A Haunting of Haunts

Garrett Lynch

Statement: During the lockdowns of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020 networked technologies that were not particularly new or innovative were rediscovered as a means to communicate during social distancing. Video conferencing in particular quickly become the standard adopted means of work, education and collaboration. In a sense old became new again, was presented as if it never was, quickly integrated as part of essential communication infrastructures and its use became a key skill. Networked performance practices have for many years been defined by these networked technologies and their form. Consequently, the pandemic brought to the fore several questions about this type of artistic practice. If the use of networked technologies is now a key everyday skill employed widely, can networked performance truly align itself with technology art, as it often has been (Zapp 2004; Dixon 2007), or does it revert to a closer relationship with performance art of the 20th century? If the latter is the case, and for many it is highly contentious that it qualifies as having any relationship with those art forms (Phelan 1993; Salter 2010; McHugh 2011), has networked performance become isolated within art history? Is it pushed to irrelevance by the current popularisation and commonisation of its technological forms, doomed to be haunted by its artistic predecessors? In response to these questions and the condition of performance in confinement I started, during lockdown, to model a series of scenes in 3D that recreate the locations of landmark performance art. All performances selected occurred in the interior spaces of an artist’s home, studio or residency to reflect on the confined circumstances artists were now required to create within during the pandemic. The result is a series of scenes for networked performance that consist of 3D rendered images and models created from video and photography documentation of the original performances. The artist who originally performed is absent from each scene allowing new artists to ‘virtually’ occupy the spaces and create new performances. Distributed through GitHub under a Creative Commons by Attribution license, the scenes are created ‘after’ or in the manner of the original artists. They constitute a form of instruction, guide or performance media kit that enables new artists to reenact performances or create new works inspired by the originals within the context of digital technology and networked performance. The media kits can be employed within various networked environments such as through Zoom or Skype’s virtual backgrounds or as imported models in Second Life, Unity or various other 3D/VR/AR applications. The series is intended to facilitate the exploration of what can be achieved when spatial and corporeal possibilities are on the one hand limited or simplified but the necessity of technology to view performance is on the other a way to move beyond those limitations. This is most obviously demonstrated in how artists can appear out of their actual living or studio spaces and in another. The spaces/props and the bodies/actions of the performances, however, are only ‘virtually’ co-present: technically in image, through bluescreening, 3D rendering, interpretation etc. and conceptually through the concept of hautology. While employed network technologies remove the limitations of an occupied space, artists have to refer to what they know, such as landmark performances, or what their current frame of reference lets them imagine, perhaps a performance in a space they know. This existing awareness of performances and spaces known in a sense haunts all new performances by artists, a condition that spans all creative practices in post-modernism and beyond. References: Dixon, S., (2007). Digital performance: a history of new media in theater, dance, performance art and installation. Cambridge: MIT Press. McHugh, G., (2011). Post internet. Brescia: LINK Editions. Phelan, P., (1993). Unmarked: the politics of performance. London: Routledge. Salter, C., (2010). Entangled: technology and the transformation of performance. Cambridge: MIT Press. Zapp, A., (2004). Networked narrative environments as imaginary spaces of being. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications.

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