playing (in the) Dark Matter Cinema
Mathilde Villeneuve and Graeme Thomson and Silvia Maglioni
Mathilde Villeneuve : Common infra/ctions, your residence at the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, began in November 2015. It includes numerous lines of research that take several different forms, rhythms and tempos and that circulate through different languages that may be sonic, visual or textual but all of which tend towards the space of the infra. What does this notion of the infra refer to in your practice and how does it come about? In what way and in relation to what does it position itself? Is it a matter of unstable forms (whether inoperative, non-communicational or anti-spectacular) that can reconfigure themselves, mutate, shift?
Graeme Thomson : The most common use of infra- is in the word infrastructure for which we find the following definitions: the underlying foundations or basic framework of a system or organization; the ensemble of physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions. Which is to say that the infra is normally caught up in a movement designed to maintain or enhance the reproduction of the larger structures which it subtends.
But we can reverse this direction of travel and move towards the infra (that which is below or beyond) as a way of gaining distance or even detaching ourselves from these kinds of structures and their effects, while at the same time opening up (or we could say unfolding and spreading out) the territory of the « infra » itself so it can be experienced, thought and perhaps, in some obscure sense, dwelt upon. Always being "below" a given level of measure, the « infra » is tendentially that which resists or is incommensurable with measure, but we could go further and say that it’s incommensurable with structure, so finally to talk about infrastructure is a bit oxymoronic. The infra is precisely the place where structure is most open to being undermined and decomposed.
Duchamp speculated on what he called the infra-mince as a zone of the possible, a poetic space of indeterminacy, and he provided a number of interesting examples of what he had in mind (such as "bearer of shadows") but he didn’t go so far as to posit the political dimension of the infra as a space of resistance to structure and objectivisation in a larger sense. Perhaps because this is the kind of dangerous move that risks plunging us back into the macro categories and clunky linguistic oppositions we were trying to get away from. So rather than saying that the infra is political it might be better to consider the ways in which a politics can function on the level of the infra.
Silvia Maglioni : One of my favourite examples listed by Duchamp to explain the infra-mince is “la chaleur d’un siège (qui vient d’être quitté)”. There is something poetic about trying to visualise the image of a temperature of abandonment. But what is even more fascinating is the idea of investing an abandoned or discarded object, in this case a chair, with the power of the possible.
To push the abandoned chair, which is momentarily bereft of its function, a little bit further, we can go back to the phenomenology of the broken tool, which Agamben takes up in his notion of inoperosità. What emerges in the experience (both physical and linguistic) of the broken tool are objects that are freed from their subsumption to “normal” use, a kind of hiatus in which habits and functionality undergo some kind of disturbance, opening up a different horizon. For a recent exhibition in Zurich, “Shipwreck Study Notes”, we found a wrecked piano on e-bay, a kind of Odradekish creature where all that was left were the half-dislodged keys and wooden hammers which made a dull, almost inaudible sound when pressed, and which concertinaed in a kind of wave when you ran your fingers over them. Seemingly unusable, abandoned on the gallery floor, the invalid keyboard found a new mode of being when we organised a musicking improv event and several people tried to “play” it, discovering an unavowable potential and a secret music in the mute keys and in their own gestures.
Obviously, as filmmakers, Duchamp’s chair might also make us think of abandoned cinema seats (whether during or after a screening), and the memory of the images that the heat can carry…
The long-term project we conceived around Félix Guattari’s unmade sci-fi screenplay and especially its central character UIQ, the Infra-quark Universe (an infinitely small and above all formless alien entity) has led us to consider the « infra » in terms of developing a method, a way of working that through a number of parallel lines of research is now beginning to produce the kind of tools and forms that it needs in order to propagate. Our residency at the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers gives us the chance to develop a number of forms and ideas that were already beginning to emerge from the UIQ research. It also allows us to experiment with or fabulate possible scenarios and temporalities in which they can be shared with other people – but it’s important that these should be attuned to the infra quality of the forms in question, to the specificity of their rhythms and materials.
