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University of the Arts London,
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design

FRUITION: perceptual time gap as location for knowledge - Mnemonic Present Un-folding

ABSTRACT. In developing my practice/research I analyse the interchange that takes place between audience and performer from within the paradigm. My own art practice is grounded in Merleau-Pontì's concept of chiasm and intertwining and Amelia Jones's reading of it, although I take a conceptual distance from Jones's, constituted by considering time travel in artist-audience interchange taking place during mediatised performative events, here addressed as fruition stage. The time element comes from the production and incorporation of the video documentation in the event itself. The purpose of my review will be to introduced the implications and significance of the perceptual gap between audience and performer's in the moment of fruition of the piece Mnemonic Present Un-folding.

My own art practice is grounded in a theoretical position where Merleau-Pontì's concept of chiasm and intertwining is read in anti-ocularcentic terms by Martin Jay. I would like to refer to Amelia Jones' account of the same notions and identify a conceptual distance from Jones' position, which may arise in considering time travel in artist/audience interchange taking place during performative events. This text will attempt to illustrate my hypothesis to be tested through my performative work as part of the research project 'Present Memory and Liveness in delivery and reception of video documentation during performance art events' (AHRB Small Grant For The Creative And Performing Arts). Specifically, the body of work I am developing Mnemonic Present, Un-folding, was presented at PSi # 11, Becoming Uncomfortable, Brown University, Providence, RI, March 30 through April 3, 2005; at International Conference Consciousness, Theatre, Literature and the Arts, May 7-9, 2005, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK, and also will be performed at Galleria d' Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy, June 18, 2005 and PARIP International Conference July 2005. Its concept develops according to the emphasis placed on one of its constitutive conceptual elements and the knowledge derived from the 'making' .

In order to contextualise this research, I shall also mention some of my previous works trying to underline my ongoing interest in psychological unfolding and implications of artist/artwork-audience interchange in relation to aspects of Dan Graham's strategies. Having being trained as a visual artist, where the primacy of vision over the other senses was paramount, I had to struggle a lot in order to put all that baggage behind my back to express myself freely. The current performative video live installation is the form I have adopted for sometime now; it allows me to work at many levels simultaneously in a multisensory arena. Hence my PhD: The Artist's Performative Practice Within The Anti-Ocularcentric Discourse (2003).

The thesis discusses the development of my artistic research in relation to the critique of the vision centric Western philosophical tradition developed by twentieth century French thought, as referred to by Martin Jay and Amelia Jones . The work reviews the positions of both authors with respect to the relationship between Lacan's Mirror Stage and Gaze and Merleau-Ponty's Chiasm or Intertwining within two areas of investigation: the self and strategies for its engagement with the external world in my performative practice.

To embark on the complex metaphoric significance of the mirror in some philosophical and psychological aspects, and also through the history of representational conventions has allowed me to consider the relationship artist/artwork-audience like a mirror reflection (as I will explain). As a consequence, I have devised the concept of fruition to describe the process of interchange taking place during my live events.

Dan Graham, «Present Continuous Past(s)», 1974 sketch | © Dan Graham

Rudolph Gasché, in 'The Tain of the Mirror' , states that the concept of philosophical reflection is a name for philosophy's eternal aspiration for self-foundation. Only with modern philosophy - since Descartes - did reflection explicitly acquire this status of a principle par excellence. Reflection as a principle of philosophical thinking, from the moment it became the chief methodological concept for Cartesian thought, has signified a consideration of the significance of the very experience in which objects are given. For instance, with such bending back upon the modalities of object perception, reflection shows itself to mean primarily self-reflection, self-relation, self-mirroring. Gasché states that 'By lifting the ego out of its immediate entanglement in the world, Descartes establishes the apodictic certainty of self as a result of the clarity and distinctness with which it perceives itself.' Furthermore, 'through self-reflection, the self - the ego, the subject - is put on its own feet, set free from all unmediated relation to being. In giving priority to the human being's determination as a thinking being, self reflection marks the human being's rise to the rank of a subject.' According to Gasché, Descartes's is the first epoch-making achievement of the concept of reflection, and it characterises modern metaphysics as metaphysics of subjectivity. That which Jones sees overturned by Acconci's performative practice.

The moment of the appearance of the self in a young human being has been determined scientifically as the Mirror Stage by Jacques Lacan. The main rudiments of the Mirror Stage argument seem to have been in place by the mid-1930s. Martin Jay recalls that the universalization and normalisation of the Mirror Stage was abetted by Lacan's absorption of several other influences, some narrowly psychological, others more generally cultural .

