Posted by on June 28, 2014

A Chocolate Autopsy

The initial brief was to produce a performance piece based on a specific site in this instance, the University of Lincoln library.

The methodology of my finished performance was to take the concept of a “metatextual library”, in which text from a number of randomly selected books located in the GCW university library was re edited using random word generating algorithms and fashioned together into a rolling, stream of consciousness piece of writing, or “word hoard” as it came to be known (borrowing from the cut up techniques of William Burroughs and the “first draft” continuous scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road). This necessitated the selection of a large number of books from canada goose outlet online the library canada goose factory outlet and eventually from my own considerable collection of books that were transcribed using a word processor, and then fed into an online cut up generator, created by The Lazarus Corporation, and forthwith published to the blog for posterity. Smith (based on a pen name I currently use to write comic journalism for a website), which gave me license to explore the themes of the piece and comment on the process of its conception through a fictional entity. In this case, the protagonist was a man who works for canada goose black friday sale the fictional Hammerspace Corporation, a nebulous but sinister organisation involved vaguely in IT surveillance and domestic spying, which itself provided an interesting counterpoint to my theoretical meta library: an anti library that is concerned not with the archiving and preserving of information but with controlling, stifling and profiting from it instead. This meta drama formed the basis of my interactions with the blog.

For the performance itself, in order to achieve the effect of a scrolling text, I used the program Windows Movie Maker to create a video file containing the text, which I then manipulated to the preferred length and speed. This process proved more difficult than canadian goose jacket originally planned, as the length of the piece demanded a crawl slow enough to be read but quick enough to not remain nominally static for protracted periods, and the program’s limitations made simply pasting the text in its entirety roughly 18,000 words long functionally impossible. Thus canada goose coats the text was divided up into chunks of roughly 200 words each and spread canada goose coats on sale at intervals throughout the video file. Soundtrack accompaniment was added to convey mood and to stimulate the possibility of synesthetic reactions to the text, as well as an introduction containing the performance’s abstract, and a final journal entry suggesting the ambiguous fate of the protagonist, both of which were related through voice over.

The performance was scheduled to take place on Thursday the 8th of May 2014, in the seminar room UL102 of the GCW library building on the grounds of the University of Lincoln, between the hours of 10:00 am and 22:00 pm. The room was set up in the style of a board room for the Hammerspace Coporation, with the video material on a loop presented on the room’s large LCD television, which was connected to a computer terminal, and with sound run through an amplifier unit. On the table were copies canada goose outlet reviews of canada goose outlet uk an accompanying document, containing a performance abstract setting up the context of the piece, as well as extracts from the additional blog posts and material I deemed relevant to the process of creating the piece, such as an extract from Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Additionally, I scattered throughout the building copies of a fictional propaganda flier I had made reference to within the piece. As part of the framing narrative of the piece, explained in the introduction and abstract, I was absent from the room throughout the performance’s duration. The audience were invited to come and go as they pleased.

The initial inspiration for my piece came after I read one of the recommended reading extracts, Jorge Luis Borges’ The Library of Babel, which deals cheap canada goose with the concept of a theoretical universe that is made up of adjacent hexagonal rooms, each containing four bookshelves which themselves contain every existing book in every variant, but each is rendered superficially unintelligible through its use of an esoteric set of 25 base characters consisting of 22 letters, the period, the comma and the space; it is pointed out, however, that they can indeed be made intelligible through the use of any other book in the library to “decode” it whilst using a third book as a one time pad, and because the books are believed to include every possible iteration of the 25 characters, it is believed that in these books contains the sum total of all knowledge in Borge’s words, a “total library”.

This fascinating topic led me to make the connection between Borge’s “total library” and William Burroughs’ “cut up” technique. Similar to the collage poems created by Dadaists such as Tristan Tzara, Burroughs was introduced to the practice by Bryon Gysin, and they would later collaborate on several cut ups using both printed text and audio recordings. Much as Borges deals with infinity canada goose factory sale and the deciphering of meaning and order from the randomness of the library’s contents, Burroughs and Gysin saw cut up as a way of reducing the text to its fundamental meaning and as a means of divination. “When you cut into the present”, Burroughs said, “the future leaks canada goose uk shop out.”

My interest in meta fiction and adding layers of unreality to the piece, through the use of pseudonyms and orchestration of interventions in the body of my regular writings and in the form of Youtube videos, was spurred by an exercise in class in which we were instructed to walk around the grounds of the library and sketch what we saw. During this, I became intrigued by the angular protrusions of the older canada goose outlet parka original warehouse building on which the library’s newer extensions were built, the jutting of the cold steel girders like a ribcage, the contrasting surfaces of red brick and white plaster and glass giving the impression of differing bodily organs and tissues aligning together, the lintels of windows canada goose outlet in usa sockets for limbs and eyes. It seemed that the library was growing out of itself, a blossoming tree breaking out of a dry, long dead trunk.

