Small Scale Solutions: Re-Inventing the Live Event
Online Conference //Cynhadledd Ar-lein, 21-22 Chwefror 2022
Prifysgol Bangor University

Marilyn Allen - Digital-live[li]ness

Digital-live[li]ness proposes a 15-minute performance paper that explores potentiality through the hauntological dimension of online events. The increased regularity and intensification of online events during the COVID 19 pandemic has emphasised the aesthetics of error in digital interactions. The live event privileges ontological being whereas the digital event, with its attendant glitches, manifests hauntological phenomena. The glitch is a ghost in the digital event, belonging to neither human nor digital being, it is an intervallic force that disrupts the striations of virtuality and physicality, thus subverting and evading presupposed limitations on space and time. Depleted bandwidth, unmuted microphones, and unsolicited communications from Siri all contribute to an arrhythmic space wherein the interrupted flow of matter, static in the system, cut-flows and glitches, facilitate a deviation from the hegemony of social systems. “A small deviation (a swerve) that can operate as the germ of something new, a deviation that creates schizzes in an existing regime whilst opening up a gap where possibility can enter. (These glitches, or points of indeterminacy open up the possibility of a multiplicity of pathways, and thus a multiplicity of possible worlds).”* Digital-live[li]ness manifests as a dysfunctioning event in which the dissemination of an academic paper will be haunted by a series of digital apparitions which proffer ‘a multiplicity of possible worlds’.

* O’Sullivan, S., 2006, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation, Hampshire UK: Palgrave Macmillan

Clinton Carlson // Nik Swift - WORKSHOP

Building Hybrid Community. Bringing ancient reflective traditions to hybrid spaces

This workshop will be an experiment in using emerging technologies to aid in bridging the gap between in-person and online sections of hybrid events.
This workshop will begin with a short presentation on the use of real-time digital technologies (e.g. Twitch, TouchDesigner, Zoom) to build community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation will look at opportunities and challenges in using these technologies to create authentic virtual and physical experiences that draw participants toward mindfulness, equality, and human connection.

Workshop participants will then be invited to experience these technologies through a short meditation and a structured circle conversation. The meditation will be a collaborative, responsive experience where the participants’ breathing will drive the motion of a digital installation’s motion. Following the experiential portion of the workshop, there will be an informal feedback session to help us iterate on this format.

The idea is that this type of mindfulness conversation exercise can be conducted in myriad spaces and situations, from conference presentation Q&A sessions to music festivals, to classrooms or other regular workspaces. We have been iterating on this experimental format, and hope to use this session as a means of testing its current manifestation while ourselves connecting with the workshop attendees and collecting feedback for the future.

Clinton Carlson // Nik Swift - PRESENTATION

Finding the Real in Real-Time. Fostering connection and communty through synchronous social engagements

Asynchronous interactive experiences have become ubiquitous with contemporary software—providing users the flexibility, efficiency, and access needed for a diverse variety of products and services. As the push for flexibility and efficiency has pushed our temporal proximity further apart, has it also created greater emotional distance and sacrificed the serendipity of real-time experiences?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, real-time experiences have also been pushed into the digital world—often being forced into existing technologies such as Zoom that fail to provide more than rudimentary interactive experiences that quickly fall apart with larger numbers of participants.

This presentation will explore how ancient traditions of meditation and circle conversations might inform the use of technology—connecting participants to our planet and fellow humans through real-time hybrid experiences. Several projects that explore these traditions will be presented, and ask participants to consider what technologies might look like that are designed not around the delivery of more efficient or flexible interactions, but around mindfulness, equity, and human connection.

The presentation will conclude with a discussion of principles that might be helpful for imagining how live events might be designed for creating greater “real” experiences.

Stephen Greer - Curating for liveness: live art and experimental strategies for performance in Scotland since – and before – the pandemic

This presenta on explores the approaches taken by ar sts and fes val organisers working in the interdisciplinary, experimental field of live art to consider the persistence of liveness following a wave of event cancella ons and covid-related restric ons across 2020 and 2021. Heavily characterised by the work of freelance and independent ar sts, by the fes val model as the preferred format for staging otherwise commercially-unviable work and the privileging of ‘real’ encounters with ‘real’ bodies, the live art sector has been comprehensively disrupted by the pandemic. At the same me, live art’s longstanding willingness – if not compulsive desire – to con nually rethink the terms of the live encounter in performance offers unexpected strategies for adap ng to new condi ons through covid-safe formats for performance including but not limited to audio walks, performance installa ons and auto-theatre (works performed by their audience) as well as forms straddling the in-person and online.

