How much of the performance is improvised, and how much is set in stone?
SG: “I suppose it’s all come from improvisation and experimentation, but the script is on a quite rigid grid. And then there are pockets within the script where we can kind of improvise more. So, it’s like a rhythm between…”
MW: “It’s born out of the original idea that these three building blocks can be combined, and build a new rhythm of combinations of sound and image, or sound and spoken word, or images and spoken word. And then at some point, we realized that sounds and images need a bit more room for improvisation, and we made these, like, pockets.”
JE: “Yeah, you’re oscillating between disjunctive and conjunctive synthesis. So there are these moments where the voice on the grid fades out, and then [Steve and Marcel] are always helixing around one another. Yeah, it’s coming apart, and coming back.”
SG: “Yeah, I’ve noticed that when you stop talking, then there’s like a moment where we both go off kind of randomly, and then I see what [Marcel] is doing, and you hear what I’m doing.”
MW: “Yeah, that’s one difference to the earlier performances: that now, I’m much slower at fading in the crazy stuff. In the earlier performances, I was immediately like ‘Let’s go!’”
SG: “Because I’m waiting for you. I’m waiting to see the stuttery thing before I press the stutter button.”
MW: “I realise that, so now I always start slow.”
SG: “Yeah, sometimes I accidentally bring in the stutter thing, and realize you haven’t started stuttering. So then I take it out. So each bit of the improvisation is like a feeling about for a few seconds – just a couple of seconds, sometimes.”
JE: “There isn’t a specific moment of lead-in; you’re each a leader.”
MW: “We are dancing together.”
SG: “I think I genuinely felt like I was just copying. I’m just staring at the screen like this – [stares blankly, pokes imaginary keyboard] – reacting to what I’m seeing, and waiting to add space when the voice drops in.”
MW: “The funny thing is that I’m also waiting for the sound, so we are, all three, like a loop.”
SG: “I suppose that’s what bands do.”
Time is something that you keep coming back to, Steve. Is there something about the idea of wanting to break the temporality mediated by sound or image recording?
SG: “I think, obviously, what this film is about is that all media…memory is distributed through media. So, we’re like immersed in a media environment – a mnemonic media environment – and that media environment has shattered chronology. So all of history has been recorded, and is available as samples and loops and so on. So, younger generations don’t have a notion of the place of everything in the straight line of history, y’know, you have a bit of the ’60s with a bit of the 80s mixed in with a bit of whatever. That is reality. And then just these kind of paradoxes, like a memory of the future, is something that I think fascinates us all, and is very ‘Marker’. I mean, that idea used in my own musical context came from a book about Chris Marker called Memories of the Future. So, it’s just this recurrent theme that somehow I keep coming back to in our project, or other stuff as well.”
William S. Burroughs said that by cutting into the present, the future leaks out. Is this project an attempt to imagine a utopia once again? Or at least the possibility of a utopia?
JE: “There are no new utopias anymore.”
“There are no new utopias anymore.” - Ms. Haptic
Can one be created?
SG: “Well, this is an intervention into this situation where, like I said earlier about the immanent critique of the original and our thing, like: why does man keep choosing the past instead of choosing the future? Whether it involves the creation of new utopias, that’s a bigger question, I think. There’s a whole series of smaller questions about nostalgia, and retro, and…”
JE: “Sameness. Y’know, even towards the end where we talk about the way in which the woman convinces the scientist to go back and bring the man to the future to be with her: it’s a moment in which it’s a refugee status, which is exactly the same, or has a sameness to the underground status. So, it’s not really utopian in the sense of the dream ending. Yeah, it’s replication of the same, but in a different form.”
That makes me think of Brian Massumi’s Parables for the Virtual, where he discusses stasis as a special case of movement – of reiterative movement. Do you think we’re somehow reiterating the past until we’ve got a handle on it?
What I mean is: in terms of how cultural productions are so abundant and available, and in the context of retromania, we keeping coming back to the past. Is this an attempt to process that overabundance?
