that it did not happen. time's duration (always our bodies waiting) stretching and everything is slowing down.

a fight to deal with their presence in the room. the costs of the beloved objects. the energy of controlling it all. their resistence against standing still, and watching, waiting. the seeds of the primordial performance together/alone: to stand up and be noticed by showing a skill, an expressed thought, and movement, if only for the eyes.

it is not that all has already been said or done. no. but whatever is tried cannot deviate from the historical lineage that has produced that same theatre. it could have all been done potentially.

so better to fade with the light. the darker the surrounding, the more vague any activity becomes. the less we perceive, the less we can do. the lights can all be monotonously blue and shaky. the frequencies become blurred and have a long, deep sliding movement away from the fixed points (where they began). the inability to cope with darkness and similarly with low pitches.

the performers can always continue. even up in front they will be seen against an inactive background: the main actor paralyzed. that is how to close it down. 7 days to produce an anecdote. waiting. for the last theatre show ever. then clean up and go home.

See: http://writingthrough.societyofalgorithm.org/node/35

 

 

1. What happened afterwards:

 

FITHSHNEV.

After monitoring natural environments, it seems obvious that a different time consciousness is at hand: slow time in which nothing spectacular ever seems to happen, or only subtle changes over a longer period of time. Thunder and lightning and tsunamis seldom occur. Temperatures, pressures, gas levels, humidity, light, winds all have a slope built over hours and hours. After removing the action technically, what is left to work with? Zero. But subtleties emerge. New reference points come under attention. An attempt to bring in a new synthesis to represent them, bring out their sense and sensibilities. The search for radically new dramatic structure/s or in addition, new poetics and new aesthetics, which can only come from a different way of perceiving things (perceptual-conceptual), evaluating things (epistemological), and essentially making things (constructive). After "The Last Theatre Show Ever", how to make "The First Theatre Show Never"?

Meanwhile the participants on the list became convinced that the next phase should be one of plurality. With a single name a distributed number of try-outs (trials?) could be identified, dispersing in any possible direction, inviting or not inviting one another. That is no longer so important, once there is no former theatre anymore. Either one invents things from scratch or takes the hidden pearls of former errors and abandoned experiments together, developing them further into something original. Whichever. Both ways work. Like the discussion in OULIPO, with François le Lionnais, resolving the schism: BOTH, although the heart will always embrace the synthesis of the new!

Et cetera.. hop, hop, hop, hop...

 

A PROCESS.

A plan: to perceive and register even the smallest timed changes analytically. Start from the coupled audiovisual parameters and construct a new synthesis as a parallel line, alongside the original performance. From the past we have learned to avoid being taken in by the original performance and as such being aesthetically compromised by it. Important: can we reveal the 'other' play within the play by making another space? Can we do this elsewhere, where the autonomy of perception still exists?

How can we represent these more 'natural' features of the play, namely, what is happening in the audiovisual spectrum and what can be detected in space after taking out the seven epistemological parameters as described in the LATHSHEV documentation (see above)?

Some hypothetical working schemes:

  1. Start from new aesthetic components (electricity and its obsolescence), the energy of movement, the density of the energy, ... See how the play runs and create another context and environment in which the traditional theatrical settings are not represented: maybe daylight and a ruin of an amphitheater again, or an abandoned industrial place (the non-site as a new place)
  2. Create a new, subjective and different context in which to work, breaking down the current conventional theatre hierarchies, organigrams and forms/norms. Step over (ah: time and again!) the ever re-constructed borders to the disciplines, simply relegate it to other media to allow new open forms/norms/actions to emerge.. (non-action as a new performance)
  3. Put an end to the dominance of repetition and imitation. The last days of neoliberal, postindustrial neo-new-age, after its crash in 2008, resulted in the installment of a neo-realpolitik culture (to be regarded as hyper-pragmatism refusing to be ideological). After observing nature, the only ecological aesthetics that can emerge has for that reason to be subversive to any aesthetics from before 2008.

