ART&&CODE is a festival where people who work creatively with digital technologies share their work and ideas. The festival has happened 4 times over the last 12 years and will be happening again this week, thursday – sunday January 14-16 2021.
On friday at 17:00, I (hannah perner-wilson) will be presenting, and in my 20minutes hope to share some tips on how to sustain a long-term relationship and stay in love with technology. i’ve been working with etextiles for 15years and most recently joined the S&&O master program with an interest in exploring the use of soft and wearable technologies for storytelling in playful, participatory and performative settings.
process never ends, but this process now comes to a point from which to reflect briefly where it went. over the last six weeks i had as many very informative and also simply very nice conversations with our first round of S&&O masters students. here direct links to the individual conversations:
leading these conversations was a learning-experience for me, in how to ask questions that get at aspects of process without getting distracted by content. to ask: HOW are you working? and not, WHAT are you working on?
what is so fascinating about process? it is HOW we spend our time. since time is limited, HOW we choose to spend it and WHAT we spend it with/on become an incredibly valuable currencies. while i believe that the HOW and the WHAT are intricately connected, and i’m not totally sure it is possible or good to tease out the HOW without the WHAT…. i did so in order to draw attention to the means/methods/techniques of technology. I tried to ask about the HOW without the WHAT. looking back, i think i let the conversations meander somewhere in and out of process-talk and there were some lovely things said along the way.
if you are nerdy about process like i am, you might enjoy some of these things.
“Around here this is how we do things…..” in the social sciences technology is a way of doing things! Ursula Franklin gets at this really well in the first part of “The real world of technology” she talks of “technology as practice”. https://archive.org/details/the-real-world-of-technology/
the magic show in this episode ira glass interviews the magician teller about his trick, and captures what i had in mind when i set out to talk with people about their project processes….. to get them to reveal HOW they make…. and how ideas and tricks and human relationships evolve through process. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/619/the-magic-show
Dear Christian. before corona, you had built a geodesic dome. with the corona measures, you had the idea to convert it into a one-person sauna. so you scaled down your design, ordered a small oven, made a tarp… and then went inside to sweat. how was the visit to your self-built sauna?
The sixth, and final, conversation in a series of work-in-process conversations with S&&O masters with Christian Römer who has been documenting and sweating in his one-person sauna….. Our conversation played out slowly via email over the course of some weeks.
C: Quite sweaty. The heavy Cottoncloth insulates and permeates at the same time. Good climate. The oven is powerful enough for the small space. Combined with some water on the rocks each 2-3 minutes it creates a fresh heat with enough oxygen. If you are outside in the daytime, you can see some light through the cloth, but otherwise it is blind on both sides. So you are really concentrated on yourself and the experience. The natural materials and the construction could as well be used for a proper sweat hut, and yes: one impulse to do the piece was Corona-Time, as no public Sauna was open for some months. I wanted to contest that situation with a positive possibility.
And since then you have, as far as i know, had the opportunity to exhibit the sauna…. but unfortunately you’re not able to receive visitors due to corona. How has the virus inspired and impacted your work?
The virus was the reason to do the work after all. In March I met a friend who wanted to tear down an old geodesic dome, which he had used as a stage with a roof, two thirds of a former bigger Dome. It was falling apart and he asked me if I could tear it down, as the weather had already damaged some of the wood. At that moment I saw the possibility to make a smaller dome from it. The website www.domerama.com offers calculators and surprise: the leftover pieces and the still existing screws would match exactly a 2 V – Dome, if changes in length and new holes would work out.
So the first lockdown was filled with activity in a backyard in Prenzlauer Berg. Bending the wood, softening with sandpaper, drilling new holes and cutting and sawing in a hackspace at night.
As I started documenting the process on facebook, People began to ask which material I used or how to do the ventilation. It became this open process by putting photos and some comment and reacting to or incoroporating the comments of the others. The result was the Beta-Version with a plastic sheet around it, fixed by orange string. That was truly corona sauna for one.
Can you tell us briefly what happened then?
This Beta – Version we discussed with friends and I offered them to put the sauna into their garden, so they could use it. After their first sweat they said that its getting smelly, probably because of the plastic sheet. So we decided to design a Half-Ball from cloth to cover the construction instead of the plastic. I found out from my FB – Sauna-experts that Nessel(Baumwollleinstoff) is a very good material for that matter and found exactly the right Baumwollleinstoff at a Cloth – Outlet in Mahlsdorf.
After a longer talk with Friedrich, when it was possible to meet again outside in summer, we discussed the possible masterproject and he gave a hint: why not stick to what had been done already? And go from there. So for the June 2020 -“Vorspiel” I built a basic version of the project, using my bigger dome as well, which I had built end of 2cd semester in Ingos Werkstatt. And a classic Gardena-gardenshower, one emaille-waterbucket and a wooden spoon.
In April I had put in a Concept to Schaubude and the masterproject | installation was supposed to be part of the festival “Theater der Dinge” and I had already asked friends to help for the build-Up in Ballhaus Ost, 3rd floor studio space. This space was quite small in regard to the objects and my ideas were dealing with that. How to enter into a somehow claustrophobic space, crowded by the big objects, makes one feel small. This fell apart unfortunatelyon short notice because of Corona.
In a week i rethought the project for the UNTEN –Space. This was a very productive phase, as it meant cutting and rearranging of material in order to reduce each station to its core and receive a meaningful composition of form, content and possible interaction.
After visiting the Generalprobe of your piece < Attention Aerosoles! > 10 days ago, I can confirm: visiting the one-person sauna is a wonderfully sweaty experience. i experienced it as a very strong bodily sensation that made me feel very present in the small dome. i was in fact not alone, but with my 4month old baby and to a large degree i experienced your work through his eyes, as i navigated the stations with him in my arms and he was very focussed.
You led me through the work by telling me where to go and what i could do at each station, and mentioned that you did this because the cards you had initially intended did not work as planned. For the premiere of the piece the next evening, did you devise a different way of leading people through the work? And if so, how did this work out?
