Performing the Archives

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part Three

Con-fessional: Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics

"How do we collectively archive trauma after the halfway point? … Perform for as long as we can remember, without ritualizing form, until we are finally able to forget. … And if the copy has already been made? For trauma not to be exploited as economic or ideological opportunity, the arkhé itself must exist as a multiplicity, or a swarm-in-becoming. Fragments of memory must proliferate throughout the network such that archontic power itself is distributed — not as a perversion of the immaculate conception in which the gestures of self-pleasure yield to the gestation of thought, but rather as decaying placental bits of intersubjectivity that remind of comfort, warmth and the pains of labour."


3. Performing the Archives

The art critic Simone Osthoff suggests to us that "the archive as artwork challenges the notion of history as a discourse based primarily upon chronology and documentation — no longer presupposes a stable and retroactive archive, but often a generative one. Consequently, the historicizing process of contemporary art is frequently mise-en-abyme, within multiple recursions of fiction and non-fiction, without foundations."

Con-fessional: Löfgren and Scoon

clockwise from top:
Amber Scoon, Skin (#4), 2009
Isabel Löfgren, Celebrity series: search:"michael jackson.jpg", 2003
Isabel Löfgren, untitled, 2004
Amber Scoon, Growth, 2009


But how would I even know of Simone-who-breathes-new-words-into-my-performance if I wasn't already fond of Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica and their relational practices in Brazil? And how would I know of Lygia and Hélio if I wasn't already taken by the foldings and weavings that emerge in the work of Isabel Löfgren and Amber Scoon? What if secret threads of thought hadn't led me in their direction to begin with? And so on, Zeno's paradox revisited: there is always another point to be located when one attempts to trace the genetics of any performance, and our archives are nothing if not pointed reminders.

What about the waves?

Archives and the artefacts they contain are not simply repositories for particular images, messages or semiotics, but are also invested with a certain "living" energy, an affective tone that "activates" only to decay thereafter as certainly as would any isotopic matter. More precisely, these artefacts are markers of the in-betweenness of their coming into being, of their collective becoming before attaining the status of an independent actor that may fashion its own new instances of the in-between. They are dynamic forms, in other words, always bound, struggling and becoming in-formed by the malleability of creative flow.

An art object goes into a basket or a case — a basketcase! — and into a closet only to come out again the other side, barely vibrating. It still pulses ever-so-slightly, however, as it emerges from the darkness. It impulses, a slight turning-inward to conserve what little energy remains in its cryostatic forgetfulness post-natality. It cries for the event from which it emerged, or perhaps it cries for another opportunity to express, to perform. But an art object doesn't know how to perform. And so it remains, as remains — closeted, archival, sputtering.

Con-fessional: Undead

Undead objects are not of much use for constructing a nuclear gallery-reactor, however. They must be reanimated, given the breath of new life, or at least a half-life. Isotopic, they must speak a babble of tongues and topics, suggestive of a then and a now and a future, tense. Better yet a maybe-never, save for the flights of fancy that insinuate themselves imaginatively between the object points and their presumed trajectories.

And they begin to speak. A vocabulary starts whispering insistently to my ear, though the volume is halting and I'm certain it's not loud enough for anyone else to eavesdrop on the conversation. Or perhaps a flight of fancy has imagined itself to me and I've dreamt the entire thing happening.

Con-fessional: Art Now

Sean Smith
"Identity and Fatigue: Some Refractions on Process and Memory"
artist talk
September 22, 2011


Still, they speak:

an emergent vocabulary
process, fatigue, ecologies, erotics, authentication
witnessing, naming, forensics, intensities, fragility, decay
disappearance, rupture, disinformation
meme density, transference, resonance, intuition, parasite, overexposure, tempo
multiplicity, weaving, autonomy
topology, biometrics, disequilibrium . . . and ethics

For the archive to speak anew we must destroy its prior image. Communicate then destroy, or at least remix it anew, destabilizing the pharmakon lest it become a prescription. The remix is collective, the making-multiple explicit in this small group who tear and weave the leaves nibbled and spun by the mecha butterflies. Into these new territories with the found and the felt and intuitions barely understood — though with nary a word spoken. The proposition is the composition, the bodies respond not so much to position but to rhythms and relations and orientations.

Not a word spoken, the archive is performed, reinvested, until the process wanes and its intensity subsides. Pedagogy not as a bitter pill to swallow nor a racing around the track, currently, but rather as tentative footsteps fluttering toward distant landings and misunderstandings. Truthfully.

Con-fessional: Performed Archive

Multiple-Body Kino-Gait Study
and Performed Archive
VAC 2291 - "Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics"
University of Western Ontario
Tahir Ahmad, Joanna Braund, Madeleine Ferracuti, Emily Fister, Nicole Minett, Jacqueline Mok, Sean Smith


The minor traumas of creation form tiny aporias in the meshworks of language. Our weavings may cover some of them over while our wavings leap across these microcosmic chasms to activate their excesses elsewhere and when. The very performance of the relation and its archival remains can reinvest an energy, recirculate meaning and generate the freshly perceived and considered. But only for so long — they are isotopic after all, half-life to half-life to half our lives again, fading, until stability is newly resumed.


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