Images from Function VI
Function is a testing ground for experimental and collaborative ideas. A series of events, where Reactor act as curatorial body, bringing together a number of artists to develop objects, installations and performances; creating an all-encompassing ‘total experience’ that consumes its participants (both artists and audience) and challenges them to take an active role in how the event unfolds, where choices and behavior decide the shape of the experience.
Prising open the doors of a disused and dilapidated building, Reactor invited participants to enter, navigate its confined space, and help bring Function back to life.
On Saturday 20th of October, as the evening gloom settled over Nottingham, I was on hand to document. Here are some of my images from the event:
Function VI featured the work of: AAS, Bruce Asbestos, AuntyNazi, Amelia Beavis-Harrison, Robin Close, Phillip Henderson, Robert Holcombe, Mark McGowan, Simon Raven, Tether… with a hint of Reactor.
Further events up to Function X are in the works.
Sunday Lunch at The Green Man
Here are some of the photographs that I took at Reactor's The Green Man & Regular Fellows. The event took place in Nottingham across Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings of the last weekend in September. In honour of traditional pub opening hours The Green Man also had a Sunday lunchtime opening, where I took these photographs, featuring a pub quiz with a Harvest Festival hamper prize.
I only briefly stopped by the The Green Man on Friday night, before heading off again for a friend's birthday meal. But I was there all night Saturday (including the lock-in), for Sunday lunch, and then back that evening for last orders.
Scroll to the bottom of the post for reviews by Aaron Juneau and Jack Vickers.
Friday 30 September & Saturday 1 October: 6 pm - 11 pm
Sunday 2 October: 12:00 pm - 2:30 pm & 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
There’s something brewing in Nottingham… For three days only, Reactor are opening a members-only pub, “The Green Man & Regular Fellows”.
The Green Man & Regular Fellows is a newly commissioned, live artwork in the form of a pub, complete with adjoining function room. Here Reactor's interest in the the nature of membership as a social construct manifests itself in a series of temporary groups and levels of fellowship. The structure of the work plays with the traditions and conventions of the ‘public house’ and ‘private members’ clubs’, producing unexpectedly dis lodged behaviours.
This brief materialisation of The Green Man & Regular Fellows presents a set of mysteries, inviting speculation about its symbols and purpose. Where did it come from, and who is it for? The Green Man & Regular Fellows offers membership, invites you in for drinks and provides a rich environment of song, laughter and games. As the Landlord calls upon the Regulars to lend a hand and the more Irregular members burst out of the back rooms, the atmosphere increasingly becomes more intense and behaviours more frenzied. It will soon become clear why our Regular Fellows like to come back time and time again.
The project will take place place at Trade Gallery, Nottingham (UK): www.tradegallery.org
Apply for membership here: http://www.thegreenman.vze.com/
See you there?
18-19 June 2011, University of Warwick
Stuart Tait and I have been asked to make a presentation on Reactor at the Virtual Futures 2.0 conference. Here are some details of the conference from their website, and a little on what we have planned:
Cyber Conference on Art, Performance, Philosophy and Emerging Technology
Virtual Futures is an interdisciplinary conference. This year‚ highlights will include presentations on artificial intelligence, bioengineering, bioethics, cybernetics, net security, performance art, social media, the future of copyright and virtual reality. Returning speakers will be joined this year by a fresh array of world-renowned practitioners.
The list of main speakers is here:
The full programme is here (we're 15:20-15:40 on Sunday):
And here's our abstract:
The presentation will discuss the work of UK-based art group Reactor from the perspective of one ‘guest’ member, Stuart Tait, and one ex or virtual member, Jonathan Waring. The presentation will take the form of a dialogue between Tait, who will be present at the conference, and Waring, who will be presenting via video projection.
Reactor’s practice creates ‘microcosmic worlds’ that thematically draw upon recognisable social forms, such as totalitarian states or self-help groups, in what artist and writer David Burrows refers to as ‘performance fictions’. These new collectivities are then performed or enacted in collaboration with audience-participants who take up positions within the work.
