Experiencing Experience



Photos by Alexandru Dan 
In Hypercube Pressed between the Pages of a .pdf curated by Larisa Crunteanu

A performer shifts, from time to time, the attitudes and states about what's happening, about the common context and situation. Sometimes the reactions seem to be related to the space, sometimes to the visitors, sometimes to the shared attitudes, expectations or to larger contexts. According to recent neuroscience, we emotionally read the others through an automatic, interiorized simulation of their behavior. Our body model implicitly performs, to a certain extent, the people that it meets. An intervention in this constant, naturalized performance, an artificialization of one's body states and emotions, can affect the implicit frames of perception of those around, their experiencing of experience, including the esthetic capacities through which artworks are received. The idea that the artwork takes place in the body of the visitor is particularly relevant in these circumstances.

Made in Black Hyperbox, Second Artworld.
Shown at Station Service Belgrade, Alta Studio Prague, and Fabrica de Pensule Cluj.
With the support of Station Belgrade.
(2016)

Black Box /fragments



In one of his days among the Amazonian Pirahãs, Daniel Everett noticed that they were gathered in great numbers, talking excitedly about what was happening just across the river. Daniel and his daughter couldn't understand why, they only saw an empty beach. All the village was watching a spirit there. “I could never have proved to the Pirahãs that the beach was empty. Nor could they have convinced me that there was anything, much less a spirit, on it.” The two perceptions were irreconcilable, a radical disagreement persisted about what the reality across the river was. They looked into two different worlds – the river had three riverbanks.

In hypnosis shows, things can easily appear or disappear. A chair can float because the person that manipulates it is not there anymore. Humans without heads or heads without bodies could populate the stage because of partial disappearances. Anthony Jacquin, a hypnosis artist, explains it very simply: “reality is plastic”, a “false consciousness” is replaced by another one, and everything is felt as real.

Barbara Glowczewski describes how the Warlpiri of Australia, in order to expand the Dreaming – the relative time-space of collective memory that “dreams” all reality – “must pass through a kind of black box”. This black box is often an important dream or a visionary experience that has to be introduced and confirmed within the community as “real”, which means, as having to do with Dreaming. For the Warlpiri, it is clear that there is no easy way to intervene in the foundation of what exists or can exist, that is, in the Dreaming.

The Everett family cannot voluntarily see the spirits on the beach and the Pirahãs cannot voluntarily unsee them. You cannot see people without heads or chairs moving by themselves just by wanting to – a good hypnotist is necessary for that. You cannot voluntarily modify the reality around you – for that you need to pass through a sort of black box. There is no easy bridge between the people who see humans with heads and those who see them without. There is no easy bridge between the Everett family and the Pirahãs. Some of them have to pass through a black box for an agreement about reality to be possible.

A black box is needed wherever there is no bridge between two realities. In some SFs, like Interstellar, the current state of things (space technology) is so weak that only a black hole, an event horizon, or a wormhole, can make the story advance through a leap to other galaxies, parallel universes or other dimensions. The only way that a jump between realities, or something extraordinary, can happen is through a sort of black box. A black box is needed when you reach the end of possibilities. The black box happens at the end of imagination.

That things happen at the end of imagination is not always desirable. Many theories of consciousness say something like this: an accumulation of complexity in physical or informational processes at some point gives rise to subjective experience. This “some point” is a black box, there is no idea about how and why this leap happens. The impossibility of understanding how any physical system could ever produce or give rise to any subjective, qualitative experiences is the “hard problem of consciousness”. The unbridgeable “explanatory gap” between the physical and phenomenal realm is one of the most persistent and annoying black boxes in science.

With this black box around, a great effort and extreme theories are required to preserve the materialist-physicalist paradigm that currently powers science. Behaviorism saw the mind as self-contained, mysterious, inaccessible and unobservable – a black box that should be ignored in favor of directly and objectively observable behaviors. The neuro-reductionist approaches see mental processes as physiological processes in the brain. Cognitivism and functionalism reduce the mind and consciousness (if it is not ignored) to informational processes and computation. Eliminativism eliminates consciousness along with other “folk psychology” concepts centered around subjective experience, or explains it away as illusion.

Some of these theories are instrumental in Artificial Intelligence progresses and allow us to foresee an AI with some capacities equal or superior to those of humans – attention, perception, use of language, thinking, imagination. Even the apparently obsolete Behaviorism found a way back – in some tech circles AIs are often called “black box systems”, for similar reasons for which the mind is a black box for behaviorists. But these theories seem constitutionally incapable of approaching consciousness – the existence of subjective experience cannot be explained in physical, chemical or functional terms. The kind of AI that could be envisioned by them performs subjectivity, emotions and mental states, without living and feeling them – it is a philosophical zombie, not capable of experiencing its functional and cognitive capacities.
...
What used to work, in this case a materialist paradigm that is generally very useful and productive, suddenly, and often unexplainably, ceases to work in the proximity of a black box. Or, a black box rather shows how the respective theories have always been problematic.

