Emergence/immersion, Mnemonic city
About the Magma collective multi gallery project 2012
visual/sound digital multi media event
According to Aristotle The Plot of a tragedy is immitative of an action while character retains a secondary position. Order, appearance and magnitude will follow logically. We see that such a model would leave no room for evolution other than technical amendments. The scope of psychological enquiry having increased through the ages, we now must observe new forms of theatre have emerged as off shoots of conceptual art and interventions: Dan Graham wrote “the culture in the 60s was about immediacy and presentness. The present was detached from historical time. It was thought that one was to experiment in the here and now: thus life was a perceptual experience… it wanted to not have a lasting material existence, but to exist only as a catalyst, to change and help to deconstruct or to destroy existing material, established icons.” (Two-way Mirror Power selected writings by Dan Graham on his art). The catalytic nature of contemporary performance is based on the intense acitvation of the mental space existing between the audience and the actor/performer/artist who will enact in a sense the background imagery of a definite collective consciousness, that is, determined by the plot and the cultural language chosen by the artist. This space is almost literally electrified, in the case of Magma. We can speak of a galvanisation of memory and the imaginary.
In his book, Creative Evolution, Bergson analises the principle of the “Elan vital”, one could equate to the “will to Power”, from a Nietzschean perspective, or to Prana, an aspect of Cosmic energy in Hinduism, one of five “organs of vitality” constituting our living being, each an essential sense without which our connection to the world and other human beings would be impossible. He “addresses the question of self-organisation and spontaneous morphogenesis of things”(consider ‘morpho’ as a constituent of ‘epistemological being’, not as biological being). This appears to relates to “ a body without organs” in Deleuze’ s work, derived from Antonin Artaud’ s radio play “To Have Done with the Judgement of God”, the term initially refers to the “virtual” dimension of the body. “In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari say: “The body without organs is an egg: it is criss-crossed with axes and thresholds, with latitudes and longitudes and geodesic lines, traversed by gradients marking the transitions and the becoming, the destinations of the subject developing along these particular vectors.” This is the potential/virtual body of what they(Deleuze and Guattari ) call “Phase Space””. The nature of performance is intricately linked to this conjunction of natures by which disparate physical and emotional organized elements construct an image, a common space which becomes an internal metropolis of sensations, a ‘Mnemopolis’, city of remembrance, where ‘anasubstantial’ interconnections take form and language turns back into a primordial sign. The character of the environment thus reflects the development of the rapport established between the phenomenological process taking place ‘on stage’ and the perceptual response of the members of the public ‘off-stage’ in which these very ‘on/off’ dividing rules become interchangeable and indistinguishable. “Morphogenesis” in this case is also the by product of flux, that is the experiential duration of the art or the “subjective experience of time” to follow Henri Bergson’ s hypothesis. At no.w.here , a film studio/workshop in London, curator Maxa Zoller hosted a seminar on what she names “ the cinematic body”. She affirms that“ In the last decade film and video installation art has produced a new set of critical ideas about our attraction to immersive film environments and the desire to experience the engulfing quality of virtual reality…”.
In this project, the fundamental principles of an ancient form of creative expression are evident. We may speak of a nascent shamanistic culture through which any given space becomes a cave, an alembic that will contain a moment of illumination, and as the participants pointed out, a mirror of the outer city itself, beginning with London. It is Orphic in nature, in the way of an oracle. This is not a deliberate aim but the result of an organic communion of ideas and their ramified manifestations among the performers whose devices interact electrically and electronically during the show. From the concept of the city, Magma moves to the concept of the cave and in doing so triggers a descent rather than an ascent, in correlation with a process C.G Jung called “involution”. Once more, the cave opens to show the dark motions of the mind traversing territories of ancestral memory having embarked on the ghost ship of mythology.
Orpheus himself embodies a tragic journey into the unconscious, his demons are not comprehended, only charmed; his soul personified by Eurydice succumbs to the second death as he denies the gods of the underworld by inventing a virtual copy of his experience, the music acting as a camouflage vehicle saving him from a sensory impact. Thus there is no revelation, his head is severed, in effect rendering all experience obsolete, prefiguring the dilemma of 21st century hominid, whose presence is rent asunder by the age old divide Reason/Nature, his body torn apart, a fragmentation equated to that of the modern personality, split into multi-personas but also into a world of multi-functionalities where focus is lost as much as identity for the sake of uninterrupted integration into the societal system. Finally, his psyche swallowed by the shadows is reflected in the alienation of the singular mind into the innumerable patterns created by digital networks. In this myth we find an echo of Plato’s cave, although Plato does not imply a tragic ending but merely makes a philosophical observation without definite conclusion. The metaphor has gained more relevance as the layers of human existence have accumulated. There is a chain of events based on a hierarchy no longer determined by external agents such as the gods, for in this place of perdition, mankind alone must decide its fate. God indeed is not a guiding principle, nature is no longer a distant notion or a well of resources, it is a womb and a stomach all at once, an egg expanding with the power of the gaze, and Plato implies that the eye of the mind ( the philosopher’s eye)can comprehend the light outside the cave, the glow from telluric flames only symbolising a state of semi consciousness where shadows become more palpable than reality.
