C.O.P.S. Class notes: Audience as wind-up monkey 07/23/11

I'm a blank image because this stupid WP layout is stupid and makes an ugly forced image if I'm not here

There was a lot of info last class and that is at least 50% why I’m so behind on notes. 25% is that I had a hell of a time with formatting on this batch, from Open Office to WordPress. Ugh. Anyway, the class on the 30th was crit and performance, which I took notes at, but they’re not really useful beyond remembering people’s work.

I’m taking classes at the Conceptual Oregon Performance School this summer and I’m a huge nerd. Here are my notes from class, links that are related and the best parts of the readings. Some of the links lead to videos:

Class notes (some reference chunks of reading, numbered in following section):

  • Preliminary definition of “not acting” and “acting” as defined by reading.
    • Not-acting: no pretension, feigning or impersonation.
    • Acting: to pretend, feign or impersonate—not strictly physical.
  • Non-Matrixed performance: not acting, nor using symbols, yet part of visual presentation.
  • Symbolised Matrix performance: performer uses symbols and references, relying on context to differentiate between this and received acting [see reading, 2].
  • Received Acting: performers are not feigning or impersonating, but the symbols and references they use, in a particular context, define them as actors.
  • Simple Acting: enhancing performance, involving pretence
    • Either physically
      • Like charades [see reading, 4]
    • Or emotionally
      • Like public speaking [see reading, 5]
  • Complex Acting: multiple simple elements, physical and emotional
    • Paris Hilton walks out of GMA interview [video link, has opening commercial]
      • Is she acting or is it a persona?
      • From symbolised matrix to complex acting
      • Similar to the facades used in social situations (meeting a partner’s parents, dealing with a superior, etc)
  • Absurdity as non-matrixed performing
    • “In philosophy, “The Absurd” refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent meaning in life and the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean “logically impossible,” but rather “humanly impossible.”
      • “The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously.”
        Silentio, Johannes de. Fear and Trembling.
    • Sisyphus, as related by Camus as an example of absurd, non-matrixed performing.
      • If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory.”
        Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus.
    • Does absurdity come out more in non-matrixed performance than in acting?
    • If absurdity is self-aware, how does that affect its quality of absurdity?
      • See Sontag’s Notes on Camp: “The pure examples of Camp are unintentional; they are dead serious. The Art Nouveau craftsman who makes a lamp with a snake coiled around it is not kidding, nor is he trying to be charming. He is saying, in all earnestness: Voilà! the Orient!”
    • Representation of pointlessness, futility, leaves space for audience perception.
      • Does it need audience to have value?
  • Performances that exist on trust
  • When Faith Moves Mountains, Lima 2002” Francis Alÿs
    • Closer to a happening/student volunteers extras in Alÿs’ production? The material?
    • An apparent unwillingness to be open/aware of the acting
      • Does the lack of physical end mask this?
    • “Poor people move mountains”
    • How does Santiago Sierra’s 160cm line compare in self-awareness of action?
  • The Green Line” Francis Alÿs (non-matrixed performing)
  • Flâneur, Baudelaire’s “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”.
    • A result of leisure, the Flâneur is a voyeuristic observer (as opposed to immersed member of the city)
    • A modern version could include wandering the streets/space of the internet, like the the flâneur is a “a botanist of the pavement”, the internet wanderer would observe, study and collect the rare blooms of the web.
  • Flarf
    • Is the process non-matrixed performing?
    • Mm-hmm”, Gary Sullivan
  • The “architecture of the internet” (like Baudelaire’s Paris) evolved/is evolving to better accommodate “strollers” trawling for the weird [see the atrocity tourism mentioned in the class notes from Hello/Goodbye 07/17]
  • Ways of approaching the internet as an observer:
    • Getting high and wandering (like one does in a city or what teens do in malls).
    • Finding things missing on the internet and “plugging holes” by adding information
  • 4Chan as screen of civil disobedience
  • Flâneur on web is like to walk NY in a blackout
  • Conceptualism vs Flarf Poetry: “Why Conceptualism is Better Than Flarf”, Vanessa Place
  • Is Everyone an Artist”, Claire Bishop
    • Content only as good as those who participate [which includes artists, but good isn’t a definition, it is a value]
    • Apparatus is interesting, content is banal . . . unless curated by an artist.
      • Curating is a way of asserting power.
    • By creating internet art is the power still in the hands of the creators of internet things?
    • Is everyone an artist? Who cares? ARTISTS.
      • Asking for validation “Am I pretty?/Do I look fat in this?”
  • “Lay person” (as non-artist) is a “pejorative”.
    • “Why does art treat people like retarded kindergarteners?”

 Readings and sundry notes (emphasis in bold):
Kirby, Michael. On Acting and Not-Acting. [pdf link]

  1. Let us forsake performance for a moment and consider how the “costume continuum” functions in daily life. If a man wears cowboy boots on the street, as many people do, we do not identify him as a cowboy. If he also wears a wide, tooled-leather belt and even a western hat, we do not see this as a costume, even in a northern city. It is merely a choice of clothing. As more and more items of western clothing – a bandana, chaps, spurs, and so forth – are added, however, we reach the point at which we see either a cowboy or a person dressed as (impersonating) a cowboy. The exact point on the continuum at which this specific identification occurs depends on several factors, the most important of which is place or physical context, and it undoubtedly varies from person to person.
  2. In a symbolized matrix the referential elements are applied to but not acted by the performer. And just as western boots do not necessarily establish a cowboy, a limp may convey information without establishing a performer as Oedipus. When, as in Oedipus, a New Work, the character and place matrices are weak, intermittent, or nonexistent, we see a person, not an actor. As “received” references increase, however, it is difficult to say that the performer is not acting even though he or she is doing nothing that could be defined as acting. In a New York luncheonette before Christmas we might see “a man in a Santa Claus suit” drinking coffee; if exactly the same action were carried out on stage in a setting representing a rustic interior, we might see “Santa Claus drinking coffee in his home at the North Pole.” When the matrices are strong, persistent, and reinforce each other, we see an actor, no matter how ordinary the behavior. This condition, the next step closer to true acting on our continuum, we may refer to as “received acting.”
  3. If the actor seems to indicate “I am this thing” rather than merely “I am doing these movements,” we accept him or her as the “thing”: the performer is acting. But we do not accept the “mirror” as acting, even though that character is a “representation” of the first person. He lacks the psychic energy that would turn the abstraction into a personification. If an attitude of “I’m imitating you” is projected, however – if purposeful distortion or “editorializing” appears rather than the neutral attitude of exact copying – the mirror becomes an actor even though the original movements were abstract.
  4. If the performer does something to simulate, represent, impersonate, and so forth, he or she is acting. It does not matter what style is used or whether the action is part of a complete characterization or informational presentation. No emotion needs to be involved. The definition can depend solely on the character of what is done. (Value judgments, of course, are not involved. Acting is acting whether or not it is done “well” or accurately.) Thus a person who, as in the game of charades, pretends to put on a jacket that does not exist or feigns being ill is acting. Acting can be said to exist in the smallest and simplest action that involves pretense.
  5.  Public speaking, whether it is extemporaneous or makes use of a script, may involve emotion, but it does not necessarily involve acting. Yet some speakers, while retaining their own characters and remaining sincere, seem to be acting. At what point does acting appear? At the point at which the emotions are “pushed” for the sake of the spectators. This does not mean that the speakers are false or do not believe what they are saying. It merely means that they are selecting and projecting an element of character-emotion – to the audience. In other words, it does not matter whether an emotion is created to fit an acting situation or whether it is simply amplifed.