1. visible invisibles
is it not a bad time to raise questions about the invisible people or invisible and immaterial labor? Perhaps, out of order out of sight, it’s a good time after all, and necessarily so intently looking at gender gaps and bodies of color (the “black performances on the outskirts” that Malik Gaines has written about), or at what’s missing in our blind spots and our assumptions of diversity/inclusion and uninclusion (whom do we invite to work with us)(who invites us?), at the less mentioned and the overlooked in the machinery of pre-production, rehearsal, organizational logistics, public exhibition, post-production, documentation, write up.
is now also often entangled with or equated with research), an odd subject to bring up asit promises little joy and aesthetic excitement. In my experience, organizing is the mushroom part, the matsutake part, especially in times of austerity and when you work outside the main streams.
i here speak of forest knowledge and what you learn foraging in the wilder woods, searching for weeds in disturbed environments, whether this is your practice (say, multimedia art or digital performance or bio-tech or AI/robotics, etc) or whether it is what Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing in her ethnography of commodity chains in the final era of capitalist destruction has examined so beautifully for us, providing allegories, in a section on “latent commons” – in the middle of things – addressing them as life lines and as dancing on such lines: searching has a rhythm and one follows scent and an understanding of fungal growth, textures, migratory shifting cultivation.
so then, one locates the needed or searched-for process to co-create, books rehearsal rooms and scrapes together money for the commutes, the train fares, the fabrics and materials, looking to bring the most interesting and eccentric people together, juggling schedules and impossibilities, childcare and babysitter issues always looming, traffic problems and delays, illnesses also an invisible entanglement, anger and resentment always a possibility, thus wanting to understand the mix and the quarrels that might arise, pre-emptying them (not possible), condoning our fallibilities, taking into account the gender and age gaps, the unspoken hierarchies and the mistranslations – speaking across cultural habits as well as areas of expertise, say, in dance and fashion, music and robotics, engineering and architecture, of course always finding fascinating misunderstandings, and therefore, invisibly, (repressed?) energies can push forward or thrive, at least in my experience. The girls return from the hacking/coding workshop and are hot to take on more roles, our sonic artist is transitioning and wants to be addressed by their new name, our amazing Chinese dancer has his appendix removed and cannot dance on stilts (as planned) for 6 weeks, our sponsors are invisible, salary pays for design expenses and dinners, former students volunteer to run lights and help backstage, I enjoy moving more to the background as a facilitator, but still need to climb up ladders and focus lights.
thus the lesser commons is not my primary worry; I do believe everyone feels neglected at times and overlooked, their ideas valued not equally, although we do base our dance work on collaboration. twelve or fifteen of us have to feel that all they do is significant and will be known. We don’t ask where the energies come from and how they are commons may not be good for everyone, there will be infections, inattentions and poachings, and we need to keep arguing. Entanglement indeed, thus everything is coming out. Forget the shame, or the mythology of the invisible work and humiliation of the rehearsals, it’s not that interesting. I always found rehearsals to be most revealing and exposing, thus refreshing.
Johannes Birringer, DAP-Lab, London
When I collaborate with artificial agents to explore ways of interacting with sound through body movement, I deliberately curate the set of body motion features that are “visible” to them. I hide what I believe is not useful for my purposes, and design their perception of their environment to my own liking. However, some deep learning algorithms are notoriously “black boxes”: it is possible to observe incoming data and outgoing data, but their internal operations are often difficult to explain in ways that are easily understandable by humans. Something is visible, yet something is concealed, or incomprehensible. This lack of (mutual?) “understanding” can be at times fun or frustrating, a source of anxiety as well as of inspiration.
Federico Visi, GEMM))) Gesture Embodiment and Machines in Music – Luleå University of Technology, Sweden
Many aspects to software may be invisible in a performance. Here are a few that came to mind:
– Lost history: Time spent can be rendered invisible (either to the audience, or for the artist themselves) in the process of maintaining a codebase on a project – versions offer unique and useful aspects to the work, but might be entirely absent for the audience. Because this history is hidden (whether that be meeting notes, themes in revisions, design challenges/failures, etc.), an opportunity could be lost for this discourse to engage with the art.
– Expectations: Initially assigned roles involving interdisciplinary collaborations can limit participants’ ability to increase quality in art or technology. For example, the way programmers solve problems may be invisible in an artistic “deliverable”. Similarly, the way performers move or process ideas might not affect the design choices of a programmer as a piece develops. If it were more commonplace for participants with diverse backgrounds to collaborate on unified aspects of art practice, I think technology could evolve with the pieces it serves.
– Software usability: When general purpose software (operating systems, device drivers, etc.) works well to a point of usability standards, users might not notice an elegance in the code. On the other hand, programs written for a particular creative work can get a team through a premiere and remain unusable outside of the situation of that art practice.
The EU-funded research project CultureMoves (https://culturemoves.eu) is a user-oriented project that explores the intersections between dance, education, tourism, cultural heritage and digital technologies. The project aims to develop a series of digital tools to enable new forms of touristic engagement and dance educational resources by leveraging re-use of Europeana (www.europeana.eu) content. The project stands on three pillars: technology for content re-use, adaptation and sharing, real-life use cases for tourism and education, and dance as intangible cultural heritage. The digital tools include the MovesScrapbook, a web-based tool for digital storytelling through the creation of digital Scrapbooks combining Europeana content and personal material, and the MotionNotes a web-based tool to annotate dance video, featuring multiple annotation track timelines. We invite the user to think about the ways in which annotation and digital scrapbooking might allow for exploring where and how implicit and explicit shared languages might exist (or not) between dance and digital technology. Who, and what, is implicated in the transmission of choreographic, embodied knowledge through the use of such digital tools? How might digital technologies help ‘uncover’ hidden, or otherwise excluded, interests shared by dancers, dance learners and the cultural heritage sector?