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From: Rudi Kraeher
Subject: Performance
Date: May 15, 2016 at 2:00:21 PM PDT
To: Kate Alexandrite
Hey Kate,

I wanted to share a few thoughts I had on the performance last night. I should say that unfortunately we had to leave early all together, so I wasn’t able to stay until the end :( This makes my writing about a performance that I didn’t watch to the “end” super irresponsible, but what the hell, I’ve been a ball of nerves the last two weeks and need to do some irresponsible shit. 


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We’ve been talking a lot about getting together to talk and I keep missing the after parties so I was hoping that writing would be a good solution.

In the early part of the performance, the chit chat and jokes in what I’ll call the screening room (versus the staging room), one of the social activities we got involved in was guessing “what you were gonna do when it started.” Cut the cake, etc. Someone observed that the cake and balloons were really overdetermined objects that seriously limit our expectations about what you would do with the props—what else is there to do with a birthday (?) cake but light candles and cut it (throw it, move it, are of course alternatives). This observation was not a criticism but more of a comment about the difficulty of predicting what you were going to do once the performance “started.”

I suggested that it already had. The setup of the space, the users joining the Periscope room and typing (mostly commands, interestingly), and of course the “likes” with the colored hearts. The hearts really fit the birthday/party aesthetic, and someone started taking pictures of the screen from their phone while multiple people simultaneously, frantically clicked the heart—an adornment of the screen and the space you were setting up. 
The setup process was very similar to your other piece we saw at the Culver, with the many screens and the toys. If I can share a description, M. commented that your subdued disposition while setting up, in the midst of a growing, sometimes zany party, was a kind of feminine aesthetic of arranging the space, decorating, re-arranging, setting things up to host the activities of other people. This work is never done, as you continue to re-arrange things. It is the others that join the party in the staging room—many of whom were coming first from the observing, texting, screening room—that interact with the desires and messages of those on Periscope sending requests (in fact, demands: do this; show this). The emojis that some sent actually seemed to best fit the aesthetic of the performance, which seems to me to be a clearly social performance. I also really appreciated the different levels of screens you set up for projection, creating the impression of an actually much busier social gathering.  
 
My own prediction was that eventually most of the group—sans perhaps the most introverted, who are content to be the voyeurs or better, remote viewers (I’m thinking that Karen Tongson’s idea about “remote intimacies” might apply here)—would end up migrating to the scene of the party, the staging room. Unfortunately I didn’t see it through to the end, but maybe you can confirm or dispel this! 

Some questions: 

Because of the often complicated (from an outsider’s/layman's perspective) orchestrations of equipment in a lot of your work, I notice that there is a lot of running around, looking for missing/malfunctioning gear, and general putting out fires that happen in the setup. How do you think about this choreography of “setup” in relation to your work itself, either as performance practice or some other “representation” of what we call “setup” (which is typically considered to precede an event, rather than be an event itself)?

This one’s from M. (hi, it’s m.!): How do you feel about empty space in the frame? 
 
Best,
Rudi
 
From: "K. A.”
Subject: Re: Performance
Date: May 15, 2016 at 5:14:05 PM PDT
To: Rudi Kraeher

Hey Rudi!

Thanks a million for this, it is so thoughtful and awesome to get your feedback. Seriously!! I am sorry that you weren’t able to stay till the end (my fault - and I was feeling bad about this morning actually and was going to text you - I am so grateful you came.) 
 
The performance was pretty crazy and long. The cake caught on fire and much earlier than I had anticipated with the 72 candles burning the plastic lettering that said “play drive” in german. I kept performing past that - as in creating the space, which was my goal for completion. I wanted to have totally transformed the abstract boards into a room that reflected a different locality/identity. I kept arranging past the time that the party had crescendoed and then ended in tandem with the video of an outdoor daytime firecracker and explosives celebration Brazil - I put a sparkler in the middle of the cake/frame, just to gesture at the videos that had been there almost unseen the whole time, and then wrote - thank (sp!) for the party- and then just shut it down. 
 