Anyone looking in a mirror, even seeking to discover their true identity, discovers first of all a fixed image of themselves, a persona to which they try to restore movement and life by a whole range of grimaces, facial gesticulations and minuscule, perverse gestures of defiance. They are attempting to act and influence their persona. It is the same in photography. Every self portrait is inevitably by its very nature a doubling, an image of the other. Our simplest most familiar experience of the photographic self-portrait is a constant reminder of the primordial fiction and the primal alienation of the first Mirror-Phase described by Lacan.
We have only to understand the Mirror Stage as an identification, in the full sense that analysis gives to the term: namely, the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image - whose predestination to this phase-effect is sufficiently indicated by the use, in analytic theory, of the ancient term of imago.

Lacan's study of the child's recognition in front of the mirror is seen as being formative of the function of the 'I' as recounted in psychoanalytic experience. He also states that this jubilant assumption of his specular image by the child at the infant stage, still sunk in his motor incapacity and nursing dependence, would seem to exhibit in an exemplary situation the symbolic matrix in which the 'I' is precipitated in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject.

Amelia Jones states that Lacan's Mirror Stage - in which the subject 'coheres' in relation to a misrecognised image of his own unity as body/self/ image - coincides with Merleau-Ponty's observations in its acknowledgement of the simultaneous contingency of self on other and the fundamental narcissism of this relation. 'It is the image through which the subject seeks to know herself or himself but fails, succumbing to self-alienation, and through which the subject attempts to cohere itself, but it can only do so at the price of becoming the other.'

Martin Jay suggests that Merleau-Ponty began to be more sympathetic to certain psychoanalytic ideas near the end of his career. Jay describes that in The Structure of Behavior, Merleau-Ponty began to appreciate its substantive contribution to the philosophical problems he so obsessively explored, to revise completely the pre-reflective cogito of Phenomenology through an increased sympathy for psychoanalysis and, in particular, its notion of the unconscious. Jay states that Merleau-Ponty found that one aspect of the unconscious especially congenial complemented his earlier interests in the cognitive development of children, the role of the Mirror Stage in creating the knowing self. In his 1960 essay The Child's Relations with Others, Merleau-Ponty drew on psychologists like Henri Wallon and Paul Guillaume, who had discussed the cognitive implications of specular images.

Jay writes :
What he called autoscopy, or the external perception of a self, was responsible, among other things, for an ideal, uniform notion of space, which is assumed to be the same wherever the image of the child appears. It also has profound affective implications that purely cognitive psychology fails to explain.

The conflict between the internal and external senses of the self leads to aggressive feelings as well as narcissistic jubilation. As Jay notes, Merleau-Ponty took from Lacan the recognition that the Mirror Stage could well be the source of an alienated self and conflict between visually constituted selves.

Rodolphe Gasché gives an explanation of the etymological roots of the verb to reflect, in the Latin verb re-flectere. In his view this will suggest some of the more formal characteristics of the movements that compose reflection, as well as some of the fundamental imagery associated with this concept. Reflectere means 'to bend' or 'to turn back' as well as 'to bring back' . Gasché states that this turning back is significant for understanding reflection only if one recalls that in both Greek and Latin philosophy the term has optic connotations, in that it refers to the 'action' of mirroring surfaces in throwing back light, and in particular a mirror's exhibition or reproduction of objects in the form of images. Reflection signifies the process that takes place between a figure or object and its image on a polished surface. Gasché points out that, from the beginning, self-consciousness, as constituted by self-reflection, has been conceptualised in terms of this optical operation and perception, with the effect that self-consciousness has come to suggest a beam of light thrown back upon itself after impact with a reflecting surface. He concludes by writing that in this sense reflection is the structure and the process of an operation that implies that the mirror is mirroring itself, by which process the mirror is made to see itself.

The study of the relationship between audience and performer: active and passive conduct of the viewer, became the basis of many of the New York artist Dan Graham's performances from the early seventies. Graham's highly psychological works also form an extremely important reference for my own production. It was through Graham's work and statements that I first became aware of the productive relationship between an art experience and a theoretical concept. In particular here a relationship with Lacan is referred to by the following Graham's statement (1997):
'the time-delay videos and the pavilions have parallels with Lacanian and phenomenological models of consciousness […] Performance pieces through to Public Space/Two Audiences deal with American psycho-social theories of micro-behavioural gestures and with the phenomenology of the individuals, either alone or in groups[…]' . Graham wished to combine the role of active performer and passive spectator in one and the same person. So he introduced mirrors and video equipment which would allow performers to be spectators of their actions. This self-scrutiny was intended to set up a heightened consciousness of every gesture.

In Present Continuous Past (1974) the mirror acted as a reflection of the present time, while video feedback showed the performer/spectator their past action.

Dan Graham, Performance Audience Mirror, 1977, Amsterdam

The piece Performer /Audience /Mirror first performed in 1977 was based on the simple idea of mirroring the behaviour with language.

