30 May 2012
An introduction to Life in Bytom
For half of this year I will be working in Bytom, a mining town in Silesia, South-Poland. During this project I will construct both individual and group workshops with five to fifteen people, who will be invited by the Kronika Centre for Contemporary Art in Bytom. These people are from different backgrounds, ages and social classes. There will be four workshops before the opening of the project in mid November 2012. In between the workshops participants are given a notebook with instructions to document their daily life in relation to machines and devices, “commons” and groups.
All of the material is treated anonymously to produce an exhibition and series of performances. The initial idea is that the performance will be a solo, where the workshops and notes are reflected upon as potential material. They will impact substantially on what form the performance and the exhibition will take. Aside from the end result of an exhibition, these workshops aim to give some tools for participants to produce agency during and after this process. Byy agency I simply mean more ability to function, participate in the social environment and have more access to one’s own potentiality.
In the past twenty years the area of Bytom has transformed from industrial to neoliberal and capitalist. As a result, six out of eight mines are now closed. Nevertheless the mining channels are still having a tremendous effect on the city. Entire housing blocks are collapsing due to the fact that these abandoned underground tunnels are left as they are, not filled out. Buildings and factories are left unoccupied since there is no money or will to renovate them, and owners of the buildings await their collapse, in order to build new constructions. Pawn shops, second hand stores, 24-hour stores and off licences have emerged – the signs of debt and despair. The curator of the Kronika Contemporary Art Centre in Bytom Stanislaw Ruksza calls Bytom the "Detroit” of Poland.
In this context, what can a performance do? Each epoch produces certain devices in relation to work, production and life. As such, these devices require certain performances from the users too. Repetition is part of life, but these refrains keep transforming. There are always some dominant refrains taking place, but minor refrains exist as well. Janell Watson describes the idea of refrain by Félix Guattari:
“Refrain is a repeated semiotic element which functions as a component of passage among behavioural and other assemblages. The refrain can be verbal, melodic, or gestural, and is made familiar through repetition; it ritualizes and normalizes basic temporal refrains. […] The refrain can also mark territories […] refrain can serve as a sort of safety net for dealing with sudden deterritorializations. […] Like catalysts or enzymes, refrains may orient an interaction or behavioral assemblage without participating in it directly.”
(Watson, Janell. 2009. Guattari’s Diagrammatic Thought: Writing between Lacan and Deleuze. London: Continuum, p. 79).
The task of my proposal is to work with dominant and minor refrains in order to probe the potentiality, which may be passive, obstructed or latent, in the repetition of everyday life. These refrains may by songs, narratives, stories, beliefs, images, dreams, antagonisms, affects, embodied refrains, illnesses, excitement, etc. My intention is to produce agency and even transformation for the participants of this process. These are the starting points for this process. How has life changed in the past twenty years in the transition to neoliberal economy and the European Union? This process is about life, but not only the life in politics or economic contradictions. It is about machines and devices, as well. These devices require certain performances from the users, as well. A device is not only a gadget, but can be anything used in order to connect, cut, transform, alter, etc.
How does one approach everyday life, which has changed singificantly in the past twenty years, and what does this change require one to perform? How have these devices changed relationships, “commons” and groups? A draft version of this project was presented at the New Performance Festival in Turku, Finland, from 3-5 of May, 2012. This version is entitled Can You Tell Me About Your Machines. The first part of this performance takes the form of a dialogue, where three to five participants answer questions from me relayed through headphones, while the audience witness their responses in the event. In the last part I become a subject of their projections on machines and follow their directions, how they wish or desire a machine to function, serve or command.
The project website can be found at: http://teronauha.com/life-in-bytom
The Kronika gallery website: http://kronika.org.pl
The New Performance Festival website: http://newperformance.fi/
The project is produced by Kronika Centre for Contemporary Art in Bytom, The Theatre Academy in Helsinki, New Performance Festival, Turku and Performance Matters, London.