Performing Online in 2021: Thinking with Graciela Ovejero Postigo, Urich Lau and Daisuke Takeya

This year, I sat alone at home in the 6th lockdown in Melbourne, Australia, and I watched, in silent isolation, works by Graciela Ovejero Postigo, Urich Lau and Daisuke Takeya  ““hung” …in the virtual field” of Without the contingency of time, the specificity of place and the physical gathering of fellow festival goers, the 2021 art festival simultaneously broadened its audience to the entire wired world and heightened the distance between viewer to viewer. Denied the privilege of visceral contact and context, the company and validation of fellow audience members and a shared understanding of physical space and locality, my experience of Performance at a Distance was self-absorbed and disconnected. 

For Postigo, the changed conditions implicated a change in performance strategies. Disambiguation of the Interval (4th essay) (1 August 2021 for R3: Scape-City) combined still and moving images taken in a single space, referred to in her statement as a studio. The off-white walls, ceiling spotlights and cherry wood floorboards and skirting suggest this would have, in a different year, hosted exhibitions. Throughout the video, the camera moved and presented different views of this room with a primary focus on Postigo’s body and the objects that she manipulated in her actions. This handheld recorder, shaky in the hands of the camera person, stopped and provided photographic focus on the composed objects at regular intervals. As the camera paused on the small, white-washed board draped with a similarly sized cloth, still wet from having been recently dipped in orange paint, for 5 long seconds, the flow of video time stuttered to a stop. This oscillation between the moving and painfully still disrupted the illusion of the online performance: this was not a live performance and should not be understood as a live performance. This was a video performance. 

The disrupted rhythm of viewing highlighted the passing of time, what Postigo may venture as the articulation of time. At the end of the video, she ruminated that time was invented by language and further that time articulated the tension between image and body. “The body exists between images” and time “invades the broken molds.” The stuttered imaging of the video highlighted the rectangular viewing frame of the digital video and punctuated the indexical neutrality of what she referred to in her statement as “the optical machine.” In a different interval of moving image, Postigo worked with a pair of full-length mirrors. They were connected on their long ends, suggesting they could have been usually used as a room divider screen. As she twirled in the room, hunched and with these mirrors on her back, the camera caught glimpses of the camera person and the space that lay beyond what the single lens could see. These elusive views fractured the flatbed form of the video, promising the very real presence of alternative viewpoints denied to the video viewer. The sharp focus and clarity of Postigo’s physical form contrasted with the fuzzy space of darkness where the camera, camera person and unknown gallery visitor stood. In these moments, as her twirling form remained half shrouded by the large mirrors arbitrarily narrating the studio space, her body was simultaneously corrupted, imaged, disambiguated and visualized. It was the half, partial and continuously changing and uncertain views that clarify the video performance. 

Lau brought this disambiguation of the self and body to dizzying heights in Video Conference: Virtual Reverie for Life Circuit (VC_VT_LC) (22-23 May 2021 for R3: Scape-City). This video work was presented in two parts, 11 hours and 54 minutes and 55 seconds each, and streamed live on YouTube between 22 May – 23 May 2021. The four-channel video, organized in a tiled block, synchronously presented four camera views of the same room, Lau’s studio space in Aliwal Arts Centre. Where Postigo’s white cube studio supported visual focus on her actions, Lau’s electronically equipped studio simultaneously provided context and confusion. Monitor screens, TV screens, projections, video cameras, tripods, laptops, green screens and lights litter the room. As the video progressed, the black-shirted Lau and his orange-shirted assistant JunYears set up and powered on increasing numbers of screens on the central island table, along the walls and via ceiling projections. These screens, some equipped with speakers, predominantly loop the YouTube Live feed, creating a kaleidoscope of video feeds repeating the primary viewpoint of the YouTube feed. Each monitor, TV, projector and laptop further produced the stream at a delay, producing a sense of constant activity and action within the room in both audio and visual forms. In splitting the viewer’s attention first over two performing bodies and four screens and further fracturing these screens over time, Lau confuses the human eye through the infinite overload of moving information.