Wonderful that you visited with your son, the youngest audience member ever. I started on the Tutorial/ Manual thinking too late. The cards seemed a simple enough idea that turned out a desaster, when Ingo Mewes came as first visitor. Too dark, too complicated, he was concentrated on the cards instead of the interactive possibilities. This was my responsibility of course. So I changed on the general reherseal to a personal guide modus in an improvisation. For the next day I thought of a more reduced and non-invasive way to point to the offerings and opportunities and tried to perfect that with each new person coming through.
As the Schaubude wants to put some of the one-person-installations in February in a Mini-Festival this can be further worked out. The challenge is always to be not present at all in your own installation physically. Or a specific Character could be worked out, including costume. Or an Audio Version to be loaded on the mobile or via headphones. As well I want to go further on the interactivity and the narration.
In your answer to my last question, you mentioned how you used Facebook as a platform to share your process of building the dome and that this live documentation provided content for discussion among your friends (and public?). did you see this process as part of the “performance”, as part of the work?
The actual outside input was mostly on technical issues in regard to the Sauna-construction. Actually quite specific and interesting details and tips in regard to material and crafting. I am not shure how deep a FB-Friends crowd would follow into the artistic thinking and be willing to contribute. But then I did not try – and simply put forward photos and some explanations and thoughts on the operative process. It definitely was good for myself to document in a public space – and be reminded of the steps the process took.
Looking back there were ideas already in May 2019 at the first „Vorspiel“, then in Essen another step at „Next Level-Festival“, as well at the speculative objects – Class. Finally this came all together – and i could always go back in the timeline and remind myself of the stations and the decisions. As well the material (Wood, Cloth, Liquid, UV-light, Stones) was always coming back in slightly different forms and contexts. It was the ever changing mix of found, designed and loaned parts, that kept the process dynamic.
Documentation is such a good tool for “looking back” and seeing things with a time-line perspective. i believe one can learn some useful things about oneself and one’s process from seeing how one works over time. being able to trace where our ideas come from, can be humbling. to know that they can be embedded in materials! and how almost always we have been working with them for much longer than we think, when we (re-)discover them anew.
Our conversation played out on Discord over the course of some weeks. The conversation bellow is slightly re-arranged to create a more readable flow.
HPW_ so fabian, i know absolutely nothing about your current project, and want to ask you all about it it. but before getting into the details of the project process itself, could you reflect on what lead you to it? what circumstances, decisions, coincidences, preferences lead you to work on what you are working on now? and how does it connect (thematically, technically, methodologically….) to your past works?
FR_ Ok, so I had the feeling, that through the whole Coco Jambo-Virus, there was a new appreciation of the day to day life: Supermarket cashiers became heroes and were wildly appreciated. Nurses and doctors, especially the ones explaining the virus became public figures. They were sort of the heroes of the day. There was a feeling of togetherness, as we all were suddenly under the same risk of getting that shitty virus. That barely happens. And after i while i thought, that we will somehow need to remember this time publicly and came up with the idea of creating a statue or a flächendenkmal somewhere outside and compare it with other statues. And that is, what I am in the process of doing right now. It connects to past work, as it is also uses AR. Thematically, it thinks about singularity and things, we all have in common. I am generally wondering, where the social common ground is to be found, as I am confused by the radicalization of society we are all perceiving right now.
HPW_ i had to look up the term “Flächendenkmal” (engl. area monument) and was surprised to find there are different classes of monument and area monument describes one made up of multiple objects, and also includes “Kulturlandschaft” (engl. cultural landscape). (https://www.denkmalsanierung.de/informationen/verschiedene_denkmalarten/)
i like your wording “to remember this time publicly”, it feels very open ended. especially in contrast to my associations with the artifact of a monument, which conjures up an image of something sculptural, material, solid…. with a permanence that also invites decay (the degrading, forgetting with time…).
so you are creating an augmented (AR) monument to the corona crisis? how are you going about creating a collective remembrance of our current situation from the midst of the situation? and is the current debate on the removal and destruction of colonial monuments affecting how you are thinking about monuments?
FR_ Well, it’s not really about the corona crisis, but mostly about the connections to one another and things we miss since the crisis, that we need so desperately, which became obvious through this crisis.
The current debate is of course a huge topic, especially around the area of the Thälmann-Denkmal. The whole area and the park surrounding it is so much a product of a state, the GDR, which reminenscenes are often evicted, commented or simply deleted from the public eye, that I think it is a good area to reflect on how we want to deal with those sort of monuments. I also think, that the German debate on post-colonial issues is a very imported one. The german migration history and its stolen artifacts for example are very rarely connected. I also read some Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, who brought a new perspective on this whole colonial debate to me, saying that, with the exception of south africa, no other country was colonised for longer than 100 years and the whole debate shifts the narrative to a very strong focus on colonisation, instead of shifting it on what was lost through colonialisation. Which is of course not to suggest, that colonial monuments are supposed to remain.
HPW_ i’d like to ask again if you could tell me a bit more about your process of creating a monument to what we have to come to miss, to value about our lives, now that corona measures have changed many of our daily lives and interfered with our common ground(s). i’d also like to ask you more about the monument itself. i know you are working with AR technology, but have no idea what to imagine. and maybe you want to keep it this way, so feel free to remain vague in your answer if you like:-)
the last days i’ve had to think about your project, the idea of creating a monument to the things we miss when confronted with change. i’m really curious to hear more about the “area monument” you are/have built, but just as curious to know more about your process of creation. in a very literal sense, like how did you start….. what methods, tools, technologies did you use to create…..
there was just a nice beitrag about denkmäler im deutschlandfunk: https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/bildersturm-und-gerechtigkeit-warum-unsere-denkmaeler-uns.1184.de.html?dram:article_id=486082
FR_ Dear Hannah, So concerning the last question: I would very much like to expand the Thälmann-Park in a literal sense. The park was, with all the trees and buildings in it, as a park to live in, with one tree for each inhabitant. That sounded already like a wonderful story to me. Before the end of august, i tended to make two projects, one for the Studiengang and one for Schaubude- afterwards i decided to ditch one. It was just too much. And decided to go with the Schaubude one. The process for that project is sort of interesting, as it expanded just as i thought about it longer. Tim Sandweg, program director of Schaubude, came to us in June and asked, whether we were interested i making a project there about “Künstliche Körper”- which was my starting point and i immediatly thought of statues. What do they look like (- which was not too interesting for me), what do they represent (very interesting) and can they actually refer to some common ground- the thing we were talking about a lot during the corona crisis. Then i asked people i wanted to work with and started just writing down my thoughts about it. So, the thing structuring the whole work is actually a text I wrote together with my fantastic dramaturgue, Sofie who you know from speculative objekte. So, what came out, is an AR Walk, that includes an own sculpture garden of destroyed, replaced, restored, changed and commented statues, around statues exitisting in Thälmannpark covering the very idea of: What is it, that actually brings us together. And i try to open that question up to the audience. The last few days were actually very much focussed on the recording of the text, which is now finished and the first tests are running tomorrow- which is a very exciting moment for me.
