June 1, 2012
The telematic performances of Annie Abrahams

I’ve been waiting quite some time to post on the telematic performances of Annie Abrahams mainly to watch how her performances developed and gather a selection of videos which give an impression of her practice. So here goes, attempting to work through a selection of works chronologically, according to when they have been uploaded to Vimeo but more importantly showing the wealth of ideas and collaborations which are at the core of Abrahams practice.

The first work is The Big Kiss (image and video above), a performance installation by Annie Abrahams in 2008 which lasted three hours as part of Over The Opening, a once a month time based arts event organised by the artist collective MTAA. Members of the public were invited to collaborate with Abrahams telematically by kissing in the same video space but from different geographical spaces facilitated by streaming video. The puposee of the performance is descibed as follows by the artist:

What’s contact in a machine mediated world? What’s the power of the image? How does it feel to kiss without touching? Does the act change because we see it? What does it mean to construct an image with your tongue? And is there still desire? Does the act provoke it? What’s contact in a machine mediated world?

Double Blind (love) (video above), a collaboration between Abrahams living room in Montpellier, France and Curt Cloninger at Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, Asheville, North Carolina, US took place in November 2009 and lasted 4 hours 24 minutes. The performance was a telematic duet with both performers repeatedly singing “love, love, love” (a short excerpt from U2′s Until the End of the World):

In order to isolate them from their surroundings and make them more attentive to the other, they were both blindfolded. While singing they evolved and mutated the original song excerpt, collaborating and communicating in a space/time of alterity. The artists have never met each other in the flesh.

There was no set duration. They sang until the last one of them decided to stop. In both places a space was reserved for the live performance and another for the video and audio projection. A camera was fixed on each of their faces singing to each other. This live video of both faces was projected both in the Living Room space and in the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center space. The performance was also visible on the web.

Shared Still Life / Nature Morte Partagé (video above, image below) was shown within the context of Abrahams exhibition, If Not You Not Me, at HTTP Gallery, London in 2010. It is without a doubt my prefered work by Abrahams due to it’s complex treatment of classic art theme in a beautifully simple way. The artist describes the work as follows, it is:

a telematic still life for mixed media and LED message board. Visitors to HTTP Gallery are invited to communicate with those at Kawenga – territoires numériques a media arts space in Montpellier, France by arranging objects in the still life and sending messages to one another, with the results visible in a projection in both galleries.

Collaboration (August 13th 2010 5PM) is the eigth of nine five minute domestic streaming performances in the context of A Meeting is a Meeting is a Meeting (video above); the first series of online remote conversations between Annie Abrahams and Antye Greie. The work, a collaboration, deals with the subject of collaboration and misunderstandings caused by language and medium.

Mutant II, a 4 minute extract of Huis Clos / No Exit – On Collaboration (video above) is:

a telematic performance / experiment investigating communication and relational dynamics in a dispersed group with 6 actors.

Abrahams descibes the work as follows:

Six actors perform, each in its own webcam station or with a portable webcam station or from home, a performance protocol. The images and sounds of their webcams are brought together in one video projection. From their isolated positions, scattered in space, they share a space of expression and responsibility, a playground, a laboratory. The actors, on the edge between performance and theater will evolve in an erupted yet shared presentation space, they will work out their privacy in a public presentation space and become manipulators of their own image.

Oppera Internettikka РProtection et S̩curit̩ (video above), an internet opera, is a collaboration with Igor Stromajer (previous posted about here). The work:

explores the poetics of a contemporary sound form — opera as a sound event for the audience in the form of a live internet audio broadcast. In that way it combines the notion of the world wide web communication protocols and classical artspace — an opera house. Opera is a very strictly coded form of art with a lot of passion, and internet is a lonely place of solitude and intimate communication which is becoming more and more fragile, dangerous and suspicious.

Telematic Local Touch / Toucher Télématique Local (video above, image below) is in many ways the opposite of many of Abrahams telematic works which deal with distance, remoteness, crossing time and space etc. In Telematic Local Touch, two telematic performers in the same space but out of reach of each other act on each other in a shared video space. The artist describes the performance as follows:

In a Hirshorn like installation (who’s work I like) Sébastien Nourry joined me in the challenge of keeping our arms in the air for 30 minutes, of touching a stranger in a vacuum, of creating together an image of a touch. He freely submitted to a physical constraint, which recalls those suffered by our body during our daily computer use.

The image of this touch became an image of praying, of fighting, of ridicule, of worship, of…
The public invited to support us in this physical ordeal took liberties, manipulated us, made us into puppets while taking care to keep the touch intact all throughout the 30 minutes. We let them do this, preferring the changes in tension of our muscles due to these manipulations over the severity and the pain of a fixed pose.

Lastily is the work Abrahams has most recently been working on, Angry Women (video above). The work deals with language, nationality, anger/frustration (perhaps at technology?) and employs women Abrahams describes as having met:

sometime, somewhere via the internet and whose work is related to computer, performance, writing and or contemporay art practice.

The work is:

12 Minutes long 9 women in front of their webcams, connected via a common interface to internet, will express their anger, their irritations. In contrast with the four previous performances in the Angry Women series, this time, the women will be able to act on their presence in the interface – this way they will try to get as close as possible to their anger.

For further reading on Abrahams work see the interview by Maria Chatzichristodoulou for Digimag 58, October 2010.

    Posted by: Garrett @ 4:01 pm

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