The conventional logic of performance art suggested a singular performing body, albeit in digitized reproduction. In Lau’s statement about this work, he described it as a “24-hour confinement” in his studio. He invited a co-performance between him as the surveilled and the viewer as the surveillant. Yet within the first seconds of the first video, the viewer was greeted by not one but two protagonists: Lau in a black T-shirt and JunYears in an orange T-shirt. Furthermore, this was no strict confinement Lau’s part: in the first video, Urich left the room twice, once to buy food and once to use the toilet. In those times of absence, the surveillant’s eyes refocused on the figure of JunYears, who seemed to be the one truly confined in the studio space. Later, both made minor adjustments to the camera’s viewing angles that, while continuing to produce a sense of totalitarian view, produced larger blind spots in the physical room. The blindness was particularly poignant in the second video as JunYears settled into bed, his blue sleeping bag barely visible on the floor on the bottom right camera. Meanwhile, Lau stayed up for a few more hours, his small and lanky dark form blending into a far corner on the top left and right cameras. As the multiple screens continued their infinite loop, flickering incidental sound and movement, Lau’s prone form dissolved, fading through stillness. Watching Lau was a challenge not only in time but also in sight. Here, Lau deconstructed the performing body proposed by Postigo and carried through the desire for visuality as the desire for hyper-visibility and digitized presence. In Video Conference, the fractured performing body was rendered a mere blip on flat rectangle, indistinguishable in the overwhelming shape of the video screen.

There remained, at least in 2021, a space for primacy on the screen. Despite vocal protests from residents of Japan and across the world, on 23 July 2021, the 8th day of Melbourne’s 5th lockdown, the Tokyo Olympics began. The organisers, with the support of multiple governments, argued that despite ongoing viral risks, both from and to areas at varying places in the pandemic, the performance of strength and willpower displayed at the Games would have a positive impact to the world’s viewers. This mental health impact, and the economic revitalization of some parts of the tourism and aviation industries, justified the risk of an outbreak and the short-term anxiety of people in Tokyo. Risk mitigation by the organisers, which was effective in containing viral spread, included confining the athletes and personnel in a bio-bubble away from the general population. No one was allowed to observe the Games in-person, except the staff facilitating broadcast. This year, more than any other year of the summer Olympic Games, everyone observed the opening ceremony and Games through the screen. Performing in a space emptied of its usual audience, the world watched, supported and cried with the Olympians through their television and computer screens. 

One month leading up to the Games, on 25 June 2021, Daisuke Takeya produced Borderland (25 June 2021 for R3: Scape-City). Recorded in Moto-Misayama, an area historically associated with a ritualistic show of athletic strength in Suwa worship, Takeya placed himself in a lineage of historical Japanese “Olympians.” Unlike Lau’s Video Conference and the Tokyo Olympics, however, Takeya’s Borderland was not live streamed. Takeya’s video performance was published on 7 September 2021, two and a half months after his physical performance and one month after the end of the Tokyo Olympics (8 August 2021). His performance and consequent Suwa-inflected blessing, in the contemporary period, was being mediated by the camera’s lens and the delay of time.

Borderland was framed and visualised as a pre-modern East Asian landscape, with the narration of space acting as a metaphor for the contemporary political moment. Takeya stood at the level distance, to the left of a metal height adjustable work platform bridging the two sides of the brook. The upward slope of the land behind him, topped with a light smattering of trees, enveloped and visualised Moto-Misayama as a vibrant, idyllic and isolated landscape. Cloud-topped mountains in the upper distance, remote and barely visible, mirrored the distanced position of Takeya’s viewer. Through the video, Takeya crossed the work platform twice, both in performances of physical contortion. In the second, he finished with an army crawl out the right side of the video frame. Takeya’s actions narrated the performance of two athletes who performed feats of physical prowess for their audience, each prefaced by several seconds of stasis. In those seconds, Takeya faced forward with his body turned at an acute angle away from the camera’s lens, as if an athlete preparing himself before his athletic routine.