Graeme Thomson : Another thing that interests us about this infra-dimension is its relation to the concept of unworking or worklessness (désœuvrement), which we have been exploring through a series of works or projects that are somehow engaged in their own unmaking. Unmaking the object as a way of undoing the subject (and the structural categories by which individualized subjects are recognized and evaluated as such, e.g. work, identity, productivity). This can happen both within (in) and between (fra) different pieces (which therefore might also be considered components) of an emerging infrasphere, just as it might affect not only the nodes but also the relational interstices of an intersubjective network.
With common infra/ctions we want to go on inhabiting this threshold space between such terms as work and worklessness, making and unmaking, perception and the imperceptible, property and use.
We also want to place the infra in relation to the notion of infraction (the breaking of rules, codes or even laws). Even if it sounds a bit paradoxical, we’d like to consider the notion of the infra/ction as another kind of breakage, like a hairline crack that might inexorably undermine a given structure but without drawing too much attention to itself until a fundamental change has already occurred. For us this equally involves rethinking and remapping the timescale of what might happen or fail to happen in the process. That’s why we are also starting to think more in terms of distance and proximity, two extremely complex notions which relate to both space and time, and the rapport between what is measurable and what turns towards the immeasurable, the infra-dimension. How close or how far something is can only partly be measured in quantitative terms.
Mathilde Villeneuve : On February 16, 2016 you held a public event at the Labos, the first session of a Nocturnal Committee lasting 90 minutes, (while the second, due to be held in July, will continue on through the night), that was articulated in two movements: a collective reading of a tarot pack that you produced (with each card bearing a still image from a film taken from your expansive movie collection) followed by a montage of sequences assembled from existing films and accompanied by a live sound-mix performed by Graeme.
Silvia Maglioni : This was actually the second time we called a gathering of the Nocturnal Committee. The first occasion was in London, at the Royal College of Art, as part of last year’s Curating Contemporary Art Exhibition. The title we gave to this first gathering was “Ora Serrata: recovered fragments of an unbearable body”. The context of the show was a dystopian narrative that imagined a time (2125) when material resources had become scarce and all ‘wasteful activities’ had long been banned and even forgotten, art and cinema included. “Echo Chamber”, the theatrical set of the exhibition, was intended as a kind of bunker where art could surreptitiously continue to exist, without leaking into the outside world. The London Nocturnal Committee met in the dead of night to watch and discuss amnesiac film fragments that had supposedly seeped through the cracks of the storage cull. Unaware of how this material had been acquired, or when, or where it derived from, the aim of the Committee was to explore what the images may have meant to those who produced them as well as to consider their possible uses.
Although the film sequences that drifted through the night on two screens created a very charged atmosphere, our aim of generating a lucid yet hypnagogic state of viewership was only partially achieved.
Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, Nocturnal Committee Session 24 - Ora Serrata: Recovered Fragments of an Unbearable Body, Curating Contemporary Art Exhibition 2015, Royal College of Art London, photo courtesy Sofia Akram
The Latin expression “ora serrata” (the title we gave to our gathering) refers to a part of the eye that marks the boundary between the retina and the ciliary body, where vision borders on unseeing. We consider the ora serrata zone a kind of threshold space where film sequences can seep into our collective unconscious at once seen and unseen, visible and invisible, in a state between sleep and waking. So some of the ideas of what became the Dark Matter Cinema project were already in place, but what we were missing was a tool that would enable the Committee to describe and talk about the images and related experiences in a more visionary way, in a different tempo.
Mathilde Villeneuve : For the first part of the evening, you were both seated at a round table covered in a red cloth (the scene was simultaneously projected onto a big screen behind you so it could be viewed by the surrounding public). You then invited a person to join you and pose a question while drawing cards from the shuffled pack and then to interpret the resulting fall of the cards along with you and the audience. In this way the tarot became an excellent support for collective fabulation, a tool for transforming familiar structures of conversation which were derouted by the images the tarot revealed. What exactly were you looking for by convoking the tradition of the Marseille tarot, while in part hacking its codes?
Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson with Flavie Pinatel, Dark Matter Cinema - Nocturnal Committee #1, Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers, film still courtesy the artists
Graeme Thomson : Our interest in tarot goes back to when we were in Los Angeles researching and filming what would become the second movement of In Search of UIQ, “Distant Encounters”. There was a scene we improvised near Venice Beach when Silvia decided to ask a tarot reader to read the cards for Guattari’s unmade film and the Infra-quark Universe, a request that threw the woman into some confusion, since her normal practice was to relate the reading directly to the person in front of her. The limitations of her approach got us thinking about the narrative rapport between tarot and mainstream cinema and also its relation to montage.
Connections between the cards laid out in the sequence have to be interpreted across the gaps between them, but at the same time we know that the reader bridges those gaps by relying on a set of tried and trusted formulae that she can vary slightly according to each individual case. The narrative arc she describes follows almost exactly the classic three-act screenplay structure of situation, conflict, resolution. As if achieving goals, overcoming obstacles or finding solutions were the only things anyone could be interested in or driven by.
And then there is the second problem. It’s all about you. You’re not supposed to request a reading for someone else, or that concerns more than yourself, your own desires, your fears, plans, hopes etc. Isn’t this similar to the ideological interpellation strategies of mainstream cinema which coax the viewer to project his or her desire onto an individual protagonist, or whose desires are in any case individualised through that particular kind of narrative grid – rooting for the hero, hoping the heroine finds love etc., a grid that will apply equally to non-human entities like Spielberg’s ET or Guattari’s UIQ?
Silvia Maglioni : Yes. So what if you want to ask about something concerning a collective or some other kind of non-individualized or even non-human entity – which could be a political situation, a philosophical dilemma or, as in our case, the fate of a film that was never made, of a Universe that remained undisclosed?
As one of the voices-off (or, rather, OUT) says somewhere in our film: “Visiting a cartomancer wasn’t in the script. But who else would know about the future, what lay in the cards and in the dark, unaccounted for spaces between stars. A theory of montage? Or a script in the making, endlessly rehashed from old storylines, stock figures. Odd how the stars look down to earth on one soul at a time, each destiny as unique as it is wearyingly familiar. And where finally is the future in all this, the catastrophe in which we all have a share?”
Graeme Thomson : It was only a couple of years later, when we were invited to perform Underwritten by Shadows Still and to propose a workshop for Alejandro Jodorowsky exhibition at CAPC Bordeaux, that we went back to looking at the tarot. Jodorowsky’s interest in the subject and his involvement in the restoration of the Marseille tarot made us think again about its links with cinema, to the point where we began to wonder if cinema images themselves could be made to function like tarot cards.
As a collective experiment, during our workshop on Dark Matter Cinema we began looking at film stills that we had chosen together with a number of curators who had taken part in a round-table discussion the previous day. In turn, someone from the public would ask a question and select a random sequence from the file of jpegs projected on a screen, which was then opened to the audience’s interpretation. Though some of what was said was quite interesting, the experiment didn’t really work for a number of reasons. The first was cinephilia, as a lot of people were trying to identify the films the stills came from and reinsert them in their original narrative context. The second was that many of the images (culled from hasty google searches) lacked singularity. The third was that we were missing a proper ritual in which to set the readings.
So for common infra/ctions we decided to create an actual pack of cards, and to subject the choice of images to more rigorous scrutiny. It was Barthes’ notion of the punctum that became the guiding principle for the Dark Matter Cinema Tarot, the anomalous detail in the image that is like an enigmatic hole in its informational surface that inexplicably pricks the subject and awakens their desire.
Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, Dark Matter Cinema Tarot XX, courtesy the artists
Furthermore, we set ourselves two objectives: the first was to find a use for cinema images that could be politically “therapeutic” (in resonance with some of the claims Jodorowski makes for the tarot) and to do so in a way that people could engage with collectively. In this sense the tarot project also marks the continuation of our interest in creating devices to foster group fabulation and discursive conviviality, devices that through a kind of fictional or descriptive refraction can displace us from rigid, molar subject positions (I think... in my opinion... according to me...), what we already believe to be the case, that can block or atrophy discussion. The second was to rethink how the tarot itself could function by changing its structure and figural symbolism, using cinema – an art of masses and multiplicities – to abolish the hierarchy between Major and Minor Arcana, replacing all the cards with film stills whose components, as Guattari remarked of cinema in general, resist semiotic hierarchisation.
Silvia Maglioni : Which brings us back to another characteristic of the infra: it’s on the side of the minor, and this is important for the lines of our research connected to language and its unlearning. In choosing and numbering (through a somewhat labyrinthine numerological procedure) the film stills for our cards, we decided that all the cards were minor but with major powers, in a way that could infract upon the imaginary of daily life and the questions it poses. For us cinema is precisely this, the site of the emergence of a minor image that, in terms of the Tarot, invests the more mundane aspects of the Minor Arcana with the enigmatic symbolic force of the Major.
Removed from their narrative contexts, these frozen instants of cinema begin to function autonomously and with each fall of the cards they enter into new constellations, correspondences, dichotomies and alliances that the Nocturnal Committee reveal, guided by the question that has been posed. Partly we’re trying to resuscitate the oral traditions of campfire storytelling. But do the words lead or follow the sleepwalking images through the folds of time?
We don’t consider the DMC Tarot a post-cinema device, it’s more like a quantic, parallel life of the still moving image. We continue to make films and we love going to the movies, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a great film in total darkness on a screen that absorbs you to the point of partial aphanasis of your subject position. Perhaps depriving a film of its aura and giving it over to common “use” is a kind of profanation. But, as Agamben says, profanation through use can be a way of restoring the sacred, vital dimension of our relation to things that tends to be lost through banal consumption, a way of retrieving some of the image’s original magic and mystery, which seems to me like going back to early cinema somehow.
Graeme Thomson : And yet this “use” we've made of cinema is somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand we were able to do it thanks to the way films, stripped of their ritual, quasi-religious element, can now be viewed again and again on laptop screens, edited, manipulated, cut up and restitched using basic software. On the other it borrows a ritual taken from another sphere, that of cartomancy, to re-inject this element of belief in the divinatory power of cinema. And this ritual element of the tarot is extremely important, the way you cut, shuffle, lay out the cards, the time you take in selecting them. It is as Pascal says that one should act as if one already believes – participate in the ritual – and belief – or the affect of belief – will come by itself.
Mathilde Villeneuve : Like any collective practice, it depends on several variables that can’t be fully mastered. In the case of the DMC seance, the nature of the questions posed, the fall of the cards, and the ensuing responses and imaginings of the audience. One felt the fragility of the experience on account of this expectation that it should be the Committee as a whole who take charge of the proceedings.
Which is exactly what happened. Amazingly, the public felt authorized to propose its own readings. The first question regarded the possible continuation or end of the ongoing state of emergency – an urgent political question, while you were afraid that the questions posed might on the contrary be of a too personal or intimate nature. Perhaps a proof of the device’s effectiveness?
Another sign of the success of the evening for me was the quality of attention that the first part (the tarot reading) was able to carry over into the second: there seemed to be a multiplicity of lines connecting the cards that were laid out with the film extracts that followed, numerous associations between the proposed readings and the movement of the montage. I recall distinct echoes between the desert crossings and the question about migrants (the second posed to the tarot), or the fragmented spaces (partial bodies, mirror doubles, appearances in train windows etc)...