My own understanding of Graham's live works led me to conceive the piece Diagrammi, interactive performance, on 3 July 1999, 48th Venice Biennale. I conceived the project out of my interest in the shift of positions of artist and perceiver. By interacting with the audience in order to get them involved in the creative process, the concept of central-focus, perspectival space I had been investigating earlier, left room for the concept of proximity: I put myself in a marginal position in relation to the space of the artistic event and the audience.

According to Bernard Brunon, one of the codes in the visual vocabulary of Western artists is the one that ruled the process of image making for the majority of our history until the early years of this century, offering the theoretical ground on which images could be built. One of the aspects of representation relevant to self-portraiture is the characteristic straightforward gaze looking outward. This specific gaze is at the very centre of the major system of representation introduced in painting during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries and carried through the Renaissance to the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries and beyond. This system, called 'one view point perspective' or 'single vanishing point perspective' , for centuries fixed the painter's position in front of the model. Although this use of perspective is embedded in a Cartesian concept of space I will look at the following work of art particularly because of a not accurate use of perspective, which allows the mirroring of artist and spectator. In this sense the piece can be read in merlau-pontinian chiasmatic terms and will therefore relate to my reading or interactive dynamics in performance art .

It's particularly through my own practice that I developed the related notion of fruition, which can be observed at work in renaissance notorious piece Las Meninas.

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

Stages of artist and spectator production of spatial context in relation to their activity

It is by developing my research practice that I analyse the interchange, taking place between audience and performer, from within the paradigm I will outline - that is from the point of view of the performer. In my methodology practice and the analyses develop in a journey in which I follow two parallel lines which interweave at times. This sort of schizophrenic activity I used to embark upon in stepping out of it to observe the creative process from the outside with the eye of a theoretician as I thought suited my research, is no longer appropriate in the same terms. The two then seemingly distant positions, are now still present, but overlap, intertwine and co-function, particularly with the engagement of performative writing, through which I use words as supplements to language. Similarly, the distance between artist and audience in my own work has shortened particularly in relation to the concept of performative self as embodied performance, which is derived 'from the whole scene of [the] action' . It is precisely the above methodology process for my critical practice that I will try to outline aiming at locating in the yet existing gap between artist and audience the very possibility of the interchange to take place: that is through fruition.

I take a conceptual distance from Jones's reading of chiasm by considering time travel in artist-audience interchange taking place during mediatised performative events, here addressed as fruition stage. The time element considered is that of the artist's action with the production and incorporation of the video documentation in the event itself. Fruition is considered as belonging to the discussion on the ontology of the mirror image outlined earlier as it will become soon clear.

In my own practice the relation with the spectator is investigated through considering his/her position of fruition. The term fruition is used to signify the verb of perceiving and becoming part of the work (labour finally coming to fruition; the condition of bearing fruit). It has been for the past few years part of my artistic intention to incorporate the spectator's response, in various ways and at various levels, also at the perceptual stage. In this sense his/her presence is complementary to the meaning of the work.

For the purpose of analysing a work of art (not only my own), I developed this system including three stages: production, perception and fruition. In considering the fruition stage: the spectator here occupies a space which can be considered as symmetric to that occupied by the artwork, it is a mirror composition. This stage is realised when the artist produces an artwork leaving a gap to be filled by the presence of the audience. In this situation an exchange between the piece and the spectator takes place as visualised in the above diagram.

This three stage concept can be seen in the painting Las Meninas, painted in Madrid in 1656 by Diego Velázquez, where the composition itself mirrors a scene being in front of the picture so that the viewer is in the position of the painter. Painting which can in turn be paralleled to my own artistic performative research, where the condition of fruition is a prerequisite for enabling an interchange with the spectator to happen.

In order to contextualise the notion of fruition in the artist-audience relationship in my work, I would like to look a bit more closely to the meaning of chiasm by Merleau-Ponty. James Schmidt suggests that for a description of the relation between self and other, Merleau-Ponty drew on Paul Valery's account of the 'exchange' of regards. 'Once gazes interlock, there are no longer quite two persons and it's hard for either to remain alone. This exchange. . . effects... a transposition, a metathesis, a chiasm of two 'destinies', two points of view. You take my appearance, my image, and I take yours. You are not I, since you see me and I don't see myself. What is missing for me is this 'I' whom you can see. And what you miss is the "you" I see.' In Valery, the crossing of regards initiates a process of 'simultaneous, reciprocal limitation' which yields a 'decentering' , not an 'annihilation' . Schmidt's makes a parallel with Sartre and states that he knew only 'a me-other rivalry' whereas in Valery's notion there is a 'co-functioning' of self and other. Valery's use of the term Chiasm, 'a word which denoted X-shaped configurations of the sort frequently encountered in anatomy (for example the interweaving of optic nerves) and by extension referred to all those interweavings' , reciprocal interpenetrations, and crossings was adopted by Merleau-Ponty to suggest an alternative to Sartre's panoramic vision.

