The impact of the process on the social context

Life in Bytom was a research-based practice. In a relatively long period of time I collected material, which was used to build a script and an interpretation of the socio-economic situation in Bytom. I did not erase the presence of my own subject in this process.

What was the impact of this artwork in discursive, material and affective terms in relation with the ‘life’ in Bytom? How did I distinguish the impact of the process, and the impact of the artwork? The working process affected the people living in Bytom, but did not necessarily create an event neither as a performative transformation (Fischer-Lichte 2008, 23) nor event as the new (Deleuze 2006, 77-78). The event of cathartic transformation, to my understanding, did not happen. However, my position as an artist was clear for the people in Bobrek and other places of Bytom, where I executed my workshops and interviews; it was clear when people were watching my performance, also. “Through practice, the artist comes into being,” writes Barbara Bolt, and following her articulation there is a link between the practice and the presentation of the work, which in my case was incorporated in the same subject. (Bolt 2008) Quite a few people who witnessed the performance had taken part in the workshop, also. Therefore, they had a chance to experience both sides of the process and observe the materialization of the process in my performing subject. 

The performance does something in the world and it has “power to transform the world.” (Bolt 2008). But are we on the threshold of the new or do we rather produce repetition with the same? In other words does performance art, which may drive the audience in a crisis situation similar to trauma, only reiterate a simulation of the new; simulation of a catharsis – which is the worst kind of transformation. Bolt refers to J.L. Austin and Judith Butler by saying that “we have established that the performative act doesn't describe something but rather it does something in the world,” and “performativity is not first and foremost about meaning. It is about force and effect.” (Bolt 2008) These effects are according to Bolt “discursive, material consequences and/or affective.” (Bolt 2008) She makes also a distinction between the scientific and the performative paradigm, where only the latter may produce “repetition with difference”, in reference to Deleuze. (Bolt 2008) According to this model what was the transformation in Bytom and how could I distinguish the impact of the workshop practice from the actual performance? Would it be too simplified to claim that in the process of the workshops my practice followed the scientific and reiterative paradigm, just fortifying the performance of the same? In other words, when people were able to articulate their preoccupations about me as an ‘alien’ visitor from the outside, they fortified these preoccupations, rather than were confronted by something new. Did I not stay in the position of an alien, Scandinavian artist, and did I not keep my own preoccupied idea of Poland intact, as well? Or did I have material, discursive and affective impact on people where this impact was different from other meetings with foreigners visiting them in Bytom? 

In the end, the performance, which was performed in Kronika, was mostly for the people in Bytom, and it obviously challenged their preoccupations and singular perspectives of their lives. A journalist from Gazeta Wyborcza asked if my point of view to Bytom was justified? In other words, if my affective interpretation of life in Bytom did not repeat the image of the same or reiterate the common understanding of life in Bytom, but did create discursive difference?  When I heard my assistant Radek telling me after the premiere in Kronika, that he was crying during my performance, I could easily come to the conclusion that material transformations had taken place among the witnesses / participants of this project. Isn’t this very similar to the cathartic difference and traumatizing performances of Mike Parr (Bolt 2008) or Marina Abramović described by Erika Fishcer-Lichte? (Fischer-Lichte 2008) The events are like scissions or ruptures in a sequence. There, the aspects of the destructive side of plasticity, which — as Malabou articulates in her book The New Wounded (2012) — produce irreversible changes in the subjectivity, even the full transformation of subjectivity into unknown, neutral, cool and flat manner. Not only physical trauma, but also exhaustion may produce drastic changes, as well. Such an event in the context of art is not only an element of surprise or an accident, but it also produces irreversible changes and repetition with a difference. A nest of continuous events may affect subjectivity permanently. Here the subjectivities of a performer and witnesses of transformative events are in themselves interruptions, as Simon O’Sullivan writes. ‘I’ am interruption against a ‘dark background’, a double of that inaccessible world, or to what I have no interest to. (O’Sullivan 2012, 41-42) This is the plane of potentiality and the virtual, which has not been actualized. It is located on

