Video documentation from the performance.

Camera: Marek Pluciennik

Still images from "Tell Me About Your Machines"

Photos: Hannu Seppälä


I did a series of five performances in The New Performance Festival in Turku, from 3 to 5 May 2012. Each performance lasted one hour and took place in the Titanik Gallery. The room was 40 m2, with large windows on the one side. For the performance the windows were covered so that subdued light entered the room, but it was not possible to see out of or into the space. At the beginning of the performance I sat on a chair facing the audience, who sat in a semi-circle around me. There was lot of black electric cable and wire on the floor, creating a kind of ‘nest’ or ‘network’ between myself and the audience. In the beginning, I asked three to five people from the audience to become participants in the performance. They were asked to sit in different chairs closer to me. These participants heard my questions through headphones, while the rest of the audience as witnesses, heard my voice normally without amplification. Participants were asked questions about the machines they have, and eventually they were asked to choose one machine, which they felt a particularly close contact with and wanted to work with.

While working on the performance in 2011, I attended a concert by Eliane Radigue at St. Stephen’s church in London. This event instigated my work on the topic of the affective relationship between a technological device and human being, a relationship which Gilbert Simondon (and later Gilles Deleuze and Bernard Stiegler) defined as a transindividuation process with attention. (Stiegler 2012, 3). The piece that I heard from Radigue was called “Trilogies de la Mort, part 2, Kailasha”. For most of her compositions she has been working with an ARP 2500 analogue-synthesizer and in an interview she has described the first meeting with the machine: “I really fell in love with the ARP (2500) synthesizer. Immediately. Immediately! That was him! [Laughs]” (Rodgers 2010, 56) In this concert, which lasted about hour and half, she presented extremely long, slowly evolving and modulating sounds from four loudspeakers. Sitting there on the church bench I had a very curious insight: I realized I am thinking! I realized that when I am thinking, it most of the time nothing but an internal dialogue, a messy and constant chat with myself. It is this chatting, which is called thinking, which is not thinking at all, but only a mess.

In the performance Tell Me About Your Machines, the participants were asked prepared questions by me, around twenty-five of them. The questions had a logic, starting with rather obvious ones, but leading into the issue of transindividuation, care and attention. They were questions like:

Can you tell me what kind of machines you have?
What do they do?
What do you do with the machines?
Where are these machines?
Do they work together or separately?
How do you use them?
Do they use you?
Do you use them at the same time?
Is this machine controlling you in some ways?
What does it control?
Do you control the machine, what it is doing?
Do you control yourself of using the machine?
What do you think the machine wants you to do?
Does it command you to do something?
Do you command the machine?

After the question part, the participants were asked to take off the headphones and project a mental image of this machine of theirs onto the opposite wall, in other words to imagine how this machine looks, feels and smells. After a short period of time, I stepped into that area of projection and ‘became’ a subject of their projections of machines. Following this change, I asked them to give me directions, how they wished or desired a machine to function, serve or command?

”I am your machine. You can direct me; tell me what to do, ask me to control you. I am your machine.”

They started to direct me and I would repeat them, following the manner of performance as described previously about schizoanalytic performance practice. There was no logic of imitation but only affective association in my responses to their directions. In a similar way to the performance in Tomar, I felt clumsy, tense and the performance seemed too fast for my state of mind. My actions resulted in the participants following some questions more than others. Occasionally the results were humorous. I felt that the situation was ‘hypnotic’ and compassionate. Since the participants had invested one hour to answer my interview questions, they really projected their mental images onto me, and as such I ‘became’ their technical device. After a period of experimentation, the session was over.

When I had asked people to describe, if they had an intimate relationship with their bicycle, smart-phone or toaster, such a question seemed to amuse people, at first. However, each participant took the task seriously, and from the comments that I heard afterwards, their relationship with the machines had altered and shifted. It changed their attention with the device such as a toaster and the transindividuation process was transformed. A rupture had occurred between multitudes of technological devices. Machines and humans either produce deadly repetitions, which are automatic projections of desire on the device, or rupture may result in a process of transformed relationship with the milieu.

This performance was part of a larger project called "Life in Bytom". From the beginning of 2012 I visited Bytom for several times – usually for a week or less. These visits comprised of workshops, interviews, field trips and other events. In between the visits I worked with the material gathered. My starting point was to ask, how life has changed in the past twenty years in this particular context of Bytom – a post-industrial town in Upper Silesia, Poland. I encountered many individual and singular stories and events, which revealed things that are not particular only to Poland, but a general feature of neo-liberal Europe. My approach was at first theoretical, circling around the problem of economic transformation, which I call the mess of capitalism. It is a state of no certainty or centre – which is in straight dissymmetry with the previous, state controlled socialism in Poland. However, my approach was merely theoretical, with very little grounding in this particular place in Poland, Silesia. From the first meetings with the curator of Kronika Contemporary Art Centre in Bytom, Stanisław Ruksza, one aspect of the state of Bytom became clear, when he called Bytom the “Detroit” of Poland. These places are not going through a controlled transformation period, but a series of arbitrary changes. There is no straightforward answer, ideology or roadmap, but a mess of collapsing buildings, infrastructures where no one knows what the duration of this process is or what forms it will take. It is the precariousness of this mess, where my endeavour took place. In this context, what can a performance do?

Next section: Conclusion

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