The set-up is kind of hilarious, and the whole thing is that is about play - the irony is I worked so fucking hard not just to set up but even during the performance "to play" for like 2 hours - I made other people work too. Though some people refused and did actually play - some people took my directives really seriously. I still have to figure it all out - but what M. was suggesting does resonate. My mother and Grandmother were both highly creative and intelligent women who funneled all of this energy into throwing parties — some of the most amazing parties you have ever seen. But of course there is zero value placed on that work, or even the work of decorating, all the sort of creative fringe activities of domesticity. I love the you saw the heart as further adornment - and you totally are right - it was partially the decider of the aesthetic, geared towards pink “love/feminine" etc. My being dressed as visual noise - but the noise of patterning much more related to feminine domestic space seemed like an interesting way to gesture towards this invisibility.   
I was interested in how both spaces were totally different experience - the video you could see projected on the boards  was actually only visible on Periscope - you couldn’t really see or understand it all in the space of the party itself - so the experience - and the documentation of it are totally separate experiences. If you try to position yourself in the space to see it - you actually block the projection, a sort of silly metaphor for what it means to try and stand outside the moment. We document everything, but often don’t access that documentation - though we reconstruct our memory as much if not more through the documentation as through the lived experience. All of the videos I projected had never been viewed or had one or two views on youtube, found by entering random numbers that are assigned by the camera and used if you don’t title the video. These are often the ones that are uploaded without any intention of being distributed and aren’t accessible through any keywords - their purpose on youtube feels symbolic... our need to externalize memory through documentation is part of the ritual of making memory. I think parties are also activity toward remembering, the formality and ritual are enacted to form social bonds and create space of memory - mashing that up with the ephemerality of Periscope - where the documentation disappears in 24 hours- was interesting (so these unwatched video I projected will again go into repose as un-accesed externalized memory.) 

Someone mentioned how strange it was to have someone you had just seen on the screen walk back into the room where Periscope was being projected. Not everyone migrated - in fact as much back and forth as there was - after a bit it seems like it really settled and people sort of choose their space, which is also interesting and something that made it feel like it was over, its having settled, no longer becoming. I heard that the people in the front space eventually all were watching on their phones and commenting (and trying to elect change from the front room - playing us perhaps, almost like a video game.) That they would choose that says something about perception that is bigger than I could have tried to say. Maybe I should have gone to the room- that could have been unsettling. I feel like there is something to that - the energy and the way that all of these decisions were forced by the se-up and then the way everyone reacted. Or the party might have been just on Periscope - and the way the digital actually effected change in my space is interesting, and a weird thing I have experienced talking to people on Periscope that is kind of freaky and real-time. It also feels like an echo of how memory is what frames perception, in relation to Bergson and his ideas about perception as being entirely created by our filtering of what we desire through memory. 

I had a million tech hang-ups, which honestly are just becoming part of the work. Failure precedes any sort of becoming-  for me anyway. Its awful but it also builds up this crazy energy, I don’t know know if I like it - but the more I try to avoid it, the more it asserts itself-so it is something I have to think about. I really like what you said - "of what we call “setup” (which is typically considered to precede an event, rather than be an event itself."  I think that rather it is unconscious or conscious it seems I am intent on making my work visible, or having it be part of the work. I am glad you ask about that. It is funny because the tech feels like something counter to the domestic, which I have control over. It seems to control me, and I have to really wrangle with it. I can’t deny that I am sexist enough to assume I am less capable because I am a woman when it comes to technology. I would like to pretend I am enlightened enough to recognize that is bullshit - but it is so engrained I can only deny that logically, not whole-heartedly. I think there is something there, but rather I want it to be in the work or not I am not sure. Hopefully I will overcome it - but maybe part of that is making it known/visible that I am the one doing all of the technical stuff.

