Performance in telepresence. The body
Maria Beatriz de Medeiros
we want to discuss here is the possibility of communication in telepresence;
the possibility of the absent body to participate in effective communication,
that is, the capacity of a spectral presence to be part of an interlocution.
And, since Performance Art requests
the interaction with the “spectator” (the live art truly interactive in which
the spectator becomes creator of the work), telepresence is one of the languages
of Performance Art.
speech is technical. The scream, the grunting, the cry are also languages.
However, the word, from the vocal chords’ control to the relationship between
things and sounds, verbs, and the complexity of language is the primary technique
or the first technique. The body is the place of this technique. Language
is technique of communication. The body seeks another body, it draws the other
near, it advises it of the danger: interaction. The element that enables subjectivity
is the other. Intersubjectivities deepen relationships through interlocution.
authors refer to the other, or to the encounter of the other. No disagreement
was signaled in what it refers to the intensity of the encounter with the
other, another human being, in opposition to the encounter with things. Mikel
Dufrenne speaks about invitation to an answer, invitation to a comprehension.
A wait. We respect the other one who teaches us our own inner life. Jean-Paul
Sartre tells us about the other who transforms us into object, witchcraft.
“ The hell is the other”. Christian Delacampagne sees ignorance and impenetrability
in the other. We do not agree with Sartre; on the contrary, we believe that
the other is the only possibility for creating subjectivity, for it is only
with the other – whom I respect and give the right to have a say in – that
interlocution takes place.
a wide discussion on the concepts of interactivity, interaction, and interlocution
would be necessary. However, since we do not want to discuss these concepts,
we will limit ourselves to the following definitions, committing ourselves
to treat them deeply in another essay. We understand interactivity as the
activity between the human being and the machine, and we would not dare to
use the word “dialogue”. In an interaction, a body influences another and
modifies its behavior. In interlocution, however, there is the mutual influence
and modification, there is mutual transformation and formation during the
process, and this is possible only through sharing with an equal.
to the philosopher Jean Paul DOGUET
“ an interlocutor is a protagonist of the process of communication
who is capable of enrolling himself explicitly as a direct part. Therefore,
it is not enough to transfer information (“communicate”) to become an interlocutor”,
it is necessary for that interlocutor to be a conscious author of the word.
The automatic communication, or the communication between animals and even
the involuntary forms of communication (indirect) do not belong to interlocution.
of all, the body implies conscience of itself. This conscience happens only
in the presence of the other. The other, distorted and unreachable mirror,
makes me aware of myself. It is through the other that I know me, know me
as different person, and I build up my particularity from this difference;
I become a unique subject; the subjectivity is sealed in myself as it is in
this other. The vital need of communication comes from this incommensurable
solitude of my conscience, pressed in the borders of my body. I scream to
touch this other. Monad (Leibniz)? No, in monad there is no communication.
Communication is the very possibility of intersubjectivity, the supply for
my body as well as the only way to produce thought.
presence is disposed, there is no alternative, imposed and exposed; it is
despot and dear. Thus, we slit the maternal sex, slithering through thick,
still hot liquids, facing life with the rage of being alive in this rough
world; this is expressed in our first cry. So we are given to suckle on a
cozy lap, the sour smell of human milk, a more or less donor nipple. The salty,
hot, and humid air indicating I should have been in the tropics. The cold
sheet and the hot body: presences. The present body and suddenly, there is
the pain of the absence. While present, there is communication – gests, cries,
screams, and then speech fills the gap of the agglutinated body, of the drunk
milk and the shared sweat. While absent, Bernard Stiègler would say tertiary
that are supplying or trying to supply living communication.
human body is flesh and its secretions, movements and laments, smiles and
hand waves; the human body is the residence of subjectivity, and I remain
confined in it.
to Paul Levinson,
communication and transportation coincide, for communication
would require presence. However, the tertiary props allow, through the more
or less sharpen disembodiment, the sustaining of a gap of the other’s absence.
Through his mother’s photograph, Roland Barthes weaves a longing for her presence,
revealed and satisfied in the photograph. Communication here is then impossible,
for only Barthes sees and “shares”, with his mother, his theoretical thoughts
about the photograph. And the latter remains a spectral part, without words
of the intended communication.
The television and other temporary
The radio and the television were called
means of communication; however, communication implies interaction between
subjectivities. The radio and the television are means of information. The
telephone and the internet in actual time (just text – chats – and telepresence)
allow communication. Both require a partner and participation: becoming active
part. Here, communication and transportation coincide: there is voice teletransportation
by telephone, there is teletransportation of moving image and voice by internet.