A black box produces an explanatory void that forces thinking and speculative explorations. Anomalies require speculative explorations, but this works the other way around, too: explorations often start from a need to escape the conformity of the world, from a need for anomalies. And they are fed by a desire for the unknown, for a secret passage, for a treasure, for a way to oneself or out of oneself, for a shortcut to something, for a leap to somewhere… for a black box.

The Franklin expedition from 1845 started as a collective desire to find a Northwest Passage, a shortcut to the new worlds. It was the biggest expedition at that time, using the most advanced technologies, self-sufficient for many years – it appeared as one of the safest explorations. But something went wrong and they never came back. The rescue missions were unsuccessful and many search parties disappeared too. It was one of the biggest mysteries in the history of explorations, a shock. The emerging hints about cannibalism and some terrible diseases were accentuating the horrific picture of what had happened. Recently, it was discovered that food cans actually played a big part in the disaster. The technology of canning was only at the beginning and the food was apparently contaminated, inducing lead poisoning.

In the Ship of Fools, land was a distant memory, or rather a legend. Many generations spent their entire lives on the ship in interstellar travel. The Earth they had left thousands of years ago became a myth. On the ship, the voyagers still preserved something from the earth cultures but everything was distorted. This is one of the many SFs featuring spaceships that become cosmic arks, in which the earthly germs are amplified, leading to distorted, usually monstrous, humanities, millions lightyears away from home.

To explore unknown or hostile territories the obvious solution are capsules in which a livable world could persist. But once the capsules are away from the multiple stabilizing mechanisms active at home, things can deviate easily and evolve fast. Any problem is amplified – it could be a psychological trait that contaminates everything or an unnoticed detail, like the poisonous lead in Franklin’s expedition. In time, inevitably, the homeworld capsules become black boxes that generate monstrous mutations.

In 1853, Elisha Kent Kane and his crew made a second attempt to save the Franklin expedition. It ended up, as many other explorations of the “mysterious region of terrors”, with the ship being trapped in ice, and the crew eating mainly canned food, hoping that good weather would free them next summer. It didn't happen. Noticing the rapid degradation of everybody's health and knowing that the Eskimo people are healthier in those environments without eating canned foods, Kane started to eat rats, of which there were plenty on the frozen ship.

While he was healing, the mental distance between him and his crew was growing – the ship “presented all the appearances of a mad house.” Stupor, paranoia, debility, a total loss of reason, great nervous weakness, ghost-like appearance, convulsions, were the terms used in that period to describe a community affected by some mysterious disease that later proved to be lead poisoning. Under these conditions, on a disintegrating ship (as the wood from the ship was used for heating), Kane couldn't convince anybody else to renounce the last nutritional advancements, canned food.

The explorers cannot take their world with them, no matter how much they try, these environments don't allow their homeworld to persist. They often face something that renders their conventions ridiculous. Their clumsiness and inability to respond to the jungle, desert or polar ice is made even clearer by the populations that they eventually meet there. But some explorers, like Kane, who learned from the Eskimo, are inspired to take a leap out of the prevailing common sense of their own world and tune to the alien environment. Once the cut with the homeworld is made, they have to start from zero, to improvise with vital components, to mess with the fundamental structures. They voluntarily plunge into a black box that makes possible a leap to the new environment.

If they take the leap and survive and go home, they often cannot feel at home anymore, they cannot arrive. They changed so much of their basic structures in order to adapt to the new world that the old world feels alien. Because of this alienation, they are often able to see painfully clearly problems in what was before their homeworld normality. Many explorers and anthropologists feel restless, haunted by an urge to go back, sometimes to the hells from which they barely escaped alive. It is more an irrational obsession, they know that it is very dangerous, that it is preferable to stay home, in comfort, among friends and family. But they feel that they belong to the new world, or even worse, that they are caught between worlds, nowhere at home – they’re trapped in the black box.
...
Paradoxically, there seems to be a better chance for black boxes to appear in white cubes nowadays. There are zones of contemporary art in which to overcome what is accepted as art is one of the aims. Zones with an implicit drive for conceptual and formal leaps, in which self-alienation may be viewed as the essence of the esthetic experience. From this perspective, some artworks are black boxes that reconfigure the understanding of what contemporary art can be. They make possible a jump to a slightly different art world.

Some artworks are black boxes that make possible leaps to other descriptions. They operate on the esthetic layers that are organising and perpetuating a reality, rewriting or at least perturbing some of the implicit abstractions of a world. The black box artworks can be experimental mini-worlds that are able to cover big esthetic distances, as the endurable self-sufficient spaceships in extremely hostile environments, far away from the long-term tuned structures functional at home. Or, they can be more like artworlds that radically fluctuate their own constitutive esthetic structures, as a Stalker’s Zone that changes time and space and its other basic abstractions.

