Friday, 16 May 2008

Virtual Work in Progress

Today, I presented my work to some colleagues. Below you may see the whole presentation divided in 4 segments for easier uploading/downloading/viewing.
However, I have made up some pictures just as a small exercise according to the feedback I got after. This is NOT the original work in progress, nor is it the final work in progress... It's a virtual work in progress.
So for those of you who saw it already, please a have look once again. For the rest, just bear with me. It's half an hour and sometimes boring in a video, since it is a lecture and not a fast-changing-imagery-video-clip with people dancing.

Part I: Introduction
On Part I, I introduce myself and the topic of the lecture and prepare the space to start working

Part II: Virginia Woolf & the unfoundable image
On Part II, I show the unfoundable photo of Virginia Woolf. Sorry it's not great quality with the camera. Live I think it's stronger since you are faced with a huge projection. Anyway you will get the idea

Part III: What are the functions of War Photography? an encapsulation of Chapter I of the book of Susan Sontag.

Part IV: The Power and Myths of War Photography. based on chapter 2 of Sontag's famous (by now) book

Part V: My 'disrespectful' 9/11 video and some explanations
The video of 9/11 is the one you can read below with Playmobils. I claimed that some people, when they saw my performance, they found it disrespectful. Below you may read why I think that I was not disrespectful but tried to explain to people my fears for the future when captions are omitted. Still I think that the video does include a part of destruction and pain in it. And that is what makes it so ambivalent and strong.

A seminal decision
As you can see above, I took a last minute seminal decision which in the end worked out fine.
That was to treat the lecture as a presentation of my own artistic practice and its failures.
Thus, I created a fictitious situation around me.
I say that I have already done a solo that has been presented as a performance and in this lecture I trace the theory/thoughts behind it.
This fiction around me was multifunctional: (a) it fitted the convention of a performance lecture since it is a self-refection, hiding under it a narcissism, and always with the aesthetics of failure in mind, (b)brought the link between the theory and the practice, (c) helped me to feel more strong since it allows me to aknowledge my mistakes in a nice way.

Some other last minute decisions
That's a great anecdote. You will love it.
Well, in the beginning of the piece the camera is spotting on some "dead" playmobils. Later on though I need to change the camera to focus on the place where I will project my photos. I need thus to mark that area on the wall to find the place easier and don t spend time while the audience is waiting. In the beginning I put a tape. It was ok for me.
Then I went on doing other works and preparing the space and realized that the only thing that was left outside and didn't know what to do with it was Sontag's muppet. So, I decided to put it there on that spot. Which meant that Sontag was contantly projected on the beamer. It felt like having the photo of a queen or something like that. People loved it. I loved it too coz it was like I was having her to support me. It was like a totem. Soon you will read the feedback of the people and will understand better how it worked.

Pressure of Presentation
There is something good about the pressure of presentation. It sort of forced me to work harder. I had a deadline and I had to experiment but without being lost from my track which effectively is to show/present my work to others. So I experimented all this time, and only the last 1 (or even less) days I started thinking on HOW to present. There were last minute decisions (most of which worked out fine) and ofcourse the presentation itself I treated it as a rehearsal, so I didn;t know the result. It was the first time that different elements were coming together in one entity. It was an experiment for me. An open rehearsal. With the pressure of someone staring at me and being forced to make it work.

My feedback to myself
I felt like starting to find my way in this chaos. I still don't know where I am going but I have a feeling of a sense of direction.
It's a choreographer that explains his research on war photography for a piece he has made earlier and that created a lot of controversy around his name.
That's the idea. I still think I need to work on what I call the "performance" (that I did as a choreographer). I should not allow myself to hide behind the "aesthetics of failure. What do I mean by that? Well you know, just because I am a choreographer who knows that his work was not good but claims that he had a great theory behind, it doesnt mean that I should not work harder on making a good choreography. I think if I manage to make a great "choreography", then the audience will follow me better.
Another thing that I thought is that the laser doesnt work. I mean it's great but I need to find a better one where the batteries last more time, that i dont need to tape so much.
My question is... do I want to make the whole lecture or do I want to work in depth ? Coz I managed to do two chapters and it took me half an hour. Imagine if I wanted to do the whole book (thinking especially chapter 3 and 5 that are full of pictures). I still have some more ideas I need to work on. Should I keep this as a time of experimentation on new things or should I experiment in how to go deeper? To be or not to be?

General Feedback
When the feedback session finished I had the impression that it was very positive. In general people commented on my messiness in the text and that I need to make out what there is there. There was a suggestion to play more with the timing of pictures to allow for more ambivalence and engage the audience with confronting them with their real feelings instead of imposing them my own views.
People, I think, enjoyed my laser device as a means of tracking time, the tags as a meas of archiving, Susan Sontag's muppet, playful but dramatic effect of playmobil video. The image of Woolf's description was a big hit, the pig face with me lying nude on the floor was strong.

Steps further
Well, as I said above, this is my impression of what people thought. I am not sure thought that this is what they said or this is what I understood. So my task for today is:
-to take pedantic notes of the minutes of the feedback session
- write a summary from these notes
- send them to all people present and ask them to amend them by adding, erasing, correcting as appropriate.

Furtherthan that, I need to take some distance from the piece itself to understand how it works and what are its strenghts/weaknesses. That is great since I have to prepare myself for another presentation.
However, I am responsible to write down everyday things that I have reflected upon and thought, or things that I have come up with that have a relationship to the piece and help for another interpretation or understanding of it.

and a little hint from my psychology these days
My yesterday's real nightmare
I was giving my perfomance lecture in Thessaloniki, the city were I was born and raised as a child. Some friends were there (among who was Pepi, an old dancer of mine, and Niki, an old old old fellow student in english classes who I recently learned she entered the school were I was teaching last year). I was naked. When I sat down to do the beamer, Niki coughed and told me that my ass was red like a rose. I hadn't cleaned my ass after my poopoo.
I felt ashamed. I felt dirty. I felt vulnerable. I had never thought of the repercussions when taking off my clothes.

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