Zhenia Vasiliev: "How to Account for the Unknown?"

Zhenia's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, June 2017


Zhenia Vasiliev, appearing as a mime on stage, sits on the ground, occupied with performing a video and sound piece. Among other things, it involves noise and is about noise, and the digital image. The lecture performance presents a snapshot of a love affair between a YouTube meme (a girl named Poppy) and the Internet, in the form of email. It features a computer-generated voice and touches on issues of password access and information transfer. The title “asl” stands for age, sex, location - common indicators in internet chats that provide some identity cues in a mostly anonymous space.

Ray Brassier was impressed by the production of noise with regards to the various, interspersed scenes in a number of locations such as a hotel corridor, desert terrain, a supermarket entrance, an ATM, a street junction. These “nondescript, generic spaces are inter-zones which are the border of territories which exercise a specific function. They are unremarkable, yet, extraordinary because they are not inhabited.” Elaborating on this, he reflected on how this had to do with “the codification of information and disruptions of transmission of information,” and how “broadcasting generates an incommunicable surplus.” For Brassier, considering the synchronization of sound and image, and the content of image itself led him to think that the interference then became the signal itself. He found this to be a very powerful coordination. Also the use of [theater] make-up gave him a tangential reminder of Trevor Griffiths’ play “Comedians”.

Gabi Ngcobo was impressed by the staging and the way Zhenia situated himself. She also remarked that the sonic configurations were strong. For her, the performance was a “manipulation of virtual fears”, and she read it as “a mysterious codification”.

Marina Vishmidt also found it impressive, along with being precisely staged. She experienced a certain tension because of the use of computer voice and glitch, which was irritatingly familiar. She thought that the sounds from the microphone and the way they were synced was compelling. The “noise comes from mistranslation from one code into another - sound translated to image and vice versa,” making Zhenia “a kind of mediator, transformer of these technical blockages.” Vishmidt found this very effective.

Bassam el Baroni agreed that is was compelling, especially when seen as an “attempt to read into it or decode the code for the revolutionary subject in the aftermath of the financial crisis.” He saw the act of hammering into coins a way of hammering into real abstraction with actual labor, which then slips into a digitized force. He interpreted it “as a narrative of frustration with post-crash revolutionary movements” and remarked that the desire for the impact of digitality is also elusive. He also observed a romantic layer, with a suggestion of a love subject relationship with the internet. A final remark was that for him, the voyeuristic aspect we see in some parts of the performance alludes to tracking.