LB: “Yes, to solidify where we are.”
MW: “The way to the future is not a linear way. It’s always meandering.”
LB: “Probably quite a lot like an individual’s experience of life, as well. You spend most of your life coming to terms with the day before, or the week before.”
JE: “That also reminds me of the Nietzschean concept of the law of eternal return, of trying to find this moment of escape out into a possible future by going back and reworking, or trying to work out the moment at which you took the wrong path. I suppose it’s like Groundhog Day. [laughs]”
Do you have plans to document this project in the form of a release, or a DVD?
MW: “Maybe that would limit our witchcraft.”
LB: “I think a DVD would be a return to the past.”
SG: “Yeah, that would be a serious regression. Some people might say that forcing people to be in a live context would be like a retro thing, but I actually think it’s like a huge breath of fresh air. If you think it’s retro, you’re an idiot, because it’s an issue of sorcery and witchcraft, and how to create an event, and how you remember what resonates with you. OK, it’s always been an event for me sitting with my laptop watching La Jetée on headphones. It always stays with me, it always blurs into one experience delivered over years, but really it’s about how to create an intense event as opposed to how to make something domesticated and convenient. Because it keeps changing, it’s a creature that’s not done, and hasn’t finalised how it wants to use us yet.”
JE: “From the audience’s perspective, not that I’ve ever been in the audience…”
“If you think it’s retro, you’re an idiot, because it’s an issue of sorcery and witchcraft, and how to create an event, and how you remember what resonates with you.” - Kode9
SG: “But we are in the audience!”
JE: “Yeah, but we’re all kind of very focused in at that moment…that to be sat, in the very traditional sense of the immersive experience of cinema, where you have the soundtrack, and you have images, which are at points like retinal burn. They move too quickly, and all you get are these traces that blur into one. So you’re not actually able to…you’re assaulted by the image, but you can’t arrest the image. What is it to be in that audience collectively? Those heartbeats come in, and suddenly, you’re assaulted by the sound that just rumbles and resonates through your body, in a collective environment. So, even with great home cinema systems, you can’t replicate that at home.”
SG: “To be fair, that is the standard Hollywood cinema experience these days: surround sound, huge sub-bass. It’s not difficult to have that intense sonic experience of a mainstream cinema; the difference is to have a performance in the middle of it, and for it to be live.”
MW: “I think that that interferes with the audience. As an audience, you feel that it’s completely live, like when that ‘NO SIGNAL’ thing came up…”
SG: “Yeah, everyone was suddenly on the tightrope. We were feeling it the most, but everyone that I’ve spoken to, everyone’s heart stopped.”
JE: “Yeah, no signal from the future. But in terms of development, we’ve thought about it and talked about whether we can turn it into an installation, and to go back to this Rashomon aesthetic, whether we can tell another narrative than what is there in the original script. More than trying to record a specific moment of the performance, I think those are more the kinds of directions we want to pursue.”
LB: “I think also for a project dealing with time and with experience, it’s quite an interesting thing to bring people together into one room to share an experience in that time.”
SG: “I suppose often with films, people concentrate too much on the text of the film, or the content of the film, and actually what’s as important with all film is that it’s a collective experience of everyone sitting in the dark, with a dream machine. That’s a very powerful thing.”
“I’d hate to think of Her Ghost, which is a very time-based piece, sitting on someone’s shelf, waiting to be activated.” - Ms. Haptic
MW: “That’s very true.”
SG: “I mean, when you watch people watching film, it’s quite weird.”
MW: “But that’s a very good point, because at the time [of the original film], cinema was probably where live performance is today. The standard film, you can now get on DVD, you can bring to your home cinema and access it whenever you want. It’s not as focused, temporally.”
LB: “Dealing with a medium in time, which is very specific to the project, to limit that by recording it into some particular format is maybe not so relevant to today’s technology anyway. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
JE: “And I’d hate to think of Her Ghost, which is a very time-based piece, sitting on someone’s shelf, waiting to be activated. [laughs]”
Ryan A. Diduck