Merleau-Ponty had been groping towards an understanding of dialectical thought which would free itself from the standpoint of a 'spectator consciousness' by stating that there is dialectic only in that type of being in which a junction of subjects occur, which is the place of their exchange. This was conceived by drawing on Valery, as he suggested in one of the working notes for The Visible and the Invisible that the dialectic must be grasped as a Chiasm, a 'reversal' .

Merleau-Ponty conceived tangible touchers and visible seers in this way transforming the problem of the other. The other represents a problem only to a philosophy which operates with a set of categories separating mind and body, consciousness and world, subject and object. This vocabulary was abandoned by Merleau-Ponty in The Visible and the Invisible.

BluX , 7’, stills from video documentation. Performed at Watershed Media Centre, Bristol, 2000, London Biennal, 2000, Camberwell College, 2000.

The concept of Chiasm was first investigated in my work in the video Blu (2000), then presented as video live installation BluX (2000) at the Watershed Media Centre, Bristol and then in Morning Toilette at Tate Modern, London (2001). The function of the chiasmatic composition was to incorporate the audience's presence in the fruition moment, that is where a gap is created in the chiasmatic composition in order for the audience's presence to become complementary to the work.

According to Amelia Jones, Body Art provides the possibility for radical engagements that can transform the way we think about meaning and subjectivity (as artist and spectators). Body Art proposes the art 'object' as a site where reception and production come together: a site for inter-subjectivity and therefore places the body/self within the realm of the aesthetic as a political domain. Jones explains that Body Art confirms what phenomenology and psychoanalysis have taught us: that the subject is constituted by the relationship with others and that the locus of identity is always elsewhere. Body Art, she states 'demonstrates that meaning is an exchange and points to the impossibility of any practice being "inherently" positive or negative in cultural value.'

Discussing the concept of interchange in terms of intersubjectivity, Amelia Jones has also drawn upon Martin Jay's thought, by stressing the importance of Merleau-Ponty's concept of intertwining in the development of Body Art. Jones states that Body Art, does not illustrate Merleau-Pontian conceptions of the embodiment of the subject and theories of the decentered self that we are now familiar with from post-structuralist theory; rather, it enacts or performs or instantiates the embodiment and intertwining of self and other.

Amelia Jones as well states that the body/self is simultaneously both subject and object in the experience of the world, the two subjects involved, art maker, art interpreter are collaborators for each other in consummate reciprocity.

Through the notion of flesh Merleau-Ponty theorises the interrelatedness of both mind and body defined by Jones as 'the embodiedness of the self' and the reciprocity and contingency of the body/self on the other.

In the moment of fruition of the piece Mnemonic Present, Un-folding, I suggest the impossibility of immediacy in the above interchange. This temporal/perceptual gap in my piece is the time between the present of the performer's action and the playback of the recording, relating to the audience memorising or responding to the event. Gap of significance, that allows perceptual interaction.

Fruition takes place over time and happens through stages: audience and performer do not simultaneously communicate. The performer delivers and the audience perceive/receive and give back/feed back into the event. What I call fruition in my own practical work coincides with inter-subjectivity, which enables the exchange with the viewer whose active presence in the live pieces and whose perception of the performative video photographic 'documentation' , complements their meaning and interpretation - notion that relates very closely to the philosophical phenomenological ground offered by Merleau-Ponty in the concept of chiasm or intertwining. But what Amelia Jones does not take into account is the issue of time. The three stages I mentioned, although I realise, may seam to happen in a very short time and almost simultaneously, this does not happen.

According to a popular claim performance is by its nature always in the present and in comparison the mediatized or film is always in the past.

Derrida refers to the physiological time-lag, however small, between the moment at which the sound is produced and the moment the audience hears it. In listening to a recording, we hear a music performance that took place in the past. Listening to a live concert, we also hear a music performance that took place in the past relative to the point at which we actually hear it, it's just that the time-lag is smaller in the live event. And similarly there, another amount of time is needed to see an image, that however small does exist.

This problematizes both the characterization of recorded performances as belonging to the past and live performances as existing in the present and the definition of liveness as based in simultaneity of performance and reception. Because of the time it takes sensory information to travel, everything we perceive has already happened by the time we perceive it. All performances, recorded or live, are always already in the past.

