Tuesday 8 December 2009

As If It Were The Last Time

On my ongoing preocupation with examining altermodern prepositions -by this I mean works, plays, authors, ideas that can be used to identify some of the character of altermodernity- I turn today to a piece, a performance/theatrical experience by Duncan Speakman I attended recently (12 November)

As if it were the last time by Speakman, uses the concept of the subtlemob, and it is part of generationtime and the VauxHall creative. They describe the experience as:

“Putting on a pair of headphones you find yourself immersed in the cinema of everyday life. As the soundtrack swells, people in the crowd around you re-enact the England of today. Sometimes you’re just drifting and watching, sometimes you’re creating the scenes yourself. This is no requiem, this a celebratory slow dance, a chance to savour the world you live in.” Duncan Speakman

And this is precisely what you do, you send them an email, download a track to your phone/mp3, get a map to where to go, get a time and sycronize your clock with them. Don't hear the track before you go, it spoils things (they say).

You show up at the place in the map, at the time they tell you, with the track and a partner (I did it without partner). The performance starts at the hour, through your MP3, the music and voice narrating what is happening on the street, and then gradually you are place in the performance itself.

You never know who are the performers, the subtlemob, or who the audience is. Anyone on the street could be either of the many people, were we the performers? were I the subtlemob?, where the other couples the authors, the makers of it as they followed their tapes? It was a play for reflection and contemplation of these boundaries but it was also peaceful, unsettlingly quiet.

...I remember standing under the rain, a street full of umbrellas, people dotted in the landscape, gradually recognising we were all wearing headphones, still, listening, watching...

...The rest is an entrancing, beautiful and serene experience, one where the boundaries between performer and performance, evocation, suspension of time, re-definition of public space get blurred one with another.

re-telling participant observation: altermodern emotions

I felt uneasy at first, partly because I didn't have a partner with me, and the play is based (perhaps too heavily based) on the partnership you bring alone. Also because I always feel uneasy at being placed in the terrain of the performance, being 'led' by others. I have experienced many open performances where I rather stay quietly in one side and only perticipate when I want to, not when I am asked to. However, perhaps because this time the music was a means to a trance and partly because I was feeling terribly sad in my life and genuinelly interested in the concept of the performance that I went along. Not having a partner meant that you were 'switched off', both participant and observer, rather than a full 'native': that suited my nature.

As anthropologist, I am used to participant observation, it is one of the methods we use in anthropology when doing fieldwork research, it is a kind of second nature by now. Here I do not mean it in a strict ethnographic sense, but in the sense that it allows people to find a space where to position themselves on what anthropologists recognise as 'participant observation'. This is a re-told one, partly because I distinguish it -narrowly- from the anthropological use of it. I had never considered its role as an altermodern emotion, in its re-told sense, but I am considering now as an idea to use and explore.

Streets to meditate on

I remember the track, it took me to a street I didn't know and I street I recognised. Gradually as the track moved us the other couples emerged to my vision, and then the others, and the the actors -or now, you just didn't know- and then the people on the street again; troubled as I was, the play allowed a space for refelction that I welcomed very much.

And there it was a silentmob of faces and bodies, independent from me, atom-like, each following the play from their headphones, moving at times, quiet, reflective, some people shinning from the experience, transported, others hugging and some crying, all immersed and all part of it. The pictures I took were about us, the place, the public space that the play and us as silentmob had occupied, taken over, they only reflect my experience of it, that of each one of us moving, meeting each other, missing each other on the street, watching out for people who didn't know that a performance was taking place, busy shopping amongst us, watching oddly why so many people were smiling, dancing, moving and static with our headphones on. I knew their radiance and knew their hug because it was shared -and not-. And here, photography was only a way of entering back into the performance that were leaving, merging and substracting from.

By the end of it -I hated discovering a camera (at the very last minute) filming us so I hurried out of its frame to find myself in a small street of strangers and friends, and a skyline at nigh. It was the moment of moving away from the camera that brought it togheter for me, as I hide from the over-exposure (overexposure for me I mean) I was finally amongst publics of all kinds and also feeling a sense of subtlemob-part-of-it-all. I then took three pictures of us, of them, of the street, of it all, touching something of magic realism, immerse myself back through an image, and then put the camera away again.

Suspeded in a street

The actual moment of the performance, for me, came when it ended and I had to remove my headphones off. I didn't expect it, but the feeling within me was that I didn't want to remove the headphones off, I wanted it to go on for a bit longer, to remain 'there' in the space that the performance had/we had created.

I walked the streets taken by an emotion akin to a wish to remain suspended in that track and that space, just a bit longer, just a bit longer. And I walked out of that new space into the street, meging the two worlds, feeling still a silentmob within me.

Sublty not quite

The thing is, with this performance, on the one hand it is different from what you would expect. On the other, it does not fulfill in an 'awe' sense. There is something uneasy about placing oneself in that space that is being created as you walk and hear it, as a self-generating space.