However, when the time came to compare and swap our work around, I was taken by an image of the library as drawn facing the eastern wall from across the street. The scale and detail of the drawing was simple but fundamentally correct, but something in it looked wrong. After a while, it dawned on me the artist had spelt words “central” and “library” wrong, missing out a letter “r” in both words, rendering them “cental” and “libray”. When our next task came to replicate the drawing we had taken from the pile in our own fashion I took it upon myself to create a “blow up” of the previous image, meticulously scaling up the details and including the spelling errors. Later, I would find a stock photo of the library from a matching position and edit out the letters in Paint, adding it to the blog under the title “The Treachery of Images” after Ren Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe that is not a pipe.

This view of the library building came to inform and infect my creative process. When encouraged cheap canada goose to consider the psychogeographical aspects of the site and its relationship to the piece, I found myself continually frustrated by the building’s intransigence. As I attempted to wander the aisles and corridors of the building, attempting to imagine and apply some deeper holistic significance to a repurposed window frame or a girder, I struggled to tie anything conceptual to it. Whilst other groups, upon visiting the local archive, began to consider the cultural and historical context of the building and use its status as a canada goose outlet store uk reclaimed building as a feature of their work, I floundered with canada goose outlet shop doubts as to its relevance. The site, from what I could decipher, was barely a hundred years old a relic of the Edwardian Canada Goose sale age, it had been a former railway storage warehouse for grain. Before that, the land was just reclaimed marshlands. The more I tried to find a hook relating to the building itself, the more I came to feel that this wasn’t the right approach. as a storage facility.

“But when you think about it like that” came the voice in my head.

If therefore the concept of a library is not the object of the building, and what I’m interrogating is not a physical site but an abstract concept the idea of the library and what it means to us why, that uk canada goose outlet can be any number of things. The internet, of course, is a receptacle for almost any information however trivial. And ultimately the thing that all libraries have in common is that they store information of one sort or another, whether it’s a brick and mortar library with books, or a database made up entirely of electronic information.

To the extent that our view of the world is shaped by the media, such a belief is, of course, an effect of the expanded virtual environment manufactured by media industries. If the fall of the Berlin Wall was a simulation (in the sense in which Jean Baudrillard argued that “the Gulf War did not take place”), must we not also assume that the conversion and interchangeability of all images of war, projected onto “Sarajevo” or anywhere else, now constitute the very conditions of our technologized commodity culture, in which distinctions between sign and referent, nature and culture, human and machine, truth and falsehood, real and representation appear to be collapsing? Must we abandon our claims to know or experience existence and consciousness of life in the same manner in which we cannot presume that there is a “real world” that somehow precedes or exists outside of representation?

Johannes H. Birringer, Media and Performance: Along the Border (pp. 4)

And then, on the day of my pitch, I got the push I needed. The module leader, Conan, was intrigued by my interest in cut up I had made a primitive first attempt at it a few weeks earlier as a fictional book that could theoretically be a part of a library of my own creation, with no notion of how or if it could become a full fledged project. He suggested that I disregard my previous concepts which were proving to be dead ends and refocus on my Burroughsian influences whilst expanding the scope of it to encapsulate the library itself.

This goal was achieved through the most systematic means at my disposal random chance, and the Dewey decimal system. Using a random number generator I created a list of random three digit numbers between 0 and 999, which I would replenish frequently by asking people at random for other three digit numbers, and used these as the basis of my selection process. From these numbers, I would select the first book on the shelf with that number, rounding to the nearest decimal point as needed. I automatically discounted dictionaries and word lists of any kind, and numbers that yielded no result all due to discontinuation were discarded entirely.

Once this was done, the books were then transcribed directly into a Microsoft Word file normally I would as a rule transcribe the first page of the first chapter and the last page of the last page, with some wiggle room taken into consideration in the case of books when the first or last page is not a full page, is disproportionately longer or shorter than its counterpart, or ends or begins on an oblique sentence or paragraph break. I soon found myself straying from these guidelines, however, and whilst continuing to include library material, I soon began harvesting text from my own eclectic collection of books and eventually created a sequence that was akin to a Dadaist cut up poem made from the lyrics of songs from my preferred playlist on Spotify. Its text, spanning different media and written in a stream of consciousness style deliberately aping Burroughs, fascinated me, and had already introduced me to the concept of psychogeography. Appropriating the title was inspired by the idea of a clinical examination or dissection of something that is structurally malleable and apt to disintegrate when scrutiny is applied to it, something delicious and nourishing that melts before we can learn its secrets; though conceived relatively late in the process, I feel it is reflective of Burroughs’ choice of the title for Naked Lunch (inspired by a misreading of “naked lust” by Jack Kerouac) as meaning “a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork” (Burroughs, pp. 199).