Taken in a single shot, Borderland’s tension lay in the culturally specific mode of viewership, specifically the unfolding of an East Asian landscape painting. In this genre, where the painted landscape often did not have an exact reference, the articulation of space was an articulation of the sociological context. The recognisably classic composition of East Asian landscape painting, scaffolded and reframed by the YouTube platform and “hung” on the site disrupted the all-over hegemony of the black rectangle as window and presented the black rectangle as lateral, prescient, narratological space. It was both out of time and in cosmological time. It was an attempt to bridge the synchronicity denied by the contemporary global situation through reference and embodiment of historical timelessness. 

Over a period of three weeks, I watched the videos slowly, distractedly, and in oscillation with other video or photographic work in my personal archive. I curated my own programme of moving and still images. All festival goers have always done this to some extent. No one experiences or views art on a blank slate. Yet this expansion and co-curation with the R3 team could not be more different from the work done for an in-person festival. When observing Borderland, I reflected on and literally watched Takeya’s Painting, Commodity / Painting Commodity (10 November 2018 at Undisclosed Territory #11). I revisited Postigo’s Why an Elm Should Give Pears? (11 November 2018 at Undisclosed Territory #11) on a second screen alongside Disambiguation of the Interval (4th essay). As I observed Lau’s Video Conference: Virtual Reverie for Life Circuit (VC_VT_LC), I clicked through my personal archive of photographs from the Sim Lim Square Art Residency (7-27 January 2019), organized by his collective INTER—MISSION, and photos taken from behind the scenes of Video Conference. This mode of viewing, without the time pressures of an in-person festival determining the time intervals in which different works were presented and the expanded sense of distraction, radically changed the primacy of the personal library/archive. 

Where in-person festivals demanded an initial “blind” viewing, the online festival was co-curated and co-managed. What made this process unique was my authority and facility to pause, rewind and reflect in the span of my first viewing of the works presented for R3: City-Scape.  I was no longer viewing synchronously with others, like Lau’s initial viewers on YouTube Live on 23 and 24 May 2021. I was also not engaging in an asynchronous event like a physical exhibition, where my time investment travelling to and from the gallery space demanded that I, as a viewer, fully engage and view the show in its entirety, at least on my first visit. This was asynchronicity on the level of the book. Once published, the works were under full control by the viewer to watch, edit, rewind, consider or ignore in the viewer’s chosen conditions. The fresh dating of the videos in the moment of its presentation was being complicated by the dated freshness of the videos that sit in perpetuity on the virtual shelf waiting to be perused.

My festival experience, while always unique even in relation to fellow festival goers, was unique of a different order, specifically of capital. The depths of my personal archive, the knowledge I possessed about the artists, their work and the artistic contexts and the quality of my internet connection supported my viewing experience. In many ways, this process was not unlike the process of art historical research and enquiry in art of the contemporary period. Half-remembered artwork from previous years were pulled up from the hard drive, moving and still images were juxtaposed and the artists’ individual practices and trajectories were recalled. Yet the immediacy of this process cannot be overemphasised. In the online festival, even in the first viewing of the work, the viewer could be simultaneously leafing through photographs. In a live performance, this would not be possible. There will always be a time delay. Furthermore, in the online festival, there was no time or space to speak with, discuss or otherwise learn more about what was being shown with other festival goers or the artists. There was no space to compare notes with others as there were no others in an online festival.  This was a wholly individuated experience qualitatively differentiated by the individual’s time and commitment. 

A further disambiguation happened in the mediation of Postigo’s 4th Essay from her studio in Buenos Aires, Argentina to my apartment in Melbourne, Australia. Somewhere between her careful physical actions, the camera’s ambivalent recording, the deliberate post-processing work, and its stream on my 10-year-old monitor screen, a yellowed lens was applied. What I saw as a canvas dipped in orange paint was red. What I observed as the application of orange paint on Postigo’s skin was the application of red paint on skin, the same red of the Argentinian Phrygian cap. For Postigo, who expressly stated she “would have never use orange colour for this piece and series,” my technological failings were significant. Viewed through an inadvertent filter, Postigo’s video performance took on a different, unintended, patina. The work’s visuality was mediated, corrupted, and qualitatively lost.  