Thinking about it, all I could say, at first is that the performance is 'not quite'. However, although it does leave you with a nag for 'I'm not sure about this' at the same time it also creates many feelings of exhilaration, melancholy, emotion, that start within you 'subtly'. Despite its couple-oriented and 'not quite the expectation' feeling you also get, the play is transformative at the level of perception, and it does create art; or perhpaps I'd rather say, you live it as art, and speaks to you as art does, at different levels, different enjoyments and distastes, contradictory but enhancing of new perspectives about the self.

I would say that I liked 'as if it were the last time' much more than I enjoyed it when I was in it. I really liked what it did to my sense of belonging and rootedlessness, some of its transformative aspects and its lingering condition, like a movie that you enjoy better once the credits have ended and as you walk out of the theatre....well, at least for me.

I liked it so much I kept the map -like searching for a treasure- and the track -it has an elusive quality to transform space each time you hear it.

I would recommend it to anyone really.

Re-telling space, time and participation

What the performance did, and did so beautifully well, is that it gave its participants a narrative. Furthermore, it gave the participants the possibility of re-narrating the event, among themselves, through twitter, in the videos, through blogs and so on. In that sense for me it fulfilled some of the altermodern features very well. I was impressed by some of the comments, they were very reflexive, intelligently articulated, felt, and involved. The play fitted london and londoners well, it was good for the streets, the urbanity of our lives.

This performance, the concept (and its associated concepts -the aibot which run instead of a website for sometime during the days leading to the performance,- and the frameworks around it -vauxhall (that came to substitute the bot for the actual final website)- is for me an addition that stands out as an altermodern one.

Three altermodern features: the atomisation of emotional experiences, the performance impact on 'time' itself, and the re-narrativisation of the stories met also the tranformance of space, a theme that I feel, altermodernity is exploring further and further as it moves on (I will comment on it in my next blog).

So, for these reasons I have put the 'as if it were the last time' in my list of altermodern conditions.

Some reviews here

Thursday 24 September 2009

Winner of Time (Yellow Futures 2)

X is for XTRA HOURS IN THE DAY CLOCK - Never be pushed for time again. Simply pull the lever and this clock will double your time. An hour of indulgence can last for two, and a week off will feel like a fortnight.

By Brenda Durham, The XClock

This above is the Selfridges winner.
I think this public competitions where people choose one item is a seriously dated modern concept. The winner was the Xclock, but then, dated the idea of competition on of choosing 1 item as it is, the choice on time does meet at the heart of altermodernity as being concerned -in one of its themes: with the heterocronos.
The event makes me feel of a kind of juxtaposition of intentions between publics, ideas, exhibit that feels right on time, out of time, so to speak....

Yellow Futures

Oh, and my latest and absolutely taken by it is the fenomenally altermodern window display of Selfridges.I feel the yellow logo is pure genius, but then logos were very much postmodern in preocupation, what captures my aim are the little connected islands of display oh my! the little giant ducklings and all..Now, for me the difference, where it crosses the line of altermodern has to be with their display on their Centenary windons and the one on Future 2109 also called 'Idea X'....

Yes, they have had amazing displays over the years, see the 2007 ones, for example 2007 windows

and April 09 windows

But I never felt that the earlier versions in 2007 transcended the objectification of their own commodities, they quite couldn't fetishise them enough pass the artifact of fashion -in itself a very good goal of postmodern period, and as such, no complains here. I liked them, like I like other displays. However, the new displays suggest a finnese of current thinking that other shops and chains in our High Streets as well as exhibits, fashion and design -including those from Selfridges ino ther occasions- are still not quite getting...but these, the centenary and in particular the x-2109 have captured some of the altermodern period beautifully. I was so mesmerised by the 2019 that it just took my entire day, missed all my appointments...the designers -Wieden + Kennedy- deserve a price, more than one, whatever a price would be in a conceptualised altermodern idea

I mean...Here are the ones for 2109

Selfridges Future
Element 15856

and must see more detail of the alphabet Details

Of course, what is crucial for me in the defintion of this display as an altermodern preoposition is the narrative of each of the letters, not just the mere display. The re-telling of each letter into a future narrative, the journeying of each letter and so of each story for each of the objects, in their insular and simultaneous alphabetic story.The objects encased and illustrating these narratives are beautiful in themselves, each one echoing the new telling, adding on, increasing a departure from the previous one and of the totality itself.The capture of time displaced, and heteronormic moving across the lines is intensified with each letter, and the fact that the viewer can actually skip letters, jump across, make words with them, and re-tell in as much the alphabet extend towards the missing X.

Try making a word, like tree, or yellow, and read the letters in that order, and the stories within..that's what I mean. Here is for you: Q -for qUEER (basically, you do need to add the other words to get the full telling, but I hope you get my meaning here. I only got the Q, so it is quick vacation of my virtual holidays, virtually anywhere...

You can see some more here, really worth the look....Alphabet


Rehearsal of the Plinth

On the island of journeys...the plinth continues to attract my attention -the much missed London Purple paper (as much as I dislike its parent company I really liked the paper)- had a feature on them here and there and it is worth looking at their archives for daily account of the different experiences of the plinth. The way they created a narrative of London, themes, arguments, fears, worries, and our current world presented to me an array of questions that would well fit into a altermodern tale...I hope there is someone out there taking pictures of each new plinth as it unfolds, in that sense of re-telling the journey of the plynth, or ever doing something not quite just like taking pictures with it. A rehersal seemed appropriate to me.