Drawing on recent works in Scotland as expressions of heavily localised ecologies of UK-based experimental prac ce, I also consider ar s c and curatorial strategies that have emerged from an extended cri cal engagement with the value and nature of liveness as involving something other than a first-person encounter in shared me and space. How might live art prac ces before and during the pandemic allow us to re- historicise what we understand as the live event, and the kinds of audience-performance rela onships involved?

Ioanna Daphne Giannoulatou // Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley - In-person, on-line…and in-person again: the journey of Underwater Haiku

The Underwater Haiku (UWH) series is a collaborative poetry, visual arts, and science initiative (January 2020-September 2022). As part of the UWH series, we ask people to compose haiku, other written reflections, and visualisations about underwater environments, based on visual and text-based prompts generated by our project team. In this presentation, I will discuss the different UWH activities that we have (and plan) to organise during the project period (and the global pandemic), as well as adjustments that our team made to Covid-19 restrictions; the ways of engagement and collaborations that emerged from our adjustments; arts-related challenges that emerged and how they were overcome, and our hopes and plans to conclude the initiative with a re-invented in person event that follows COVID-19 restrictions. For a sneak peek into UWH, visit https://firelaboratory.uk/underwater-haiku/ ahead of the talk!

Rebecca Jablonsky // Rebekah Park Contact - Fan Experiences of Virtual Gatherings and Events during COVID-19

This talk will detail the counterintuitive ways that people create intimate, small-scale interactions within large-scale virtual events. The intimacy experienced in these interactions challenges the notion that in-person experiences are more intimate than virtual events. Over the course of seven months, we researched small, informal virtual gatherings and large-scale virtual events from within the technology industry—with the goal of understanding how the PC might better support people’s emerging technologically mediated experiences. In our research we considered perspectives from multiple stakeholders, including:

1. organizers of virtual cultural events who help facilitate connection between artists and their fans and their learnings when shifting from live in-person events to virtual ones;
2. business leaders who make technology platforms that mediate virtual events; and
3. fans who gather online to attend virtual events related to music, sports, and “geek”

The research involved diary exercises, in-depth interviews, and digital ethnographic observation in informal virtual spaces as well as formal virtual events.
Although this research was focused on creating insights that would lead to new design opportunities for the PC, the researchers are social scientists who broadened the frame of inquiry to explore how virtual fan experiences enable relationship-building between fans, leisure passions, and celebrities that are distinct from live, in-person events. Building upon Nancy Baym’s concept of “relational labor,” which is defined as “regular, ongoing communication with audiences over time to build social relationships that foster paid work,” we show how experiences within virtual events become acts of mutual labor exchange, enrolling not only the artists but the fans themselves in the work required to sustain fan communities. Doing this work creates more emotional investment in virtual events, implying that virtual formats present new opportunities for increased engagement with fans.

Sarah Pogoda - Small Scale Solutions – Local festivals during a pandemic

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, in-person cultural events re-emerged in the UK and in Wales. In the meantime – as the cultural participation monitoring showed (Audience Agency, 2021) – audiences have developed new habits of engaging with arts. This adds an extra challenge to the sector’s efforts to bring audiences back to arts venues and into the flow of the creative economy. Surveys suggest that the future will show that less people will attend cultural activities. But does this necessarily have to cause concerns?

In June 2021 the Metamorffosis festival brought together artists and audiences in North Wales for a week of small-scale events from performances, dance, music, workshops, poetry readings, creative walks, exhibitions and more – all adjusted to pandemic restrictions, including social distancing, audience limitations of 30 max, face coverings and hygiene protocols. The presentation will summarize first findings arisen from artists and audience questionnaires about their experience of the festival to then take with a closer look into the innovative artistic formats developed for the festival responding creatively to the circumstances. The presentation will hopefully initiate a discussion how we can continue the creative trajectory on both sides, artists and audiences, beyond the pandemic.

Tom Kitchen - How do Covid-19 restrictions affect the intrinsic power of live events to generate a sense of community and enable shared experiences?

To provide a response to this point one has to acknowledge a dual circumstance. The first is Covid-19 not allowing for events to go ahead, and the second is when Covid-19 restrictions impact on attendees fully immersing themselves into the event environment because of the existence of C19 mitigation strategies. As a result, both of these items can be considered as restrictive and both of them can be easily reflected on as impactful and damaging to the way in which live events generate a sense of community and enable shared experiences. However, it is important to understand that it takes a lot to restrict the power that events have on community and shared experience, regardless of government mandates.

