What I’m trying out at this stage of my life is new formats, or new settings maybe, or formats and settings that have been tried before but then been forgotten or pushed aside because established formats have such a powerful hold on our thinking. I’m frustrated by conventional concerts, screenings, exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions, chaired roundtable conversations, artist talks, keynotes, PowerPoint bullet points and all the familiar routines that frame practice and discourse, invariably pulling non-verbal experience back into the domain of talk and text. In a period of so-called practice-led or practice-based research these ways of ‘showing’ amplify distinctions which should be getting quieter.
Reaching an audience of thousands, millions even, is easy now if you’ve got a LOL MP4 of a hamster singing Rigoletto. That makes it even more important to reconsider states of absence, presence and intimacy, or the condition of things, the transience of events, the pathos of time, the intensities of feeling and the known unknowns of improvisation, not much of which has any traction in the medieval orthodoxies of academia or the slick clichés of art curating and music showbiz. Paradoxically, what I want to do is modest, small scale, quiet and uncertain - just a slight shift of conditions, a step away from the 20th century hybrids of mixed media, interdisciplinary art and technocratic spectacle into a world that doesn’t quite know its own limits. I want to focus on ways of working and how they connect with or disconnect from archives and networks; in particular, I want to think about collaborative or collective strategies of making/being and how they can be reconciled with individual identity. It’s a big thing but small, a conversation that can be quiet but loud.
As a way of beginning I am presenting three events (one of these in collaboration with artist Rie Nakajima). They are imagined as rites more than anything else, a means to connect with methods of making and remembering, unmaking and forgetting. They are more concerned with the unfinished or in-between, that which is difficult to articulate or impossible to exhibit; each one will involve offerings of different kinds, opportunities to listen, to watch, to speak, to be silent.
David Toop is University of the Arts London Chair of Audio Culture and Improvisation. To read more about the 12 newly appointed Chairs at the University and their ambitions please see here