Friday, January 16, 2015

puppets! performance! projectors!!



After last night's opening performance at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, a member of the core ensemble said, "The show is very seamful." True. Also, brilliant. The use of old OVERHEAD PROJECTORS (!), puppets, digital tech, and live performers projected onto 2 screens, digitally captured and reprojected onto a center screen, created an enchanting, visceral film noir experience.
MEMENTOS MORI offers a thrilling reminder of the networks of agents, technologies, materials, and labor that produces critical storytelling objects such as a film. Their unique methods --  sharing the visual presence of the whole production team onstage and at work while synchronously projecting film itself --created breathtaking effects.
Form and content, the story pitts digital against analog via the character "DEATH" who works an app called "Reapr." The app features the silhouetted head of a certain character we are also discovering in other scenes. Beneath the image is a timeline note: "OVERDUE" (with a "swipe right" icon, urging DEATH to click, her dutiful move), or "NOT YET READY" with a note, "22 years to go," and so on. Eventually, [SPOILER!!] DEATH grows something of a conscience and gives up her device, passing it on to the ghost of a character she'd earlier clicked off. There is a suggestion regarding the phasic nature of our engagements with various technologies.
What was most exciting, intellectually and viscerally (so many things to watch!!) was the persistent sense of physicality. We got a palpable sense of the materiality of performance and performance-based objects. I see room to read with the performance through Alexander Galloway's concern for potential slippages of interface effects. I see that the performance sort of enacted the possibility that threshold experiences are perceivable; the performance wants us to attend to these experiences rather than to unwittingly perform (within) them, absent our attentiveness. That "the truth of social life is incompatible with its own expression" (viii) was at the heart of the matter, but there was a kind of transcendent sensibility driving the scene, just so. I am still thinking about (and loving) it. Brilliant!! Catch this performance from this thrilling ensemble!!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

trending: RAMEN!


Today's craft object? Ramen noodles, the discerning choice of the thrifty hipster! (and mom, student, bachelor, and etc., etc.). 

I have been thinking about Ramen noodles since Monday, when I shared with you my story, the one about the student sculpture that commemorated something I'd said in class. Inspired to find the image, I spent about 1 hour scouring my photos (this reminds me to get to work organizing my image and video files!). Here it is ...


the 2009 Facebook post I shared, following my discovery of my student's gift. 
















Related is this recent experience: Last night, my husband surprised me by taking us to see a book talk by the comedian, Patton Oswalt. Oswalt talked about his desire to be close to something bigger than himself, that he believed that knowing everything he could about films would make him "bigger" in the world. He believed it would allow him to matter, to be(come) increasingly significant in/to/for the world. Oswalt explained that his obsession with watching films was, as he now realizes, standing in the way of his decision to make films. He forgot his ramen. Indulging on popcorn and the pleasures of consumption and spectation, he let his passion for filmmaking (the thing he really wanted) fade. I'm glad I saw the talk. I was reminded that I don't want to forget my ramen. 

Circulating in a very near (Coming Soon!) time frame is this: I am currently preparing a talk for the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication. Its title? "DIY DIgital Filmmaking and/as Optimistic Failure." I am looking at how the often solitary work of DIY digital filmmaking takes me out of the more routine sociality of writing and out of the conventional venues for academic publication (the kind that -- still --  gets you tenure print publications). I'm thinking about how DIY digital filmmaking is increasingly considered academic work, but because of its sort of "ambiguity zone" status, it may represent, however sort of hip, a kind of failure. I am using affect theorist Lauren Berlant's concept of Cruel Optimism (from her book of the same title) to explore these possibilities. Optimism is, for Berlant, “the force that moves you out of yourself and into the world in order to bring closer the satisfying something that you cannot generate on your own but sense in the wake of a person, a way of life, an object, project, concept, or scene” (1-2). Optimism “become[s] cruel only when the object that draws your attachment actively impedes the aim that brought you to it initially” (1). In other words, cruel optimism is in effect "when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing" (1). For my talk, I want to think about both Oswalt's assertion, my own experience as a DIY digital filmmaker who lives and works in 2 ecologies, and about cruel optimism. Is my DIY approach standing in the way of my flourishing? If so, how? It's hard to square because it is the work I most enjoy in my life. Maybe Oswalt's book will shed light on my next mov(i)es?


References
Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel Optimism. Durham and London: Oxford.