[An important side-remark: While theatre keeps up with tradition, despite the constant dropping of its funding, you still do not call this attitude a cultural death wish? Yes, we believe that any new aesthetics goes hand in hand with radical political and social innovation.]

Our only point of consistency would be trying to avoid making things conventional. Sorry if we fail now and in the future again.

 

A KAFKA.

Kafka, especially Der Prozess: a representation of a warning against Sovereignty dominating ordinary life up to the level of obstruction, destruction. In two ways the subjective is challenged: by the dominance of a bureaucracy, which is again non-ideological, hyper-normative, non-confrontational and objective, and secondly by its persistence in its life-long non-acquittal status. The challenge is how to bring it out when all action is eliminated.

 

A first choice.

We started the second part of this project with recording the 'real' performance on camera and sound recorder. This is going to be the material for analysis. What can we see and hear? We treat perception as a low level process. Whatever is said about machines, we are artists and use them as our instruments. Instruments are producing sound and images, but in the first place we use them rather as tools for seeing and hearing. Seeing: how many pixels move in the frame, and where from/to? Hearing: where are sound and silence, how loud and how complex? Slowly we move into a higher process of detecting shapes and movements. What zones are changing in the image; what speeds can be seen over time? How do the voices bring out intonation and stress? What are the natural rhythms and how do they change when there is a temporal distortion? Finally the (ir)relevance of the representation. Whether incompatible with and negating the performance or not. Reducing it by eliminating the action, by taking the frames away. Taking out the drama and reducing it to a bare framework of states, paralysed beings standing still and waiting for an end.

 

A second choice.

How can we relate all this to the reality of the performance? A real actor, actors in front of an audience. An audience also producing energy. Changes in interpretation via an intermediary state. As Oskar Hansen was trying to realize. Interpretations as replacements of the action that is eliminated. A live setup. How to produce the parallel play alongside the original one. Outside in the foyers and with invited perceptional artists. Maybe a band or two. They cannot play; they interpret, adding differences in sensibility. A play breaking loose from its original and becoming an original. The instruments work on it, work it out.

 

Analysis and synthesis:

  • image = movement, spacial spreading, motion detection, timings for static moments and velocities
  • sound = mostly speech, perceiving its changes, timings of silence, volume and spectral complexities
  • between both the relations, overlappings and contradictions, the rhythm/cadence and non-recurrent forms
  • resulting energy of paralysis and displacement, interpolations of events, negations and emphases

 

Some illustrations:

Foto Kinderay3

A final question: can this description (be a score for a theatre play? From an observation to something else, undefined. Can it become a composition or, as Hansen explained, a spatial sub-text? We like the idea of a multi-layered phenomenon, constantly alive. The first theatre show never.

Come and see ...

Date: December 2, 2010
Time: aprox. 20 to 22 p.m.
Place: Theatre Komedie, Prague (see web: www.prakomdiv.cz/)

 

 

 

 

Support of the project:
CIANT - within a residency programme.
With kind permission of Prague Chamber Theatre
Masaryk University - The project is part of the research activities done within Centre of Fundamental Research of AMU and MU (Masaryk University), supported by MŠMT, grant No: LC544.

 

Guy van Belle / Givan Belá

Born 1959 in Belgium. After studying literature and linguistics, a little philosophy and sculpting, he made a radical switch to computer music at the end of the 1980s. He has been involved in experimental media art in its many different forms since 1990. First, he restlessly lived and worked in Belfast, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, New York, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The_Hague, Berlin. His most important virtual organisations (all collective) were Stellingname (1984-1989), Young Farmers Claim Future (1990-2000), dBONANZAh! (1998-2002), and finally mXHz.org (2002-?) and Society of Algorithm (2004-?). These setups were merely covers for collaboratively investigating the many different forms of creativity from real and non-physical people, including machines. Then he became co-founder, and active member for many years of OKNO (2004-?), an artist run organization in Brussels. In Bratislava he co-founded the social-artistic organization Col-me (2007-?).