There is an isomorphism between worlds – practices, approaches can be transferred, but a world speaks mainly about itself. The content of political art doesn't affect the political world. If you speak in an artwork about problems in your world, the effects on your world are minimal – the artwork speaks the language of its world, the language of art, not the language of politics, sociology or philosophy, no matter how much you try. You cannot take a content from a world to another, but some dynamics and practices can be transported, and how to activate a black box could be one of them. A black box doesn't teach you how to change the world but how to change it for another, how to leave it, as somebody else.

In Childhood’s End, the only man that succeeds to see the planet of the aliens (who assist humankind in its transition towards a new stage) hid in the belly of a whale taken aboard their ship in order to be placed in a sort of extraterrestrial museum of “otherness”, and complete its Earth section. It was so alien there on the planet that he didn’t have feelings and ways to relate, he had to go back home, but home was in the meantime no longer home (due to the speed of the whale ship and relativity), but something even more alien. A black-box is a device that allows the transition to another world, something like a black hole or a wormhole, or a whale in this case. But an ideal black box not only transports you to another world, it transforms you on the way. I don’t know how a work or a project can be a black box, but there are works that made the transition to a new art world and that require mutations of subjectivity in order to be produced and perceived.

Published in Black Hyperbox
(2016)

Esthetic Entities

Retroactive self-constitution
In the past ten years entities with a complex esthetic operativity emerged in the zones of dance and visual arts of Bucharest. Attempts at understanding them are mostly made by insiders, as is the case of this text. Apart from the necessity of grasping what are you part of and to figure these entities out, self-reflection functions as an engine that self-constitutes them. The entities expand in the direction in which they conceptualize themselves, they shape themselves through self-reflection. Self-conceptualization is an internal dynamic for substantiating an esthetic entity, but once a dynamic of self-referentiality is in place, this often extends to the outside. In Postspectacle, one of the esthetic entities, a constant practice is to introduce strange feedback loops, altering, expanding or breaking some of the implicit conditions at work in the respective situations. In the case of Kunsthalle Batiștei, another esthetic entity, a self-referential intervention is made in the basic layer of identity formation, in the correspondence between the name and the project. There is an operation of forced association with a group of institutional practices that enters into a strange relation with its own behaviors, producing some institutional fog around its identity.

The entities’ names are often the symptom of a problem or a question. They may function as a reaction, as almost empty concepts in the beginning, triggering a practice afterward. Postspectacle started as a vague desire to move forward from the spectacle, without knowing what Postspectacle is or could be. It started from the question: what is the point of adding another spectacle to the art world when we are already living in a generalized spectacle? A practice emerged around this question, and consisted in bringing the "outside spectacle" to art spaces. For instance, Postspectacle invited the Romanian Army to host a dance workshop and perform a drill show in a contemporary performance black box. A second practice that Postspectacle developed was to use the performing skills and knowledge of performance on the big stages of mass media, business and politics. The Presidential Candidate, another conceptual entity, was born out of this practice.

In a similar way, Second Artworld started as a reaction to the type of reality and subjectivity produced in the contemporary world. It started as a desire to compose and explore new ways of worlding, through art. In the process, concepts and practices appeared: Second Body, Dead Thinking, Eternal Feeding, End Dream, Black Hyperbox. The esthetic entities and the concepts that they generate usually start from vague intuitions, and in time, thinking and practices coagulate around them, making them more substantial. They set in motion certain vectors of intention, orient practices and act as attractors to further thoughts. They are not oriented toward conceptualizing some sort of past experience, but to create conditions for new possibility of thought and practice. Actualizing themselves on their own path, the esthetic entities retro-act on themselves from the future.

Their functioning is the content


Dreaming is one of Second Artworld's preoccupations, not so much the content of dreams as the activity of dreaming in an expanded sense, including the simulational character of consciousness and world creation. There is an operation of self-referentiality at work in this process: a type of simulation, the awake state, is focused on the mechanism of simulation itself, the dreaming. Usually the reflection upon the simulation does not unfold at the same time with the content of the simulation, but sometimes the self-referential dynamic accelerates and the timing of the reflective operation coincides with the timing of the simulation itself. This is the case in the dreams in which the focus of dreaming, besides the content of the dream, becomes the operation of dreaming itself, and this is somehow the case for many esthetic entities as mediums in which the focus becomes the processes that are conditioning their own existence. The Romanian Dance History is an esthetic entity that enters uninvited on stages of important performances, in important festivals, after the applause, when the audience is ready to leave, saying with a humble attitude something like: "Hello, we are the Romanian Dance History, we are very happy to be here, it is very nice. We would like to present you the Romanian Dance History, it would be short because The Romanian Dance History is weak." After that, some excerpts from Romanian Dance History are presented, but the content doesn't matter too much. The implicit activity, the conceptual operation that matters is the unsolicited and alien way of appearing in front of the audience, the forced insertion in the program, skipping and overriding the structures of validation, going around the gates of access, the esthetic content becoming a type of self-referential functioning in its own medium.