What does M. mean by the empty space in the frame? If she mean the unprojected part that was a weird line that seemed to make people feel like they were in the piece or not (which is funny because it almost arbitrary in some ways - since it is all in view through Periscope - though having the party video projected on you is an interesting point for feeling involved.) It is also the space of the studio, of work, of my supplies… If she means the empty frame as in when I was setting up, I relate that to the question of making my work visible. I do like the idea that the work as performed and integral to whatever is considered the piece - and available for comment. It is interesting people don’t want to see it and didn’t really comment. They decided it began when it looked like something closer to what they knew a performance might look like (again perception) so I have to think about this. I sort of wanted people to find the piece and not have it start with a bang. I was building up to it - I wanted it to be almost discovered one by one - but what are you going to do since you also have to say it start at a certain time? 

I think you did hit on something that feels full of potential exploration when making work around ritual/play etc. I was enacting a ritual by doing a performance - about rituals. The fact that people want a clearly drawn line around that sort of points to the line itself - "tell us when we can leave this logic structure and enter another one", and the uncertainty of which they are supposed to be adopting seems important. I might have my next performance be one where I just elicit help from the entire audience in making some sort of elaborate set up in order to “begin.” I keep promising to start and then once the whole audience has set it up it could be over. Assign tasks counter gender assumptions of skills that slowly escalate into more and more elaborate and specific acts (sewing, sawing etc). Kind of a one time deal, but it would be a funny way to just try doing all of this stuff really visibly on purpose. 
It was my first live performance ever and I would probably do a million things different if I did it again (which I want to). That said, I am so grateful I had everyone here to help me go through this first time and start thinking about how to work in this form - so thanks so much for coming!
You and M. have been so amazingly helpful and supportive through all of these crazy experiments. I feel like you always witness me on the edge of what I am actually capable of - which is really stressful or annoying to most people - thank you for going there with me. I really couldn’t do it without friends like you helping me through your feedback, patience and attention. 

Here is some fun documentation, and video of where it ended up.
    
Hey so I had some follow up thoughts based on what you were talking about below. This is kind of long so don’t feel the pressure to respond right away. I’ve been having some real struggles getting work done, representing my project in a coherent, administratively legible form through writing, and talking through some of these thoughts with you, thoughts that I see as emerging from my experience of your work, is really enjoyable and rewarding for me. So thank you!
 
One of the texts that I always seem to connect to and reference for some reason that definitely comes to mind here with what you’re saying about the domestic labor of throwing parties is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I wanted to share two of my favorite passages and a little of my own framing that I think relate. I submitted a paper about the novel as a writing sample when applying to grad school and it has waaay too much Bahktin going on lol:
 
For Clarissa, her parties go beyond social events and become elevated to a sort of transcendent status as “offering[s]” to life or “gift[s]” to the world”: And she felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it. And it was an offering; to combine, to create; but to whom? An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift. (Woolf 122)
 
I really like the language of “offering” or “gift” here insofar as the kind of offering that her parties constitute is in the first place, obviously ephemeral: it is primarily about a transitory, and more importantly social experience. This notion of gift gets away from the kind of commodity based idea about gifts and exchange, insofar as this kind of material object—whether it is bought, found, or made—always seems to exist within a debt economy. Gifts are supposed to be selfless, but there is frequently this other cultural aspect of owing someone (making sure you give them a gift back at some point) or gifts as socially mandated (one gives gifts for particular occasions—birthdays, weddings, etc.).
 
Derrida also writes about this in Given Time. This email is effectively a splicing together of other texts that I’m thinking with. Here is a brief summary from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: 

In his text, Given Time, Derrida suggests that the notion of the gift contains an implicit demand that the genuine gift must reside outside of the oppositional demands of giving and taking, and beyond any mere self-interest or calculative reasoning. According to him, however, a gift is also something that cannot appear as such, as it is destroyed by anything that proposes equivalence or recompense, as well as by anything that even proposes to know of, or acknowledge it. This may sound counter-intuitive, but even a simple 'thank-you' for instance, which both acknowledges the presence of a gift and also proposes some form of equivalence with that gift, can be seen to annul the gift.
 