The presentation will begin by considering Reactor projects as ‘assemblages’, drawing upon the writing of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and Manuel DeLanda’s development of their work in his Assemblage Theory of society. Erving Goffman’s concept of ‘role adjustments’ will then be used to discuss the way participants’ change positions within a project as it is enacted. The presentation will explore the relationship between the project, as it is actualised, and its virtual dimensions, such as the characteristics of a particular role, back-story for the project, memory, or project planning. Finally, Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the diagram will be discussed in relation to Bergson’s cone diagram and the counteractualisation of the project back into the virtual of co-participants’ minds.
Date: Sat 13 Nov, 9:30-21:15, Chelsea Theatre, London, £30/£20(students)
Daniel Oliver will be present a paper discussing ‘The efficacy of insincerity in Big Lizard’s Big Idea’ as part of the one day symposium ‘A Make Believe World’ during this year's Sacred Festival.
Big Lizard's Big Idea, 2009 (promo, 01:12)
In one of last month's posts I outlined Reactor’s pivotal 2005 work Total GHAOS. A work which came to define the group’s interests and mode of practice, as well as—more personally—marking the beginning of my four-year immersion in this practice as a member of the collective. Big Lizard’s Big Idea was the final project on which I worked with Reactor. Initially co-commissioned by the Donau Festival (Austria, April-May 2009) and Wunderbar Festival (UK, November 2009), the project then happened a third time without my involvement at Schirn Kunsthalle's ‘Playing the City 2’ (Germany, September 2010).
Daniel's paper will, "...evaluate the efficacy of Reactor’s practice of ‘relational insincerity’ by comparing the performative force of our behaviour as participants in the Big Idea with our behaviour towards the ‘big Other’ of liberal capitalism. This comparison employs Slavoj Žižek’s elaboration of ‘the performative force of ideological illusion itself’, and David McNeill’s discussion of ‘Corporate Sincerity’ and ‘Pragmatic a-sincerity’".
Unfortunately I am unable to attend the symposium due to other commitments, but the outline Daniel has sent me is intriguing and I look forward to reading the paper in full. Hopefully—with Daniel's permission—I will be able to reproduce and discuss it here in more detail in the future.
When writing this blog I have—so far—tried to avoid short note-like thoughts, or simple ‘stamp collecting’ reposts of links and information already available on other sites and blogs. The conscious rational for this has been—at least in part—that, not functioning in an academic context, I am unlikely to have any papers or books published anytime soon; and therefore, it is important to me that this blog stand up as ‘a work in itself’. This choice of phrase also—I think—points toward a second probably reason: my background as artist, which—for me at least—seems to make it an irresistible temptation to think of all production in terms ‘the work’, which therefore then demands a certain level of substance and consistency in order to function as such. This doesn't mean finished or complete, in fact, it is central to the form and purpose of this blog that it remain plastic, malleable and a ‘work in progress’—yet work [in progress] it remains, and as such requires a certain aesthetic ‘rightness’ (the definition of which will remain ambiguous, so as to leave space for the potential of the pathological).
This decision about the focus of this blog then, of course, appears to create a particular function for Twitter: a place for links, note-like thoughts, and immediate dialog. However: a) despite myself, I still get entangled in having tweets function with a phrased ‘rightness’ (they don't escape being ‘works’), and b) 140 characters is often just not enough to say many things that combine both being worth saying and relative complexity (although this does make for an interesting discipline).
I have an interest in the way contingent technical forms can ‘go beyond themselves’ and shape what can-or-can't-be-done, and what can-or-can't-be-said.