In an act of last moment censorship, The Presidential Candidate was eliminated from the Just do it. Branding Biopolitics exhibition at Pavilion Unicredit. The Candidate continued to behave as if nothing had happened, and a promotion campaign was launched. People were invited to celebrate the opening with the Candidate, and with a glass of Dorato champagne (a good-looking bottle with a very cheap and dubious content). The exhibition was announced everywhere as a Presidential Candidate's event, and the opening as a performance. It turned out to be a very strange scandal as a result of Pavilion staff’s violent reaction. But, again, no matter how interesting the evening as a performance was, the actual work, the main esthetic operation, was the activity of reframing – as a reversal of the usual situation of artists acting under the institutional umbrella, in this case the artists were framing the institution – pointing to the activities of framing in themselves, focusing on their own operativity in their implicit mediums. The same with Kunsthalle Batiștei actions of emulating the art functioning of important art institutions, with an attitude of seriosity and importance in the name, in the public communication, in the type of actions that were launched. It was an imitation of success, in a small precarious garage, without money or any legal status. Because of these inadequacies, the usual smoothness and normalcy of the institutional operations have a second intention, a second effect, a looping dynamic that points to its own operativity more than to the content of its artistic activities.

The accent on their own positions in the structures of the respective event creates a self-referential dynamic that makes the esthetic entities interfere with their determinations, with the implicit atmosphere in their mediums. Self-referentiality affects the overall conditions in which the entity is immersed and, like in dreaming about dreaming, structural effects in the implicit worlding or an exit can be the result. The art world has its clues and pointers that implicitly orient the behaviors, acting as a loose and transparent frame for what is possible to perceive, imagine, think, and do. But an ambiental, or esthetic power is at work everywhere not only in the art world, every world has its orientative ambience. The esthetic entities experiment on a small scale with models that are no longer based on critique, denunciation, exposure or acts of resistance from inside, but based on directly changing the structural ambience of their respective worlds. They seem to say that new environments are needed, rather than critique and resistance in the implicit ones.

Transversal

To be part of an esthetic entity usually means a constant rethinking of your position in the fields of different mediums, formats, and disciplines. All these domains have their constraints, silent prescriptions and expectations, dragging along their social pressures with their implicit orientations and frames for action. For many conceptual entities the question is not so much how to move outside of these constraints to be free, but what kind of dynamic could emerge between collisions of formats and constraints. Acknowledging dependency and the potential of constraints, The Bureau of Melodramatic Research sees itself as a "dependent institution." Oscillating between pseudo-academic frames and formats and pseudo-melodramatic ones, the Bureau often overlaps or collides cheesy and exaggerated feminine emotionality with urgent global issues and abstract theory. Sometimes a new genre emerges where everything is at the mercy of abstract passions, philosophically speculative dramas and powerfully rational emotions.

An inadequacy is assumed by many of the esthetic entities. The Presidential Candidate sometimes appears as an artist in political contexts, and often as politician in artistic ones, gaining advantages such as the possibility of entering political campaigns before the legal terms because "it is just art." The Robin Hood Fund, another esthetic entity, operates within the financial markets and in contemporary arts, parasitizing, transferring knowledge and opening possibilities for access to sophisticated financial instruments otherwise accessible just for very rich people and companies. Many art venues were transformed into temporary Robin Hood financial offices. And many times we had the pleasure of saying, in art environments, that we are bankers. There is a perverse desire to dislocate and transport an entire apparatus from one field to another, to push toward non-art territories, and to bring something alien into the art frames, such as real financial operations, presidential candidate campaigns and abstract philosophy.

The collision of mediums and disciplines can be messy, destabilizing and, for many entities, desirable. In Second Artworld, instability is by design. The stated desired dynamic is a productive alienation from concepts through experience and from experience through thinking. The Postspectacle Shelter was another environment programmed for all sorts of collisions. This was an event of the Presidential Candidate in the House of the People, which houses the Romanian Parliament and the National Museum of Contemporary Art. In the same space coexisted: a tribune for presidential candidates, a spot for philosophical workshops, a corner for medical assistance, and a canteen where food was cooked and served for homeless people, artists, and philosophers. It was an overlapping of a charity event, a presidential campaign, a philosophical conference, a day shelter, a canteen and an art show. The event marked a rupture of the entities both from the art scene and the activist world. There was criticism and some frustration about the unclear nature of Postspectacle Shelter. Is it art, activism, charity, political event, or what? It was indeed a controversial, monstrous project and, unsurprisingly, the only support for it came from other esthetic entities.

