Hannah Kindler (DAI, 2017): "How to perform form differently?"

12.03.18

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

Conduit

Summary

A fellow student of Hannah Kindler’s begins the lecture performance by giving five definitions of the word conduit, along with the origins of the word. [Middle English: from Old French, from medieval Latin conductus, from Latin conducere ‘bring together’ (see conduct).] Hannah comes to the stage to read her questions and reflections about encounters with others. “Can we perform form differently? What is form? What is performing differently?” She reflects, “Encounters with others are more often than not shaped by the experience of violence, subordination, hierarchy and exploitation. What does it mean to act responsibly when encountering another with whom we have no proximity in language and culture? What does it mean to take responsibility in an encounter with another when our sense of responsibility lies in the normative framework that has constituted us?” She reads Judith Butler’s definition of “performing differently” and her proposal of responsibility as an ethical practice. Hannah also makes references to Amelia Jones (“a critical discourse on identity is particularly relevant in the visual realm, specifically in visual art, where bodies, materials and forms are read as social signifiers”). Six people come on to the stage with very long plastic tubes and appear to be organizing the production of some structure they will build together. In the background there is a slideshow of an aerial view of cars in traffic, old maps, housing blocks, architectural-type drawings and other photographs and illustrations. The people on stage start working as a group to zip-tie the tubes together. After 20 minutes, they have completed the construction of an enormous lattice together. “Meaning”, Hannah says, “is inserted into forms such as words or sentences as well as bodies, materials and objects.” For her, the “conduit metaphor makes visible how meaning is created. The locus of meaning is human thought – not language, bodies or materials.”

Ray Brassier remarked that it was a very interesting piece about meaning, especially the way in which meaning forms in together with the performance. He recaps, at first it is a cataloguing of the different words and the introduction of the conduit metaphor where meaning is inserted into a pre-existing form. “Meaning is a psychic material that is transplanted into a linguistic medium.” Taking a “critical stance towards the conduit metaphor and the link to the idea that communication can be a kind of conduit is objectionable because it doesn’t take account into the fact that signification is socially embedded and shaped by power relations. Furthermore,  “there is no transcendence of identity because identification is symbolically enforced - signification is always mediated by social power.” Brassier commented on how “the piece firstly challenges the idea that signifying form is a static structure. Form is not just readymade - meaning doesn’t fall from the sky - it is produced by social power relations.” In this piece, Hannah is at work “seizing the means of semantic production. Even if identity can’t be transcended, it can be transformed. The lattice points to one way that signifying form can be transformed.” For Brassier, although the assembly of the lattice structure was intriguing, he thought it could be developed further. What could be a different performance of form, reflected - perhaps the performative utterance? For him, “a structural framework seems ill-suited to provide an account of the transformation of form.” Furthermore, he added, “power is enforced, generated and produced in terms of economic relations - the danger of turning power into an unexplained explainer turns it into another kind of structure that can’t be formed.”

Returning to Hannah’s title question about how to perform form differently, Gabi Ngcobo asks - from who or from what? “How do I access this question?” Her warning would be to not take it for granted that the given has been distributed equally. She enjoyed Hannah’s choice of images - beginning from “images that are taken from above to suggest a perspective that you can push further.” In this lecture performance, Ngcobo recognizes a fluidity of subjectivity, starting from oneself and asks what can be produced. She suggested that Hannah could rephrase the question.

Bassam el Baroni remarked that the “repositioning of the audience to a higher level of the theater was important because it created a shift from culture to civilization.” He agreed that the collection of images was carefully curated. Echoing Brassier’s thoughts he suggested that the actual form (construction as weaving) was indifferent and that the piece needs to deal more with the “transferability of form in relation to acting or doing.” He concluded by telling Hannah that, “the actual form you produced was structured in a way that was different but the actual end-product wasn’t different from the patterns we had already seen.”

Marina Vishmidt found the “delegation of responsibility and production of work” interesting and asked about the relationship between the conduit and weaving. “The conduit gets dematerialized through the production of the lattice - a means becoming an end.” Furthermore, she thought the illustrative element was an interesting aspect of the performative and linked it to what Brassier said about the question of production and question of labor. Though she was interested in the slide show, she was nevertheless “looking for more immanent dialogue with the activity.”

About: Maelstrom Slow Dance

Hannah Kindler’s website