NET-PERFORMANCE: PROCESSES AND VISIBLE FORMS
Recent experiences and a statement by Caterina Davinio
(English editing Thomas Bell)
In the net projects Global Poetry, Paint from Nature, Parallel Action - Bunker (for the 49th Venice Biennial), and in other works, as in the videos cycle Fluxus Trilogy (text by Charles Dreyfus), and in the contribution to Alan Bowman's "Fried/Frozen Events 2003", I tried to develop a new language of performance, in which new media and gesture are not superimposed, but deeply immersed in a new structure.
Performance is now a traditional genre, and it has been often recorded on analog or digital supports, like videocassettes, or, recently, CD ROM and DVD. It frequently appears in web sites in the form of Internet videos. The concept which I start from is that this all is defined erroneously video-art or video-performance, CD ROM-art, or, if it appears in the Net, net-art. I think that it is no longer possible to declare a total deterministic rapport between new media and their contents and forms, to maintain that a performance recorded in video is not a performance, but video-art. I believe that to accept literally the maxim: "the medium is the message" is bringing toward a conservative art, which declares to be new because it uses new technologies as support, by focusing only on digital images and products.
This not to deny that a total new media would not be capable to bring a revolution in visual forms of art and in the way to create them, this is already happening, but I think it is simplistic to consider this all as an automatism, and, for instance, I would like to examine the medium Internet, which I use since 1998 to create performances, to explain how the process of the performance in net connection can be articulated. By operating as a net-artist on the Internet I tried to define a new language of performance utilizing specific features of the net:
On the other hand I am fascinated by the idea of remote action, of dislocation of the body/presence in the net, and by the absence of the performer as seductive presence.
It appears clear that this discourse has nothing in common with a recorded performance, even though the entire process can produce visible forms, such as photos, videos, or web sites.
In my performances the communic-action flux is assumed as act/sign, introducing the necessity of a new semiotic to describe the process. I worked in the direction that brings all the technologic and telematic aspects intrinsic to the performance, and not only a way to promote the real event or to communicate that the performance happened.
I use electronic mail as art material (in the way could be used marble or bronze to realize a sculpture), to connect places and situations to act the performance as decentralized remote action, in collaboration with other artists.
Emblematic of this experimentation between word, e-mail, net, is Global Poetry Project, realized on line/off line in March 2002. The net-performance was developed during the month of March 2002, and articulated in more phases: the first was an e-mail interchange, which collected a great number of experimental images, visual poetry, and texts; in the second phase, on March 21st, hundred of these pieces were simultaneously sent through e-mail to some collaborators in several cities and countries of the world; these artists, in real time, or with a delay of few days, realized, with the received e-mails, a series of actions: readings, performances, installations, diffusion in open spaces, etc., and, in real time, they documented with photos and videos what they did, and, by electronic mail, sent it to Karenina.it Office. All the materials were finally put on line in a web site of the global action. The second phase was developed between March 21 and March 27th 2002.
The entire process is based on various steps, only one of which was the creation of texts and images; the central fact is the communic-action interchange, and fundamental was the real action/performance contemporaneously dislocated in numerous places in the world; another step was to film the dislocated events or to take photos, another was to re-virtualize the process by re-inserting it in cyberspace, by transforming it in video, digital products, etc.
The semiotic limit between real and virtual became a sensible interface crossed by signs of several nature, constantly "translated" in files, a continuous "translation" of the object from real to virtual and vice versa. The reflection starts from some historical experiences which introduced real objects in art, like in Marcel Duchamp, and in Rauschenberg. What happens when a real object is translated in machine language and becomes a file? A file can be considered as well an object, or, at least, we can say it contains the genetic (linguistic) code of an object that, when the file is opened appears on our monitors.
The file object is introduced in the cyber work without discrepancies, steps on the surface of the work same, differently from what we see, for example, in Rauschenberg.
Around this concept I worked also in a visual poems series which is part of the hand made book "Serial Phenomenologies". In this contest is presented the sequence: real object-printing of the digital photo-printing of the characters that appear if we open the digital image with a text editor. Starting from the real, we pull the image toward written language, in a process of "translation" which uses the machine as medium.
