Deep Learning/Labor of Survival -
On the performance installation "1000/1/5 – A consideration of 1000 first steps and the number 5" inspired by WOMAN in Gao Xingjian's play "Between Life and Death"
Feminist Working Group. 9. July, 2019.
Shanghai Theatre Academy 上海戏剧学院
Three concepts related to time are of interest in my project. 1. A Chinese proverb – or was it a Daoist philosophical statement? – says: A journey of 1000 Li starts with the first step. 2. Hannah Arendt, in "The Human Condition", defines the (ephemeral) labor of our bodies as the labor of survival. This labor, different from work, is not "useful" product-based but is an ongoing effort that rewards us with staying alive. 3. Deep Time - an indigenous concept of situating oneself and community not only in the history of humans but also in the history of the land and the universe. I will discuss my installation project in the context of increasing accelerations and forced productivity in my daily existence as scholar-artist, administrator and teacher.
My project started in a pressure cooker of lacking time with a single grain of rice and transformed into absurdist yet very real configurations of energy, time and matter as it made 1000 first steps, potentially starting 1000 journeys. Main materials used were rice, paper, wood, chalk, the ten digits of our hands, patience, and digital technology. The project evolved slowly, over days of focussed and mesmerizing (useless) labour in the silence of an urban hiding place. Mathematical patterns appeared. Strange things started to happen, just as they happened to Woman in Gao Xingjian’s play “Between Life and Death”