‘To Pass Through…’ asks how a hybridised performing, now partially integrated into a machinery for the systematic production of commodities, might make its way through technoscience and pass into the hinterland of Art’s Body. Moving in the obscure zone between ‘culture’ and ‘art’, where decisions about a gest’s ‘difference’ are made, Warhol opened out some of its implications for performing’s response to techno-representation. It has to find a way of both taking on (starting within) and slipping away from the languaging processes (now digitised in and as the flow of information) of the appropriating machinery. The challenges this presents to performing focuses the text’s remaining discussion.
The visual arts (interpreted ever more broadly as their traditional boundaries give way in the face of cross-media collaboration and diffusion) source most of the gests considered. For them it is now the conditions of ‘seeing’ that are at stake.
Francis Bacon’s paintings confront the extremity of embodied-becoming – its almost-abjection – under techno-representation as their recurrent unavoidable theme and content. Contemporaneous with Bacon, the re-constituting of medium and materials is already under way in the visual arts as they confront and seek to interrupt the dedicated use-function of representation under digitisation. An extended discussion of digital composition (under the sub-heading ‘Performing Reconstitutes ‘Medium’ as a Site of Multiplicity: the Challenge of Digital Composing’ (pp.15-31)) explores some of its implications for makers’ relations to ‘medium’ through the ‘media-multiplicity’ that digitisation underpins and facilitates.
The text proposes that performing as ‘event’ becomes the topic. It seeks to disclose, in and as its gests, the questioning of its own seeing’s context-bound occurrence. A prime theme of this questioning is the relation between performing (as now an almost-bare-embodied-becoming subject to the manyness of proprioception (as offered by the poet Charles Olson) and an ordinary language under the sway of a digitised knowledge-as-information. In this world-region performing (like all of us…) is confronted by the disappearance of the image-as-such under the rule of the digitised simulated virtual.
The discussion draws attention to a range of performers’ responses to this disappearance. Nancy’s remarks on the ‘sharing’ of the senses are invoked as an opening on performing’s changing relation to medium. Gests by Hatoum, Orlan, Stelarc, and Parker are considered as responses to the troubled relation between performing, digital-electronic machinery, and the extremity of embodiment’s contemporary plight. In different ways these projects and gests suspend themselves within the question of making-towards-art’s survival where they have to live in relations of dependency with technoscience and techno-representation. Perhaps they gesture towards ‘disappearance’ as performing’s form of life now – plighting itself to appear as a disappearing retreat…