HPW_ ah! that sounds exciting. i bike through the thälmann park on my way to work almost daily. it stands out to me as a space where residence, leisure and the city come together… with the huge ernst thälmann monument half hidden at one edge, surrounded by trees and a big mostly empty square, and busy road. i’ve observed people using it as a backdrop for fashion photos, dance videos, bmx tricks, and every so often it is partly spraypainted in new colours. for the fact that it appears to massive and monumental, it is somehow situated, used and experienced so individually. i appreciate this about it. and i hadn’t noticed there were other statues in the park! the story of one tree per inhabitant is poetic, has it made it’s way into your work in some form? is the monument/experience you have created intended for a specific audience? i wonder what it is like for the people who live there?
so my last reply to you was not really a good next question, sorry. was more like a stream of thought triggered by what you wrote. here my attempt at a better set of questions regarding “process” in response to what you said!
could you tell me more about how you and sofie collaborated in the writing process? did you sit down together, walk together, edit a shared document? simultaneously, taking turns? and what made working with sofie so fantastic? and of course now i’m curious to know what it is “that brings us together”, but this seems well kept as the motivation to get out and experience your piece. but maybe you could tell me a bit more about how you open up the question to the audience? and then, i think it is impossible to talk about process now without also recognising the greater circumstances under which the process in playing out. just this past week the german government a lock-down(-light) regulations that will come into effect coming monday (tomorrow). how has it been to work amid the measures we are taking to slow the spread of covid? and does the lock-down interfere with your plan to show/share your work?
FR_ Sorry, I was just very busy in the last days due to all these changes. Actually, it made the way into the work very specifically: The plan was to have digital expansion of the park, so there were more trees planted with each visitor, each tree telling the story through audio, the former visitors left there. I am now replacing it with pre-recorded messages. Which is a little sad. It’s not really meant for a specific audience. I was aiming rather widely and did not really think in audience. I don’t know, it’s just not how i work. The writing process itself was mostly done by me. I wrote the whole shabangsl and then Sofie looked over it, stated weaknesses or point that stood out for her. We then took a walk through the area, read the text out loud where you are hearing it and re-furbished it afterwards. The text was also written in two stages, because i actually planned on having it way shorter but we realized that there was an important part missing. and then, i think it is impossible to talk about process now without also recognising the greater circumstances under which the process in playing out. just this past week the german government a lock-down(-light) regulations that will come into effect coming monday (tomorrow). how has it been to work amid the measures we are taking to slow the spread of covid? and does the lock-down interfere with your plan to show/share your work? I think, I am one of the lucky ones. I just decided immediatly, that i wanna show it no matter what. There are a few changes to be made. – the former messages for example will be pre-recorded (which is again- very sad), i will establish a website and a messenger-group for all the people who want to send in their messages. There is no possibility now to rent devices, so people can pick up small packages at the Schaubude, containing physical material for the walk and use their own devices to take the walk. It is sort of the same experience, but with some changes. But for me it was really, really important to give people something they can enjoy as well now, during lockdown, and not wait for another time. Also because I want to finish the work with the feeling of being okay and done with it. Some sort of closure, because this constant delay of: It will happen sometime is also very, very stressful.
HPW_ yes, the stress of the unknown. of living with the constant possibility that things will be different tomorrow. wanting to plan…. trying to plan for multiple scenarios. it reminds me of Anna Tsing ‘s writing in Mushrooms at the end of the World where she talks of precarity as the condition of our times. and learning to live with uncertainty as the new skillset required of us/our society. while her writing this predates our covid pandemic, and was written in response to capitalist/progressive frameworks that shape our lives, it applies so especially well to the current pandemic. (https://journal.culanth.org/index.php/ca/precarity-commentary-by-anne-allison)
do you think part of what drew you to the idea of working with “monuments” has something to do with their permanence as a possible tool for dealing with constant change and instability?
FR_ or that last question: No, not really. It is a very interesting thought, though and I am glad you brought it up, as it is a topic, that is often touched within the walk now, but not as clear as you just made it.
I think what is also interesting about those statues is that they also transport values of a certain age and that we try to also appreciate those old values through the building of statues.
The third in a series of work-in-process conversations with S&&O masters Anton Krause who is creating an interactive experience of Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel “Ich”. Struggling with working alone, he has still managed to keep going, finding other humans and old technologies to work with. And maybe using documentation as a means of unsticking oneself in these lonely times, where a lack of others can lead one on especially sticky creative processes.
Our conversation took part on Discord over the course of one week. The conversation bellow is mostly raw and slightly edited. meaning i re-arranged some of the paragraphs to create a (hopefully) more readable flow, since I often asked more than one question, and threw in comments too.
HPW_ as far as i know you’ve been working with the idea of translating Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel “Ich”” into an interactive one-person/single-audience experience since january 2020 (or even earlier?). last we talked, you mentioned you were struggling with the situation of working alone (&from home?) during the corona pandemic measures…. you also mentioned you’d had a breakthrough when you discovered that much of the story is set in subway stations.
when did the idea to work with the material of Ich very first come to you, and why have you chosen to tell this story now and to make it interactive?
AK_ A friend of me recommended the book to me in the year 2016 and I am playing around with the topic since then. In 2019 it came back in my mind and I had the idea to use it as my foundation for the masters.
HPW_ could you describe in some detail your creative process of working with literary material and interactive technologies? and please share what the breakthrough was that you reached. do share photos of your workplace or work methods if possible!