Alienating

The esthetic entities are often inadequate, long-term, complicated, playing with improper formats, pushing toward all kinds of not-yet-art zones, difficult to frame and present. Entities like Second Artworld, Cooperativa Performativa, Black Hyperbox and the Presidential Candidate experiment with ways of collaborating beyond consensus, replacing the necessity of a common agreement and common product, which are somehow implicit in collaborations, with an amplification of alienation, where each individual has the space to pursue a different direction in the proximity of the others. These forms of collaboration are not represented but enacted in the usually hidden and problematic aspects of art projects, in the inside relations and implicit dynamics. But even if these forms of collaboration are not on display, they leave traces in any form of presentation, and attention for them expands a sensibility for the forms of organization and governance present behind any artwork in general, the individual work included.

But sometimes there are no art products at all that are recognizable as such. In Blank Mountain College some of us met in a place for a while, without any special agenda or aim and, after some time, we met again and continued somewhere else, and again elsewhere. Blank Mountain College seems suspiciously unambitious. It's atypical because the implicit impulse is to exploit a situation to the maximum, to use the opportunity of having some resources at one’s disposal, to convert any occasion, to be maximally productive, always on a way to success. In the desperate art world, Blank Mountain College, like other esthetic entities, feels like a lost opportunity. But the apparent poverty or emptiness actually unlocks potential. From the inside, the ambition void felt like a relief, because you are suddenly disconnected from implicit orientations and have the luxury of a less instrumentalized time. And the lack of pre-determination and instrumentalization produced a different quality of interactions and a special environment.

When the requirement is to fill a niche, to be clearly identifiable and assigned to a type of art, the complexity and unpredictability of the entities, with their distance from the implicit approaches and formats, seems alienating. While artists are expected to manage themselves and more or less consciously adjust their attitudes and behaviors to implicit art world demands, performing in the sphere of success' requirements, the entities often push their artists toward "unsuccessful" attitudes and behaviors. As an entities' artist, you can expect to remain under the radar of mainstream institutions, hidden in a pre-career stage. “Being no-one," "losership," "give up hope," "dead thinking", are some of the ideas and situations in which the para-art presence becomes self-reflexive – the implicit success desires and the insucces anxieties are explored in their dramatic and funny implications. What from the art world can be seen as a persistent defiance toward the requirements of success, and self-sabotage, is neutral or even positive from the entities’ perspectives.

Besides the esthetic entities’ alienation in the art fields there is a second, subjective alienation. The esthetic entities function as environments that shape the artistic visions and options of the people involved. After a while, it's not only that artists work and develop the entities, but more and more the entities shape and work upon their artists. In the process, they recode and override some of the structures and implicit commands that shape what is possible and desirable to perform and imagine in the art world. For entities' artists, it becomes difficult to be totally embedded in the art world’s implicit suggestions and habits. This exteriorization of personal artistic agency could feel like alienation for the people involved, but mostly a necessary and desired one, and with larger implications. Like any other world, the contemporary world formats subjectivities with some implicit thoughts, patterns of behavior, and perceptions. To have a perspective and an influence on these layers, it is important to create ways of acting from exterior ways of alienating oneself. Some external devices are needed to trigger us out of our own inscribed patterns and regularities. The esthetic entities can function as exit devices from the particular type of subjectivity encouraged by the art environments, and maybe even from the usual production of subjectivity in the society.

Art worlds

The esthetic entities are not objects to be exhibited, nor performances to be seen or texts to be read. They are not research or experiments nor immaterial art, but they can be all of these and more. They don't have a sharp and clear presence. They cannot be presented as events or finalized and condensed as products. They include artistic processes and products but their esthetic capacities are somehow always beyond their appearances. Their esthetic emerges from an amalgam of elements, from their complexity. They are esthetic compositions of people, processes, capacities, frames, concepts, behaviors, attitudes, affects. They are conceptual operations that function as platforms, as ecosystems, as wholes, that precede the details, as esthetic artificial organisms. They work as worlds, in the sense of complete behavioral spaces that affect the transcendental implicit conditions of their own existence, as the physical worlds curve the time and space around them.

They are small experimental worlds, like spaceships that have to be self-sufficient and to endure extremely hostile environments. Like the explorers who leave behind the long tuned structures functional at home, the esthetic entities have to rethink all the vital components, to mess with the foundations. The homely safety net is missing and all kind of things have to be improvised. An esthetic entity has to reinvent esthetic operations, forms of collaborations, and of presentation, to mess with its own determinations, and implicitly be at risk with its environment. Failures happen, premature disparitions or monstrosities could appear. Because they are messing with the consensual realities, they are unpleasant. In the beginning nobody likes new esthetic entities, but in time they can be absorbed and become cultural goods, and function as zombie-entities, or they can expire when their time has passed. Eventually, if they don't have a good death, they may haunt the living as ghosts or just disappear as if they had never occurred.


1. Robin Hood Fund is an international entity that has as founder members many artists who are active in the other esthetic entities mentioned.

2. Blank Mountain College was born in Oslo and the initiators are in contact or active in other esthetic entities mentioned.

The esthetic entities were for sale at Art Brussels 2016.