The technical 140 Twitter character limit was itself born of a similarly technical 160 character limit on SMS messages—in order that, in the early days, Twitter could ‘piggyback’ on the popularity and ubiquity of this service (with the remaining 20 characters being reserved for the Twitter username). Arguably Twitter has little need for the SMS service today, but, as is the nature of evolved systems, once it's there and built upon, you're stuck with it (unless it, and everything built upon it, becomes redundant). Nobody responsible for creating the SMS standard anticipated Twitter, yet their decision about what length a brief informal message should be, directly produced the technological reality that in turn formed a lower character limit for Twitter. Now, whilst I would expect that the 160 character SMS limit also has its own technical ‘ground’, it must in part be the length it is because that was considered, by its designers, to be an ‘ideal’ for this particular kind of communication.
Having used Twitter for a while now, I feel confident in saying that there is a fundamental difference between what—and how—you can communicate in 140 characters as opposed to 160. An analogy would be the disproportionate difference a change in financial income makes, when it is from earning at a level that just covers basic needs, to earning at any amount above this (until you find more expensive ‘basic needs’, of course).
An idle speculation that emerges is: what would the ‘tweet-o-sphere’ look like if the original technical limitation of the SMS platform had been different (or was never based on SMS)?
A practical question identified is: do I require some other platform in between Twitter and this blog (or to change my usage of this blog)?
A formal aesthetic result (‘the work’) is: an attempt, by myself earlier today, to explain via Twitter the Lacanian concepts of the Real, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, in relation to Mark Fisher’s notion of ‘Capitalist Realism’. Although there was some discussion afterwards, my basic explication (I feel I am rather pushing the meaning of that work here) was 10 tweets long.
The tweet that started it all was:
Central to the efficacy of #CapitalistRealism is its genuine—objective—symbolic existence; in Lacanian terms, that's a tough nut to crack...
Which prompted a response:
Resulting in those 10 tweets:
@AxisofElvis Very crudely, in the Lacanian triad: Real-Symbolic-Imaginary—the Real = the original trauma engendered by the failure of the…
@AxisofElvis …Symbolic order to ever fully represent either itself or the inaccessible Real. Imaginary = inner space of self-identification…
@AxisofElvis …the Imaginary has limited efficacy unless it can be translated into the social realm of the Symbolic—think of the derision…
@AxisofElvis …often provoked by the figure of the ‘Goth’ or ‘Wigger’ (at least, in part, the result of a mismatch between Imaginary…
@AxisofElvis …self-identification and the social Symbolic order). The Symbolic order structures social relations and social meaning, and so…
@AxisofElvis …in Capitalist Realism apropos of Gerald Ratner—(almost) everyone knew the jewellery he sold was ‘crap’, but when he publicly…
@AxisofElvis …admitted this to the ‘big Other’—and thus inscribed it within the Symbolic order—he lost his job & the company lost millions.
@AxisofElvis …as—viewed through a Lacanian ontology—it requires a ‘cracking’ of the Symbolic order itself.
In order to fit this explanation to the 140 character discipline, I wrote it out tweet-by-tweet (using Twitter's character counter) and then cut and paste it into a text editor, structuring the breaks where they more-or-less best fitted the sense being conveyed. I then cut and paste it back into Twitter and tweeted it consecutively, leaving no gaps for a reply, until the explanation cycle was finished.
I then swiftly apologised in advance, in case ‘say more ...’ hadn't really meant that much more. There then followed a more conversational form, but one in which the structural properties of the technological medium were still highly apparent.
Many questions remain (and answers, thoughts, and further questions are always welcome):
- Does my explanation of Lacan ‘work’ (both in terms of its theoretical accuracy, and in its aesthetic form)?
- Aside from the obvious social immediacy of Twitter, what might be gained through subordination to technical (and aesthetic) form?
- To what extent might subordination to an aesthetic sensibility relate to extrinsic factors, and to when might it be considered pathological?
On this day, five years ago, following a campaign of street actions, 'raleighs' and worldwide stickering, the Dark Arts regime was finally overthrown. Cousins around the globe engaged their I.C.S. [Inner Conceptualising Space] and worked together to achieve the collective ideals of GHAOS and the ‘Reactor Party’: Total GHAOS was realised.