AK_ Often in participatory theatre the theme or topic is set and the text will be written for the play I wanted to work the other way around to find out if it could work out. The Centre of the project is the text and this is a blessing and a curse in the same moment. The novel has a very word heavy language but I like that. And I want to create the sensation to walk through the words To investigate the story in your own paces. I researched the last Computer the GDR was producing and I took that as a starting point to create a kind of Stasi-Fiction The interface should feel like out of the world it describes So the player has the feeling he has found a time capsule
AK_ hide new technology in old one. This practice is called case modding Out of an old Walkie-Talkie I made basically a Bluetooth headset I downloaded an app to scan text with my phone and if I find a text spot in the book I pull out my phone and scan it. I am like a photographer that takes moments out of an landscape to show it later to an audience So I found out a lot of the story is tied down to specific locations in former east Berlin So I took that as a core for the exploration system.
HPW_ have you found new means / new routines to work creatively amid the continuing corona situation?
AK_ this is a though question because I hate to work in this loneliness and the whole situations just sucks all of my energy out of my body and brain. I feel num and all thing that I do, feel meaningless. I get rarely any work done because I lost all my joy in doing stuff. It is like living under a hood and I feel stuck and pointless. I learned the lesson that I am not a single player I am multiplayer and I have to avoid working alone. Next week I am looking forward to meet the voice of the suitcase: Albrecht Goette and we will record all audio for the work and I am so happy to meet him back. He is just a wonderful person and he loves literature and supports former east german authors.
And I ordered a front plate out of aluminum for the suitcase and I don´t know why but it brings me somehow joy.
HPW_ it sounds like working alone on this project has been a real struggle to deal with the current situation – not collaborating with fellow humans that help inspire and focus the work. often i hear people (including myself) complain about the troubles that come when teams of people work closely together….. but i rarely overhear people telling each other what they appreciate about the other(s). not being able to work together during these times is letting us experience what we value in human interactions.
your reply to my question also reminded me of a passage in the article you wrote in the SO! publication “How to hack Stadttheater” where you wrote: “First of all, greet every human being you see in and around the theatre, all the time with a friendly smile and a short “hello” or “Hi”, second of all, try to understand what every part and/or department can and what they can’t do.”. i get the impression you are sensitive to human interactions and really thrive off working in-person. if the current situation persists for another semester….. do you have some ideas of what you can do so that you can work more with others to help you focus and unstick yourself?
AK_ yes, I have to nearly finish everything until November because afterwards I am in projects within teams. So in November I will start wth a project with OutOfTheBox and Sarah Buser and afterwards I will do a monologue in a museum in Magdeburg and then I will work with machina eX. The end of the loneliness is near. Today I had a quick Skype with Fabian to help him. And he was fed up by working alone as well. But I think part of this is as well the work on a master degree because it is not just any kind of work it is personal and it defines me a little bit. There is no place to hide with this. And sometimes I am to critical with myself and all this dynamics of such a work.
HPW_ have you seen this?
AK_ I didn´t. Thank for the link it is hilarious and smart. I like it.
HPW_ first saw the robot opera when nadja buttendorf presented it at the ccc camp last summer. and i also really liked it. her humor. i think her parents used to work for robotron. i also think she did the whole production from her bedroom, built herself a greenscreen and did all the parts herself…. i liked this idea of being able to make things from your bedroom…. and this was before corona measures.
HPW_ how did you come across Albrecht Goette and decide to work with him/his voice?
AK_ I worked with Albrecht in Dresden an we made a very text driven play where he was the lead actor – the one with the glasses
and we talked a lot about literature and he is actually a very big fan of Hilbig´s wife Natascha Wodin and her description of a terrible love. https://www.cicero.de/kultur/den-den-ich-finden-wollte-habe-ich-nie-gefunden/43764 so I knew he will be up for it. It matters to him and he does public readings a lot so he knows how to read. and his voice fits the book. I thought about different voices but I think it is to distracting from the words so I decided to stick just with him.
HPW_ “I want to create the sensation to walk through the words” what kinds of “case modded” devices are you building to create this sensation? are you working visually with the text or only with the audio recordings?
AK_ the suitcase is a case mod on its own because it contains a latte panda. as well as the walkie talkie. But this is all for now. It seems to be out of the time the novel is playing in and therefor become an advocate for the text. there will be not a lot of visual content and as well the word or the text will not be visualized. the whole thing is an interactive audio book and any over presented visuals will destroy the need to listen. you need to take time for the suitcase. The gaming character will be subtle.
HPW_ oh, that sounds like there is lots to look forward to starting in november! i think you picked up on something important that comes into play when working on personal works. they bring out a certain desire to get it “right” and to be very self-critical….. to the point that one gets stuck. // you might enjoy this letter that sol lewitt wrote to eva hesse………. “just do”. here read by Benedict Cumberbatch:
AK_ thanks for the pep talk link. it helped a lot.
HPW_ working alone, can be such a challenging experience, but i think it is also very rewarding. when one is working with things – in your case the text and the old devices – they get more (undivided) attention when you are working alone with them. and thus they are able to have a lot of influence on you. do you always look to feel in control of what you are creating in this process? are you able to enjoy a loss of control, the sensation of getting lost in your thoughts and the making….. and possibly loosing sight of the point of it?
AK_ I don´t enjoy losing myself, because usually I like to order things and make connection of thought from other people. My directing style is as well more a style to sample thoughts of all members of the production and I am enjoying to get lost in that pool because at the end most of the times we find a way out of the mess. I love old thinks and there scratches and histories they have engraved in there bumps and imperfections. The problem with making is that I am not so much interested to actually make stuff, I loose interested as soon as I have the feeling I understood the concept and are now able to build it the actual building process is just hard work for me because you have to go in detail to do so. Going from breadboard to product is not my beloved part of the step But it is often so. Even with computer games. I am more interested in the installation and make it run my next interest goes to the concept/system if I have the felling to understood this, I stop playing. I am not good in playing any instrument because the way to master it is to practice but to understand that if you do this movement and this note is played is rather simple I am shying away from any kind of repetitive task I am watching DIY videos at least 30 minutes a day but not to actually build it. I am just interested to know how to build it.
this is one side of the medal the other is that I am always a bit disappointed that I technically understood the process but when I want to recreate it it turns out like shit, because you know I have a lack of practice and not the right tools
HPW_ thanks for your answer to my last question! in “project land” there is so much talk and presentation of what has been made, and little showing of the processes we go through, or avoid going through, to get these things done. of course what is made is a kind of souvenir of the journey of getting there. but it can’t communicate all it took to get there. all the thoughts thought, the circuits tried, the code debugged, the videos watched….. this kind of brings me to a next question…. since i know you also spend your time documenting and sharing your knowledge with others (for example your beiträge to the S&&O wiki), i wonder what the role of creating documentation plays for you and the works you create? do you document as you go? does it come easy to you, or is it also something you loose the energy for once you know how?