World, World



Through induction and simple body practices, World, World walks half asleep through philosophic, politic, scientific, supernatural and artistic perspectives on its surroundings. It affects the perception about space, objects in space, and its temporary community. The idea that the artwork takes place in the body of the visitor is particularly relevant in this context. If the recent neurosciences are right and, as in dreaming, the simulational capacities of consciousness are what makes a world appear to us, then it is possible that the world to become world, world...

Presented at CNDB Bucharest, Akademie Schloss Solitude Stuttgart, Het Bos Antwerpen, Atelier 35 Bucharest.
Made in Second Artworld (2015)

Dreaming the End of Dreaming /fragment

Usually dreaming is something that happens to us, not so much something that we perform. According to Jennifer Windt and Thomas Metzinger, we live our lives and the majority of dreams as "naive realists", having the "impression of being in direct contact with external reality" and being unable to recognize "the simulational character of consciousness". The dreaming operations are hidden, we experience just their results. A question for further consideration and experimentation is what happens if dreaming becomes explicit or if the implicit dreaming is speculatively doubled with a consciously performed one? What happens if an excess of dreaming is applied to a reality, if we overdream the world in which we are caught?

Maybe there is an optimum degree of dreaming for a reality to remain a reality, for a world to be natural. Probably if some limits of dreaming are surpassed, the natural solidity and coherence of the respective reality is shaken. Windt and Metzinger noticed that somehow an ability to exercise supernatural powers is linked with "the availability of the dreamlike nature of one's ongoing state of consciousness on the level of behavior." An intervention at the level of dream creation seems to be a necessary perturbation in the complete coincidence with one's own nature, the step that must be made not to be totally inscribed in nature like an animal. Or from another perspective a way for nature to accelerate itself. At least this seems to be the vision in this Buddhist prayer: "Do not sleep like an animal. Do the practice which mixes sleep and reality."

A possible way to follow the prayer is to constantly consider the eventuality of being asleep, dreaming what is happening. The "reality checks" of lucid dreamers can be amplified to a habit of radical doubt - from time to time to doubt that you are awake and that you are perceiving a reality. One of the consequences of amplifying this kind of doubts could be the sensation that everything is a dream. This is usually seen as a degradation because dreams are considered weaker forms of reality. But this degradation has its advantages - when the world is a dream, it becomes available to dreaming practices. Another consequence of the fact that you are dreaming is that you can wake up. And when you wake up you wake up in a superior reality. A hierarchical relation between realities is created through a retroactive degradation of experience - after you wake up you can acknowledge that your previous experience was "just a dream".

A complication of this dynamic is that dream from which you continuously wake up in another dream, till you end up in reality - a reality that could be seen as the most stable available dream at that moment. But nothing guarantees that you will not wake up again, even from the most solid "reality". In one of these types of dreams I was scared because I didn't know where to come back, I felt that I could choose from more realities and I didn't know where to wake up. I woke up in the wrong places and I was struggling to return, anxious about the idea that maybe there is no way back. It is a strange homelessness to feel that you are everywhere in dreams, nowhere in reality. But an alienation is a necessary consequence of a transversal navigation between realities or worlds.

In another one of my dreams I woke up in the same reality as that of the dream. In a paradoxical way, the awakening, what Windt and Metzinger call the "shift into another global state of reality-modeling", was felt as just a different way of being in the same world. The awakening, instead of being a switch between realities, was just a subtle change in quality. The minimal aspect of an awakening seems to be a sensation of an increased lucidity more than a switch of realities. For Windt and Metzinger, we are more aware in a lucid dream than in waking life because the system "is able to grasp the simulational character of its overall state". The awareness increases even more in the lucid false awakening "because it combines both concurrent and retrospective insight into the dream state". If we radicalize this perspective, we can say that the maximum awareness is a series of lucid awakenings, a falling from a dream to another dream.

On the other hand, this can only accelerate and make continuous a retro-degradation of existence. For Bergson "a dream is this: I perceive objects and there is nothing there. I see men; I seem to speak to them and I hear what they answer; there is no one there and I have not spoken. It is all as if real things and real persons were there, then on waking all has disappeared, both persons and things. How does this happen?" Retrospectively everything is just a dream, just nothing, it doesn't exist. To fall from a dream to another dream is an endless catastrophe, an infinite falling into a black hole. You kill realities one by one looking for an exit, haunted by a overwhelming feeling that you have to escape, but there is nowhere to go, just a serial exiting, an empty awakening. Seen from the other side, a repeated waking up is a continual falling asleep, because any waking up means a falling asleep somewhere else.

Sometimes a nightmare, a dream of the end, an apocalypse can give a sensation of waking up, in another dream. This is particularly relevant now when many signs indicate that we may be in a process of extinction, when our personal and collective realities are ending. It is important to imaginatively and practically speculate about what happens when the worlds are ending. Maybe, following a Vedånta twist - “the world is included within the state and not in the world the states occur” - to make the serial births and killings of worlds as easy as waking up and falling asleep, a meta-state is needed. A meta-dream in which you constantly wake up only to realize that you are actually in another dream. A meta-dream of endings, of falling from a dream into another dream, dreaming the end of dreaming.
(2015)

Impossible Practices

Sleep Working
Near Death Experience
Collapse Yoga
Fake Therapy
Levitation
Inverted Darkness
Worlding
Reflex Politics

When inviting Impossible Practices, the host selects two of them.