Eco, in Kant and the Platypus talks
about prostheses and mirrors. The prostheses would be extensive (they extend
our senses), intrusive (they intrude into our bodies), and also magnifying
(they amplify minuscule spaces and reduce huge spaces), and occasionally,
deforming. The mirrors would be prostheses that do not deceive – paraspecular
image: an absolute double, incapable of lying, with no indicial value; image
in which type and occurrence coincide.
and always taking into account a theoretical point of view, what appears on
the television screen is not a sign of anything: it is paraspecular image
that is apprehended by the observant with the belief we give to a specular
(…) We do not doubt the television because we know that
since each prosthesis – extensive and intrusive, does not provide us with
signs in a first instance, but only perceptive stimuli.”
from our trusting the mirror – paraspecular image – would result in a general
trust in television, and, in front of it, there would be a tendency of undervaluing
the interpretative strategies. We ought to emphasize that Eco alerts to be
working “from a theoretical point of view”; however, if we take into consideration
Bernard Stiègler’s analyses,i.e., from a practical point of view, the television
carries out this capacity of suppressing the possible critical judgment not
because of its specular or paraspecular image which we trust, but as a temporary
object, its flux coincides with the flux of conscience.
“It is in this way that the mass media evolved to pick up and sell the times of the consciences,
exploiting specific virtues from the audiovisual objects while they are temporary.
[…] This coincidence of the conscience flux, with that
of its object allows adopting the time of the object as the time of the conscience.
From this moment on, this conscience can “live” its time by attorney, during
the living time of the objects broadcast by the mass media. The result is
that the time of the consciences, which synchronize and homogenize simultaneously,
becomes the organic matters of the industries of communication, for programs
are not what these industries sell, but audience to the advertisements. The
programs are employed to attract the consciences to be sold.”
the television and also the cinema - which Eco affirms to be signs we do not
trust – and the videogames have contributed to “destroy the spirit”
. It is destruction of the “time of the conscience”, and
consequently, of the spirit, by the adoption of the time of the temporary
if the temporary objects are conscience builders or the very conscience itself,
according to Stiègler, these objects are not capable of communication. They
are implantations, intrusive and constitutive prostheses, incapable of founding
subjectivity because there is no interlocution. Thereafter, there is a number
of individuals semi-capable of words, almost incapable of being responsible
for their deeds. These are made up individuals mined in their ability of building
personal thoughts and criticism, inept to decide upon their own destiny.
authors state that one of the factors that engenders the desire for telepresence
comes from the fear of the actual world. An individual can be fearful of reality,
and this fear has always existed. However, this fear is much more present
today due to the fact that some idols and “stars” have their bodies sculpted
or shaped or, many times, they are presented in magazines with “corrections”
made directly on the photographs. These beings do not exist; they are truly
non-places (according to Marc Augé). Many adolescents, incapable of looking
like their sculpted idols, have a feeling of self-rejection; they become locked
inside themselves; they deny themselves and spend their lives communicating
via computer. This communication, mainly in telepresence, though slow and
obscure, is the possibility of meeting the other who is not physically present;
it is the possibility of meeting and communicating – not necessarily rejection
ghosts populate the body imaginary. How can one recognize one’s own body in
the flux of images that reveals or dissembles bodies, which appear and disappear
in the continuous game of intimacy and spectacle? It all happens as if we
constantly had to prove the actual
existence of this body we experience
as our own…It is necessary to give ourselves a body, or simply designate it
as real through an act – a word – that gives it a second birth and makes it
live, we could say, by baptizing it.”
Huisman and François Ribes, in the citation, do not absolutely think the new
technologies of information and communication. They refer to the symbolic
body, to ghostly bodies. But we could easily bring their consideration into
this reflection: present body, absent body, embodiment, disembodiment. Various
are the ghosts that populate the body imaginary. This statement takes into
consideration the perfect bodies shaped by body
building, plastic surgery, silicone, and liposuction. The ghosts, presently
created by the body industry, do not even look like our naturally awkward
bodies. How can I recognize my body in an imagery with which I do not identify
myself? The incessant flux of images, the bombardment of images do not even
allow stabilization of idols, the ones we could, perhaps, try to imitate.