Mikhail Bakhtin the Russian social thinker made note of how, within the Soviet Union circumstance of the 20th century, carnivals and other traditional forms of celebration, both sacred and secular, were able to survive despite the many attempts from the ruling party to suppress them. Bakhtin implied that the desire to rejoice regardless of the environmental circumstance was a fundamental condition of human life. Considering these points and matching them to the events that took place during and post lockdown it is easy acknowledge that though restrictions caused inconveniences, they did not affect the intrinsic power of live events (digitally streamed in real time, or in a physical setting) to create and maintain community, social conviviality, and experiences. Covid-19 restrictions simply altered the way in which we achieve social unity.

This talk will focus on the maintenance and solidification of sub and counterculture communities through event hosting during and post lockdown.

Zoran Markovic - What's going on? A comparative study of creative industries during previous pandemics and today

Creative industries are always very susceptible to external influences, especially negative ones. Catastrophic external influences leave an indelible mark, although it can sometimes be positive, if we look at the results of artistic creation before, during and immediately after catastrophic events (wars, riots, earthquakes, revolutions, fires, epidemics, etc.).

There have been several pandemics throughout history, some of which have left an indelible mark, while some have been forgotten relatively quickly. During the Middle Ages, there were several plague epidemics in Central Asia, the Middle East and Western Europe. During the First World War, there was an epidemic of typhus in Central and Eastern Europe.

After the end of the First World War, there was an epidemic of the Spanish flu that took more victims than the war itself. During the second half of the 20th century, there were several Ebola epidemics, and the HIV / AIDS epidemic grew into a pandemic that continues today.

The paper draws a parallel between the two comparative studies. It analyzes today's epidemic caused by the kovid19 virus and compares it with previous epidemics using available statistics, as well as the impact of the pandemic on the arts and creative industries, during previous pandemics and today.

Sarah Pogoda - Small Scale Solutions – Local festivals during a pandemic


Nick Tobier - Band to Welcome Spring: performances in a distributed field

On March 20th, 2021 at 5:08 pm a worldwide band of musicians welcomed the Vernal Equinox by playing their instruments outside wherever they were. Participants included a wedding band in India with a horse in their ensemble, a custom built island on Animal Crossing with animal musicians, a string quartet in NYC’s Central Park, a boogie-woogie pianist in a Michigan driveway, a turntablist in a South London park and 30 more from Vancouver to Tokyo connecting with smaller prepared and coincidental audiences on site and with one another online towards a collective gathering.

As a child, I would go with my grandfather to the zoo in Central Park, where at noon, we, along with New Yorkers and visitors would wait for the mechanical bear to come out of its door and smack the bell atop the Delacorte Clock. For 3 minutes it seemed the city stood still as the bear twirled, a goat emerged, followed by a rabbit and a hippo, each with an instrument. Now we are on our screens, our time clocked in individual increments and attention to tasks with intervals of Animal Crossing.

A Band to Welcome Spring is inspired by municipal clocks and bell towers that for centuries have been civic recognitions of the shared keeping and passage of time. In this (now second) full pandemic year interest in and the need for social connection and celebration (while respecting physical distance ) feels especially acute.

(You can see a compilation of excerpts of the performance here)

Utopias Bach - WORKSHOP

Trawsffurfiad, Shapeshifting - finding new forms of solidarity in and beyond the pandemic

Utopias Bach – revolution in miniature, is an art project created by those taking part, and open to all. www.utopiasbach.org

Utopias Bach’s roots are in the limitations and lessons of lockdown, and our shoots are growing in the uncertainties of our post-lockdown world, exploring how we can face the overwhelming gravity of our post-COVID situation, including climate change issues and the collapse of our ecosystems.

Using both virtual and face-to-face small scale events, Utopias Bach has been building community between humans and more-than-humans. We have together been re-imagining Utopia as “Terrestrial” - small, experimental and rooted in place, while growing connections across the world (Bruno Latour, Down to Earth 2017).

Our diverse community has been noticing the little things, trying out different ways of thinking and being, creating and entangling ourselves in the people, processes and places around us (‘complex contact zones of entanglement’ Donna Harraway, Staying with the Trouble, 2016). A revolution in miniature, focused at a scale we feel we can influence.
This way of working is a direct challenge to the global ‘last chance’ stories that as Suzanne Dhaliwal suggests, "invite draconian responses centring wealth, instrumental nature, techno fixes, large scale annexation of land and water."

One of the methods we use to decolonise our thinking are ‘guided visualisations’ - including ‘Trawsffurfiad’(https://vimeo.com/644463952) - which enable us to experience the possibilities of another way of being.

In this workshop we invite you to shake off your human limitations by travelling into a parallel world, shapeshifting into a more-than-human being on the way (animal, vegetable or mineral or hybrids thereof) to seek prescient insights and advice for our human selves. We will return with gifts to create tiny glimpses – Utopias Bach - that might bring another world just that little bit closer.

Wanda Zyborska - Pandemoniacal Crones