AK_ Documentation is for me a kind of proving that I understood the thing. because if you are able to explain things like in a “How-To” you are able to understand it better. I try to document on the go but I am not good at it right now I just discovered these “How-To´s” as the way for me to understand even more about a project and I think this is a good modus to document the thing I do. So sharing knowledge is actually a good trick not to get lost.
HPW_ “….sharing knowledge is actually a good trick not to get lost” :-)))))))))
The third in a series of work-in-process conversations with S&&O masters student Lena Eikenbusch. Lena is working with clay, a material with properties similar to her own. She is running in circles, full of energy, versed in using words to express her inner state.
Our conversation was a back and forth sending each other PDFs via discord, working graphically with text, illustrations and layout. The conversation bellow is raw and unedited.
The second in a series of work-in-process conversations with the S&&O masters student Tomás Montes Massa, who is just about to start rehearsals with a tight group of friends. They will be working together on a piece about the hyperobject “el estallido social” (the social outburst) in Chile. Their approach will be intimate and personal, and will draw upon their biographies.
This conversation took part on Discord over the course of one week. The conversation bellow is raw and unedited.
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HPW_ before i ask you to talk about your current master thesis process, i wanted to remember back to the time you were deciding what direction you would go with this work. deciding where to focus one’s time&energy lies at the beginning of every process, and is often experienced as a branching moment that leads one to travel down one path and not another. just over a year ago, you performed your piece “Amphibian prayer” at the S&&O All Together Now event. this work staged a ritual for us humans to deal with our grief over the loss of biodiversity, and our sense of guilt for being part of the problem. shortly after this work, protests broke out in your home country Chile. you became very involved in this political action via the internet, and felt a real sense of distance and inability to join the experiences and actions your friends and family were part of. when it came to deciding your masters topic, i remember you telling me that you felt torn between wanting to do something in response to the violent political escalations in Chile, while also wanting to continue draw our attention to the more-than-human suffering caused by our human impact (on climate change, biodiversity….). a tough decision between two big&important topics, both with current immediacy. could you recall what this moment was like for you, and have you thought back to it since setting off down the path you chose? and, now in retrospect, does the decision feel like a branching moment, or have you experienced cross-overs between the two topics?
TM_ Yeah I remember that conversation we had. I think it was in the beginning of November in our atelier, the Ladenlokal. That makes sense because the protests in Chile started the 18th of October. I was emotionally very overwhelmed and exhausted with the overflow of images and news, it had been three weeks of stress and little sleep, I was very much absorbed by the social media content concerning “el estallido social” (the social outburst). I oscillated between hysteric courage, pride, hope on the one side, because I never expected such a powerful, massive overarching political and social movement to explode, I didn´t expect the people to stand up against the neoliberal systemic injustice of decades. My friends and family and my city and all the country on the streets in a sort of carnival for dignity. And on the otherside I felt powerless as smartphone spectator of a revolution fire raging at home, I felt frustration, wrath, hatred, sadness and despair, all due to the state terrorism, it felt like a regression to Pinochets’ dictatorship, in which my parents grew up in. Curfew, the army with tanks on the streets of Santiago, murders, torture, over 360 people with mutilated eyes, shot in the face the police. I woke up every day to see the death toll of the night´s events. A Nightmare. So the decision for me was a matter of urgency. In a hypothetical world without the protests at home, I guess I would´ve gone further with my fascination for animals and biodiversity as inspiration for the masters thesis. But my heart and head were so busy with Chile, that I saw in the masters project the opportunity to channel and focus my emotions and energy in a creative process, which would hopefully help me to give a meaning to all I was trying to cope with.
I’ve thought about this moment and I was always quite conscious of this path division. I’ll definitely be back to biodiversity inspired art as soon as I can. There are a few cross overs though between the two topics. One of the major demands of the social movement in Chile is the recognition of Native Rights. The Mapuche people live and have lived for centuries in the territory of Wallmapu, a geographic area comprehended between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with the southern Andes as its center, in today´s Chilean an Argentinian southern territory. The Chilean State is since the 1860´s (and way more than the Spanish colonizers!!) responsible & guilty for human hunting, cultural genocide, structural racism and oppression against the Mapuche people. El Estallido Social fights for the recognition of Mapuche Rights: a pluri-national constitution, the recognition of Mapuzungun as an official language, the demilitarization of Wallmapu -which is full of military brigades protecting the interests and property of timber companies, owned by Chilean oligarchs and foreign investors-, the devolution of land to Mapuche communities which has always belonged to their ancestors, political autonomy for the Mapuche nation and guaranteed representation in parlament. Mapuche means ” people of the earth” (“Mapu” = Earth, “che” = suffix for “people”) and as their very name says, they enjoy an earth-centered cosmovision, where the existence and life of humans plays but a small part in the cycles of Nature. Nature is sacred for the Mapuche, and so it is for me. I think this fucked-up late capitalist humanity could learn plenty from the wisdom of Native Cultures such as the Mapuche. The vast majority of us chileans have Mapuche blood, have Mapuche roots, use Mapuzungun words in our chilean spanish. Its time we recognized it and its time for the state to do some repairing actions.
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HPW_ thank you tomas for remembering back to that moment. i can only imagine how demanding it has been for you to experience such a powerful movement and feel so distanced. in your SO! publication article “#ChileDesperto – Digitaler Aktivismus und der soziale Aufruhr” you describe the opportunities and difficulties of new networked movements enabled by smartphones & the internet. you end the article commenting that in march 2020 things will continue….. since then corona virus has also spread to chile… could you very briefly describe how the el estallido social has developed in 2020?