Some of the choices made with regard to material, both in the body of the text and in the accompanying material and soundtrack, reflected my own interests regarding literature and music. This included among others a monologue by William Burroughs from Naked Lunch (known as “The Talking Asshole”) and several songs and pieces of musical performance by progressive rock bands: Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s interpretation of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”, which reflected the way I conceived of the audience engaging with the piece in the manner of a gallery exhibit; various songs by the Peter Gabriel era incarnation of Genesis, with its emphasis on theatricality and storytelling emphasised through introductory monologues by Gabriel. The emblem for the Hammerspace Corporation that appeared on all materials associated with the piece, was conceived and designed by my girlfriend Jojo and developed into a versatile image in Adobe Illustrator by fellow student Wade Baverstock. In describing the brief for the design, I asked for a symbol that would look equally at home as a part of science fiction poster and a watermark or masthead on office stationary, and that would evoke the kind of faceless, morally dubious mega corporations seen in popular fiction. For the poster version, a partially inverted image of the Horsehead Nebula.

The process of transferring the edited text in bulk into editing software (in this case, Windows Movie Maker) proved much harder than original intended. Attempts to paste the entire 18,000 words in were hampered by what was most likely a word or character limit, which would result in only a small segment of the word count actually being rendered into the video. Attempts to work around this in Adobe Premier Pro were equally futile due to my inexperience with the program. Thus, with less than canada goose uk outlet 10 hours left to either rework my concept using a contingency plan (in this case, an online autocue program) or to fix all the text manually, I elected to attempt once more to make the piece work on my terms, resulting in a painstaking all night editing process breaking down the manuscript into 200 word chunks and pasting them in individually, and then scaling the length of the video up (and the speed of the crawl down) to a rough running time of two and a half hours in length. This was a reduction from the previous runtime estimate of three hours, which would have run on a loop from 10 o’clock in the morning until 10’clock at night.

The performance took place on Thursday the 8th of May 2014, in the seminar room UL102 of the GCW library building on the grounds of the University of Lincoln. Due to unforeseen technical difficulties with the computer and sound setup, the performance was delayed by an hour, beginning at canada goose outlet 11:00 am instead.

Whilst I was pleased with the overall effect of the piece, I felt that the technical issues with regard to the presentation of the filmed material, as well as the ability to set the room as I had originally preferred, remained a challenge when presenting the finished work. Due to difficulties with the editing software, the finished video had glitches in parts of the scrolling text, usually at the ends of a particular section of text, which resulted in an “artefact” effect on screen similar to stuck pixels. Whilst there is no indication this detracted from the audience experience, it is none the less a technical issue that could have been avoided with better planning and proficiency in the chosen medium.

Based on feedback after the performance, I also discovered that my choice of adding a soundtrack was deemed to be an unnecessary distraction from the piece, and the volume was summarily left low or off throughout the performance. Based on this I’d probably remove it from the piece for future performances.

Due to the nature of the piece, and my own absence from the proceedings, I cannot give an accurate representation of the audience numbers or participation outside of individual comments and feedback given to me directly. Had I had additional time, resources and manpower, I might have considered installing recording equipment to monitor the flow of people in and out of the room, or picked a location that had a higher likelihood of attracting people to enter and peruse the site.

Ultimately, I am satisfied with the direction and subject matter, if not always the execution, of my piece, and regret only that I wasn’t able to refine the delivery of the finished piece to the standard of the pieces that inspired it, such as Cardiff and Miller’s Alter Bahnhof walk and Etchell’s and Hampton’s The Quiet Volume. While from a purely academic point of view I can see how the presentation elements surrounding the piece may have detracted from it, their inclusion was a decision I made because canada goose outlet jackets it connected me to the piece on a personal level, as did the content I included and the methods by which I edited and produced the finished work. I was able to perservere because I was invested in creating the piece I wanted to see. To quote Tim Etchells, investment “is the line of connection between performer and their text or their task. When it works it is private, and often on the very edge of words. Like all the best performances it is before us, but not for us.” (pp. 48).

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