On November 14 and 15, MIT will host Infinite Record: Archive, Memory, Performance, an international artistic research project led by Østfold University College/Norwegian Theatre Academy. The project is done in collaboration with York St. John University in U.K, Muthesius Kunsthochschule in Germany, and MIT, which was chosen to host the final installment of the series. This will be one of the most significant events for MIT’s arts community, as it will bring some of the most prominent international artists on campus and expose research in performance arts to the student population.
The primary purpose of the two-day conference, hosted by MIT’s professor Jay Scheib and senior lecturer Anna Kohler, will be to discuss and question the role of archive in the sphere of live art. With the increasing use of recording technology in performance arts, it is very important to understand how these archived documents shape the world of live performance and how they can be used to store memory about seemingly ephemeral experiences on stage. The conference will therefore be a combination of exhibition, performance, and symposium, where artists and research scientists will present on the relationship between memory and live art. Attendants will be able to witness performances by artists like Joan Jonas and Anna Kohler in addition to participating in discussions led by research scientists such as MIT’s Professor John Gabrieli.
The Tech met with Anna Kohler to discuss the details and significance of this event. “We have so many international people coming to speak or to perform,” says Kohler “that I don’t want anyone to miss it. This is a unique, first-time ever opportunity.” She adds that it is very important to her that MIT students participate in this event because this is a rare opportunity for them to understand the connection between performance arts and research.
“Norwegian Theatre Academy started the project and raised the money to create this international conference in four installments,” she continues “and the final, conclusive one, where it all comes together, is happening at MIT.” According to Kohler, it is very special that the last conference will be related to memory since MIT’s institutions, like the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, cultivate scientific research projects that have a very important influence on performance arts. “The question that the conference will be asking is — how can we as artists and spectators deal with this huge heap of memory that exists in performance arts?”
Kohler describes this philosophical phenomenon in detail by drawing a comparison between “chronists” and “anemophiles”, hypothetical groups that have opposing opinions on the role of memory in performance arts. “Chronists” support the idea of live art being stored and permanently recorded, while “anemophiles” embrace the fleeting spirit of performance arts. “It is based on the essay ‘Dictionary of Winds’, by Ivetta Gerasimchuk,” she adds “So it’s really a discussion about these ideas.”
The conference is focused on performance arts, a field of live art that doesn’t have a strong presence at MIT since the Theater Arts Department places heavier emphasis on scripted work. However, Kohler thinks that this is a great opportunity for MIT students to experience working in a novel environment and gain additional skills.
In addition to discussions about the theoretical role of memory in performance arts, many famous artists will perform at the conference and present their work. MIT’s Professor Emeritus Joan Jonas will perform “Ask Me, I’m Still Here, Part II” together with Kohler, and John Jesurun will present on his renowned, long-running play “Chang in A Void Moon.”
“It is elementary for us to show MIT students that in theater, you also do research,” Kohler says about the significance of this event. “It’s not about doing plays over and over again. You research what the future of your field can be and what the future of artistic expression can be. This is why the conference is important — students never had the opportunity to witness something like this.”
The conference takes places on November 14 in Rinaldi (Building E33) and on November 15 in Killian Hall (Room 14W-111). Students are encouraged to participate or help in any way. To register, visit http://mitmta.eventbrite.com. For schedule and additional information, visit http://bit.ly/YePcBW or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.