TM_ Corona brought the protests to a very tense status quo and showed in a radical way how healthcare is a very unequally distributed, private privilege in Chilean society. The government has done a terrible job in protecting the population from the pandemic and its economic crisis. Communities have organized autonomously and locally to host “ollas comunes” (common pots) to feed the hungry. All smartphone owners spent many hours a day from mid March till August / September hanging around on social media, discussing el estallido, the contigency and well now the promise is now for October. Corona regulations are now somewhat relaxed, and protests are starting again with eagerness of celebrating the 18th of October as the first anniversary of el Estallido. And on the 25th of October is the plebiscite for the new constitution. Plenty action at the moment.
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HPW_ my first two questions were all about the political backdrop to your current work. now i want to ask what your creative/artisitc process has been like in response to it. how have you been working this year and what have you been working on? has your creative practice been able to provide a source of meaning-making to all you have recently experienced?
Well during the first semester in which we had the workshops with you (no screens) and Friedrich (vernetzte Räume) and I was very busy with learning, doing and trying to adapt to corona modus of studying and working at home, which I still don’t manage well. So until July I was building this model of Santiago in Unity with the online multiplayer game structure. At that moment it was important for me to show how diverse artforms have taken over the city and been the footprint of the social movement: music, graffiti and muralism, light installations, performances. This Ill keep for November. But after our “Public Void” work in process showing, I realized I don’t want to build a computer game, neither something that only takes place on a screen. Then I went to Linz with the Enacting Innovation project, during this time I left my project somewhat at rest. But I learned interesting stuff which I definitely want to apply to the project. For instance I programmed with the twitter4j library in processing, I want to use this tool to filter out important hashtags and causes that have driven the digital dimension of el estallido. I also got to use the CineMachine library for camera movements and film making in Unity. I´ll also use cine machine to make sequences of the places I want to represent from home. Animation is just I thing that really interests me and parallel to our Spiel & Objekt programme Ive dived into the world of 3d modelling, character rigging and animation. So the camera component is a super good skill to continue developing, I’m excited about that.(edited)[3:40 PM]And well then I thought… I don’t want to make an experience with only a digital interface. I really miss copresential liveness in all its forms from the prepandemic life and I fear that performing arts are animals in danger of extinction as we know them. I have a few good friends in Berlin that are musicians, performers, dancers, cinematographers, and they are all dealing with the stressy inner monologue “how on earth am I going to continue my work, develop my passion and make a living in this corona world in a country that isn’t my own”. Anyway so I decided I`m gonna work with my friends. It is grabbing again, like in “Amphibian Prayer” last year, quite a ritual and biographical turn. I’m excited to start the rehearsals.
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HPW_ it seems that both your creative process and the social outburst have experienced a period of fermentation. this sense of grabbing as you called it, sounds like it could be the meeting of your creative/conceptual/political ideas with your established and newly won creative skills, in a way that allows you to become active. possibly you are now entering a state of flow, which can come when our skills meet the task at hand. in your case, the transition from researching and learning to now rehearsing and producing something concrete that you can then share (with us:-). are you surprised to notice that you are tending towards creating an in-person performance and not a game or virtual experience? what happens in the “rehearsal” part of your process? how will you be “rehearsing” together with your friends? how/will you be involving them in the political ideas “behind” your work?
TM_ Hmmmm well no I´m not surprised I´m creating a copresential performance. During this year I´ve noticed how much I miss in-person performing arts (as a spectator and performer) so a dominantly digital experience (like the multiplayer online game for instance) didn´t feel like an approriate format for this project. I know it’s a super general comment, but I’ve spent enough time this year looking at a screen to want to design a screen-based experience. And well with a game… I´ve had my thoughts. I know that on the one hand the whole estallido and the current chilean city-scape could be super interesting for a dramatised, role-playing society simulation or so. But for this project I´m not interested in strategies nor in the analytical distance / protection of assigning roles. Nor am I interested in relativising the roles of certain actors of the social movement such as the government, the parlament, the business elite, the cops and military. On a more prtactical level, I also think that corona-motivated regulations of interpersonal contact could be pretty adverse to the spontaneous interaction between players in a society simulation game. The project will rather have a more theatrical and biographical approach. I’d still like a particitative scene with the audience though. But not from the safety of a fictional role. I’d like a direct action in the social media of choice of each participant. There is one gesture that has become viral on the streets and digital spaces. You cover an eye with your hand because: (as I think I mentioned) the police shot over 360 people in the eye. Covering your eye when you see the police to denounce statal violence, express solidarity to the victims, that for the plebiscite you vote “apruebo + convención constituyente”: to to vote in favor of the writing of a new constitution discussed and written by an assembly of democratically elected people that don’t belong to the parlament. I want a moment in which everyone covers their eye! and posts it somewhere
Ummm well for the rehearsals I asked everyone to write a biographical text on their relationship to home and to the estallido. That will be the starting point. And I want my friends to feel comfortable sharing their experiences in the way they best feel it. So well Noelia is a percussionist and drummer, Tomás is a guitarrist and composer, Ángel is a film artist and Pancho is a choreographer. Well and I’m an actor so I guess I wanna talk in front of an audience hehehe. We are all kindda eager for some action. I think music will be pretty important for the project, which has also been maybe the most (for me) breathe taking action that has occured / occurs in the protests: music. People singing and playing in public space. Singing Víctor Jara, Violeta Parra, Los Prisioneros, Inti Illimani, Illapu, Ana Tijoux, and so many more. The (re)living of the musical heritage of our culture has been the most inspiring and beautiful phenomenon of the movement.
music unites us
ummm so to the third question: we want to address the political from rather a intimate and personal approach. Pancho, Tomás and myself, we all grew up in Chile so we all have a very intense relationship, areas of more interest and personal opinions concerning el estallido. I know Tomás is really interested in “the death of journalism” as he calls it, the politics of control in information and media, so thats a subject he’ll raise up. Pancho is super motivated by how the protests have awoken collective action, local organisation and the embodied reappropriation / claiming of public space. My attention has been rather focused on Native Rights, Mapuche cosmovision, history and the reconfiguring of Mapuche identity in contemporary discourses. As for Noelia and Ángel, they both are from Andalucía (Spain) and well Chile and Spain share plenty similarities in their shadey (XXth & XXIst century) political history: long fascist dictatorships, deep societal roots in catholic partriarchy, really bad transitions to neoliberal democracy with even worse justice systems, the role of the business class, corruption, social riots. Noelia is excited about the feminist power of el estallido: Argentina, Chile and Spain have quite similar feminist landscapes in that sense and are in constant exchange. In a way Chiles problems are pretty similar problems to those of, I dunno, Brasil and Libannon for instance. Many countries / societies are in a similar crisis and I guess that makes it easy to relate a local conflict to the global picture, or to another local conflict. I’m not sure what Ángel wants to bring up. El Estallido is such an overarching and multidimensional hyperobject! We`ll just tackle it from our biographies, because we can’t really hope to cover it extensively.