I felt that by creating the conditions for what we might call "a vertigo" you managed to open up a much wider field of meanings, leaving us to weave invisible relations even if these couldn’t be expressed. We were henceforth able to note resemblances between words and things, handholds of sense and form. One found oneself in a situation beyond the usual dichotomies of belief and rational thought, in a space that opened and swelled the imagination, refining perception and softening attention, making it more supple. Is this what you mean by having “visions”? Do these delicate states of consciousness, between abandonment and acuity, lead to an emergence of new languages?
Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, "Dark Matter Cinema - Nocturnal Committee #1", Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers, video capture courtesy the artists
Graeme Thomson : Our society seems to have little place for visions, and even less for the sharing of them. Having visions, like hearing voices, is normally viewed as sign of a pathology, a neurodegenerative disorder, something to keep under your hat. The outlets for the transmission and sharing of visionary experiences are extremely limited and circumscribed. You might recount a particularly troubling dream to a psychoanalyst or a close friend who will try to make sense of it or if you happen to be an artist you might try to channel a vision into a work, which then risks being transformed through mediation, exegesis and legal bureaucratic procedure into a harmless, well-defined object. One of our current interests is to create the conditions and actual devices (much in the spirit of Ivan Illich’s tools for conviviality) for the sharing, circulation and use of visions, almost in terms of a benign or even salutary contagion.
This again came out of working on Guattari’s unmade science-fiction movie, Un amour d’UIQ. Just as the screenplay had affected us first of all as a cinema of the brain, a movie to be screened in a mental projection room, we wondered how it might contaminate others who came into contact with it and how they could in turn affect one another with the visions the script provoked in them.
Why did we focus so much attention on this particular film when there are thousands of unmade scripts that routinely vanish into the oblivion of the writer’s despair or the producers’ slush pile? Perhaps because, being the story of the advent of a universe (the Infra-quark Universe), this film touched upon a vital but often ignored cinematic question: that any film worth the name should create its own universe, with its own laws and secrets, its own relation of forces. The films we love and remember are like living entities, or countries we can visit, always being sure of finding something we hadn’t yet seen or understood. In this sense they are like universes.
So Guattari’s film gave us the opportunity to experiment with another type of collective conversation, one based not on knowledge (which tends to quickly become a vector of power and division) but on unknowing, vision, speculation, and not only about the film but also the universe it promised to disclose. We called these conversations around Guattari’s unmade film “seeances”, with a nod to spiritism as a possible ingredient of the primordial cultural soup from which cinema and the belief in cinema emerged, but with the difference that here the medium receiving the visions should not be one person but the whole group. You could say this collective dimension is in a sense already present in the spiritist seance, through various rituals designed to inculcate a kind of group energy and belief (the holding of hands around the table etc.) but there it is channelled towards and through the figure of the medium who functions as a kind of membrane with the beyond, a transcendental gatekeeper.
What we want to do is partly to break the hold of the medium as a figure or relay of spectacular identification and transform the transcendental horizon into a porous social field of immanent desire. The very fragility of visions that have no support in knowledge can produce a situation where the participants help each other to build upon what they think they are seeing, it’s like a basis for a kind of coming community that functions through a constructivism of the present moment (visions as sign and body of a film we are already seeing, or beginning to see) that is at the same time projected towards the future.
Silvia Maglioni : Somehow we already thought of UIQ as a kind of cinematic dark matter. Partly because of the way Guattari was himself responding to the movies of the period (the 1980s) in his script. A bit like a guy who takes a look at a machine and figures out a way to make it run better, to “cure” it almost, or perhaps to perform a completely different task from the one it was intended for. But his film was never made. We all do this to some extent. Isolate a single great idea in a movie, ask ourselves how it could have been developed differently, or invent a parallel universe where an alternative scenario could take place or continue.
While with Un Amour d’UIQ our main focus was the unmade side of the dark matter of cinema, with the Tarot we have extended our research across its whole history, it’s no longer simply a question of trying to see the life of an unmade film but of grasping undisclosed possibilities in existing films, trying to uncover the quantic virtual dimension that inhabits and protends from a single photogram. But just as happens with other divinatory Tarots, the question one poses to the DMC cards (and therefore to the cinema stills) and the “sequence” in which they appear (which produces a kind of montage) can radically alter their meaning and effect. Wrenched from their narrative histories by the play of chance and fatality, the smallest details seem to gleam with the aura of a secret knowledge.
