Topic: Manual Draft 190810


By understanding art as situation, the beholder becomes a central agent of the aesthetic process. Not only in the sense that his or her view on a given object and the accompanying mental processes create the aesthetic situation, but also in the sense that he is the protagonist of these situations. Without him – and this means, without his sensual experience – there is no situation. Generalizations about the aesthetic qualities of an object therefore become rather difficult. The interpretive authority of the aesthetic scholar, the art theoretician, is at stake if we regard art as situation. As we have tried to show, art theory and art exegesis do not become superfluous, but their function and nature change fundamentally. Instead of offering definite readings of art works in order to premeditate future encounters with them (“I tell you, what to look for and how to feel about it”) and thereby bereave the beholder of exciting and potentially existential experiences, the task lies in opening up roads to valuable yet highly subjective personal experiences. In other words: to further the emancipation of the beholder from other people's beholding.

There clearly is a strong element of pluralist and anti-authoritarian thinking in such a view on art. We believe that the openness of the aesthetic process has to resonate in the way we talk about this aesthetic process. An academic practice that grounds in this view has to reflect the same pluralist and anti-authoritarian attitude in it's form as well as in it's content. What could such an academic practice look like? How can we share our personal experience, contextualize it in art theory and art history and at the same time further a subjective approach to this very art work? And: How can the complexity of the interplay between the numerous factors in a situation become sinnfällig?

As artists and researchers we propose a combination/synthesis of the live art practice of performance and the academic practice of lecture. The practice of lecture performance involves elements of both formats, argument as well as sentiment, abstract logic as well as concrete mimesis. What we find more important than a simple addition of techniques (which is furthermore highly questionable in its scientific and artistic justification) is the fundamental question of the role of the lecturer/performer. If we regard the personal experience of each beholder as the main agent of the aesthetic experience (and we assume that any academic audience is made up of potential beholders), what then is the position and value of the academic scholar and his experience?

Over the course of the last three years we have developed a set of techniques for creating presentations – not necessarily in the strict format of live lecture performance – that further a pluralist and anti-authoritarian discourse about art as situation. Let's call it a method. The role of the lecturer/performer stands at the center of it. While this method is born out of our live art practice, it is our aim to adapt it for the needs of the academic institution and hence to offer a new, possibly alternative pedagogic tool. This is the theme of this section/manual.

Chapter 1 – The multi-identity of the lecturer

At the heart of this method stands the creation of a character, a poetic creation, to be enacted by the lecturer/performer. Obviously, describing the activity of the lecturer as enactment of an aesthetic figure changes the view on the whole activity of giving a lecture. If done so openly, the lecture becomes a show, a work of art in it's own right thereby loosing much of his discursive authority. While it has become common to adopt the vocabulary of acting technique (such as: performing a stage-role) in rhetorics our proposition differs in so far as acting techniques are not used here as means to a rhetoric goal, but instead to clarify the dependencies and connections between rhetorical object, agent of this object, lecturer and the listeners.
In such a lecture performance the lecturer holds indeed six different positions: As author of the lecture performance, as agent of an aesthetic situation (the one who is in/is creating the situation), as reporter of his experience made in this situation, as researcher in the aspects and influences underlying this situation as well as his experience of it and last but not least as object (role) of a performance/work of art.

Chapter 2 – remembrance and reenaction

The lecture performances start from the memory of an experience made in an aesthetic situation. This does not have to be explicitly verbalized, but as a common understanding it positions what is to be said as a personal, that is a subjective statement. By doing so, we state the dominance of the subjective experience thereby attempting to bridge the hierarchical gap between professional and non-professional statements.

This personal experience has to be reported. Instead of reporting it in a descriptive verbal manner, we propose to reenact the situation or elements of that situation to make it immediate thus allowing for similar experiences to be made by the audience. This is where the lecturer takes up the role of agent of the situation, as the one creating it at a certain time and space. The audience is allowed to both view this as a reenactment of a otherwise distant and past situation as well as to get caught within the actual situation in the here and now.

Central to this process of reenacting is the repeated switch between distance and engagement, observation and performance, reflection and experience, both on the side of the lecturer as well as the audience. This switch creates an opening between factual account and interpretation trough the lecturer, since the statements are repeatedly opposed and corrected by immediate experiences. This opening is the space for a self-conscious emotional as well as intellectual involvement.

Chapter 3 – staging situations, the use of space

Creating a stage for the lecture performance allows for the lecturer to use the spatial conditions to clarify the aesthetic situations. As we have found in our research, spatial categories and metaphors are highly useful to explain aesthetic situations (the fictional space, the frame, the position of the beholder, the galery/mueum/theater space etc.). If situations are staged in that sense the relationships can be made much clearer than expressed verbally. This relates to the spatial arrangement on the stage as well as between stage and auditorium. Where and how the audience is seated (or standing) has a significant impact on their involvement in a situation as well as on their understanding of what is said and/or performed. Our own lecture performance have in some cases taken the form of installations or guided tours instead of lectures with a central perspective.

Chapter 4 – steps towards a dramaturgy of remembrance

John Dewey defines an experience as “esthetic” if it consists of dynamic parts and constructs a whole, comes to a close. How would then the account of such an experience be structured?

A lecture like any complex presentation is structured in such a way as to enhance the understanding of the object and to guide the audience's attention through the time span of the presentation. The author of the lecture performance can choose between several dramaturgies to build the presentation upon. Memory has a different dramaturgy than the aesthetic situation in question might and understanding theoretical problems has again a different time structure. The lecture performance as a spectacle might require a different dramaturgy still. If one chooses to take the process of remembrance as grid this will lend itself towards making the audience follow in this process of remembrance, constructing a situation step by step and analyzing each step in regard to a whole. Whether to choose a dramaturgy that derives from and answers to the audiences awareness (or lack of knowledge) thus making the presentation more theatrical or whether to choose a dramaturgy that is guided by logic (knowledge production) or the lecturer's personal process of remembrance, has significant impact on what exactly the object of the lecture performance is and how it will be experienced and understood.

Case example:

Moorsoldaten – in making a lecture performance about a recording of Die Moorsoldaten by Hannes Wader

- Where and how have I heard the recording (age, situation, medium, location)

- What is the spatial and temporal conditions of the hearing (intimacy, atmosphere, ownership relations, sequence)

- What is the spatial and temporal conditions and the within the art work (who is dong what, what is evoked, what do i imagine, what do i know)

- What is the background of this art work (history of the art work, social and political circumstances), how is it embedded in social life

- What role do these circumstances play for the experience, how is it influenced

- How do I relate these to the audience

- What position does the audience take up, what is their knowledge at what point in time

- What scenic elements can be used

- What is the resolution, result

- ...

Scenic Example:

Lecturer enters the auditorium and starts to speak about the recording and his personal experience. The recording is not heard. He enters into more and more details about his experience and the background information. At the same time singers of a small choir enter the auditorium one by one and position themselves at a designated choir stand on the side of the stage, facing the lecturer. As he advances in understanding the experience, the group of silent singers grows and watches him, he is increasingly faced with a second audience. When the choir is complete the lecturer either sings the song to this choir, or the choir sings fractions of it back to him, or they sing simultaneously at/against each other.