The project formed part of the Schmiede Festival as a “Politics of Gestures” lab and offered approximately 200 international participants the opportunity to get involved in the research process. A corresponding format was provided in the lectures and workshops featuring two guests: Antje Vowinckel (Berlin-based sound artist and radio dramatist) with “Melody minus One”, and Stefan Krebs (technology historian, University of Luxembourg) with “Experimental Media Archeology and the Politics of Kunstkopf Stereophony”. In addition, an on-site collaboration emerged with artist and director Lucie Strecker (“Modeling the Immune System with Gestures”), as well as an active exchange on political gestures with cultural manager and director Anwar Akhtar and a reflection on technology and content with media artist and programmer Mark Coniglio.
Timo Herbst presented his work “Play by rules (Hamburg)”, which is based on the demonstrations and riots surrounding the G20 summit in July 2017. The video installation focuses on the ubiquitous Internet-capable image and sound recording devices used by protesters and news reporters to document events and, in some cases, distribute them in real time.
Laurie Young provided project participants with insights into her working method, which she had been able to develop further since the workshop in Braunschweig. In the meantime, the choreographer had collaborated with Canadian dancer Justine Chambers on her method of the sequential analysis of protest gestures. Due to autobiographical moments associated with these gestures, Young described the process as a particularly intense experience. Konrad Strutz presented his artistic engagement with photographic images beyond ordinary spatial representations, emphasizing the element of time that these imaging processes require and erecting a personally-designed machine. Tobias Schulze placed his research on the social media app “musical.ly” at our disposal and presented his reflections on the connection between technology, gestures and the use of gestures in popular culture.
In order to collaboratively develop the submitted works in smaller groups, project participants resorted to the “transformation chains” framework, which combines artistic working methods with playful approaches (such as “Cadavre Exquis”). Dina Boswank put a drawing by Herbst, in which he recorded sequences of a gesture, into writing. Boswank initially worked descriptively. However, the great experimental scope of the linguistic images evoked was conclusively revealed during the performative re-translation into body movements.
Florian Bettel also experimented with a different manner of translation between various notations, transforming Boswank’s text into drawings using the Google Image Search algorithm. Bettel emphasized the importance of the context of these images, as individual images were barely legible. The issue of context and attribution of meaning was highlighted by Bettel in a series of images with various captions.
Working together and experimenting with Kinect hardware, Strutz and Young developed the concept of a choreography designed to make it possible to circumvent surveillance systems (e.g., at state borders) by adapting a person’s movement patterns.
Based on “Play by Rules”, Irina Kaldrack questioned the relationship between the political, the gesture and the media. The raw version of the installation and lecture performance “Transforming Political Gestures Through a Chain” was created: A video and interactive sound installation (Herbst) intermeshed with descriptions of gestures (Boswank) and a performative lecture (Kaldrack). In early November, they presented these works at the international conference “Affective Transformations”.
On a theoretical level, project participants committed themselves to researching further artistic references and the fundamentals of classification of these examples. The project also highlighted the use of protest movements and gestures in popular culture (including music videos). The plenary group discussion also brought up the “game” theme, contextualized within the cultural theory perspective of Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois, and developed for further interconnections with individual works. The continuous theoretical reflection and the relation to current discourses form the basis for the development of new perspectives on the object under investigation, the “gesture”, as well as for preparing the symposium and publication which are to conclusively bundle all results.