Echo, Appunti, 2003, galleria neon, Bologna, Italy

This would need to be expanded but this is not the context. To summarise the discussion I can refer to Philip Ausslander's book 'Liveness: performance in a mediatized culture' (introduction and chapter 2), where he discusses the question: What is the status of live performance in a culture dominated by mass media? And also: are theatre and the media rivals or are they partners?

Ausslander states that at the level of cultural economy they are rivals, not partners. But our cultural formation is saturated with and dominated by mass media representation in general and television in particular. Television is no longer and element of our environment, but it is the environment itself. As socially and historically produced, the categories of the live and the recorded are defined in a mutually exclusive relationship, in that the notion of the live is premised on the absence of recording and the defining fact of the recorded in the absence of the live.

Also we assume that the live is real and the mediatised artificial, this is what Ausslander wants to challenge. Coming from Baudrillard, the term mediatization means that the media are instrumental in a larger socio-political process of bringing all discourses under the dominance of a single code: that of the mass media.

Peggy Phelan , writes that she believes in the resistance to reproduction of live performance and that its value resides in this very resistance to the market and the media. Ausslander disagrees by affirming that there are no ontological distinctions between live forms and the mediatised ones, because the live cannot be economically independent. The audience experience of intimacy when in front of the performer is similar to the experience of television, because of the liveness of that experience: there is a direct contact with the performer at the moment of the performance, you see him when he does it. Broadcast television can be considered as being very close to this experience, particularly with the multiple camera set up that recreates a similar perceptual continuity of theatre (like the spectator's wandering eye).

Auslander states that our experience of reality is through the mediation of machines such as the microphone, the telescope, and television, there are frameworks which preform our perception of the world. Human perception is determined not only by nature but also by historical circumstances as well, for instance we are now used to the amplified sound of the voice as if it were natural.

Peggy Phelan believes that performance cannot be saved, documented or otherwise participate in the circulation of representation of representation: once it does so , it becomes something else. It betrays its own ontology. It's only existence is in the spectator's memory which enables it to sidestep the economy of repetition which enables it to sidestep the economy of repetition. Performance's independence from mass reproduction technologically, economically and linguistically is its greatest strength.

Ausslander in opposition to Phelan agrees with Sean Cubitt in that in our period of history and in our western societies there is no performance that is not always already a commodity. Phelan in turn suggests that performance can be defined as representation without reproduction performance's being becomes itself through disappearance.

Ausslander argues that liveness of television is similar to that of theatre to destabilise the theoretical oppositions of live-mediased, suggesting and electronic ontology of media. The production of the televisual image is always live. Therefore both live performance and mediatised performance are predicated on disappearance: the televisual image is produced by an ongoing process in which scan lines, replace one another and it's always as absent as it is present.

According to Auslander: 'Live' can only be defined and 'that which can be recorded' .

The use of the live recording (or manipulation) projection in my Performative Video Live Installations enables me to investigate this time gap in the audience's perception of the event.

In my recent pieces defined as : 'Video Live Installation' (VLI), the : 'live-recording' and : 'pre-recording' projected during the performative event has opened up questions regarding the involvement of the audience and their perception of what is present and represented. VLI, including its own simultaneous documentation can be regarded itself as a form of : 'present memory' of the event, as perceived by the audience.

In the new work I create a 'real time distancing' from the event as part of its delivery at the time of its perception, to draw a parallel between the production of the performance's documentation and methods of memory archiving. In this context, the video documentation of the event is a 'supplement' to the performing body/self, which can itself become a 'supplement' to the event. The implicit continuous temporal and spatial shift of the event's meaning is thus created together with the temporary presentation and representation of the performer's self in relationship to the spectators - participating in the creative process through the interchange that takes place during its production. This process of constructing and recording of the documentation as 'supplement' (part) of the live event results in the paradox of its status as documentation, no longer just proof of the live event. With the possibilities offered by digital media, this stage is expected to generate new discourses around 'aperture' - the opening onto the work - within live performance art.

The consultation for this project with psychologist Dr Suddendorf aims at initiating an understanding of the implications involved in the perception of ourselves in the world around us, through media. In this climate of, so called'reality TV' we as spectators overlap concepts of presence, immediacy and reality with video representation. The emerging of the self, as it has featured in my own artistic research, is related to the field studied by Suddendorf . This scientific research will inform my own artistic development in terms of performance-audience-artist relationship and interchange based on perceptual dynamics within performance art. The scientific aspect of the project is particularly relevant in relation to Auslander and Cubitt's notion of liveness involved in broadcasting, media culture and the moving image.

This text aims at giving a context and introduction to my performance, not to illustrate it before the whole body of work is delivered. But I guess the question I am posing is the following:
How can I work on the time delay as fruitional gap as an artistic strategy in relation to the areas of perception and conceptualisation in cognitive psychology?