Total GHAOS was a microcosmic society built from scratch, a multi-storey scaffolding utopia (inside an otherwise unassuming—but spacious—light-industrial unit), and absolute replacement for the old world outside (which no longer existed).
Entering Total GHAOS cousins left behind their old identities, timepieces, and mobile phones in order to begin their new lives. As GHAOS Actors [i.e. the audience] they sacrificed their own opinions to become cogs in the GHAOS machine. Hundreds of GHAOS Actors were required to perform simultaneously in order for the system to function, eliminating the last traces of REXist non-participation.
Following an interview and bureaucratic processing, new cousins each received their workpass, badges and Party manifesto. They were then given their first role: perhaps it was the mundane but essential function of ‘unit clock’, counting out—by hand—the units of time that regulated work and play within the microcosm; or maybe their task was to replace the person who had interviewed them—the dynamics of authority becoming suddenly reversed, as they were themselves charged with interrogated newer arrivals (whilst bluffing through their own limited knowledge).
Total GHAOS encompassed hundreds of interlinked roles in its hierarchical system. Cousins could find themselves in the lower levels: working on the potato farm, or drafted into the army. Or perhaps, as a result of hard work in the badge-making factory (making badges for new cousins), they found themselves moving upward, gaining access to higher strata jobs and cultural activities: becoming curator of the Museum of GHAOTIC Artefacts; or a student at the GHAOS Art Institute (KIVPA). For the most committed GHAOS Actors even a seat on the Supreme Council was a possibility.
But the dark suspicion of REXist deviance and non-participation was ever present. Taking their cue from the unblinking eyes of the ever-watchful LYNX (totem animal and emblem of the Reactor Party), cousins remained ever vigilant for the influence of Skepticus REX and the dark taint of REXimalism. Nobody was beyond suspicion, and cousins guilty of REXist behaviour risked re-education in the Arkwright Asylum.
Total GHAOS ran for three days, and when it finished it brought an end to the ‘Reactor Party’ and the two-year long—rhizomatically developed—GHAOS project. If you weren’t there, then our apologies cousin, but Total GHAOS was reached without you.
I first worked with Reactor during the ‘Reactor Party’ campaign in the lead up to Total GHAOS. Following my experience working with Reactor on Total GHAOS I joined the group, initially as Secret Member (2005-2006) and then as a core member of the collective from 2006 until my departure at the end of 2009.
For the purposes of historical analysis, the GHAOS project website can be viewed at: www.ghaos.org
Reactor's more recent and current projects are documented over at: www.reactorweb.com
I am in the process of researching the conceptual systems and philosophies of 'dubious' thinkers—particularly those who have been successful in spreading their ideas into popular culture. Currently my research is focused on, and is interested in contrasting, the ideas and writings of Ayn Rand (founder of the 'philosophy' of Objectivism, through which she claimed to have proved that laissez-faire Capitalism could be the only 'moral' political system, and which she promoted through the fictional novels 'The Fountainhead' (1943) and 'Atlas Shrugged' (1957), both of which were a popular and commercial success) and L. Ron Hubbard (science fiction writer turned founder of the 'new religious movement' Scientology, whose conceptual schema—expressed through a prolific and verbose output—have left their mark on the contemporary world, both inside and outside of Scientology). My interest in these figures comes in part from an an interest in personal systems of thinking and action, but in the main from their ability—despite their many shortcomings—to reach out and affect the lives and thinking of 'everyday people', rather than having their initial effects only in technical and specialised areas of academia.
I am also interested, in a very simple way, in the way they both made a living through their work. I think this is one area where these research interests clearly intersect with the realm of an 'art practice', particularly one which is functional and aims to enact or 'do something' in the world, rather than being simply representational.
This website is not—and is not intended to become—a 'menu' of artworks for easy consumption.
The establishment of this blog is a new phase in my practice, and represents a new way of working following my departure from Reactor earlier this month.
My current ideas are forming loosely under a heading of ʻmodels, prototypes, and propositions’. Keep following this blog to find out more.