The montage we made for the second part of the evening started from a principle that we more or less established for common infra/ctions as a whole, the alternation between contraction and expansion. Here we expanded the idea of the table where the cards fell to the screen as an editing table where entire sequences (rather than stills) would appear and disappear, merge, or fade in and out of each other in a hypnagogic rhythm approaching a kind of sleepwalking, or better sleepwatching, inviting the Nocturnal Committee to inhabit absences and holes in images that for us manifest regions of this cinematic dark matter and unfold the planes of its inner space and time. I think the echoes and connections that you mention were largely an effect of the collective visionary power of the Nocturnal Committee.
Graeme Thomson : I think we saw an interesting mix of registers that night. The overtly political nature of the opening question created a lively discussion but I felt it was of secondary importance to the way the question was refracted by the cards and the responses of the assembled Committee to the images. A personal question could have been just as interesting. The important thing is what happens to it in this process of refraction, what hidden facets and possibilities are revealed by and within the cards. Seemingly individual concerns already imply a dimension of collective enunciation in the same way that a political situation that is of concern to all can affect the most intimate corners of our existence.
What was interesting to me was the fact that the more one looked at the images and considered the different vectors of form and meaning that connected them by the way the cards fell, the more they seemed to broaden the Nocturnal Committee’s response to the initial question into a complex cartography. As a result the lines the conversation pursued became much more supple than one might have expected with such a charged and emotive topic. And this no doubt also fed into the way people responded to the moving-image montage that followed.
Mathilde Villeneuve : It seems that your rapport with cinema combines an enormous knowledge of its history with an attempt to expand or explode its format. What exactly is this thing you call Dark Matter Cinema that forms a considerable part of your current research?
Graeme Thomson : By the arrangement of these three words, we don’t simply mean the dark matter of cinema nor do we refer to a particular type of cinema that could be labelled as dark matter-like. We want to consider cinema as a whole in terms of dark matter – or as a dark matter – to look both at cinema’s relation to the invisible and at what remains invisible in it, which we could also call its infra-dimension.
As Silvia said, the Dark Matter Cinema idea was already present in the UIQ project but it only really began to come to the fore in the Nocturnal Committee, a gathering of people who would meet in an undefined space between sleep and waking states, functioning like a collective organism or body that might provide space and time for an exhaustion that Jean Luc Nancy calls “the fall of sleep” (tombe de sommeil) while keeping vigil over its own possibility of sleeping. Which is to say that the Nocturnal Committee would foster a circulation of sleep of a particular kind, the sleep we would say that is one of the properties or improprieties of cinema, or perhaps of cinema in its quantum state, between crystallizations.
What cinema bears as its internal limit is a kind of vertigo, a desire to fall into the image that comes with the risk of completely losing awareness and with it the image itself, which falls into the sleeper’s loss. Like the Greek god Hypnos, the film (the camera, the mise en scène) keeps vigil over the particular sleep it induces, but ideally it itself moves in a zone of indistinction between active and passive states (a passage that passes). But there is a threshold or membrane of interchange where the two are held in a kind of suspension, which is a very interesting place to be as long as it lasts (the last place to be before sleep temporarily loses the place and plunges us with it into an indistinction of being and non-being). It’s like standing at the very edge of the cliff of openness or receptivity to a disclosure of possibilities that an image contains, denuded of its narrative filmic identity, perhaps like a return to an infant state of non-hierarchised sensorial proto-consciousness. So within the Nocturnal committee you would ideally have different degrees of sleep and vigil interacting in a reciprocal awareness and weariness.
Mathilde Villeneuve : To be a bit more specific about the materials of the research, could you describe the paths you have taken through your film library? What guided the choice of this or that still for the tarot pack, or of a given sequence for the montage? And how was the montage related to the accompanying sounds?