Impossible Practices started with Fake Therapy (2009) that set their common attitude: a simultaneous admission of one's incompetence for the task and a trust in the practice’s intention and what it brings. The Impossible Practices are dealing​ with situations, problems, questions that are beyond initial possibilities. Spending time with the respective problems and questions, practices are generated, but this doesn't mean that they are the solutions. Often (ideally) the Imposibile Practices are answers to problems not yet formulated or questions not yet raised.

Process in Progress

Process in Progress functions on multiple levels. On one hand it reflects on the formal aspects of communicating an artistic experience. The space and time of transmission and receiving is structured as a hybrid between visual arts and performance arts principles.

The audience is invited to choose a trajectory in the space, to situate themselves, answering to a curatorial designed structure of the space. And simultaneously to participate in the different situations that are taking place in the space, demanding a type of relation specific to a processual, presence based art.

This mixed situation is the result of parallel debates in the visual arts and performance arts of the lasts decades. The constant narcissistic questioning of all the implications of an artistic act made the display, and performance in general, extend their spheres of action from their own conceptual content and their own formal aspect to the assistance of audiences on a trajectory of reception. The importance of space and the way it is emphasized has increased.

On the other hand, the three situations proposed by the project are exploring different anatomies of the processes of creation and reception of artistic acts. Multiple dimensions are considered – from psychological and embodiment based aspects to the objective, physical conditions.
Cosmin Costinas, 2005.










Photos at CNDB, 2005

Now You See the Title

In a way or another this text has to be related with the piece. Whatever I write here, probably there is a correspondence between these letters and what we perform – you are reading the short description of our performance. These words are similar, strings of 1 to 12 characters separated by spaces. From a visual point of view, you can see these signs as lines forming mini drawings (words) and the entire text as a plastic composition. From this perspective, these words are no more logical then the next, wwmnuv> llii!!-1J, ))((=Sll EEHOIK ciooo!n~ sss{.} xkyz.x vuuoQ0() ++++[].

(2008)

1-1

Overlapping the football stadium and the performance stage produces new reflexions/reflections upon both fields. Movement, affects, habits are translated from one into the other.The recontextualized spectacle gains a level of abstraction and scrambles the perceptive patterns which have been formed in relation to both arenas.

1-1 (MNAC 2006)
1-1 (MNAC 2006)
1-1 (MNAC 2006)
1-1 (version 2, 2007)

Dead Thinking /fragment

There is an absolutely obvious, normal step, almost a command, a silent requirement to do what we should do in order to secure and improve our life. We want to succeed, to achieve something in this world. Our thinking, perceiving, behaving are shaped by a belief in (the improvement of our) life which guides us in our daily activities, in our moral and political attitudes. An alive thinking is consolidated on and on and this alive, healthy thinking constantly forms us as healthy, functional humans. And as humans we want that a healthy, alive world takes shape around our healthy habits.

William James witnessed how healthy thinking became a new religion or at least a new background for old religions in the middle of the 19th century when the advance of liberalism brought about “a victory of healthy-mindedness” over the morbidity of the old ‘hell-fire theology’. Healthy-mindedness believes in universal evolution, ‘general meliorism’, progress, and appreciates “the conquering efficacy of courage, hope, trust”. Healthy-mindedness fosters an optimistic “muscular attitude”, similar to the one implicit in ‘Don’t Worry Movement’ which has a motto that one is encouraged to repeat to oneself often: ‘youth, health, vigor!’. But healthy-mindedness brings also contempt: for doubt, fear, worry, and “all nervously precautionary states of mind”. For a healthy mind “the attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly”. It is impossible to maintain this healthy-mindedness without “zealously emphasizing the brighter and minimizing the darker aspects of the objective sphere of things at the same time . . . we divert our attention from disease and death as much as we can; and the slaughter-houses and indecencies without end on which our life is founded are huddled out of sight and never mentioned.”

Healthy thinking avoids morbidity and tries to be optimistic but this doesn’t matter too much, the morbidity is in the world itself – we may abandon morbidity but morbidity is not abandoning us.

...