The cave has also been associated with the labyrinth, or the centre of the maze, the place where one meets their destiny or falls into a state of utter forgetfulness. One cannot escape the Labyrinth, one can only dream of escape, and this is precisely where the solution might reside or arise, for the labyrinth is a dream; it epitomises a psychic reality in whose theatre all of our complexes are played out. Malpertuis (Maleperduis or Maupertuis, place of evil but also place of the forlorn), written by Jean Ray, is such a place, the name of an ancient house covers a world of intricate passages and insoluble situations, the product of one mind, its owner whose death seals a testament to which his descendants are bound until their last breath. In this labyrinth, the gods of Olympe have been sequestrated, their essence entrapped within the body, moreso “inside the skins” of common mortals. Stairs in particular stretch from impossible heights to cavernous depths. Groteque characters conspire with monstruous shadows. The players must remain to discover why they cannot leave. This discovery however is not salutary but the crowning of a sentence. Essentially, the characters cannot find an exit to a place which does not really exist, and furthermore, none of them realise the extent of their affiliation with the deceased patriarch until their own fate is administered with the relentless precision and punctuality of a clock. It can be surmised they are all in fact aspects of his own depraved soul, all but Jan ( in the eponymous movie by Harry Kumel), whose purity ressembles that of ‘the son of god’, a tragic resemblance pushed to its logical conclusion. Here, the story of Plato’s cave takes on a Shakespearean tone imbuing the faceless penitents with personal characteristics, a past, aspirations and intentions. There is no real opposition between good and evil; no real possibility of a world outside of Malperduis exists. The cave in this sense is a living nightmare without end, in fact, it is an inferno.
Magma’s own artistic evolution defies Plato’s argument, since the work at hand affords the audience a form of knowledge through sensation rather than through the exposition of form as an idea to be unravelled by the intellect. Magma in this set of scenes, on screen and in space, through sound and visual interrogative realisations, creates a dramatic interlude from an eschatological condition. Yet, the cave can become the source of vision itself, no longer filled with projections of latent fears mingled with soporific illusions, it can resound with instants of truth, it can become the place of creation itself as Isabel Hilton describes in The Search for the Panchen Lama.: “Lhamo Latso . . .in Tibet [is] a brilliant azure jewel set in a ring of grey mountains. The elevation and the surrounding peaks combine to give it a highly changeable climate, and the continuous passage of cloud and wind creates a constantly moving pattern on the surface of the waters. On that surface visions appear to those who seek them in the right frame of mind.” The electrified chamber Magma engineers shows us how the cave can transmute into a lake, the retina of an interior gaze remembering a history in the making, a parallel story, putting an emphasis on the transmutation of the meaning of this word, i.e. how what is purported to have been seen can become a fiction, and how this fiction can be the direct result of an experience leading to a new kind of perception, in which case we could call this spectacle ‘Histerautopsy’, a narrative founded on what has been sensed in real time, not by proxy, on what has been sensed in real space not with remote viewing. From this position, the artist and the viewer can be said to fulfil a new part in the context of the phenomenological universe, that is, a “proprioceptive” (“one’s own perception” )state, not only in relation to the physical body but to the spatial projection of the body, and as such we can deduce space and time no longer reside outside our vital perimeters but constitute an essential body intertwined with our own, a natural antidote to virtual amalgamation. What needs to be noted is the irony of this inversion, that is, how artists by integrating digital mediums into a complex set of creative expressions disable the homogenic apparatus of the state, such works alluding ‘regular’ incorporation. What marks out this new ‘insurgence’ is not a political direction but a metaphysical impulse within the shell of a philosophical dialogue. We are no longer staring blankly at a shallow pond, this ship is taking us to the ocean…”for those with the right frame of mind”.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
REVIEW OF EACH PERFORMANCE
The Magma collective visual/audio/live performance finally arrives with MnemonicCity at Doomed Gallery.
The event opens with Roberto Crippa, sound artist, composer and improviser, Electroacoustic Improvisation.
The artist stands behind the mixing deck like a musician throwing spells at a machine that seems to contain the last microwaves from the big bang, reaching us, the audience through his finger tips. Beside the electric apparatus, and plugged into it lay a harmonium which now and then Roberto presses and extends, like a lung inspiring and expiring inhuman plaintive notes. As intriguing is the use he makes of a metallic plate, pushing, turning and disturbing its equanimity, a trivial object out of context, claiming the position of a musical instrument, but then perhaps it is, and sending waves of gaseous white noise, to confuse the assemblage of signals already emitted into the air filled by the silence of the audience. It is loud yet never cacophonic, surprisingly seductive, simply because of an overwhelming sense of submersion into the secrecy of an incomprehensible sound. We are not outside of it. I could imagine a trip in an alien space ship generating a similar experience.
