Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MultiMedia and the Avant-Gardes

I had to help write an essay about multimedia performances a few years ago, and found a wonderful book by Richard Kostelanetz which gave me a clue to how to shape the piece.

I have just bought it through AbeBooks for a very good price, as the Amazon going rate seemed much higher (£20-30 for the paperback).

Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes.

Mr Kostelanetz has written a myriad of fascinating material, and his website is definitely worth a visit.

Admittedly, I bought the first edition (1993) - the one that inspired me - and he has updated the second edition (2001) - with the cover shown here.
Indeed, he has offered some draft updates, should a third edition ever appear.

What I found, to help me shape the essay/thesis (with a deadline of a week!) was his reference to mixed-means theatre. He analysed the various forms that he covers with that term (Happenings, stage performances, kinetic environments, etc) using what I assume he got from Aristotle's rather rigid 'unities' for theatrical performances:

  • The unity of action: a play should have one main action that it follows, with no or few subplots.

  • The unity of place: a play should cover a single physical space and should not attempt to compress geography, nor should the stage represent more than one place.

  • The unity of time: the action in a play should take place over no more than 24 hours.
However, to describe the wider variety of audience, performer, creator interactions of mixed media / multimedia performance (including circus, in my terms) he offered this table:

And that gave me all the structure I needed to help my friend shape his thesis. We simply worked through all the practical projects and shows he had done, and described them as involving:

  • open or closed space

  • fixed or variable time

  • fixed or variable actions.
So I owe Mr Kostelanetz quite a bit (and the library for having a copy of his book available at the time).
On top of all that, I love dictionaries, and this remains a treasure trove of cross-references, eye-openers, and other fun. He doesn't only cover some of my own favourite artists: Duchamp, Cage, Jarry, Joyce; but other perhaps less expected ones like Burroughs, Dylan and Bucky Fuller; and also genres from Performance Art to Punk Rock to Hypertext, and groups like Fluxus and Dada.

1 comment:

Green World said...

Language as a virus - very cool idea!

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