Graeme Thomson : As we said, one of our guiding principles was the question of finding cinematic puncta in films we loved and knew or thought we knew, and that in their mysterious ways may have influenced our own filmmaking trajectory, a still image or a sequence that somehow exceeds the film’s narrative frame and that at the same time can be considered an “any-image-whatever”, a pure singularity caught in the play between contingency and fatality. Such instants are like glimpses of this infra-cinema we call Dark Matter Cinema, the invisible component of the visible, what we don’t see in what we see or the unthought of what we think we see.
We are fascinated by this potential in cinema, what is memorably designated by the name of the hotel in The Shining, the Overlook. Cinema is always a question of this double sense of "overlooking", of seeing too much or seeing too little, failing to see, and usually both at the same time. Then there is also a tendency we have to view films not discreetly but as linked constellations or like rooms of a haunted house (like James’s House of Fiction) that are connected by hidden doors and secret passageways. Likewise, the sound mix I made for the DMC night was conceived as a shifting continuum where the individual pieces lose their identity at the borders where they overlap and modulate each other. Working on the radio, DJ-ing, even when playing music at home, several pieces together in different rooms, I’ve always been drawn to these sonic interzones and the amazing harmonic textures you can get from them sometimes, things you would never find in a single composition, however layered. The combinatorial possibilities of this interstitial infra-music seem endless.
Mathilde Villeneuve : I’d also like you to speak about the collective aspect of your practice. You work a lot on your own, as a duo, and your research feeds off numerous cultural objects (texts, films, music) while at the same time creating the conditions in which it can be shared, as it's clear from many of the lines of the common infra/ctions project: Temps donnés, Conviviality Cards, Dark Matter Cinema, the Centre for Language Unlearning... I would say that this becoming-collective is at the foundation of the openly political dimension of your work. Would you say that migration of forms and contagion constitute for you ways of being together as does a language that forges itself in its unmaking and proceeds by contamination?
Silvia Maglioni : It’s a pretty accurate description… For us the question is how to propose ways of being together through these devices that manage to create a real alternative to much post-relational or participatory art, those “artificial hells” with their order words (Community, Democracy, Participation!) that can be extremely problematic. In this sense we find Suely Rolnik’s reflections on Lygia Clark and the importance of contaminating the institution with generous doses of subtle poetic force (continuing Guattari’s radical legacy of schizoanalysis) an antidote to the increasing populism of a lot of art and cultural programming. Again, we go back to the broken object, a minor art that in its stuttering, would hopefully produce new proto-subjectivities through dissent and the invention of forms and devices of withdrawal and revocation.
There is no already constituted community. If there is an affirmation of some idea of community it’s more of the order of the community without community, a community without a shared language or binding code, full of gaps and distances, a coming community of the always already excluded, sharing their failure or refusal to adapt themselves to the models that are offered for their participative consumption. If we take this notion of a community of singularities, of belonging without identity, it demands working paradoxically from the notion of the impossibility of collectivity and poses the question of its unrepresentability since it can only present itself on occasion. That’s why it’s important to create a shift in the conditions of being together. We need environments where people would begin to feel the space and each other’s presence differently, resulting in changes of tone of voice, cadence, rhythm of speech, perception of time as well as the admission of silence and the co-presence of a non-discursive semiotic polyvocality. A shift in the atmosphere, though it’s hard to say exactly what it might consist in.
Graeme Thomson : And here the question of rhythm is particularly important, forging the conditions for a sympathetic idiorhythmy. Silence is extremely interesting from this perspective. The possibility of being together in silence. It only seems to happen when there is a common focus of attention or ritual element (a spectacle, group meditation, a minute’s official silence on occasions of national mourning). Rather than conceiving the possibility of silence between people as a potential timespace of variable intensities that creates openings for different kinds of infra-ruptions or infra-ferences. An unlearning of one’s habitual responses to a given intersubjective field.