Yet their lives are more and more meteoric… Since I do not identify with those
they want to impose on me as idols, I simply do not know who I am.
cinema, in the numberless video-movies that we take within our families, the
bodies are not only perfect, but also winners. In actual life… someday parents
were their children’s idols. Today, confronted with supermen and wonderwomen,
parents have been put in checkmate for a long time.
and somber minds confined in gray cubicles and cold cities maybe do not desire
the actual bodies. They may hide their flaccid and pale skin, but this is
not a rule: the actual body, naked, twisted, fat and decayed is exhibited
with no psychological complex, or with some complex, but truly naked, it exposes
itself with no prejudice to an audience; it is exposed and, bizarrely, it
wins its way. I believe that those artists such as, Richard Billingham, Ron
Mueck, Jenny Saville, Joel-Peter Witkin, amongst others who display their
“disfigured” bodies, do no more than open anyone’s body widely, that is, far
from the aesthetic rules imposed to the body today.
one who fears reality, presence, can not happen in telepresence.
not believe that we will choose telepresence instead of presence even when
telepresence is more evolved. I allow myself to tell almost a joke here: I
was a tourist lost in Rennes, France, in 1999… In fact, I was not lost because
I had a Brazilian friend with me. We were going to attend an international
conference. One afternoon, we decided to take a walk in the city and buy post
cards for family members and friends, and we came to find a post card that
made us think, for both of us did not know the saying that was written in
is blind; so it is necessary to touch. The word of a Brazilian”.
flattered that others think that only Brazilians feel like that. We believe
that the physical presence, capable of smell and caress, capable of actual
voice and superimposed talking will never be totally substituted by telepresence,
be we Brazilian or not.
bought the post card, but I never posted it. I had never heard the saying
before, but how homesick I was!
bodily experience in telepresence is incomplete, for it does not allow touching;
and the sense of smell does not exist yet. In fact, the experience of the
spectral presence is just ghostly like; it is low quality image, with no flesh,
with no possibility of secretions and contaminations. However, relationships
may be kept through internet and in telepresence a long way off. This aspect
is referred to as negative by some authors. Letters written and sent by postal
mail also allow the existence of relationships between human beings who have
not seen each other for decades, and these letters were never considered negative:
they are very important documents when we think of mail between two great
writers. What was never considered is that these writers formed ghettos with
those they shared assiduous postal mail, and could understand their thoughts.
in the article cited, remembers Freud to state that “writing is the voice
of the absent person”. Writing, somehow, also allows the spectral presence,
even if it is more ethereal; and we do not fear it even when Socrates, or
more recently, Jacques Derrida remind us of their danger as phármakón: medicine and poison. Telepresence is of the same order:
poison and medicine; however, it allows communication in actual time; it comes
close to a dialogue, which Socrates praises: live word, place of interlocution,
Doguet would say.
alive, the logos comes from the
father. There is no written thing for Plato. There is a logos
more or less alive, more or less near it. Writing is not an order of independent
signification; it is a weakened speech, but in no way something dead: a live
dead, a dead in sursis, a deferred
life, an appearance of breathing; the ghost, the spectrum, the simulacrum
(…) of the live speech is not inanimate, is not insignificant; it simply signifies
little and always identically. This scarce signifier, this discourse with
no great responsible is like all the spectrums: erroneous”.
is spectral image because it has no physical presence. The spectrum referred
to by Derrida is the father’s absence; it has no origin; it is immutable and,
as it is, dead. Telepresence is sensible; it comes from the father; it is
Art in telepresence
no doubt, the improvised work (happening, firework, dance, land-art) leave but traces in its participants’
memory; however, the truth of the work is in the experience of the presence
and not in what the repetition becomes possible.”
art is the language that allowed art to become alive. In the late 70s, it
wanted presence and presence as revolution; revolution in the art that accompanies,
in fact, the events of 68, the hippies, the sexual liberation, Rock’n Roll,
… protest against the market and against the art market. Performance art,
in principle, does not produce artistic objects for that market because it
is ephemeral, and many times, centered only in the artists’ bodies, and not
in objects. The spectator’s participation is another aspect of many performances.
performance is one of the languages of art: some artists make it their own
language; others use it as another possibility. Since the advent of video,
many were the artists who worked with video-performance, notably, Vito Acconci,
who used this technology to make the first performances in telepresence: the
video-camera and the artist in a place, and the public in front of a monitor
in another place. Nowadays, with internet and computers with cameras and microphones,
performance in telepresence is an artistic language that some people have
been investigating. In fact, this technology has evolved very rapidly, and
“presence” in telepresence has become, day-by-day, more consistent. However,
we still have to ask ourselves, to what extent the body in telepresence –
disembodiment- is only sensation of
experience, imagination, and the art only object of idea.
the programs used for telepresence, each “spectator” is also sender and builder
of his own screen. The “spectator” becomes effectively co-author of the work.