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HPW_ just to come back to the “rehearsal” question….. i am left still curious to know more about how you are coming/working together to create together? are you taking on a role of director…. curator, conductor….? or are you avoiding this distinctive role? do you spend much time discussing “how” you work together, or this comes naturally?
TM_ yup ummmmm well the rehearsals haven´t started yet but yes i will be doing the dramaturgy, or so I´d like to think of it. The setting objectives for the rehearsals and putting together of the elements will be my responsibility.
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HPW_ i propose we pause our conversation here and i check back in another week or two to ask you about how the rehearsals go!
This conversation took part on Discord over the course of one week, where I wrote them one (or sometimes two) question at a time and they responded individually. The conversation bellow is raw and unedited.
HPW_ In both your written masters thesis you demonstrate your abilities to situate your own thinking within contemporary theoretical discourses. using language as a material for communicating your ideas. but you are also makers of technological things and creators of situations. before i ask you about the piece you are currently collaborating on, i wanted to ask how you manage (or how you experience) the transition (the back and forth) between making & thinking?
AVK_ That’s exactly the stage we are facing right now. how to transition our thoughts into an experience. For me this is what theatre is about to translate thoughts and ideas into a situation and experience. In a way it’s a way of proving the ideas. when ideas don’t turn out it brings us back to the question, is it the idea that doesn’t work or is it the translation that doesn’t work?
But I’m somehow avoiding your question. Maybe these are the steps: – theoretical idea/issue and the question why do we want to address this on stage? – looking for examples of it in the world that surrounds us – how can we translate the example into an artificial and condensed experience? – making/building – testing/proving
LV_Was für eine passende Frage. I think this ist the troubelshooting we have to go through right now and it is not easy. The making level has to keep up with the thinking level, because it is how we want to express ourselfes in the end. Before we can create situations for others, for an audience, we have to find ways to create situations for us, that allow us to make (technological things). So maybe the question is, if we have to make it for ourselfes – not only first, sondern in total? I guess only if we manage this step, it is also a Mehrwert and an interesting experience for others, because it deals with things we have been engaged with, it deals with a process of thinking and making.
HPW_ “The making level has to keep up with the thinking level” oh, i like this statement. it is something i experience in my own work. and often choose materials&techniques that allow for my making to keep up with my thinking. like apples and toothpicks….. ATtiny microcontrollers and paper….. LEDs and honey…. so now i’m super curious to ask you to introduce the piece you are currently collaborating on. what are the ideas that brought you together, what materials might you use to translating them into “an artificial and condensed experience”? and what does your workspace look like!?
AVK_ We are into non-human agents and how we can invite them into theatre performances. The topic of festival Theater der Dinge at Schaubude Berlin this year is “Künstliche Körper” and they ask “Wie verändert die digitale Transformation unsere Vorstellungen und unsere Bilder von Körpern?”. We started to ask ourselves where our body starts and where it ends and how we can use digital instruments like microcontroller and sensors to explore that and how our body communicates with our surrounding without us even noticing. They invited us to present our exploration there.
LV_ The questions that we are engaged with are questions that deal with perception. How do we react to our surroundings is something we might think of if we walk along the noisy streets of Berlin. But how does our surrounding world react to us is more tricky to answer. It all depends on which scale you want to anwer this question. But what we share as a thought is, that there are reactions and they perpetuate. There are not only actions and reactions, there is much more, that is not as obvious and as traceable like the first. To answer your question about what the piece might become; we want to create a space bzw. a situation, where you trigger actions or reactions by beeing present and therefore enter a Handlungsraum. You can call it an observatory of your own body and it’s influence on your surrounding. But think it small. We are still exploring
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HPW_ theories of non-human actors, more-than-human agency, new materialism…. have opened our minds to believing that different perspectives on life are equally valid and valuable. these theories have made us hungry for experiencing life as many material realities. what attracts you to theories of non-human agency? why do you think it is important to share and explore these theories with others? what potential do you see these theories hold for contributing to more desirable futures?
AVK_ For me it’s really about getting rid of some ideas of the enlightment that support ideas of (natural) hierachies, humans dominating the world as well as the absurd idea of objectivity. I mean it’s funny that we actually believe that we can look from outside and pretend not to be part of. The idea of objectivity is strongly connected to domination and would be great to create experiences that don’t reproduce this phenomena. I think the discourses you mentioned can help us with that. Also to see (global) social issues and the climate change as part of the same problem.Bruno Latour describes that really catchy in his book “Das terrestrische Manifest”.
LV_ I am going with Anna Vera. There are physical laws and social agreements which we consider important and which define our space and our interactions. But what puzzles and fascinates me is how other living beings, spaces and situations are structured. How they develop and change. How is interaction and action for others, more-than-humans? Of course I can only try to understand, but it is a beginning. The becoming-with of things becomes more and more important and we have also to understand that we do not live in a vacuum. Maybe we can learn from our environment how things can work. By acknowledging others, we can ask ourselves questions about our world. What are our laws and agreements? What are our problems and possibilities? This system may not necessarily be balanced, but what it is, in any case, is a collection of a multitude of beings and of successive moments.
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HPW_ it sounds like the interactive experience you are developing for the Theater der Dinge is driven by this hunger to experience other realities through more bodily encounters. you are building technology to extend our human ability to perceive our entangledness with the world, but you don’t know what experiences it will enable. in this sense your work is part experiment. are you also experimenting on yourselves as part of the development process? and if so, what are some first results that you can share?