His work was mainly synaesthetic, real time generated, abstract, algorithmic, and gradually abandoning the familiar settings, parameters and skills for production, display and reception of the work of art as we know it today. He wrote critico-comical pamphlets about art and technology from an anti-post-modernist anti-neo-liberal background. Like everyone in that field and at that time, throughout his life, he had many money problems, many friends and even more enemies. Between 2005 and 2009 he lived in Bratislava, where he began to work under the name of Gívan Belá. The city does not plan a statue yet. Then he moved to Bubeneč, a quarter of Prague, and lived briefly in "čistirna" an old sewage works. There he started exploring a more ecotechnological approach within the media arts, and wrote his fragmentary 'denizen epos' (unpublished). There are many unverified stories, like: "... around 2010, after a short visit to a small village in Bohemia (Hranice), and seeing there an abandoned cow house (kravín), he extended his name to Belá-Kravař. Others maintain it is a mutation of Cravan, the proto-dada artist, which he did not admire." On one occasion he would introduce himself as a media data writer, then as a wind time inventor and clock maker, then again as a slide and cigar box guitar musician in a skiffle/spasm band. Often he claimed Graham Bell to be family, since the whole lineage was deaf in the right ear and was interested in flying tetraheder kites.

For the 7th of November, 2022, he was preparing an homage to Arseny Avraamov in Baku and for that purpose set up the organisation without a centre 'The Baku 2022 Foundation' (2006-?).

Articles

Early Sonic Networker. Guy van Belle in Conversation with Sabine Breitsameter. July 2005. http://www.swr.de/swr2/audiohyperspace/engl_version/interview/vanbelle.html

other sources: http://www.bamart.be/pages/detail/nl/3514


http://mxhz.org
http://societyofalgorithm.org
http://karasssuite.net
http://col-me.info
http://okno.be

 

Michal Kindernay

born 28.2.1978, E-MAIL: michal.kindernay@gmail.com

EDUCATION: 2004 – 2008
The Faculty of Fine Arts
The Brno University of Technology
department of Video (Prof. ak. mal. Peter Ronai)
2009 – FAMU (Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts Centre of Audiovisual Studies)
PORTFOLIO: http://insectual.net/mkin/portfolio.pdf

I've been active in the art sphere for quite a long time. Beginning at the secondary school, in collaboration with the artist from Czech underground movement Milan Langer. The first our works were in the area of video art experiments, in connection with a performative part, realized at the gallery openings, as well as special events organized by the Gallery of Modern Art in Hradec Králové (main city in the East of Bohemia). Later, in the studio of Professor Peter Ronai in Brno, Moravia, at the Faculty of Fine Arts (Brno University of Technology), I began to develop my work with sound and image in a more complex way. In the creative art school environment, a few of my live audiovisual projects had developed.

Later I had a chance to participate in many interesting projects, also outside the school, e.g. within the framework of the network culture festival “Multiplace”, music festivals as “Next”, “Spermfest”. The important inspiration has been also my collaboration with Belgian sound artist Guy van Belle. Nowadays, I cooperate also with the other artists of the Prague audiovisual scene.

I work mostly with video and sound. I am interested in looking for the relations between them. Their analysis in time and space. The definition and philosophy of the tools and apparatus. I experiment with various types of cameras and another ways of moving image recordings. I research the possibilities of non-linear processing. My works often further develop some of the methods and approaches of the experimenting Czech artists from the 1960s, mostly sound and visual artist Milan Grygar, composer Alois Piňos, and some others. Nowdays I develop the ecological aspects of the contemporary new media art, in relation with the current technology as well.

In latest work I summarize my experiences with image processing tools. My focus is the research of the borders between sound and image, structure and content or linearity and the systems of “living / autonomous” scores. I am interested in a certain hidden mechanism, encoded in natural process and phenomena , which imminently influence and determine our coexistence with the fundamental principles of our environment. I would like to infiltrate into these laws and discover new correlative forms in sound and image. Another main subject, which I have been developing, is the various forms of pollution. Its definition, ecological aspects, research; pollution of the air, image, codes, networks. The above mentioned subjects are very important for me, concerning the position in which I as artist find myself and the way I perceive the world.

 

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