The work is constructed as a truly live dialogue, as Socrates wanted, and,
even if writing is present, it is live word.
necessary to emphasize the necessity of a critical work. The new techniques
allow us to experiment with the inedited. It necessarily causes fairy enchantment,
and enchantment inhibits critical capacity. There is enchantment for what
we do not know, and some, against the first experiences with new technologies
– when confronted with the new – soon call it art, forgetting that art should
generate percepts and affects, as Deleuze and Guattari wanted
, or yet, it should bring its very world, as Mikel Dufrenne
absent element, I allow myself to suggest, is the human being… Art, …, has
become an area in destruction in modern life, … it engages in a desperate
battle against disdain and the final abandonment of desert houses. It is due
to this fact that, with all our flattered mechanical efficiency, with all
the superabundance of energy, food, materials,
goods, there is no proportional improvement in the quality of quotidian life;
it is due to this fact that the great majority of “well-housed” people of
our civilization live their emotionally apathetic, mentally torpid existences
with insipid passivity and weakened desires – lives that contradict the actual
potentiality of modern culture.”
we live in a society that has serious problems, as Lewis Munford has advised
since 1952 (!), and, for sure, telepresence will not be the first instrument
to redimension it; otherwise, we can expect that, as did Munford, after turned
into art, it will be capable of repopulating life, making the human being
present, and engendering the desire for actual presence, and then, and fully
allowing the restitution of subjectivity in interlocution.
Douguet, Jean-Paul, “Je, tu,
à une philosophie de l’interlocution”, magazine Les Papiers, # 48, Collège International de Philosophie, Paris, July
1999, p. 5.
According to Bernard Stiègler, “If it is
true that from molecular biology, the sexed mortal is defined by its somatic
memory of the epigenetic, and
the genetic germinal memory, and that these, in principle, do not communicate
between themselves (…), the exteriorisation process is a rupture in the
history of life from which a third memory,
which I called epifilogenetic
appears. The epifilogenetic memory, essential to a living human, is technical:
it is inscribed in death… the epigenetic experience of an animal is lost
when the animal dies; however, the life that continues through other means
of life, the experience inscribed
in the objects become transferable and accumulative: that is how a possibility
of inheritance becomes possible.” Therefore, this third epifilogenetic memory
is technical. It is constituted of images and texts inscribed over props,
tertiary remembrances such as writing, photography, cinema, … “that testify
a past legated by the disappeared ones.” STIEGLER, Bernard, La Technique
et le Temps 2. La désorientation, translated by ourselves, Paris: Galilée, 1996, p. 12.
Bernard Stiègler is a philosopher,
author of La technique et le Temps,
two volumes, and La faute d’Epiméthée,
1994, and La désorientation, 1996;
published by Galillé, two other volumes will soon be published. Nowadays,
Stiègler is Director of IRCAM, Paris.
Paul Levinson, an interview with Jeremy
Eco, Umberto. Kant e o ornitorrinco. Ed. Record, Rio
de Janeiro, 1997. Translation – Ana Thereza B. Vieira. P. 313. In the French translation
by Julien Gayrard, ed. Grasset, Paris, 1997, we read:
“Donc, et toujours d’un point
de vue théorique, tout ce qui apparaît sur l’écran de télévision n’est signe
de rien: c’est une image paraspéculaire que l’observateur appréhende avec
cette même confiance que l’on accorde à l’image spéculaire.
(….) Nous ne nous méfions pas
de la television car nous savons que ce ne sont pas des signes qu’elle nous
fournit en premier lieu mais des stimuli perceptifs, comme le fait toute
protése extensive et intrusive”.
O preço da consciência, in Arte
e Tecnologia na Cultura Contemporânea, MEDEIROS, Maria Beatriz (org.
e introdução), Brasília, Mestrado em Artes, UnB, 2002.
HUISMAN, Bruno &
RIBES, François. Les philosophes et le corps. Translated by us. Paris: Ed. Dunod, 1992,
“L’amour est aveugle, it faut donc toucher.
Parole de brésilien”.
A Farmácia de Platão. São Paulo:
iluminuras, 1997, p. 96.
essay “Oeuvre d’art”, in Encyclopaedia
Universalis, vol. 12, Paris, 1980, pp. 13 – 18, p. 17.
DELEUZE, Gilles and GUATTARI, Félix, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? Paris: Minuit,
DUFRENNE, Mikel. “Objet esthétique e objet technique”,
in Esthétique et philosophie.
Tome 1. Paris: Klincksieck, 1967.
Arte e técnica. São Paulo: Martins Fontes,
1986 (1952), p. 16 e 17.