Ines Von Bonhorst, director and Yuri Pirondi, cinematography, invite us to their performance/video screening The Guise accompanied by music duo, musician Mauricio Velasierra, singer Heidi Heidelberg, in the garden. It is already dark and as we gather, the flutist and the singer/sound artist have already begun. A woman, performer Sofia Figueiredo is entangled in a set of strings attached to the branches of a dead tree, she stretches them to the limit and in so doing also stretches her life line up to the point of breathless extenuation. This is reflected in the strident effusions of the flutist and the pseudo screams of the singer, who both have become the ectoplasmic voice of the prisoner. For this is what she is and those elastics to my mind symbolise the rules of the outside world imposed on her freedom, subjugating her flow, restraining each movement, and never allowing her enough space or time to speak out; but it is also a sign that her existence is intricately linked to nature, this dead tree, a tragic embodiment of our own nature escaping from itself, yet incapable of subsistence in complete loneliness. She speaks only through her body, the momentum receding, and forwarding, yet with no real progress, an illusion of change, of hope even. She is Sisyphus. And we have become the mountains surrounding this human being, like gods turned to rock. We observe the pain without emotion for to us, this is mere entertainment; a possible interpretation. The separation between the eye of the public and the woman who falls before us is vast, despite her physical self manifesting among us and dragging itself confusingly on the ground rolled into a dark shrine, inhumed in mental alienation.
Insights Allein, a mime act in which we find the protagonist shrouded, waiting for a sign. Riccardo Atanasio is prostrated before what looks like a shrine covered by a membrane of cellophane. He contorts himself out of his second skin and soon rips the membrane which he wraps around himself. Left there on the floor are a spade and a transparent head made of glass or Perspex. He picks both of them up and makes his way to the exit, disappearing through the door into the dark. We follow him with our gaze and soon, each of us walk out into the dark to find out what happened. We follow the pipe piper into the garden. He is mute, but his gestures are telling the story. He hits the earth with the shovel, digs a hole in the ground, stops, looks around and quietly picks the head he has enveloped in the cellophane, to place it in the hole and finally, without ceremony, buries it. He stands still. He carries this stillness within. We wonder. It is an ending. Ricardo’s main body of work also includes graffiti art and poetry, music and painting.
Adolfo Healer puts his helmet on, reversing the title: A Cave in the Head, a square box painted with geometric shapes that will soon move, distorted on the screen, and launches the live projection. He is acting as if possessed, his accomplice also under the spell of some disjointed automated pulse. Images appear, geomantic allusions, intruding on the angular order of one another, with saturated stripes, bleached out lines crossing the straight and regular trajectory of their neighbouring figures. The chaos of mathematics is released in the mind of Healer by electronic magic, reverberated on the wall for all to ponder while sounds are extracted out of entropic objects, his accomplice, musician Cementimental brutalises with a passion. They dismantle physical truths with improbable solutions made out of a symbiosis between unpredicted sound waves colliding with one another and de-calculated forms, flattened, stretched, inverted, reversing the brain lobes of the population watching transfixed this metaphysical experiment.
The artist hidden in the box is Jaime Valtierra, a multi media painter, who expresses his deeper philosophical questions through inventive electronic constructs as much as through traditional oil paint. He ends the event suddenly, almost unexpectedly.
The Outside Puppets trio (before the last performance) begins with a lesson of what seems like a mixture of religious doctrine, phonetics and body language.
The great teacher is impatient with the two young puppet students who keep scratching their heads as the master shouts out his wisdom. He is certain of his message, no matter how incoherent it sounds to everyone else.
2 more characters are brought on the stage in succession as the other three hide backstage.
Incredibly eerie and expressive, both are hooded and play their part alone. The hood is suddenly pulled back to reveal a face that looks horrified, astonished and perplex all at once, the eyes wide open like those of victims in horror movies, yet a mouth turned into a rictus proper to the psycho about to achieve his end. This face/mask is the recipient of a complex balance of emotions that fit each act equally well. We believe it. It is scared, trembling before the unknown, then it is horrified, then disgusted, then mocking…we are taken on a hell ride through the deep psychological transformations of these ‘creatures’ risen from the shadows of the collective unconscious. When both stand side by side, they engage in a discussion about the audience and laugh at us; a brilliant inversion of roles.
In fact, the puppeteers are a collective of multi disciplinary artists, (and so are most of the artists involved in the Mnemonic City event), who believe in the cathartic value of their work with good cause. One of their events advertised on their site called “The Thinker” is introduced thus: “If you accept the shadow…then you can reclaim the light”.
The Entire show, echoing memories of Commedia dell‘Arte, an experiential exploration of the Myth of the cave by Plato, organized by the Magma collective and Doomed Gallery was founded on this principle…to reveal and expand the deeper psyche through the liberation of visual poetic and philosophical creativity; a principle gallery founder Ken Flaherty, and curator Pascal Ancel Bartholdi are applying in their choice of artists and their own work. This therefore could only lead to a fruitful collaboration the result of which was a magnificent spectacle that will now travel to main cities in Europe beginning with Madrid.
Copyright © Pascal Ancel Bartholdi 2012
Photography by Pietro Catarinella