Another net-event of this kind was organized for the 49th Venice Biennial during the opening of the Poetry Bunker (project by Marco Nereo Rotelli); during the "real" opening were programmed readings and performances, but I preferred to take part in the event by organizing a parallel virtual meeting, in which sixty poets and artists met together on line, in times established in advance, they sent by e-mail their creative contributions on the topic "poetry against power, instrument of mankind", writing in the subject "Parallel Action - Bunker" (a semi-clandestine net-poetry event, which fell in a contest of almost traditional poems and readings); all was put on line with my notebook, in a long web page, in the same hours, just while I was in Venice.
Something similar happened in the performance "Prisoner of Reality", realized at the Art Rock Cafè in Padova: in this case, all the e-mail which crossed Karenina.it account on the performance day was directly forwarded to the café (which was in another city), and diffused among the public.
Around the theme art-reality is another web project realized in 2002: Paint from Nature, in two versions, in Florence (at the Giubbe Rosse), and in Ajaccio (Eglise Anglicaine, F). As it appears clear in the title, the topic is the fundamental one of art: connection art-life, art-reality, in the way these terms have changed in the new media scenario. Pop Art and the historical Visual Poetry had already put art in front of the mass media scene; the real, filterer through these media, was photographed, interpreted, copied by the artist, who already was more and more in contact just with a mediated reality.
In Paint from Nature performance the real appeared filtered through the telematic flux of information.
As curator and creator of the web site Karenina.it, I received daily a great amount of e-mail messages, which mainly were press-releases, notes by artists and writers who submitted interventions or links for the site. But something unusual happened on September 12th 2001, after the attack: the account was submersed by messages arriving from all the world, but for the most part from New York. I collected them, and with seventy of them I tried to construct a telematic "copy" of the fact, just as it appeared to me in the telematic communication flux. What had to be copied was not only the written text in the monitor, but was the specific of the entire process, the e-mail communication flux.
Following this intuition, the "copy" was realized as event, in which all the received e-mail was forwarded to the places where the performance would happen.
So the event had a dislocation in time and in space, and played on the identity of the author, which was a collective identity (the voices of the net were systematically registered), and I was absent, as performer, in the place where the real action should be happening; in this case I preferred to remain hidden behind a double: some collaborators received the e-mails, printed them, and, during the opening of the exhibition, a young woman installed them on two panels, one white, one black: the event happened physically contemporaneously in two spaces: in Florence, at the Giubbe Rosse, and in my studio, and, the second time, in Ajaccio, at the Eglise Anglicaine, and in my Studio, which is in a city near Como Lake, in the North of Italy, very far from Florence and from Corsica.
The public could not immediately realize that something was happening: they believed something visual or theatrical would be happening where a "performance" was expected, but gradually only a great amount of leafs of paper arrived, in which anonymous voices from the rhizome were speaking. So the event grew gradually, great like the surprise generated in the viewer.
In my more recent works I am developing the concepts of remote action and presence, of telematic action, by experimenting a new kind of net-performance in which materials arrived through e-mail are re-elaborated in real performances using video.
Fluxus Trilogy was made in 2002 for a project by Charles Dreyfus, to commemorate 40 years of Fluxus. I received with e-mail, as attached, the invitation to remember Fluxus by doing something at a precise time on a precise date (November 16th, 3:00 PM), and many key words related to the semantic field of the movement, such as: virée, dérive, transhumance, cheminement, etc.
The Movember 16th Fluxus walk was virtual, crossed various international mailing lists, to which Dreyfus' project was forwarded, and also a real one, with my video camera, precisely on November 16th, exactly starting at 3:00 PM, as asked; printed materials were diffused and filmed in the city of Lecco. But I liked the idea to utilize the topic of wandering and related words, that I realized two other videos on the theme of travel, drift, nomadism. One of them was shot on November 20th in Rome, title: Movember 20, a surreal conversation among a taxi driver of Rome, the Satellite Navigator, and I, crossing the city at night; the other realized video is Other Fluxes and Small Decadence, in which I utilized Charles Dreyfus' text in superimposition, in French and translated in English, driving and filming streets around Milan. The term "decadent" is used because the video alludes to some decadent common places, in historical sense, like Wagner music, or the background of a burger house with a silent, solipsistic character; but these elements are treated with irony in a minor tone: the Wagner orchestra becomes a midi file, the thoughtful character is collocated in a small burger home, but with real sense of the end.
