Mobilizing the Archive
"A flow of information is generated by bodies in motion; this becomes data once it is recorded and stored, by ourselves or by others, either with or without our consent and awareness...mobile technologies felt like a beacon to inner states, making them vulnerable to detection, tracking, recording and analysis. By whom? I couldn’t say with any specificity, but the power dynamics [are] impossible to ignore, and as a long-time feminist (concerned with agency) and phenomenologist (concerned with corporeal experience), I [find] myself unwilling to peel away the last layers of unintelligibility, of protection, existing between inner bodily states and total transparency in the face of the ever-expanding and complexifying network of connected devices and sensors." - Susan Kozel in Medium
Last week, Susan Kozel was our artist/scholar in residence at #motionlab #humanetechosu @accadatosu bringing wonderful mix of somatic and phenomenological perspectives to our community. I have followed Susan Kozel's work for the past twenty years and consider her one of the great creative thinkers at the intersection of our bodies and our technologies. We read her 1994 Spacemaking article about performing in Paul Sermon's Telematic Dreaming every autumn semester in my graduate research seminar because it does such a great job of opening what is at stake bodily and socially in computing environments. This continues in her new work on data, security and privacy in Performing Encryption and in the Living Archives and project she has headed up for the past few years. During her residency Kozel gave a lecture discussing two artistic collaborations emerging from the Living Archives project. As she describes them, "both projects are collaborations between dancers and digital artists, revealing divergent ways to materialize traces of bodies in motion. Instead of presenting standard ‘legible’ archives, these projects play across clarity and ambiguity, somatic resonance and affective transmission. "Performing Encryption" is a collaboration with artist duo Gibson / Martelli and "Conspiracy Archives" is a Mixed Reality installation based on the work of choreographer Margret Sara Gudjonsdottir (with visuals by Jeannette Ginslov)." While here Kozel also met with students on creative and scholarly projects concerning screen-based somatic experience, networked sensibilities in posthuman futures, combining an artistic and scholarly life and much more. She also danced for several hours with us for the Climate Project, connected with Marc Ainger on new works for the Sonic Arts Ensemble, and spent an afternoon in deep discussion with Andre Zachery and Candace Thompson-Zachery about their incredible performances in Untamed Space at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Photo credit: Andre M. Zachery, Renegade Performance Group. Photo: Ian Douglas.
Her residency was a rich encounter and one that got me thinking again about archives. Since I premiered Synchronous Objects in 2009 I have found myself often asked to address the issue of bodily experience and archival traces (data, scores etc) in various think tanks, conference, panel discussions and festivals around the world and it seems to come and go as an issue of concern. Most recently, archiving was a topic of interest at the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation in August 2018 where Tonya Lockyer curated a panel discussion on Mobilizing the Archive. For that evening I spoke with the incredible Ishmael Houston Jones and Wendy Peron about past, present and future possibilities in their work and larger field building initiatives. Ishmael spoke on the Danspace Project’s Platform series and his curation of certain of that series including the Parallels issue both celebrating and questioning Black dance in America.
He writes "“It’s been thirty years since Blondell Cummings, Fred Holland, Rrata Christine Jones, Ralph Lemon, Bebe Miller, the late Harry Sheppard, Gus Solomons jr. and I performed on the first Parallels series at Danspace Project…Is there such a thing as Black Dance in America? Is there “mainstream” Black Dance? And if it does exist, who is pushing the boundaries of that mainstream now? Platform 2012: Parallels was my attempt to answer these questions.” This image is Ishmael Houston Jones In the Garden taken by an unknown photographer and I found it and a lovely interview with Ishmael on The Dance Insider. And Wendy Peron shared her love for the documentation practices of film makers in the 1960s and 1970s because without them we would have no trace of so many fascinating processes including the performances of the Grand Union.
And I spoke about the archive as a generative score for both understanding and re-purposing ideas in dance. This is true in both Synchronous Objects and our Motion Bank score called TWO. What I value most is the exuberant creative exchange we experienced when approaching the archive not for the purposes of preservation of even transmission but more from an interest in communication and reaching out from dance to invite others into our practice. The questions at the heart of my own exploration of dance and data and scoring have always been, what else and what if, or as my collaborator William Forsythe has said, "What else besides the body might physical thinking look like."
And now the question of archive returns in my life with Susan Kozel's poignant reminder to protect what is taken up in the data even as we seek to make visible subtle practices and affective energies. As she and her collaborators investigate multi-sensory experience in Virtual Reality, Augmented and Mixed Realities to share these subtleties, I will stayed tuned, eager to learn from both the depth of their consideration and the qualitative nuance of their expression. And I've added the Transformations Journal to my bookmarks for regular reading, check out Susan's most recent article here.