A very nice review of Immaculate Conception we did earlier this year with ensemble mise-en has been published on Brooklyn Rail. It’s entitled “A Double Act” and was written by Cody Eichman. It contextualizes our efforts in the history of theatre and its discontents, including John Cage’s adoption of the term which placed it in a dialectical tension with the domain of “music.”
It starts like this: “I once heard a performance-studies scholar explain the difference between performance art and theater as that between presentation and representation. She was wrong. For the essence of theater lies not in representation, but in the duality between presentation and representation, as well as in the indeterminacy infiltrating this dichotomy. A play takes place in between action and act—and, as Gregory Bateson observed, the line separating one from the other always remains vague. Theater plays with this double identity (performance art often pretends it doesn’t exist).”
Compulsive Reader has published a truly excellent review of MUSEUM OF UNHEARD (OF) THINGS (Already Not Yet Press) that You Nakai translated from German with Alexander Booth. It brilliantly articulates the essence of history (writing), referring to Stephen Jay Gould’s criticism of adaptationism, the debate between Hayden White and Carlo Ginzburg on history and narrative, and other theoretical threads that together unravel the complex attitude towards history, objects, and fiction that underpins Roland’s museum/book. It is for readers like this that we publish books.
“And what we hear through this beautifully illustrated book, page after page and object after object, are histories of failure, stories of things and events that did not manage to register themselves into history. We read about a Swiss watchmaker from the mid-nineteenth century who attempted to create a new standard of time, but was suppressed by authorities who wished to maintain control of how time is kept; The first modern ID card that was created at the request of Michel de Montaigne, which did not prosper as the imperial cities failed to agree on a common format; The miniature model of a statue to commemorate the Soviet dog Laika which never got to be made since the “Committee in Honor of Socialist Achievements in Orbit” could not reach any consensus; A primordial photographic imprint of a girl made by her lover which is taken as a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary by the local villagers, consequently sending the girl to a convent and bringing the young romance to a tragic end; or an image of Mao Tse-tung that was venerated as St. Anthony of Padua in rural China to save the Christian villagers from the rampage of Cultural Revolution.
The common theme running through these diverse stories is that of a constant failure of objects and people to adapt to the present. Intentions and hopes are misunderstood and neglected, leaving a gap between the object (and its human provenance) and the rest of the world. They become lost because they have lost. As a result, the stories are silenced and forgotten, the objects rendered trivial. Relationships collapse and people die too soon, but hope lies in the fact that things survive—they remain unheard, but nonetheless they remain, clutching onto the periphery of the shared present like the enigmatic sixth finger that demands (a different) history to be told.”
The book can be purchased via Already Not Yet.
The proceedings of CARPA 4 (Colloquium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts) held in Helsinki a year ago on the topic of “The Non-human and the Inhuman in Performing Arts” has been published online. We were invited to perform HOUSE MUSIC (C) with Lindsey Drury and Johanna Gilje, and you can see/read a text (abstract) describing what we aimed to do, a video documenting what we actually did, and an image depicting what happened as a result, here:
The abstract went something like this:
“No Collective [You Nakai, Kay Festa, Earl Lipski, Jay Barnacle, et al] and Lindsey Drury (Dreary Somebody) present a performance of music and dance involving multiple inhuman dancer/musicians and human performers [Johanna Gilje, Lindsey Drury, You Nakai]. Within the work, the inhuman dancers move in seemingly random trajectories through a performance space without programmed pathways or the manipulation of a controller. Through their interaction with the human dancers, the work reframes “improvisation with objects,” as one cannot fully predict the movement of the objects, or their response to contact with human bodies and other objects. Regardless as to the internal mechanism that drives the objects, the experience on the outside is that they are “making choices.” The focus of this work is to create a situation which challenges the performer’s ability to enact her will over the objects with which she performs, along with the tendency of audiences to identify human performers as enactors and objects as receptors of action. The resulting work reveals how the ability to move unpredictably can assert an object its own will. The question of agency traditionally oriented toward the bodies of human movers (“Why does she move like that?”) is thus expanded. Despite the necessity in this description to differentiate between the inhuman and human performers, the point of the piece is to explore and problematize common notions of what constitutes a body. The work was developed through the concept that the delineation of body is based in the perception of a certain agency that controls a given movement. All the moving objects in the piece, whether inhuman performers, human performers, or human (and inhuman) audience, appear to have agency because the source of their movements is instilled within themselves. The most important thing accomplished in the piece is not that the inhuman performers “become human,” but instead that the humans present in the room face the fact that they are also objects. Therefore, the work does not reinforce the difference between human and inhuman, but instead dissolves that very distinction through an expanded definition of body and its basis in movement.”
No Collective is going to premiere an installation-performance called “()all” this Sunday at JACK in Brooklyn, as part of GROUP WORK IV: Room Sounds, an evening assembling “Composition and installation dealing with sonic and social space in the concert environment” (which was supposed to take place back in January but got postponed due to that idiotic snow storm). Assisted by Matthew Gantt, we are determined to finally reveal the grand mystery of JACK (which everybody who knows the space has wondered about all these years): its aluminum-foiled walls. Tonight we provide the reason behind the enigma. This revelation is meant to overlap, underscore, and infiltrate all the other works in the evening and people in the space without offending them too much. Sorry in advance if we did.