Light for Levinas is the condition for meaning, for thinking but also the condition for property, which “constitutes the world”: “through the light the world is given and apprehended. . .The miracle of light is the essence of thought: due to the light an object, while coming from without, is already ours in the horizon which precedes it.” Light is about registering information, about the known and knowable, it is the foundation of healthy and alive thinking. But something unsettling is camouflaged in light itself. A strange night can sometimes be felt in the most ordinary moments of plain healthy thinking, “different forms of night” can occur right in the daytime. “Illuminated objects can appear to us as if in twilight shapes. Like the unreal, inverted city we find after an exhausting trip, things and beings strike us as though they no longer are composing a world, and were swimming in the chaos of their existence.” Not only is light always encompassed by darkness but darkness lingers there, even in the most beautiful moments, in the most delightful sunny landscapes. We all know it and maybe feel it sometimes when we are ‘weak’: “something dark, something abysmal always finds its way into the bland beauty of such pictures, something that usually holds itself in abeyance, some entwining presence that we always know is there.”

If nothing else, time will dismantle our defenses and we will become weak and permeable to this darkness that is not just a rare and special ingredient of daylight but is the reality behind the superficial spectacle of light. Not only does night come again and again but it is there all the time. Or in Cioran words: “At first, we think we advance toward the light; then, wearied by an aimless march, we lose our way: the earth, less and less secure, no longer supports us; it opens under our feet. Vainly we should try to follow a path toward a sunlit goal; the shadows mount within and below us.” In this context the source of “all of life’s evils” is our “will to exist at once imperceptible and shameless” – a too optimistic conception of life which doesn’t account for the fact that “life is what decomposes at every moment; it is a monotonous loss of light, an insipid dissolution in the darkness, without scepters, without halos.” A minimum optimism can be maintained for a while, with great costs of energy, but slowly the effort needed to maintain the hope of life cannot be sustained anymore. From this point of view the obsession with life looks like a strange disease. We have to do amazing cognitive acrobatics to be able to maintain for a while our normal ‘irreality’, our petit healthy thinking. It is a great effort to keep holding it in this way, why not just let go?

Light is a deception, what appears is always below potential, below expectations. If you enter a dark place and turn the lights on, there is a moment, usually imperceptible, of deception (and relief): everything is so much less than what it could be. The promise of darkness is always betrayed when light invades. But darkness is usually a deception as well. For Cioran darkness can be “quite as mediocre as the light”. Probably because “night itself is never dark enough to keep us from being reflected in it.” Usually we implicitly add imaginary light and sight to every darkness, constantly forcing a light-continuity into it, automatically filling darkness with what we know, projecting our world into it. For Bataille the world of objects persists in ‘simple night’ because of an attention that functions by ‘way of words’. But there is a darkness that is not the absence of light but ‘absorption into the outside’ by way of a heart that has dilated and is no longer an organ but an ‘entire sensibility’.

The question is then how to escape the luminous prison, so sharply described by Clarice Lispector: “I can understand only what happens to me, but only what I understand happens?" A possible answer comes from John of the Cross: “to come to be what you are not you must go by a way in which you are not." The problem is that the only way in which you know how to go is the way in which you are. All what you are capable of comes from what you know. And the way in which you are is the result of going on known ways. Practically, this is a prison that you cannot leave and for which there is no knowledge about how to escape it because you and all the knowledge that you (can) have are the prison. You are always on known roads to known lands, there is no outside, no darkness – everywhere and everything is too much you.

In a strange YouTube tutorial a man on an empty beach teaches the viewers how to arrive to a shadow-body showing repeatedly how: “my consciousness tells my mind to tell my body to move his hand, and the hand moves the shadow”. By showing how his shadow follows the body he demonstrates that the shadow obeys his consciousness. Dead Thinking ‘teaches’ us an opposite type of approach: to start from the shadows and let them affect the body, mind, consciousness – instead of increasing control of consciousness over the shadows, allow the thinking and feeling to come from the shadows.
(2014)

Dead Thinking


Performance suppression, collapse yoga, graveyard somatics, postmortem choreography.

There is an absolutely obvious, normal step, almost a command, an obligation to do what one should do in order to secure and improve one's life. A healthy, alive thinking was developed around the obsession with life. In the current planetary decline the healthy thinking appears completely delusional. Dead Thinking is the post-political gesture that we can do in a time of extinction when politics, in the sense of organizing society and power relations between people, seems more and more a sedative for deadly thoughts. The oscillation between unknown and the worst, between dead thinking and deadly thinking could be the starting point of discussing a new kind of politics, knowledge and existence. Dead Thinking starts where the hopes end and the remaining options are rather negative, dark and dead.

In a strange YouTube tutorial a man on an empty beach teaches the viewers how to arrive to a shadow-body showing repeatedly how: “my consciousness tells my mind to tell my body to move his hand, and the hand moves the shadow”. By showing how his shadow follows the body he demonstrates that the shadow obeys his consciousness. Dead Thinking ‘teaches’ us an opposite type of approach: to start from the shadows and let them affect the body, mind, consciousness – instead of increasing control of consciousness over the shadows, Dead Thinking explores thoughts and feelings that come from the shadows.

Presented at Fabrica de Pensule Cluj, CNDB Bucharest, Platforma Bucharest, PAF St-Erme, Theater Rampe Stuttgart, Atelier 35 Bucharest.
(2014)