I am aware that I am touching upon issues of children recognition of their own delayed image leading to the development of metamind (as Suddendorf would put it), that is: levels of representation of reality.

'The representational level [of a human being] determines what an organism can mentally conceive of. With primary representations an animal can form only a single updating model of reality. With secondary representations the organism can entertain multiple models. That is to say, in addition to a model of current reality, such an organism can consider models representing past, future, or hypothetical situations.'

Suddendorf states that with metarepresentations an individual can form metamodels. This 'capacity to form reflective metamodels is the cornerstone of metamind, which, I propose, further entails the ability to dissociate from primary perceptions and response tendencies to create a distinct level of mental executive control over actions'

Theories around the concept of Metamind were first developed in the mid 80's, therefore in relation to Graham's works referred to 60's and 70's theories of psychology and psychoanalyses, Suddendorf's work seams an appropriate parallel for my own artistic enquiry. Metamind add another layer to my understanding of ways of representing or conceptualising reality.

My own perception of how I deal with my mnemonic archive has led me to generate Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding. When recollecting images, sound… from my archive these are triggered by a number of elements, smells, colors, objects; every time I encounter the same object (ie a glass) and I have a particular experience of that object (I drink a magnificent wine or a terrible one) I update my record of it accordingly. The same happens with people, places and so forth. This is why my memory of certain places I have not been for a while is very much linked to, and shaped by my experience of them at that time; sometimes I have been there only in a dream. In this sense although my memory archive is built over time, it only makes sense every time it comes back to life through the act of recollection which happens in the present. This is what I refer to as 'mnemonic present' , a place where also consciousness and unconsciousness meet.

The above is to illustrate some of the underneath concepts for the new body of work which evolve and change according to the emphasis of each piece and the experience coming from 'the making' .

In summertime, when I was younger I used to play with my friends. Each with a piece of paper, we would divide it into vertical sections. The first one with the subject, the second the verb, then the object, and place... each of us would fill in a section, fold it in order to cover up the text and then would pass it onto the next person. The result was always a funny puzzle of our lives.

To fold up a long piece of paper partly represents the way images rebound echoing in my memory when recollected and partly relate to that game. By repeating that action by myself, it is me whose perception changes every time I fold a new section of paper, and it is my persona that changes with the passing of time and the recollection of another memory. In the performance I recollect memories, but instead of writing I tell them. Each performance will vary technically and also in the content of the text.

Mnemonic PresentMnemonic Present

Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding #1, PSi # 11, Becoming Uncomfortable, Brown University, Providence, RI, March 30 through April 3, 2005

Mnemonic PresentMnemonic Present

Mnemonic Present, Un-Folding #2, International Conference Consciousness, Theatre, Literature and the Arts, May 7-9, 2005, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK

MNEMONIC PRESENT, UN-FOLDING # 1 refers specifically to the concepts of supplement and deferral (Derrida), and to temporality and mnemonic present. The text will be constituted by my spontaneous reaction; while performing I will describe places from memory.

MNEMONIC PRESENT, UN-FOLDING # 2 refers specifically to the concepts of supplement and deferral (Derrida), and to temporality and mnemonic present. It will have an emphases on the relationship with the audience: they will be filmed and become part of the event. The text will be constituted by my spontaneous reaction in front of the audience; while performing I will describe how I felt in certain places from memory and make associations with their behaviour during the performance.


  1. Auslander, P., Liveness, Performance In A Mediatized Culture, Routledge, London, New York, 1999.

  2. Auslander, P., Response to Roundtable on Liveness, Georgia Institute of Technology, Presented August 4, 2000 at the ATHE Conference in Washington D.C. on the panel, "Roundtable on Liveness."
  3. Baudrillard, J., Simulations, Semiotext, New York, 1983
  4. Cubitt, S., Timeshift: On Video Culture, Routledge, London, New York, 1991
  5. Derrida, J., Of Grammatology, tr Gayatri Spivak, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1978.
  6. Gasche, R., The Tain of the Mirror, Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection, Harvard University Press 1986, 1997 5th printing.
  7. Heath and Skirrow, 'Television, A World In Action' , Screen 18.
  8. Jay, M., Downcast Eyes, the Denigration of Vision in Twentieth -Century French Thought, University of California Press, 1994.
  9. Merleau-Ponty, M., The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis, Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1968.
  10. Jones, A., Body Art, Performing the Subject, University of Minnesota Press, 1998
  11. Phelan, P., Unmarked: The Politics Of Performance , Routledge, London, New York 1993
  12. Suddendorf, T., 'Children's understanding of the relation between delayed video representation and current reality: A test for self-awareness?' Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 72, 152-176, 1999.
  13. Schmidt, J., Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Between phenomenology and structuralism, Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences, MacMillan Publishers London, 1985.


