(In a Forest of Signs)

6.1 Introduction to the collaboration

It is not a matter of making, producing, or instituting a community; nor is it a matter of venerating or fearing within it a secret power - it is a matter of incompleting its sharing. Sharing is always incomplete, or it is beyond completion and incompletion. For a complete sharing implies the disappearance of what is shared.

(Nancy, p.35, 2012)

Although I would consider both the interventions and interpretations to be collaborative in a sense – reliant as they are upon an active participation with Other – it was helpful to dedicate an area of my research to collaboration in its more traditional, musical guise.  New Communions[i]  took as its starting point several of my key themes – resonance, site, community, sharing, participation, and temporality – and explored these often philosophical concepts in a pragmatic and embodied fashion.  Conceived as an ongoing exploration of the score in a single site with a small group of recurring participants, the project ran from June 2014 until August 2015 at St Mary’s Church, Brighton, and involved visiting the building, always at night, for 16 hours, approximately every 8 weeks. Working alongside three collaborators – James Mather, Kev Nickells, and John Guzek – the score was used as a means to document and respond to the building, both in terms of its sonic reality and its social function, interpreting and developing the text as we did so musically, spatially, temporally and conceptually.  

The New Communions project acted as a bridge between the more traditional musical event of the interpretations, and the communality of the interventions, focussing as it did upon both the specificity of place (replete with the objects that define it) and the performative, lived-in potential existent in a communities exploration of that site.  The community – in this instance myself and my three collaboraters – were able to share our reflections and responses to the common object of the church, passing between us unique experiences that, though born of operatively closed agents nevertheless exist as a “world-fragment including all the others from its own persepective” (Massumi, p.58, 2011).  Although the entirety of this project is underscored by a focus on the ominpresence of creativity – that is, in acknowledging that the art event takes place within the already rich experiential framework of the everyday – the seperation and granduer of the closed church site alowed us to distill and amplify many of the creative decisions inherent to the process of a community’s unworking.  Pragmatically, to collaborate in a space defined by resonance – both acoustically and historically - is to embody the heightened awareness of Other that Beuys posits as the function of all art-making,[ii] and that Nancy defines as the very nature of the self-construct.[iii]  It is to be in a perpetual state of tension with exteriority.  The minor movements made by a collaborator are amplified not only by the acoustic qualities of the building, but also the spiritual connotations of the site as a whole, which serves to cast the most innocuous act in reverence.  To experience the sound of the church is to enter into a relationship that is fundamentally beyond the sonic – it is not to hear but to be engulfed, both in signification and sensorality, as a condition of presence.

[i] Appendix D: New communions (usb).
[ii] For Beuys, art is not so much a talent as it is a way of being. What Beuys terms ‘preparation’, amounts to a constant and evolving practice of dual immediacy from which both further artistic activity, and ecological stability, stem. If creativity allows for, and relies upon, a perceptive focus that includes both the object and its history/context, preparation serves as a means of harnessing that duality, of bringing the creative duality into the everyday, a situation wherein “I have to keep preparing myself throughout my life, conducting myself in such a way that no single moment is not given over to this preparation. Whether I am gardening, or talking to people, whether I am in the midst of traffic or reading a book, whether I’m teaching, or engaged in whichever field of work or activity I’m at home in, I must always have the presence of mind, the overview, the wider perspective, to perceive the overall context and set of forces” (Beuys, p.12, 2007).
[iii] “To be listening is thus to enter into tension and to be on the lookout for a relation to self: not, it should be emphasised, a relationship to “me” (the supposedly given subject), or to the “self” of the other (the speaker, the musician, also supposedly given, with his subjectivity), but to the relationship in self, so to speak,  as it forms a “self” or a “to itself” in general… [listening] can and must appear to us not as a metaphor for access to self, but as the reality of this access, a reality consequently indissociably “mine” and “other”, “singular” and “plural”, as much as it is “material” and “spiritual” and “signifying” and “a-signifying”” (Nancy, p.12, 2007).
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