The idea that we are there 100% as if it was an in-person festival was a Modernist farce. In flattening out live performances to a flat rectangle window viewed on a digital screen, viewing intent and physical presence were disambiguated. On the outset, there was no “there,” only the here and now and the individual mediations of isolated monitor screens – The flow of time was stuttered and mediated, as Postigo suggested in 4th Essay. Viewership turned to surveillance and review as Lau proved in Video Conference. Alternative modes of time had to be utilised to invoke presence, as Takeya’s Borderland indicated. In addition, viewers’ subjectivity does return and enfold into the performance context. My preliminary thoughts and suspicions could and were immediately researched and verified, allowing me to come to a conclusion even before I had finished viewing the performance for the first time. Any attempt by the work to overload or overwhelm me could only fail; by viewing Lau’s Video Conference over the course of a week, I overcame the human impossibility of maintaining 24 hours of attention. The encounter has been corrupted, the mental unfolding of the work of art short circuited. The objecthood of the work of art had become clearer through the boundaries of the video screen but consequently also been further undermined in equal measure. Ultimately the objects I am viewing is an illusion of a different order: it was the degraded pixelation of my technologically obsolete monitor screen and not real work by there or other artists presenting work online. The coherent and collaborative festival site no longer existed but had been replaced by multiple singularities in potential viewers’ homes. 

In salvaging performance art and the art festival in a time of distance, care needs to be taken such that there remained a sense of criticality. The three works under consideration presented three different but equally valid adaptations of the live work. Each expressed differentiated consciousness and interests on what constituted art, performance art, video art and video performance. What they have not done, however, was to treat the camera’s lens as a neutral mediator between their work and their viewers. All three works recognised, in their own ways, the limitations posed by the flat enclosure and responded accordingly. In a grief-ridden mourning for live art and consequent search for what continued to survive, these works served less as an obituary for what had been lost and more as an indication of the kind of crossroads the contemporary artist was at. What liveness was and could be understood to be remained in question. 



今年、私はオーストラリア・メルボルンの第6次封鎖期間中、自宅でひとり、グラシエラ・オヴェヘロ・ポスティゴ、ユーリック・ラウ、武谷大介の作品をr3.responsible.jpの「仮想空間に “吊るされた”」状態で、静かに鑑賞した。2021年の芸術祭は、時間の不確定性、場所の固有性、そしてフェスティバルの参加者同士の物理的な集まりがないため、観客を有線の世界全体に広げると同時に、見る人と見る人の間の距離を高めた。直感的な接触やコンテクスト、観客仲間との付き合いや評価、物理的な空間や地域性の共有といった特権を奪われた私の「距離を置いたパフォーマンス」の体験は、自己陶酔的で断絶したものだった。

ポスティゴにとって、状況の変化はパフォーマンス戦略の変化を意味している。Disambiguation of the Interval (4th essay) (2021年8月1日 for R3: Scape-City)は、彼女のステートメントでスタジオと呼ばれている一つの空間で撮影された静止画と動画を組み合わせたものである。オフホワイトの壁、天井のスポットライト、チェリーウッドの床板と巾木は、別の年にはここで展覧会が開催されていたことを示唆している。ビデオの中で、カメラは移動しながらこの部屋のさまざまな風景を映し出し、主にポスティゴの身体と、彼女がアクションで操作するオブジェクトに焦点を当てている。カメラマンの手の中で揺れているこのハンドヘルドレコーダーは、一定の間隔で停止し、構成されたオブジェクトに写真的な焦点を提供した。白く塗られた小さな板に、オレンジ色の絵の具をつけたばかりでまだ濡れている同じ大きさの布がかけられ、カメラが5秒間静止すると、映像の時間の流れは止まってしまう。動いているものと痛々しいほどに静止しているものとの間のこの揺らぎは、オンライン・パフォーマンスのイリュージョンを崩壊させた。これはライブ・パフォーマンスではなく、ライブ・パフォーマンスとして理解されるべきでもない、ビデオ・パフォーマンスなのだ。


