The offstage performance position and audience on 25 January 2016.

‘The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality.’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 142)

Rehearsal for Moving Music: the two spaces of the stage and the desk collide, corresponding to the artists’ co-performing roles of moving and controlling (September 2015).

Present and past of performance

Considering the past of performance is equally problematic. When operating on fragments, traces, and leftover forms after performance processes and actual moments, the central issue lies in the shift of status: the origin, the primary works, or the objects possess infinitely densely intertwined or enfolded multitudes of relationships, significations, and effects that are not present anymore in the trace. The primary artworks virtue is that it generates a compact, singular entity, but its descendants, the traces, echoes, and secondary emissaries, do not possess this power. It is necessary to make explicit and present in a tangible way those elements that would form the new narrative and thus retrace the transformational relationships (Schwab 2014: 37) to their original.

Linear argumentative language is one way of effecting such a translation. However, to become an appropriate rendering or approximation, the lines of intersection and connection, the lines of flight, merely function in a loose association and do not let a single rigid form emerge. The multiple intersecting planes, vortices, slightly decentred spheres, and circles (Merleau-Ponty 1968: 138) demand an entangled, enfolded, shifting, and continuous rearrangement of elements, a reading or transection that can only be one of many attempts, a fortuitous choice or random occurrence that generates meaning from the intrinsic connections and inherent potential of the elements inherited from the original source of the primary work.

The activity of finding or defining paths across an accumulation of materials, territories, or planes (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 512) always constitutes a map. In concrete terms, the present exposition on the weave of the research catalogue is a map of elements that are all related to the project at stake. Since a map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness (Korzybski 1994: 58) or Magrittececi nest pas une pipe, the discrepancy between the signifier and the signification is evident. If the territory in our case is the fleeting, ephemeral actual of a performance and the map is a reading of more solid traces, artefacts, and resonances of this intangible object, the relation between map and territory could even be considered to be inverted. It is important to avoid reifying the map at the expense of the actual. De-multiplying readings and continuously rearranging the map provides a promising if impractical solution. Nevertheless, if additional communication outside the place or time-space of performance is intended, engaging in a process of continuous re-readings and rearrangements of the assembled traces is necessary. Consequently, in artistic practice if not research through art, the process of map making is always occurring. The critical questions then are what possible forms can the maps take, how accessible can they be, and how well can they communicate that to which they refer?

The connecting and establishing of relations between trace elements of a performance and the manner of reading a performance from the vantage point of the partaking audience constitutes a type of diagram. The web of interpretation can take a multitude of forms, some visible as sketches, or graphical diagrams, or juxtapositions of blocks of text on the page, some invisible as understanding of relations through recognising repetitions, commonalities, and parallelisms. This exposition as a whole attempts to function as a diagram, a symbolic representation and laying out of elements with their connections. From low-level local juxtapositions that sometimes even look like diagrammatic drawings to the highest level of layout, which is only visible through the navigator, the significance of elements and their relationships is important. The groups arranged on the page with their individual lines of flight denote their dependence and the slipping relationships among one another, which in an alternate, less fixed form would be rearranged fluidly with every new reading.

Even without extending into abstract signification (the concept of laying out heterogeneous objects side by side to form an assemblage), the value of such an unordered and non-hierarchical procedure becomes clear. It is precisely through the equivalences of all elements, through their juxtaposition rather than ordering by dependencies, that an open field, a malleable pool of materials, is generated that is essential for navigation, reading, and drawing of connections, if not conclusions. Assembling does not mean fixing; the grouping may shift, dissolve, and rearrange itself at any moment. This malleability is crucial for constructing a second-order art object from the ruins of the primary work. Assembling as an activity rather than assemblage as a state is also appropriate to the time-sensitive nature of the performing arts context. In the same way that a partaking audience member co-performs with the musician or dancer during a show, the reader co-assembles the exposition with the author. In that sense, the translation mechanisms, the method of salvaging and rebuilding, are art practices in themselves, but only to the limited extent afforded by the fragmentary nature of the mere traces and impressions upon which they are based.

Two perspectives complement each other when analysing performance work: The present is where the actual performance takes place and all elements are compressed into a dense ‘manifold (Held 2003) of corporeal, affective, cultural, and social dimensions. The past includes one’s personal history as well as the history of development of a work, but also – after the performance – the remnants of the moment, its artefacts and traces.

Considering the present of performance is a delicate proposition. Going through the singular moment of performance means traversing changing states of focus, of exploratory indetermination and of concentration. The compressed moment of the performance is a crystallisation point along a chain of activity that starts long before going onstage and does not end there. The transition from loose activities in the experimentation phase to the increases in pressure during final rehearsal, to the moment of the actual performance is stepwise, never just gradual. The transition into the moment of the piece in the actual performance is rapid and uncontrollable: by stepping into the limelight in front of the audience there is no turning back.

The increased pressure and that this moment counts provide the performer with extra energy, a higher focus, possibly a state of hyper-awareness (Phelan 1993: 147) or hyper-reflection (Kozel 2007: 22) that allows multi-focal, multi-level (self-)perceptions and (self-)observations. The improvisatory attitude and attention is directed towards navigating the altered state while following pre-agreed structures, ideas, or aesthetic choices.

The choices that become possible cover a wider array of meanings, affects, and impacts – more choices than can possibly be reached and understood only in rehearsal-studio or laboratory situations. The iterative process of sketching, exploring, and developing that occurs through rehearsals and preliminary showings is part of the process. The compression-relaxation cycle is what fuels refinement or maturation. The experience of the work in the actual environment of the performance makes the value of choices become evident and easier to discern.

A performance possesses a density and compression that brings together countless sub-personal, individual, collective, and social significations in an inextricable mesh of intertwined fragments, layers, planes, vortices and circles. This moment of doing in the condensed presence of all participants is what Schechner (1988) calls the actual.1 It denotes a shift from potentials and pre-given norms and structures to the realisation of action, rituals, and drama in performance. The actual is present as long as the performance is ongoing, then this evidence disappears and cannot be fully recreated, except through another full-blown performance. Schechner’s ‘actual’ does not require a virtual that is ‘subjective, or duration’, or a multiplicity in the sense of Deleuze (1988: 42);2 rather, the actual coming together of material and social conditions in performance engenders a concrete but open transformation of state of those partaking. All the same, the actual has a unique status as a cultural element. What is left after these moments of actualisation is only a trace in the memories of the persons who were present. These memories are highly multidimensional and encompass the sensorial inputs, the affective, physiological reaction, sensations, feelings, and emotions that arose through the performance. Technological recording techniques are merely capable of capturing a few modalities, mainly audio and visual, that serve as aides-mémoire in further work but also have a materiality of their own.

Comparative timeline of composition processes and performances during the project (click to enlarge).

Moving Music – rehearsal situation on 9 July 2015.

Moving Music video still from intermediate showing on 30 September 2015.