AVK_ I experimented a lot with a self-made breathing-belt in the past month. It was quite frustrating, because it often didn’t really do what I expectedit to do. I felt everytime I put in on and opened the sketch, it did something else. At some point I realized that I am while trying to depict communication at the same time experience the borders of communication. I also realized that working with sensors is alot about in this case me interpreting my breath as well as the data the sensor depicts. (Which brings us back to the non-sense idea of objectivity.)
LV_ Yes it’s an experiment. At the moment first an experiment of thought and then it becomes physical. Sometimes I think it should be the other way around because then you can explore. If we really want to experience we should not judge or be biased and this works best if we haven’t thought of it in advance. This I can say here in an interview, but it’s not as easy as it sounds! Experimenting with a process and being open and not knowing what will come out in the end, is also a bit scary and it requires a lot of confidence, I not always have. Often the successes are really small but I even make a Freudenjump when a LED is lighting up. I like the LEDs. Because it can be a little light, but what happens in the background is that all the sensors get a different input on light, sound, vibration etc and I know, I am receiving them.
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HPW_ @AVK it sounds like your frustration, “because (the textile sensor) often didn’t really do what I expected it to do”, could be an experience of the agency of another material. the textile sensor you are using knows nothing of your breathing the way you know it….. but still you choose to work with it because it allows you to translate the movement of your chest (via the movement of it’s fibers) into changing electrical signals.
@LV you write of maybe a similar experience, when you say that “not knowing what turns out in the end is also a bit scary and it requires a lot of confidence”. the blinking of an LED, while satisfying, might be contributing to our “non-sense idea of objectivity”. simplicity & objectivity might be providing us with a false sense of confidence, that we need to relinquish if we wish to work with other materials on different terms.
what it would be like to choose the materials & technologies we work with, not based on how well their performance meets our expectations, but on what we hope we might learn from them. as leoni wrote “…to learn from our surrounding , how things can also work (otherwise?)“ – meaning as makers we should also be good listeners in order to take in all there is to be learned.
given these thoughts……. could you speak of something you learned last week from your material collaborators?
LV_ You are very right with your statement about objective blinking and good listening. I have learned (and am still learning) that you have to be precise even if you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes I tend to interpret everything the way I want to see it and am not really attentive to what is going on. Last week I even cheated, I don’t know what happend, but I faded out some parts and overlooked others because it didn’t meet my expectations! Really not what it is all about..
AVK_ what I learn: patience and accuracy in observing them and “communicating” with them….
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HPW_ this is not the first time you collaborate. what do you enjoy about working together? maybe you can mention something you have learned from the other by working together.
AVK_ About Leoni I appreciate her sensitive and intuitive approach to ideas as well as materials, her cinematic sense, her knowledge about art (history) and her ability to contextualize on the one hand and to practice lateral thinking on the other. I learn from her to give and take time and that probing if you can’t follow a certain approach initialize a lot new ideas.
LV_ I appreciate working together with Anna Vera. When we work together, there are two different backgrounds, opinions and positions towards the world, and I really enjoy getting to know Anna Veras Sicht der Dinge. She is very much precise and pushes me to rethink things that are often not thought through. I think this also makes her a good coder… She’s logical where I am not so much. I also like the fact that we do things together, we are a team. What I also like very much about working with her is that when something is on her mind, it really grows and every morning she comes away with more thoughts about it and new aspects of it that we didn’t think about before. She has a thousand things on her mind at the same time, and I can’t always follow her pace. But she listens to me, and if I can make an argument (and if it has a little logic in it), she appreciates it very much and takes it further. What I mean to say is that she is not stubborn at all when there is intellectual debate about ideas, she takes up what she thinks makes sense. And, excuse me, one last thing, she is straightforward and fearlessly tackles any problem that may arise.
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HPW_ naming things now seems a very human act. have you given your experiment a title yet? did you involve any non-human-actors in the namensgebung?
AVK_ we have several names, and they are changing time by time but the official one is EARTHBOUNDS. It’s quite a literal name that includes all actors that are bound to earth, I guess…
On July 9th 2020, our first round of S&&O students gave us a peak behind their current research projects via event titled public void. Now, 3 months later, some of what you got to see then continues to evolve into works that will be showcased Saturday November 7th as part of a public void II (???) event. This time it will happen “in real”, in Berlin (and maybe also online;-)
Over the next 5 weekends I will try to catch Tomás, Leoni, Lena, Fabian, Christian, Anton and Anna Vera to ask them about their process and the works they are creating. While I’m particularly interested to find out about their creative processes – how they arrived at the topics and formats they are working with and how they transition from interest to idea to outcome. I am also curious to ask what aspects of their work they find most rewarding and important. And to find out how their experiences at S&&O have contributed to their working and thinking.
Unfortunately the public void stream is currently down, but here here a rough summary of what we know so far:
Tomás Montes Massa spent the last year following the protests in is home country Chile from afar. He has been researching and writing about digital aktivism, networked movements and social unrest (see SO! publication). As far as I can tell he is building an experience that involves a pareman character avatar… but I don’t know much more than that.
Leoni Voegelin and Anna Vera Kelle are working together on a piece that draws on their shared interest in exploring interactions between physical and virtual spaces – from building jellyfish diorama’s and sending “onion data” over the network, to building wearable sensors and rehearsing in virtual spaces. They are both versed in theory and written forms of expression, but for their new work are venturing into the world of materials and code.
Lena Eikenbusch is drawn to working with clay because of its diverse properties. Whether it is hard or soft depends on how you interact with it. She is also a storyteller, and her current work will be a joining of these matters.
Christian Römer’s work took inspiration from corona measures and has become a one-person-sauna. It is built and tested…. now what next?
Anton Krause is creating an interactive experience of Wolfgang Hilbig’s novel “Ich”. Struggling with working alone, he had a breakthrough when he discovered that much of the story is set in subway stations. He has also talked much of the aesthetic style he wants to (re)create with the technology he is building for the one-person audience experience, such that I can’t wait to see.
Fabian Raith is working on an AR walk, and I’m looking forward to talk to him because I know very little about this project so far!
Please join us this coming Thursday, 9th of July, from 16:00 to 19:00 for a virtual tour of our students’ current research projects. We will be live streaming the event from our physical Ladenlokal to our Twitch.tv channel.
We will also be embedding the stream here (see below), and you are welcome to come hang out with us at our virtual Ladenlokal!