VE 3&4

Things continue to go well at the conference, although I feel a bit out of my element. I’m not a documentary scholar, so much of this stuff goes over my head. I find myself wishing I could just watch these great documentaries they’re referencing. But still, I manage to find some value in the panels, and I’m storing away mental data for future retrieval.

The events have been the best part. Wednesday night was a screening of a fantastic documentary called The Halfmoon Files by German director Philipp Scheffner. It’s a somewhat reflexive film about a documentarian’s effort to give life and story to Indian POWs in WWI through a series of phonograph recordings that were made. The sound design was incredible, really inspiring. It’s touring the festival circuit now, so keep an eye out for it.

Last night was a keynote (actually more of a guest lecture) by Marina Abramovic, a fairly well-known and highly influential performance artist. She was a pioneer in physical performance art, wherein she would harm or manipulate her body in various ways. During one of her shows (“Rhythm 0”), she encouraged an audience to interact with her physically, in any manner, without boundaries. She even placed various objects nearby, one being a gun and a bullet, for people to use on her if they felt so inclined. Pretty intense stuff.

I wish I could recall some of the more interesting things she said. At one point she said (and I’m highly, highly paraphrasing) that in performance art, you first create a structure (either figurative or literal), and then you step into that (literally or figuratively) and move with it in time. She admitted that performance art has a tendency to be long and boring. Her joke: “How many performance artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” “I don’t know, I was only there for the first 4 hours.” But she mentioned something John Cage once said, that boring is necessary. You need to get to that point in order to move past it. Once you do that, you can relax, remove expectation, and see things in a different way. I like that.

I hope I’m remembering all that right. I’d hate to misrepresent her words. Anyway, it was a great lecture. Today’s the last day, and then there’s a final reception party. Then it’s on to Aachen and into Belgium tomorrow.

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