Altermodern at the Co-op

Altermodern at the Co-Op could well describe itself as an altermodern concept of place, but here, really it is not so today. WHat I meant to come today to do here was to relate that there has been a fabulous discussion on altermodernity that I startet at the Open Access Anthropology Co-opearative, hence. I think the responses are brilliant and have helped us develop the concept and the discussion much further than I ever anticipated. Here it is, the link

My altermodern preposition for today, however follows next in my 'Yellow Futures' below/above

Friday 15 May 2009

The little yellow booklet of the Altermodern Exhibition Journeys

In a previous post I was saying how in our last conference, as we tried using the concept of the Altermodern to frame our discussions (in anthropology and in education), Anna and myself found that people responded really well about the altermodern.

Yesterday a colleague of ours called home and asked if Anna would give her paper again (on exclusion and education)...and not only that..they want to hear again about the Altermodern, so there we are...back to the leaflet again.

So we have found ourselves going to conferences with the little yellow leaflet (basically we explain B's ideas and his notes from the Tate's website and publications, and then we read one or two paragraphs from the little yellow book, enough to give a sense of flavour and to use the original sources). We then pass the yellow book around, and let people read and think about it...-don't you think that despite my issues with the manifesto and how to extend its postmodern ideas into a fuller altermodern meaning of it I do not like or use the original ideas! I do, actually).

So, we have realised that our yellow booklet is now quite travelled and old (and a bit torn on the edges), it has travelled all around all the exhibitions of the Tate britain, including toilets and caffe, it has lived in our handbag and between the pages of our notebooks. It sits in our desk, at home. It has travelled up to Manchester, and a bit of Oxford, and even touched by my sister, and that means its influence is gone to Barcelona with her, too. It will travel to York, to Anna's next conference, and it will travel to Belfast next year to the ethnographic conference on Interviewing where I hope to use it to re-frame ideas of time and movement in doing anthropological research

In honour of the little yellow booklet and the inspiration on maps, I did my version of the journeys of our little yellow altermodern booklet (from the tate to the undergound, home and UK and abroad).....

Altermodern Things

Today I am making a list of things that I feel, share a commonality in the ideas that underly the theme of altermodernity. This list will grow, so it is an altermodern blog in the sense of it is actually not going to stop moving into a miriad of encounters. It also features articles out there that I feel, add to it all...

I must start, of course with the work of all the authors at the Altermodern at the Tate.

1) The Altermoderns - the amazing group of art and artist that exhibited at the Altermodern (
see the Prologues), its curators at the Triennial, and Bourriad - Bourriad's book 1 is out -

2) the 4th Plinth - I think the dynamism and re-telling of stories by people and the expression of it in Trafalgar Square amongst the non-animated three plinth makes of
Gormley's idea (as put into action by the people) a way into altermodernity

3) I can't quite point at why,
Le Roux video has defining qualities that take both the song, the moving image and the re-projection of 1980s a bit more far than other things I have seen

4) I didn't know what to think of the Google India Bus or
Google bus . At first, specially as I was twitting his India tour it kind of reminded me of development programs in 70s going-really-wrong and being build in a cross-road of post-colonial intentions. The difference this time, however, was the way in which it was building up pictures of the communities, the links and videos and how these communities were having an impact on this project itself. Where the project is short of more ethnographic validity (which would mirror, for example, the ethnographic strenght of the Pakistani-Indian-Thai-Japanese piece at the Tate), is that it is hard to see what are people's actual contributions, it is a 'hands-top-down' project. I would like to see and read what those communities make out of it. It is not fully an altermodern piece but it would have some potential if more narrative of indigenous voices were brought into the project. A blog would help...how could Google not think of it? if it doesn't do so, bring all those stories in their voices, it will crash and burn as an altermodern project.

In itself the project is very short of (even) postmodern qualities, let alone altermodern ones, however, if you add the news reports from India,
TheHindu, HinduBusiness,
and labnol's blog responses is starting to make more of a better altermodern qualities altogether.

5) Ok, I must confess I work on things to do with Japan (being an anthropologist of Japan), so my next one is a good article on altermodernism,
an article here.

Twittervision I just think the Twittervision 3- version of the world map with its non-synched rotation and emerging twitts from all over the world is just altermodern technology at its best

another article, and this (unlike the Japanese one that it is a conventional article, does have a very interesting altermodern twist and I agree with the authors's enchatment with the Altermodern and its great potential).

8) Click Opera
Altermodern Week is a great live journal with some good musings and a flare for all things altermodern

9) Oh, this is one of two of my new finds:
http://www.politicalremixvideo.com/ that just crosses the line (although not of the videos have altermodern qualities), but the idea of popular culture and re-mixing involves a generic altermodern sense of journeying and re-telling that fits here.

10) And even better Rip:Re-Mix

11) This is a MUST, the Altermodern Exploration at the Tate is a gorgeous trip through theory, art, visuality...and it explains the altermodern concepts at a greater level, http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/altermodern/explore.shtm