Melissa Tun Tun (DAI, 2016): "How to achieve meaningful integration of IT?"

21.08.16 | tag: Arnhem

Excerpt from Melissa's 20 minute presentation for Speaking Without Thumbs - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, July 2016

Post-Contingent Coherence


Melissa’s lecture performance began ordinarily enough, with a projection of the DAI lecture performance front page “Speaking without Thumbs: 16 graduating DAI students lecture-performances”, and the James Brown song “A Man’s world” playing in the background. Without any introductory words or any acknowledgement of the audience, she walked to the stage and partially reclined, adopting the pose of fellow students Kristinn and Peter from their lecture performance the previous day. She then began reading texts ‘lifted’ (or borrowed?) from another colleague, Pilar, who also presented the previous day. One by one, she sampled from all six of the previous performances, referencing them directly and occasionally appropriating their forms. The screened images from the previous day’s performance-lectures served as visual and textual quotations from her peers. Now and then, unrecognizable references appeared along with the familiar ones. They seem to have been thrown into the mash-up in a nod to the contingency of what will take place in the future (today’s presentations). She ends by saying “this is a transition,” and this seems appropriate because the graduating students’ lecture performances are, after all, a formal ending of an educational and highly cooperative group experience that will inevitably transition to something else after graduation.

Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung remarked that during the introduction he had read Melissa’s question as meaningful integration of “it” but later realized it should have been “IT”. This meta-reference seemed to him to be a way of playing with the idea of the playback. “It’s something we see in music a lot and the kind of lapses that happen there.” Furthermore, he noted that the idea of repetition and imitation came into play through this lecture performance. Bonaventure appreciated how Melissa picked up on the key points of different performances and looked at the prevalence of new media. He thought that as a report it worked well but was not sure how it was supposed function as a performative piece.

Ekaterina Degot found that she could not talk about content but rather the device. For Degot, “it is everything BUT coherence.” For her, the most interesting moments were when she was uncertain of what was going to happen, but she thought this could have been developed stronger. As a genre, she found it interesting. This led her to think about the discrepancy between the sonic and the visual because the tension between text and image is being played out performatively here. Degot relates this tension in the piece to the precarity of poetry as a form (when read aloud) because the listener has to keep in mind what she heard from beginning to end. This is recalls the way that one must have kept in mind all of yesterday’s events in order to make sense of Melissa’s piece. “Some of the references were not only to what we saw yesterday but also things that perhaps happened outside of the yesterday’s events…this is an interesting feeling – one that people always complain about contemporary art – that there is an exclusivity.”

Bassam el Baroni read it as a parasitic work. Michel Serres’ idea of the parasite “reminds us that parasites are part and parcel of our daily existence. When they come up in moments like this they are surprising because they are mostly silent.” The sound-lag in this work was interesting for el Baroni because they reference scenes such as the one in Blue Velvet where the singer’s voice doesn’t match the image onscreen. For el Baroni, this also has to do with the idea of ventriloquism and puppetry and it creates a kind of performativity where there is an uneasy feeling. “For me, the question still is the problematic of whether it can escape skepticism or the feeling that it is a joke. It needs to be adjusted to an intention that goes beyond their original functions. But the intention is not clear – are you being skeptical? What is the intention?”

Marina Vishmidt looked at this through the terms “condensing, amplifying, and rebuilding”. On the one hand, she says, “it is a kind of skit on the presentation form and a reassertion of authorship, agency and ownership of materials – a literalization of appropriation, of transformation of materials.” It also recalled the romantic irony mentioned by Degot. German romantic poetry, she says, already includes its own reflectivity so there is a romantic irony. In this sense, “undermining authorship is a corrosive romantic irony in a way.” Vishmidt spoke to Melissa directly, “Not stating your intention so clearly is effectively destabilizing. It is absolutely tied to its context and its context is perhaps its intention.” She called it a “a sharp performance of recursion.”

About: Speaking Without Thumbs 

Melissa Tun Tun's website