Featuring “Simplicity” as an “Irrational Fear”

Featuring “Simplicity” as an “Irrational Fear” is an exploration of the concept of simplicity and its impact on the direction of contemporary art discourse. Simplicity, which one could argue is akin to accessibility, is so rarely available in this current climate of contemporary art and one finds that there's a tendency to intellectualise away anything that may be overly-accessible or easily understood in art.

Concepts are often times over-complicated in the circumlocutory pseudo-intellectual babble that creeps into discussions, perhaps out of some irrational fear that once it is all decoded, then nothing is left. As Raymond Havens stated in “Simplicity, a changing concept” (1953:3):

Simplicity, it would seem, is a simple matter... In the eighteenth century, critics, essayists, and poets were constantly referring to it as the supreme excellence in almost every field, the "open sesame" to every door, whether of conduct, thought, taste, or artistic production. "The best and truest ornament of most things in life," Swift called it, and Shaftesbury, "this beauty above all beauties." Lord Kames declared, "The best artists ... have in all ages been governed by a taste for simplicity," and Horace Walpole said, "Taste...cannot exist without Simplicity." Joseph Warton went even further, maintaining “SIMPLICITY is with justice esteemed a supreme excellence in all the performances of art."

Ironically, simplicity is not quite as one-dimensional as one may expect. It is engulfed in concentric skins that seemingly lead right back to complexity. Simplicity itself becomes a slippery subject with multiple personalities but nonetheless one that is tackled head on. Through this performance-based installation a multitude of characters discovered in the excavation of simplicity are addressed and re-interpreted to create a triangle of responses from three performance artists, Nathalie Bikoro, Donna Kukama and NĂ¡stio Mosquito. The physical absence of the three performance artists in the performance space creates a rift between time and space, thereby necessitating a creative clarity in a media as interaction-reliant as performance.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Skype chat between Nathalie and Lerato

Nathalie: Simplicity has turned out to become its own antonym and is sublated into its complete contrary the more you think, analyse and search for it.
Nathalie: simplicity requires the search into something.... but I guess very blindly. And I like that. Its a bit like the self-motion in performance as well.
Lerato Bereng: yeah, the delving into something because of a frustration with complexity, only to find that when the layers are peeled away, there's tons more to simplicity.
Nathalie: I think simplicity requires this complexity
Lerato Bereng: yep, simplicity actually has very little to do with being easy.
Nathalie: a bit like digging in archaeology.
Lerato Bereng: so in terms of a performance, which already technically is quite complex, how would you envision communicating the many layers we're starting to think about?
Nathalie: open conversation, or by having a set of rules to start some kind of a game where people can peel off the layers as it were.
Nathalie: using the virtual space as an archaeological site. digging for history.
Lerato Bereng: Interesting connection between technology vs archeology.
Lerato Bereng: that reminds me of this exhibition called "Scratching the surface vol.1" by Gabi Ncgobo and Mwenya Kabwe. There was a performance where Kemang wa Lehulere started digging in a hole in the yard with an afro comb (also one of projects for Center for Historical Re-enactments)The hole got huge and he uncannily stumbled upon a skeleton inside. Became and excavation site of sorts.
Nathalie: yes i saw this one!!!

Lerato Bereng: Ok to back track a little.Well I like the idea of the interactive game, the idea of play as something child-like or simple, that actually often times isn't all that simple.
Nathalie: exactly. and to what purpose exactly? to reach something better? should there be an end/conclusion to the game? anyway so yes maybe a kind of set of rules, very simple
Lerato Bereng: yeah, the continuity of it is quite interesting. the no beginning, no end thing. Just a rules that somehow allude to greater sets of rules e.g. taxonomy that dominate our understanding and methods of engagement
Lerato Bereng: Lol. Just started humming "this is a song that doesn't end, it goes on and on my friend..."
Nathalie: or maybe a set of slow-moving actions that can be interfered or changed by the interventions of the viewer. again letting the viewer choose its set of rules giving this liberty only to realise the constraints and deceptions of it all. as nothing can be equalised, A=A is false (Leibniz is poisoning my mind, sorry)
Nathalie: hehe
Lerato Bereng: what did you say you were reading by Leibniz?
Nathalie: the principles of identity/continuity. its nuts. he's wrong on a number of things also....
Nathalie: also was thinking of simplicity as vaccuum, truth and reality and the discovery of the obvious. Of what's just in front of our eyes but are too blind to notice. I guess these could be words or images. Do you know this video of the basketball game:

The video clip you are seeking is a well-known test of perception.
Here are a few brief descriptions of this test:

"...In one study, perceivers are asked to watch a video tape of a
basketball game and they are asked to count the number of times one
team takes possession of the ball [Simons & Chabris, in press]. During
the film clip, which lasts a few minutes, a person in a gorilla suit
strolls onto the center of the court, turns and faces the audience and
does a little jig. The gorilla then slowly walks off the court. The
remarkable fact is that perceivers (including this author) do not
notice the gorilla. This is an example of what has been called
inattentional blindness..."

Perception, action,and nonconceptual content
"A demonstration of inattentional blindness goes something like this.
Viewers are asked to monitor three basketball players in white
T-shirts and count the number of times they pass the ball during a
video clip. Thirty-four seconds into this experiment, a person wearing
a gorilla suit walks through the game and even pauses to pound his
chest before moving on. Despite their vigilance, approximately half
the viewers never see the gorilla. Even after they are told about the
gorilla and shown the video, they refuse to believe it."

Lerato Bereng: ok well I tried. Watched half but buffers for too long.I saw the gorilla and counted 7 passes so far. But I like the element of trickery.It ties in with play really well and also alludes to that complexity that keeps rearing its head in simplicity. I also think that stuff that interrupts e.g the buffering or like you mentioned earlier the time delay in video Skyping add a further layer of trickery. I suppose like a magician, if you were watching a Skype performance by a magician and it kept stalling for a second or two
then you'd have reason to doubt the authenticity of it.
Nathalie: yeah thats true. And you would invent different scenarios in your mind to make u believe something else and then miss the obvious.
Lerato Bereng: This takes me back to one of the first thoughts about simplicity, the idea of the artist as magician... or the invention of a certain mysterious persona in order to maintain the illusion of complexity/genius. ok, starting to ramble and get lost in my own thoughts, but what you say about invention of scenarios is interesting. I like filling in the blanks.
More play.

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