VIS Issue 6 was published 19 October 2021. The issue features five expositions within the theme “Contagion”. Editor: Anna Lindal.
Soft to the Touch: Performance, Vulnerability, and Entanglement in the Time of Covid
What is the nature of human touch and human contact in contemporary music performance, both in general and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic? In a time when bodies must be kept at several meters distance, what comes of works which explicitly call for closeness, physical contact, and sharing? How might these works be interpreted differently in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? Percussionist and performer Jennifer Torrence reflects on the impact of the pandemic on her artistic practice and on her research as part of the project entitled Performing Precarity, which seeks to explore the inherent risks in performance when musicians and audiences are entangled in codependent structures. In light of COVID-19, this exposition attempts to unfold and trace modes of vulnerability in contemporary music performance—from human contact via eye contact and physical touch, to the precarious negotiation of shared space—and to reflect on how such encounters might breed new understandings and knowledge.
Corona Influentia och den mörkare materian
In my practice as an artist, I constantly return to the dark agency of cosmic and (micro)biological matter. I explore how it may transform, “infect” or enter into symbiotic relationships, that are linguistic, visual, and trans-material in the spirit of Karen Barad. The aim of my work is to offer an outline of what I refer to as a dark enlightenment, by using the ontological and epistemological discourses that humans are entangled in. This text is a manuscript for a performance lecture about bats, viruses, and dark matter, illuminated by a Corona inside Plato’s cave. Similar to and in contrast with the microscopic size of the virus, the pandemic is not here understood as the ultimate disaster, but rather as a footnote in a much vaster narrative that involves a manifold of associated phenomena, related to Timothy Morton’s hyperobject. From the view point of speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, and hauntology, the virus may be capable of hiding future consequences that dwell in our darkened contemporary world. In short, the manuscript may be understood as a contribution to the dark microhistory of an infection. The current version of my work was adapted for online publication, with visual elements of composition.
The Plot, The Compositor, Mourning/Mistakes
In the Summer of 2019, a small family forest fell victim to a spruce bark beetle plague. Unusually mild winters caused larvae numbers to explode, and extreme drought weakened the otherwise more resilient trees. Expanding patches of dead forest can be found from the North Sea coast to the Baltics. The cleared forest became The Plot: a witness to climate change, and a gateway to dealing with ecological grief. My own eco-anxiety is utilized as a case study: how to deal with this new kind of loss? What is The Plot telling us? How do we move forward without losing hope? The exposition presents The Plot as fertile ground for artistic and collaborative research, including a contribution by Lisa Jeannin, a custom made font, moving image, and an audio work.
Viral Drawings: Transmission BC / QT / AV
This exposition reflects on the drawings I was making at different stages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially they are compared to my long-term practice of making abstract drawings patterned on language, and then they are used to theorize a "poetics of transmission." This framework is discussed in relation both to how the virus is transmitted and to how ideas are created and circulated. Various analytical interpretations of the drawings are considered. At some moments, I treat dots in the drawings like ideas or virus particles; at other moments, the strategies I use for connecting the dots represent the process of generating ideas. The drawings become tools for the "research" of thinking through physical and intellectual contagion.
Smitte som skapelsesmaskin
Liv Kristin Holmberg
The exposition ”Smitte som skapelsemaskin” (Contagion as a creation machine) is based on the artistic project ”Kroppsliturgiske eksperimenter” that explores the boundaries emerging when performing arts and human bodies enter the sacred space of a church. To what extent does the church as a social and architectural environment, shape human conceptions of bodies? What might the history of theology and of the Christian church tell humans about our relationship to our own bodies? The pandemic has put the above questions in a new light: It made the skin a potential carrier of life-threatening infections. At the same time, we suffered the lack of mutual human touch and of physical presence. Caught between the fear of being infected by touch and a hunger for being touched, the project ”Kroppsliturgiske eksperimenter” appears both challenging and attractive. Crisis has produced a desire for new forms of touch, in art and in human life. This contribution to VIS was created in collaboration and dialogue with performer Hanna Barfod, priest, professional singer and research fellow Mathias Gillebo, film photographer and editor Mats Christian Rude Halvorsen and priest Arne Jor.