Part of my thinking about this has been dealing with some of my own past experiences of what I would call aggressive gifting. I imagine this as material gifts which are given as a tool of manipulation or forms of coercion. The ethics of the gift in Mrs. Dalloway or the more general act of curating, organizing, “setting up” or hosting an event, a performance, a party, a social gathering, whatever you want to call it, seems to me an alternative to the aggressive, capitalist gift (which is really a curse; a form of credit designed to make someone indebted to you).
 
The other passage I really love from Mrs Dalloway is this one: Passing a mirror and catching a glimpse of her own reflection, Clarissa gazes at/into herself:
 
collecting the whole of her at one point (as she looked into the glass), seeing the delicate pink face of the woman who was that very night to give a party; of Clarissa Dalloway; of herself...She pursed her lips when she looked in the glass. It was to give her face point. That was her self — pointed; dart-like; definite. That was her self when some effort, some call on her to be her self, drew the parts together, she alone knew how different, how incompatible and composed so for the world only into one centre, one diamond, one woman who sat in her drawing- room and made a meeting-point, a radiancy no doubt in some dull lives, a refuge for the lonely to come to, perhaps. (Woolf 37)
 
Anyway, I really love that novel.

Some “final” thoughts and questions: I was really interested in the problem you posed about how to avoid making a clear “starting” point for the performance under the social or institutional strictures of having to schedule a time. I’m gonna keep thinking about this one. The issue of scheduling and timing also makes me think about the idea of being fashionably late (to a party) or the technical snafu of the cake catching fire sooner than you anticipated—the idea of the candles not lighting “on time” if you will. I think a lot about lateness because I’ve also been late.


Finally, I asked M. about her question of the empty frame. She said it was more a general question to provoke thought, rather than one geared at this work specifically. In other words—I think this is one element of what she’s asking about—considering the constant rearrangement of the space, the installation and removal of props for example, there are some really rich sites of visual material in some of your work I’ve seen most recently. How do you think about the props, the bodies, the screens, the stuff, in relation to empty space?

ttys
Rudi


From: Kate Alexandrite
Subject: Re: Performance
Date: May 16, 2016 at 3:22:33 PM PDT
To: Rudi Kraeher
 
Rudi,

I haven’t even finished reading this and my mind is exploding!!!!!

Of course Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf is like the beginning of thinking for me - what a perfect thing to bring into this, especially because of its relationship to the social/individual- time and memory.  I am running out the door to crit- but I am super super excited by the ideas you have already presented before I have even reached the end of the 3rd paragraph.

So-quickly, and I can explain more later- I have a question for you. I am actually interviewing a few people that were there and using that and other forms of documentation to try and recreate it (without real documentation - except the blurry video on Periscope) would you consider letting these letters be part of it? Either read or as text? I would consider this part of it a collaboration that deserves recognizing your part, and if you wanted we could think about it and see if you want to be further involved in some sort- or not. You have already done a lot.

In a way, the fact that you didn’t see the end gives you a funny relationship to it that seems tied up in all the same ideas of what the work is trying to refer to- an interesting thing to bring in as collaboration. Also, in this way maybe this work that you are doing (by writing me) can be work and play…(about play and work.) If there is something in it for you, I will make sure you have some element of the final product and you can present it as part of /partially your work.

Just a thought - more later - but I am so truly thrilled to be in conversation. One man’s funk is another artists absolute thrill. (Though of course I hope you get back to feeling inspired in every way that you desire.)
 
Kate 
 
    

Kate Alexandrite and Rudi Kraeher 

Kate and Rudi are colleagues from UC Riverside.
Rudi works on Queer Studies, Performance Studies, Latino Studies, Space and Place, Speculative Fiction.