"[a]nother plane that contains all that had no interest for us as we are. A kind of spectral (and dark) double to our own universe. [...] The other plane – the double – is also infinite in character insofar as it 'contains' an infinite field of not-yet-actualized virtualities (things that are unperceived – unsensed – by me)" writes O’Sullivan. (O’Sullivan 2012, 42) 

A subjectivity of indifference, coolness and impossibility for transference is being produced not only in relation with others, but also in relation with potentiality, memory and history, as well. A fundamentally new subjectivity is not a new articulation of a matter reconstructed from the remains of preceding subjectivity, but it is irreversibly and incomprehensibly new: an event.

It is the imperceptible and non-discursive level, which is significant to the schizoanalytic performance practice. However, I am very sceptical of the real difference that the performance practice of Abramović, presented by Fischer-Lichte, would sustain, but become only dominant articulations of a trauma. I would rather consider the truth of transformation as a process of suggestive interaction where crisis or trauma narratives are simulated joint products between the exterior world and interactive subjectivities. Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen criticizes such automatic interpretation of trauma, by giving an example of a man who, after a traumatic accident ends up killing his wife and children, but according to Borch-Jacobsen: 

“his panic (quite justifiable at first) brought on a diagnosis of traumatic neurosis, which made him adopt the behaviour expected in such cases, which in turn, provoked, on the part of his entourage, reactions that reinforced his behaviour, and so on, to the final escalation.” (Borch-Jacobsen 2009, 23) 

Following this, and in relation to the transformative power of performance, or repetition with difference, we should ask which was first: the condition or the drug? (Borch-Jacobsen 2009, 64)

To conclude, it is difficult for me to recognize what are the transformative results of my artistic practice in Bytom, if there is no repetition of the refrains being produced. In my predication refrains and rhythms require repetition – a performative repetition, which would be able to produce more than effect. (Bolt 2008) A new folding requires repetition, and not only one artistic incident, which may be a transformative experience affectively, but not yet materially. Artistic practice and artistic research have to cope with the context of neoliberal capitalism, which constantly deterritorializes these new refrains and thus reterritorialize them into compartments – the local refrains of Bytom. In other words the refrains as experiences of the workshop participants and the performance audience will not connect with the experiences of the audience in Helsinki, for instance. There is no universal refrain, which would cause the same kind of result of transformation interdependently where they are. Or conversely, such universal refrain of the reflection of the human condition as in Abramović’s performance The Artist is Present, (2010) in the Museum of Modern Art in New York may use a universal refrain, however it would never have the same power of repetition with the difference, as is being articulated in the minor in the literature of Kafka, “A minor literature doesn't come from a minor language; it is rather that which a minority constructs within a major language.” (Deleuze and Guattari 2003, 16) Minor is a construct, and not a truth, since it is only the major, which may state truths and rights. The resilience of the minor is inevitably, according to Deleuze and Guattari, political, where: “its cramped space forces each individual intrigue to connect immediately to politics. The individual concern thus becomes all the more necessary, indispensable, magnified, because a whole other story is vibrating within it.” (Deleuze and Guattari 2003, 17) Therefore, for my disposition on the topic of trauma it is not inevitable to assume that there is some iconic truth behind an event, but to distinguish the need for tactics for survival. In other words, there is a need to perform instead of contaminating others with presupposed mute icons of truth. The context of this work is the impossibility of the possible: how to perform against the wall, where not knowing has become an existential territory. 

Wywrotka / Capsizing

One channel video


Duration: 27 minutes

Original: 1080 HD

Camera: Małgorzata Mazur

Sound: Łukasz Jastrubczak

Script, direction and performance: Tero Nauha

Translation: Karolina Kucia

Voiceover: Marek Pluciennik

Sound mixing: Teemu Korpipää

Production support by AVEK, The Art Promotion Centre Finland, Frame Fund Finland,  Theatre Academy Helsinki, TAhTO research School Helsinki, Live Art Development Agency in London.