“The End of Choreography As We Know It,” an in-depth review of Vesna’s Fall (No Collective + Lindsey Drury) written by Ellen C. Covito, has been published in the Performing Arts Journal (MIT Press). It focuses mainly on the last version of that piece we did at the Queens Museum almost exactly a year ago, but also analyzes the differences between the three previous renditions of the piece at Judson Church, Black Mountain College and Cholula Mexico (some footage can be seen here: http://nocollective.com/v.html) and describes our effort to collapse once and for all the problematic workings of sacrifice and gravity in the original choreography of the Rite of Spring (and subsequent modern/postmodern dance) which we had discreetly used as source material.
This is how it starts: ”On January 26, 1972, Vesna Vulović fell from an exploding airplane onto a frozen mountainside in northern Czechoslovakia—and survived. The 33,330 feet physical downfall of the Serbian flight attendant is registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest free fall a human has lived through. The reason her JAT Flight 367 exploded that day remains unknown. The local investigation committee claimed there had been a bomb planted by a Croatian nationalist group. Soon afterwards, the Yugoslav government singled out the criminals as the fascist terrorist organization Ustaše, though the group had been dormant since the end of World War II. In recent years, some journalists concluded that the plane was shot down by mistake by the Czechoslovak Air Force—a claim that the Czech Civilian Aviation Authority immediately dismissed as a conspiracy theory. The reason Vesna survived is as controversial as the cause of explosion. Nevertheless, there is a simple explanation for why she fell from the sky, thanks to Sir Isaac Newton: gravity was at work.”
Thanks also to David Ian Griess for the images!
The End of Choreography As We Know It, Performing Arts Journal 38-2, MIT Press
A paper You Nakai wrote on Stockhausen (probably the only one he will write) has been finally published in the anthology “The Musical Legacy of Karlheinz Stockhausen” that just came out in Germany:
The book assembles papers that were originally presented at the one-off scholarly conference on Stockhausen’s music at his summer school in Kuerten, back in 2011. You’s is called “In Other Words: How Stockhausen Stopped Writing Theory (and Resumed Ten Years Later)” and it more or less does the following:
“From 1961 to 1971, Stockhausen did something strange: he abandoned the detailed analyses of his own compositions which he had diligently written and published in the previous decade. Around the composer’s reticence, musicologists have displayed their eloquence. However, the scholarship has primarily focused on saying what the composer did not say, disregarding the question of why he did not say it. This paper is an analytical inquiry into that discursive void, a (somewhat) self-defeating effort to explicate with words the correspondence between what the composer chose not to say (with words) and what he said in the meantime through other means.”
You Nakai is presenting a paper called “The Constancy of Instruments: David Tudor’s Fontana Mix 1967” at the international conference “Alternative Histories of Electronic Music (AHEM)” held from this Thursday to Saturday at the Science Museum in London. The paper articulates the peculiar nature of Tudor’s music through the overlap of instruments and the discrepancy of their configurations between Tudor’s realization of John Cage’s Fontana Mix in 1967 and his own Bandoneon ! from a year before. It’s a three-day conference with many interesting presentations and a nice acronym, so if you are around.
Here’s a review of “Museum of Unheard (of) Things” by Midwest Book Review:
“Critique: An inherently fascinating and absorbing read from beginning to end, “Museum of Unheard (of) Things” is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library collections, as well as the personal reading lists of anyone with an interest in the strange, the weird, the obscure, and the kind of things that made ‘Ripley’s Believe it Or Not’ so popular for so many decades.”
The nice implication of ‘Believe it Or Not’ is that the stories are, despite their unusualness, true.
You Nakai is part of OVER, UNDER, AROUND, AND THROUGH THE MUSIC OF DAVID TUDOR, a two-day conference on the music of David Tudor at Wesleyan University happening this Friday and Saturday (March 25-26). You will do two things there (mainly): (A) presenting an hour-long talk called “LATE(R) REALIZATIONS: VERSIONS, SOUND SYSTEMS, AND COMPOSITIONS (1960-1970)” which examines the complex entanglement between Tudor’s realizations of other composer’s works in the 1960s and the composition of his own, and attempts to articulate the nature of Tudor’s “composition” via his oddly late realization about becoming a composer, and (B) co-organizing the session “INSIDE TUDOR’S LIVE ELECTRONICS” with Michael Johnsen and Matt Rogalsky, which examines Tudor’s extant electronic instruments now archived at Wesleyan. Both presentations will happen on the first day, March 25th, starting from 1:30pm. Other presenters include John Holzaepfel, Julie Martin (EAT), Composers Inside Electronics (John Driscoll, Phil Edelstein, Ralph Jones), Tom Erbe, Gustavo Matamoros, Mats Lindstrom, and Ron Kuivila among others. There will also be concerts in the evening, so if you happen to be in Connecticut or nearby.
1. public service is a series of (pseudo) secret events organized (almost) every month by No Collective (you nakai, et al) and zner (dp) at a private residence in new york.
2. each event is hosted by a different creature (artist choreographer film maker scientist writer philosopher engineer etc) and attended only by 10 (or so) people carefully selected and cordially invited by the host(s) and the organizer(s) for the specific occasion.
3. together the series explores the thin line(s) between legal and illegal public and private performance and attendance substance and subjecthood theory and method real-time and documentation.
4. public service will go on forever (=twelve months) at the end of which we are planning to publish the documentation of the events to make them publicly accessible in retrospect.
5. february will be hosted by no collective at the end of the month.