[iDC] The Social Machine of Events

Brian Holmes brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr
Wed Feb 1 20:39:37 EST 2006

This thread raises real questions. The formats of what Kodwo 
Eshun calls "the rubber chicken guru circuit" are definitely 
impoverished. But I would say, in every direction. Why 
should those who are really interested in constructed 
discourse have to pretend to be spontaneous? Why should 
those who are really interested in direct expression pretend 
to construct discourse? Why should anyone have to be the 
same all the time?

The following, from my angle, is not enough:

  As speakers, we talk as if our audience were disembodied 
> readers. We act as if we were alone, scribbling in a garrett or typing 
> on a laptop, and not enacting ourselves in the living, sweaty, twitching 
> presence of actual people in need of food, smoke, love, meaning – not 
> abstractly but here, now, this very moment. Paperism is the literate 
> condition that privileges knowledge products over knowledge processes, 
> seeking to turn every event into an artifact, a disembodied, 
> decontextualized book on a dusty shelf rather than a communal 
> psycho-kinetic collision.

Honestly, that sounds rather foolish. One of the traps of 
the performance ethos has been just blah blah blah. 
Constructed discourse is not always dusty and 
decontextualized - it can also be vital, passionate and to 
the point.

That we haven't quite figured out
> how to effectively replace antique top-down ideals at conferences and 
> festivals with collaborative catalytic networks isn't surprising, for we 
> remain stuck in our highly literate skins.

Actually I'm quite fond of my literate skin and prefer it to 
all kinds of other skins I could put on, or be cloaked in. 
The business about the problem being paper, and all the 
subsequent repetitions of that theme, sounds from my 
perspective like self-promotional digital BS, sorry. You 
might be surprised how much dialogic experience you can get 
through print, through literary forms, through philosophical 
argument, through the social sciences - hmm, these are often 
very interesting things, coming from very interesting 
people. I've often thought that Borges had to be an 
interesting guy. Despite the Library of Babel and the 
circular ruins. But the challenge of how to create 
situations for complex and also light, innovative 
interactions - it's a good thing to go after.

I was thinking, why not engage a process, using the 
pre-event list technique, and maybe other media, so that 
people could collectively invent some formats? For instance, 
I would propose some live discussions on the basis of shared 
readings of texts, or shared consideration of visual or 
sound or audio-visual work - open meetings that anyone could 
come to, but where the understanding would be that a certain 
number of people who had agreed to beforehand during the 
list process, were going to start from some deep and 
prolonged contact with an existing piece of work. In that 
way you could start from something a little more engaging 
than how's the weather or what's the latest fashion or watch 
my stage moves. Of course, I would propose this, and surely 
the proposal would change as people received it, and in the 
end, through affinity and metamorphosis, something different 
would come out. Which wouldn't necessarily prohibit other 
proposals, or prohibit the event hosts from being more 
voluntaristic about certain proposals, or anything, really. 
Obviously each person might succeed in getting through the 
beginnings of one proposal, but they would also definitely 
want to hook up with many other proposals to avoid being 
like, totally bored at the conference. Of course the results 
would be totally risky but also fully experimental. And why 
not? Once the "event" has been sold to its funders, it 
doesn't really matter what you do.

Just a thought.

all the best, Brian

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