Trapped to Reveal - On webcam mediated communication and collaboration. (2016)

Annie Abrahams

About this exposition

An exposition concerning my collaborative webcam performance projects, focussing on / trying to determine the special aspects of machine mediated communication and collaboration. I wanted to use this opportunity to organise the material from three of my webcam performance projects (Huis Clos / No Exit, Duet Satz 1, 2, 3,4 and Angry Women) in a way that would reveal their essence in a few short lines. This, as I should have known, is impossible. It is about performance, it is about processes and human beings being transformed. I formulated motives, described means and I managed to give this research a succint philosophical and political background. Relevant experiences and reactions are clustered and a short text and conclusion distilled.
typeresearch exposition
last modified06/04/2016
share statusprivate
licenseAll rights reserved
published inJournal for Artistic Research
portal issue2.

Simple Media

id name copyright license
24983 workshop Huis Clos / No Exit Villa Arson Annie Abrahams All rights reserved
24979 cercle Annie Abrahams All rights reserved
23073 Waiting - Before Angry Women Take 2 LAL All rights reserved
23070 Preferences - A Meeting is a Meeting is a Meeting; conversations between Annie Abrahams and Antye Greie LAL All rights reserved
23067 Huis Clos / No Exit - Tout va Bien LAL All rights reserved
21385 AW-take1-after annie abrahams All rights reserved
21383 protocoleCRAC aa All rights reserved
21381 231assimil aa All rights reserved
21379 protocoleNIMk aa All rights reserved
21376 preparationEmail aa All rights reserved
21300 Yell after Take1 of Angry Women performance LAL All rights reserved
20716 interface aa All rights reserved

comments: 2 (last entry by Ylva Gislen - 10/12/2012 at 22:51)
Nina Zschocke 05/11/2012 at 16:39

The published exposition by Annie Abrahams contains some responses to suggestions made in the course of the reviewing process. Annie Abrahams presents a series of collaborative web-based performances which take up much of the technological structure and setup of earlier works by other artists but, and this is important, at the same time they call into question some of their underlying values and optimistic beliefs.       
The first telecommunicative experiments with computer networks in art such as Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway’s Electronic Café International (1984) were driven by a utopian belief in a net-based global community, in processes of global, non-hierarchical communication and participation. Jaron Lanier dreamed –and might still dream- of nonverbal (“post symbolic”) communication and intimacy mediated by virtual reality technologies. And beliefs in positive social effects of computer networks are expressed undauntedly by later projects such as Ken Goldberg’s Telegarden (1994-2005) - and inform much of the rhetorics framing web-based multi-user art projects until today.
Annie Abrahams’ exposition starts off with a distrust of the frequent glorification of Internet collaborations. In her webcam performances that confront participants with challenging and changing protocols, the belief in telecommunication’s potential to connect remote and socially separated individuals or groups and to produce intimacy is put to the test. Abrahams argues that web-based social interfaces confront participating individuals with a number of problems, and are less successful in bringing people together to participate in a shared activity than it is often assumed. In response to the experiences provided and to the behaviour shown by the participants she defines intermediate states she such as “lonely togetherness” (referring to Sherry Turkle) and focuses on moments of lost control. Thereby, the exposition addresses issues, which are of central concern to the long history of discourse about machine-mediated communication and about its social and artistic potential. Most importantly, Abrahams examines aspects of (tele)communication that are often ignored, namely moments of failure or “messiness”. More specifically, it can be argued that Annie Abrahams’ work offers a new perspective on earlier video based telecommunication projects such as Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Galloway’s Hole in Space, 1980 or Paul Sermon’s, Telematic Dreaming, 1992, which - despite rhetorics of intimacy and sensuality - could also be understood as confronting with an experience of alienation and failed contact, as disappointing expectations raised by technological promises. Generally, art’s potential to unite individuals in participatory practice and to built social communities is highly debated today, mainly in response to Nicolas Bourriaud’s Esthétique rélationnelle, 1998.  In her revised contribution Abrahams refers to Claire Bishop’s critique (“Social Turn, Collaboration and its Discontents”, in: Artforum 2006) another prominent author would be Jacques Rancière (Le spectateur émancipé, Paris 2008). Annie Abrahams’ work and exposition relates to – and has the potential to contribute - to these debates.
“Research” or specific scientific procedures are not addressed and examined as problems by either the performance pieces presented or the exposition. Rather, the performance projects are conceptualized and organized as several sets of experiments. This interesting approach is referred to in a section titled “Research?” However, some of the aspects mentioned here could be explored in more detail, as, for example, the relationship between the questions asked, the formal protocols and the rules defined. It would be good to elaborate on the following statements: “Nothing is ever repeated. Whenever I work with performers twice I take care to change the protocol. There are no rehearsals, only tests.”; “I don't impose, I propose. I offer a situation. I do not explain. I let the performers be, let them take possession of the proposition, use it as they think it suits them so we can watch them trying, evolving, progressing, navigating between their individual presence and collective construction.” The relationship of Abrahams’ practice to experimental practice in science, e.g the doctoral work in biology mentioned in the same section, could be explained more explicitly. Then again, we may well accept that such an analysis is not one of the artist’s most central concerns and that her core issues lie elsewhere.

Ylva Gislen 10/12/2012 at 22:51

What I really miss is a mapping of and a discussion about the work of Annie Abrahams in relation to the work of other artists and artistic researchers who are working with similar issues. From the top of my tongue I could mention Susan Kozel’s ongoing work in Social choreographies, Mette Ingvartsen’s Where is my privacy (in collaboration with Sira Foighel Brutmann and Manon Santkin) and projects such as Threads and Stitching together made by Åsa Lindström and Kristina Ståhl. How would Annie Abrahams describe and explain the intentions, methods and outcomes of her projects in relation to for example those explorations of self representation, communication, timing, mistaking, bodily presence/absence?

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