  1. Correspondence in reference to my paper should be sent to Dr Elena Cologni, Central Saint Martins College, Research Office, Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AP,, or
  2. Jay, M., Downcast Eyes, the Denigration of Vision in Twentieth –Century French Thought, University of California Press, 1994.
  3. Jones, A., Body Art, Performing the Subject, University of Minnesota Press, 1998
  4. Gasche, R., The Tain of the Mirror, Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection, Harvard University Press 1986, 1997 5th printing
  5. Gasché, R., The Tain of the Mirror, Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection, Harvard University Press, 1986, 1997 5th printing, p.13, 14.
  6. Ibid.
  7. On 3 August 1936, Lacan read a paper to the Fourteenth Congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association, which met in Marienbad with Ernest Jones presiding. It was entitled The Mirror Stage. Theory of a Structuring and Genetic Moment in the Constitution of Reality, Conceived in Relation to Psychoanalytic Experience and Doctrine. The paper was indexed as ‘The Looking-Glass Phase’ in The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 18 (1937), p. 78. Although unpublished, it was the predecessor of a later version delivered to the Sixteenth Congress in 1949 and included in Ecrits, the collection of Lacan’s work which appeared in 1966, The title was now The Mirror State as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.
  8. Jay, M., Downcast Eyes, the Denigration of Vision in Twentieth –Century French Thought, University of California Press, 1994, p. 342. Among them were scientific studies of imitation in animals, especially pigeons and locusts, and Roger Caillois’s remarkable comparison of insect with human behaviour in the pages of Minotaure. These works seemed to have alerted Lacan to the importance of visual fusion with the other through morphological mimicry. According to Caillois, however, such a fusion was accompanied by a loss of psychic energy. Borrowing a term from Pierre Janet, Caillois called this condition ‘psychasthenia’, which meant a drop in ego strength.
  9. Chevrier, J-F., ‘The image of the Other’, in Staging the Self, Self-Portrait Photography 1840-1980s, catalogue of exhibition National Portrait Gallery 3 Oct 1986-11 Jan 1987, p 9.
  10. Lacan, J., Ecrits, A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan, Norton & Company, New York-London, 1977, p.1.
  11. Lacan, J., Ecrits, A selection, trans. Alan Sheridan, Norton & Company, New York-London, 1977, p. 2.
  12. Jones, A., Body Art Performing the Subject, p.46.
  13. This is part of the anti-ocularcentric discussion he illustrates in Jay, M., Downcast eyes, p.320.
  14. Merleau-Ponty, ‘The Child's Relations with Others’, in The Primacy of Perception, pp. 125ff. He distinguished between the ‘specular image’, which is a psychological phenomenon, from the "image in the mirror," which is merely physical.
  15. Jay, p. 321.
  16. Jay writes that the Merleau-Ponty equation of the mirror stage with the creation of the ego ideal or the super ego was not what Lacan had meant; he identified it squarely with the ego itself and thus explicitly jettisoned Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological notion of an ego prior to the cogito. For all his appreciation of Merleau-Ponty's positive appropriation of his work, Lacan thus carefully distanced himself from his interpretation of it in the tribute he wrote after the philosopher's death and in later statements. This can be found in Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan, NewYork, 1981, p. 119.
  17. Gasche, R., The Tain of the Mirror, Derrida and the Philosophy of Reflection, Harvard University Press 1986, 1997 5th printing, p. 16.
  18. ‘Dan Graham Architecture', Catalogue from the exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, 11-4/25-5 1997 and Architectural Association, London, 22-5/24-5, 1997, p. 18.
  19. first performed at de appel Amsterdam, Holland in June 1977, at PS1, New York in 1977 and Riverside Studios, London, England in March 1979. I saw a video documentation at Lisson Gallery in September 2001. I The text of performance was first published in Anton Herbert, ed., Dan Graham: Theatre (ghent: de appel, 1982)
  20. Notes on the event are published in Oreste at the Venice Biennale, ‘Institutions in Great Britain: Artist as Researcher. Diagrams’, Charta, Milan 2000, presented as part of exhibition ‘Democracy’, 13th April- 13th May 2000- Royal College of Art, London.
  21. Brunon, B., Autoportraits, Here’s Looking at Me, catalogue of exhibition at Espace Lyonnais d’Art Contemporain Ville de Lyon, 29 Jan- 30 Apr. 1993.
  22. Brunon, op.cit. He writes that this place occupied by the artist is the very same one defined by the lens of the camera obscura, with regards to the Jonathan Crary’s concept that the camera obscura was not reserved to the exclusive use of the artists but available to a larger audience. Brunon points out that Crary underestimates the similarities between the optical system and that of the camera oscura and the geometrical system of one point perspective constructions. Both systems required a single fixed observation point, looking out in a given direction and dictating a very specific view of reality. However one of the advantages the artist had over Crary’s observer was the ability to manipulate and finely tune the images he was producing.