Also the invitation to participate in Alan Bowman's Fried/Frozen events, previewed at the 50th Venice Biennial and at the Reg Vardy Gallery, arrived by e-mail as attached file, a page with Alan Bowman's Organization logo and the invitation to do "something" with the page same; possibilities listed on the leaf: fried, boiled, baked, roasted, refrigerated, frozen... After the elaboration the pages have been sent to the curators of the events in Venice and at the Reg Vardy Gallery. The aim of the art/movement was to surprise them, more than to exhibit something. So I worked in this spirit, on the sequence: "cooking", "creating an object with the cooked material", "sending", "surprising". The performance was articulated in the phases of cooking and filming (contemporaneously), creating the presentation of the page same (i. e.
the page sent to Reg Vardy was stuck in a round metal vessel and this was decorated with photos and prints of the preparation process, the one sent in Venice had a plastic knife and fork stuck on it together with small photos of the cooking/refrigerating actions), and, finally: sending/surprising. I think the curators have been surprised anyway. I was surprised too, by discovering that a piece of paper could survive all the performance phases!
Caterina Davinio 2003
1. GLOBAL POETRY NET-ACTION (virtual&real) Texts & Pictures (various languages)
2. PARALLEL ACTION - BUNKER (49th Venice Biennial, general director Harald Szeemann; virtual happening for the Bunker Poetico). June 7th, 2001
3. PAINT FROM NATURE / COPIA DAL VERO ("Nature" as media landscape and telemathic passage)
Year: February 4th 2002 (Florence) and June 8th 2002 (Eglise Anglicane, Cours General Leclerc, Ajaccio, F);
4. KARENINA.IT (Poetry in Phatic Function)
Year: the web project began in 1998, is still active; technology: web site, html, gif, jpg, e-mail and web communication; international meeting point for debate around new media poetry and avant-garde, concrete, video, visual, sonore poetry and experimental arts. By Jakobson, phatic is the use of the language which has the finality to maintain open and operative the communication channel among the interlocutors. On the limit between art and critic, happening and net performance, Karenina.it is a virtual meeting place around the theme of writing and the new technologies, in which experiences of international artists, curators, theoreticians converge, in a net that counts thousands of contacts in
5. CATERINA DAVINIO FOR ALAN BOWMAN'S FRIED/FROZEN EVENTS 2003
Download low definition Real Player video 3.44 MB:
6. CATERINA DAVINIO FOR CHARLES DREYFUS' PROJECT - FLUXUS 1962-2002
From Fluxus Trilogy: Movember 16th - Fluxus Walk, 2002, 3.29MB
7. TECHNOPOETRY FOR PEACE, open call for web materials, edited in video by Davinio, 2003,
presented at the Mudima Foundation on March 31 2003.
8. A STORY, 3:00, 2003,
Video: Caterina Davinio
Sound poem, voice,
performance: Julien Blaine,
Music: Etienne Brunet.
The book as object, the book as writing, the book as story. The writing as visual and sound. With a sound poem written and performed by Julien Blaine, dedicated to the female sex, and music by Etienne Brunet. This video was created for the Wandering Library Project in Venice, curator Doron Polak. UNESCO - National Italian Commission - World Book Day.
Artist's book, unique piece, 16 pages; exhibited in The Wandering Library Project, Venice June 15-August 26.
10. INTERVIEW WITH CATERINA DAVINIO (Carol Sill, DIGITALIS II, Canada BC)
Aerocarte, performance and photo by Caterina Davinio and Claudio Preziosi,
Milan, March 21 2002, Duomo and Metro. In the contest of Global Poetry, March
Fried/Refrigerated Events, digital photo, March 19th 2003. Reg_Vardy, object
sent to Judith Winter, curator at Reg Vardy Gallery (UK) for Alan Bowman
Fried/Frozen Events 2003.
Otherfluxes, frame from the video "Other Fluxes and Small Decadence", video:
Caterina Davinio, text: Charles Dreyfus, November 2002
Translations. Tribute to Joseph Kosuth, from "Serial Phenomenologies", artist's book, 16 pages, unique piece