Saturday, October 27, 2018

Digital Technology

Following my apparent 'writing from anywhere but Berlin' policy, I'm back in Estonia as a somewhat incognito visitor to the NU Performance Festival Tallinn - a (relatively) small biennial of performance happening in some of Tallinn's theatres over the week.

I am coming in at Day 5 of the festival, with many works and events already having taken place. The afternoon panel, loosely organised around the theme of 'Audiencology', featured a variety of interesting guests with fields spanning architecture, contemporary art, and practice and theory of performance. The discussion was a little unweildly, but propositions from Maarin Mürk regarding Markus Miessen's The Nightmare of Participation and Clare Bishop's elaboration on relational aesthetics, as well as Sille Pihlak's reflections on community participation in architecture, were particular highlights.

Digital Technology

I admit it: I thought I wouldn't like Digital Technology. Something about Swedish/German artist Mårten Spångberg's approach grated with my sense of responsibility as so much of contemporary art can do - making a provocation from a position of perceived neutrality. This position is best articulated in the afternoon panel discussion where Spångberg, who dominated the conversation at the expense of his female colleagues, went so far as to suggest that that we should be able to co-exist in performance in a relatively passive way: "As long as it doesn't ask for anything, I can be with it forever".

Photo: Kristo Sild

It's a kind of relaxed statement that's unlikely to get this punter too excited in an age of apathy in Europe - where a new generation is born into privileges it can never hope to understand, and doesn't bother to seek answers about. And indeed, looking around at the blank faces of the audience in Digital Technology, you might think the artist has achieved exactly what he set out to do, for better or worse.