Remote Encounters: Connecting bodies, collapsing spaces and temporal ubiquity in networked performance

Remote Encounters: Connecting bodies, collapsing spaces and temporal ubiquity in networked performance was a two-day international conference with performance evening organised and chaired by myself at the University of South Wales on the 11th and 12th of April 2013. Its purpose was to explore the use of networks as a means to enhance or create a wide variety of performance arts. How do networks as a site for performance provide opportunities for us as artists and performers? In particular how can we remotely collaborate, merge geographically separate places and times, reconfigure the space of performance and the relationship between artist and audience?

Since the internet entered the public domain in the early 90’s there has been an explosion in artistic interest in its use as a means, site and context for creative practice. Much of this practice is performative in nature; ether originating from a performance background and using the internet as a new site and/or augmenting aspect of that practice or is a form of practice developed as direct response to the internet and becomes performative to some degree in its spectatorship.

It has been well established that the internet is not the first or only example of the use of a networked technology repurposed for creative practice. There is a clear time line that can be traced back through the practice of Roy Ascott and his coining of the term Telematic Art in the 1980’s to artist’s use of satellite networks, telephone and other telecommunication devices as each were invented. Seen in this respect the internet can be considered as one of many networked technologies that has enabled networked performance.

The internet is unique however in that it is not a singular network type that favours a particular form of media, broadcast or spectatorship. Most famously known as the network of networks it enables multiple protocols of which the world wide web’s http is just one, is multimedia in nature and encourages intertextual folding and layering of media, is multi-directional not simply a broadcast communication form, de-centralised in ownership and the majority of its technologies are openly accessible.

Human Stitches paper by Stahl Stenslie.

Above: Photographs of the conference from the Flickr pool.

The conference was initiated as part of my research and practice on networked art and with a view to revealing performative aspects within that practice. A mixture of delegates with differing research, practice, means and economic situations, attended representing a wide variety of performance arts. Artists performing at the conference in Wales performed with others (artists and audience) in England, France, Belgium, Italy, Singapore and the United States confirming that visual forms enabled a multitude of possibilities for artists to see, synchronise, collaborate and create at distance. Papers discussed issues concerning remoteness, artist’s performance methods and technological techniques were explored in depth and the network was considered in a number of ways as an enabling or limiting technology.

A selection of papers and documentation of performances was subsequently published in a special issue of the performance studies journal Liminalities in 2014.

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