ラウはこのような自己と身体の曖昧さを、『Video Conference』では目もくらむような高さにまで引き上げた。Virtual Reverie for Life Circuit(VC_VT_LC)(2021年5月22日〜23日、R3:Scape-City)である。この映像作品は、各11時間54分55秒の2部構成で発表され、2021年5月22日〜5月23日にYouTubeでライブ配信された。タイル状のブロックで構成された4チャンネルのビデオは、同じ部屋であるアリワルアートセンターのラウのスタジオスペースを4つのカメラで撮影した映像を同期して提示した。ポスティゴのホワイトキューブのスタジオが彼女の行動に視覚的な集中力を与えるのに対し、ラウの電子機器を備えたスタジオは文脈と混乱を同時に与えている。モニター画面、テレビ画面、プロジェクション、ビデオカメラ、三脚、ノートパソコン、グリーンスクリーン、照明などが部屋に散乱している。映像が進むにつれて,黒いシャツを着たラウとオレンジ色のシャツを着たアシスタントのジュン・イヤーズは,中央のアイランドテーブル,壁,天井のプロジェクションに,どんどんスクリーンを設置し,電源を入れていく。これらのスクリーンは、スピーカーを備えたものもあるが、主にYouTube Liveのフィードをループさせ、万華鏡のように、YouTubeフィードの主な視点を繰り返すビデオフィードを作り出している。それぞれのモニター、テレビ、プロジェクター、ラップトップは、さらに遅延してストリームを生成し、部屋の中で常に活動しているような感覚を、音声と映像の両方で作り出している。2人のパフォーマーと4つのスクリーンに視聴者の注意が分散され、さらに時間の経過とともにこれらのスクリーンが分断されることで、ラウは動く情報の無限の過負荷によって人間の目を混乱させているのだ。



大会1ヶ月前の2021年6月25日、武谷大介は『Borderland』(2021年6月25日、R3:スケープシティ)を制作した。諏訪信仰の儀式的な力の発揮と歴史的に関連する地域である旧御射山 で収録され、武谷は日本の歴史的な “オリンピアン “の系譜に自らを位置づけた。しかし、「武谷のBorderland」は、ラウのビデオ会議や東京オリンピックとは異なり、ライブストリーミングではなかった。武谷のビデオパフォーマンスが公開されたのは2021年9月7日で、肉体的なパフォーマンスから2ヶ月半後、東京オリンピックの終了(2021年8月8日)から1ヶ月後である。彼のパフォーマンスとそれに伴う諏訪の祝福は、現代という時代において、カメラのレンズと時間の遅れによって媒介されていた。



3週間の間、私はビデオをゆっくりと、気を取られながら、そして私の個人的なアーカイブにある他のビデオや写真の作品との間で揺らぎながら見た。私は、動画と静止画のプログラムを自分でキュレーションした。映画祭に参加する人は皆、ある程度はそうしてきたはずだ。誰もが真っ白な状態でアートを体験したり見たりすることはない。しかし、このR3チームとの拡張と共同制作は、対面式のフェスティバルのために行う作業とは全く異なるものだった。【Borderland】を鑑賞するとき、私は武谷の『Painting, Commodity / Painting Commodity』(2018年11月10日開催のUndisclosed Territory #11にて)を振り返り、文字通り観た。ポスティゴの【なぜエルムは梨を与えるべきなのか】(2018年11月11日@Undisclosed Territory #11)を、【Disambiguation of the Interval』(第4回エッセイ)】と一緒にセカンドスクリーンで再確認した。ラウのビデオ会議を観察していると 【Virtual Reverie for Life Circuit(VC_VT_LC)】を鑑賞しながら、彼のコレクティブであるINTER-MISSIONが主催したシムリム広場のアート・レジデンシー(2019年1月7日~27日)で撮影した写真や、【Video Conference】の舞台裏で撮影した写真などの個人的なアーカイブをクリックした。異なる作品が提示される時間間隔を決定する対面式のフェスティバルの時間的なプレッシャーや、気晴らしの感覚が拡大することのないこの鑑賞モードは、個人的なライブラリー/アーカイブのプライオリティを根本的に変えた。