  23. Referred to in the Video Live Installations: BluX (Watershed Media Centre 2000), Morning Toilette performance (Tate Modern 2001), Public Private Perceptions (Toynbee Studios London 2001, Neon Gallery, Bologna Italy 2002), In Bilico, Experience Of Aesthetic Pain (291 Gallery London, 2003) Echo, appunti galleria neon, Bologna, Echology pavillion, London, 2003), Tracing (PARIP, Bristol, Istanbul, Bologna, 2003).
  24. Jones, A., Body Art Performing the Subject.
  25. James Schmidt, ‘Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Between phenomenology and structuralism’, Theoretical Traditions in the Social Sciences, MacMillan Publishers London, 1985, p. 91. Schmidt addresses the definition of the Other throught Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy and in relation to other philosophers and writers, pp. 59-99. In my own investigation the issue of other is not addressed, instead my aim is to understand the dynamics for interchange with what I targeted (my own image, the audience, the environment).
  26. Paul Valery, ‘Analects’, trans. S. Gilbert, Collected Works, vol.14 , Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1970, p.26.
  27. Just as Sartre’s panoramic vision had overlooked the interweaving of being and nothingness, so too it had been blind to the Chiasm in which self and other were tangled. Sartre viewed the regard, as a ‘look that kills’. In Schmidt view, Valery confirmed Merleau-Ponty’s misgivings about Sartre’s description of the ‘regard d’autrui’.
  28. Schmidt, op. cit. p. 90.
  29. Ibid., p.91
  30. The other is not a problem because ‘it is not I who sees, not he who sees’- instead an ‘anonymous visibility inhabits both of us, a vision in general, in virtue of that primordial property that belongs to the flesh’.
  31. Conference Exchange 2000, organised by University of West England in Bristol, ‘The video blu shows the artist in an intimate action which was done in front of a camera without spectators. The action of caressing and then scratching the belly symbolises the coexistence of extreme opposite feelings in relation to love. The scrolling written text relates to the action on the video, while the sound text expresses an opposite meaning. This is to say that a Chiasmatic composition is used here. Chiasmus, a rhetorical figure whose name derives from the Greek letter CHI and visually expressed with the equivalent of the English letter X, might be defined as ‘reverse parallelism’[...] Only three of the terms of the Chiasmus are included in the space of representation of the work, the actual video. The forth term is outside that space and is represented by the spectators looking at the video. Their involvement comes into play because of that gap of significance which they fill with their individual perception of, and response to, the work’, ‘Interaction as a research data collecting system: the chiasmus’, presentation and ‘BluX’ video performance, at conference: Exchange 2000: facilitating research in Art, Design and Technology, Watershed Media Centre, University of West England, Bristol- 2/3 Nov. 2000, published in Exhange on line Journal at
  32. Jones, A., op.cit., p. 14.
  33. Jones, A., op. cit., p.38.
  34. Jones, A., op. cit., p.41.
  35. Jones, A., op. cit. p. 41.
  36. Derrida, The Ear Of The Other, p. 51.
  37. Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: the politics of performance
  38. Thomas Suddendorf, 'Children's understanding of the relation between delayed video representation and current reality: A test for self-awareness?' Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 72, 152-176, 1999.
  39. ‘The rise of the metamind’, Thomas Suddendorf
  40. ‘The rise of the metamind’, Thomas Suddendorf

Elena Cologni was born in Bergamo, Italy and has been living in England for several years. She studied at the Academy of Art Brera in Milan, Bretton Hall College Leeds University, and has completed her PhD at The London Institute Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, discussing the thesis: 'The Artist's Performative Practice within the Anti-Ocularcentric Discourse' . She is at the moment working on the research funded by the AHRB for the project 'Present Memory and Liveness in delivery and reception of video documentation during performance art events' , practice based project including exhibitions and publications with Central Saint Martins College. She is also developing a publication investigating the concept of the trace in live art at the same Institution as outcome of Aftermath, research project collaboration with Senior Lecturer Peter Bond. Spanning from photography, video installation, but mostly live art, Cologni's work has been addressing a number of issues amongst them: the relationship artist-self/audience/environment (the interchange); the problem of the documentation of the live event as part of its delivery and notions of displacement through language. Her work has been presented in various venues including: Artists Space, New York, PSi, Brown University, Rhode Island (USA); Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, Gallery 291, London, Watershed Media Centre, Bristol (UK); Kunstforening, Oslo (Norway); Gallery X, Istanbul (Turkey); Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, Brescia, Assan One, Milano, Galleria Neon, Bologna (Italia).