Written by Jondi Keane and James Cunningham
What have 40 years of conceptual art, performance art, hybrid arts and live art investigations taught us? What is available to be thought, said and done in the contemporary moment defined by a tidal wave of ‘post’-positions and in the wake of so many important contributions from the arts & technology, humanities, social and physical sciences?
We propose that a tuning, attuning, or retuning of the base-line of perception and action is the next productive (versus reactive) step. In order to ask “what counts as real” or “what does it mean to assign value” or “what is a meaningful action or interaction,” a practice is necessary which enables us to reconsider our routine attentions, selections, decisions, and judgments. The distribution and re-mediation of information complicates matters but nevertheless still operate within the common world of perceptible space, light and form registered as embodied experience.
The questions asked by the practitioners and thinkers of the 1960’s, who collectively pointed to the inter-implications and material processes that connect art to daily life, are still relevant and have influenced the ethos of our work.
The investigations comprising Tuning Fork activate existing person-object-environment relationships in an attempt to draw out, measure and track the events and established relationship of the world we know. The aim is to continue to push the familiar and, by rehearsing the habitual, allow the “adjacent possible” to emerge (S. Kauffman 2000). The adjacent possible is the set of possibilities that may come to pass if slightly different conditions were present. By simply changing the emphasis or the ways things become connected, we try to reverse the figure-ground relationship allowing audiences to perceive the site itself become visible, come to the fore and take on new meaning. The performers might pull back to become part of the site, becoming attendants, operators, mechanics or acupuncturists of the architectural and social space.
Although we begin our process by attuning our own embodied awareness and performative presence, the task of the work quickly turns towards our ability to direct or disperse focus (or attention). The structure and sequencing of the work redirects an audience’s focus, to varying degrees, away from the performing body towards the relationships between objects and features of the site. The human intention (abstract positioning) may produce a dialogue, tension or balance between the meaning and value of body, object, architecture and time. The ‘performance’ therefore consists of inflections and deflections, mergers and separations which allow the audience to move (with the performers) from internal to external awareness, from self to other and object to space. The optimal moments of this process occurs when internal and outside world are viewed simultaneously, either because the parts of the body-environment form an entirely different relationship or because the divide between body-environment is momentarily suspended allowing two or more things to become one. By accumulating shifts of focus within the three hour performances, the borders between stillness and movement, figure and ground, level and tipped, comfort and disruption gently blur and overlap opening the event-space to further collective development.
The objects selected for Tuning Fork are not art objects but common materials for construction and measure, recognizable within the context but not necessarily tied to a specific function. The durational aspect of the work gives the performers the time to foreground develop layered events and emphasises the time of perception and the rhythms carried forward in the material themselves. Doors, columns, steel, wood, carbon fibre rods, tape measures, electrical tape and carpenter’s snap lines will enable the performers to mark the existing site to highlight its verticality, scale or levelness and make connections, imply links and forge new configurations across the floor, walls, ceiling, window boxes and I-beams which characterize the site. Time-lapse movies will be produced and immediately projected during the performance to show the building and dissolving of the work over time.