対面式のフェスティバルでは、最初に「ブラインド」での鑑賞が求められるが、オンライン・フェスティバルでは、共同でキュレーションし、共同で管理する。このプロセスをユニークなものにしたのは、R3に出品された作品を最初に見る間に、一時停止したり、巻き戻したり、振り返ったりする権限と機能を私が持っていたことである。このプロセスがユニークだったのは、「R3:City-Scape」に出品された作品を最初に観たときに、私には一時停止し、巻き戻して考える権限と機能があったことである。 私は、ラウが2021年5月23日と24日にYouTube Liveで行った最初の視聴者のように、他の人と同期して視聴することはなかった。また、物理的な展覧会のような非同期的なイベントに参加しているわけでもなかった。ギャラリースペースへの往復にかかる時間を考慮すると、少なくとも最初の訪問時には、鑑賞者として展覧会全体に完全に関わり、鑑賞する必要がある。これは、本のレベルでの非同期性だった。一旦公開された作品は、鑑賞者の選択した条件で、観る、編集する、巻き戻す、考える、無視するなど、鑑賞者が完全にコントロールできるようになっている。発表された瞬間のビデオの新鮮な日付は、バーチャルな棚に永久に置かれ、熟読されるのを待っているビデオの古い新鮮さによって複雑になっていた。

私のフェスティバルでの経験は、他のフェスティバル参加者と比較しても常にユニークなものであったが、別の秩序、特に資本のユニークさだった。私の個人的なアーカイブの深さ、アーティストやその作品、芸術的文脈に関する知識、そしてインターネット接続の質が、私の鑑賞体験を支えてくれた。このプロセスは、多くの点で、現代の美術における美術史的な研究や調査のプロセスと似ている。半分ほど覚えている過去の作品をハードドライブから取り出し、動画と静止画を並べ、アーティストの個々の活動や軌跡を思い起こした。しかし、このプロセスの即時性は強調しすぎることはない。オンラインフェスティバルでは、最初に作品を見たときでさえ、鑑賞者は同時に写真を見ていることになる。ライブ・パフォーマンスでは、それは不可能である。必ず時間差が生じてしまうのだ。さらに、オンラインフェスティバルでは、他の来場者やアーティストと話をしたり、ディスカッションをしたりして、作品の内容を知る時間や場所がなかった。オンライン・フェスティバルには他の人がいないので、他の人とメモを取り合うスペースも存在しなかった。 これは完全に個人的な経験であり、個人の時間とコミットメントによって質的に差別化されるものである。

アルゼンチンのブエノスアイレスにある彼女のスタジオからオーストラリアのメルボルンにある私のアパートへのポスティゴの4番目のエッセイの調停で、さらに明確なことが起こった。 彼女の注意深い身体的行動、カメラのアンビバレントな記録、意図的な後処理作業、そして私の10歳のモニター画面でのそのストリームの間のどこかに、黄色いレンズが適用された。 オレンジ色の絵の具に浸した帆布として見たのは実は赤だった。 ポスティゴの肌にオレンジ色のペンキを塗ったときに観察したのは、アルゼンチンのフリジア帽と同じ赤のペンキを肌に塗ったことだったのだ。 「この作品やシリーズにオレンジ色を使うことは決してないだろう」と明確に述べたポスティゴにとって、私の技術的な失敗は重大だった。 不注意なフィルターを通して見ると、ポスティゴのビデオパフォーマンスは別の意図しないパティナを帯びていた。 作品の視覚性は仲介され、破壊され、質的に失われた。



Performance at Distance

Urich Lau – Virtual Reverie for Life Circuit (VC_VT_LC)
Graciela Ovejero Postigo – Disambiguation of the Interval (4th essay) 
Daisuke Takeya – Borderland

Biography 略歴

Chloe Ho (Singapore)

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