September 2024

Solo Exhibition, De Appel, Amsterdam

Dec 2023

Heterophony of Heterochrony has become a part of the collections of the MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea).

Audience and Performers

Min Oh


Audience and Performers conceives and observes a collective performance that is composed of several smaller performances. It is a video installation, but it can be seen as a performance as well, as decisions made during the making give the possibility for it to be enacted as a live performance. The video installation has two video channels: Audience and Performers, which are correlated, but not synchronized. If necessary, only one channel can be presented independently. However, when it takes the form of a performance, Audience and Performers should be performed simultaneously. The five sections of Performers which, in the video, are arranged next each other in the timeline, should also be performed all together at the same time.

The work has been envisaged and informed by the following questions:

Can a ‘thinking face’ be artificially induced?
I had cognizance of the ‘thinking face’ for the first time while I was watching A Choreographer’s Score: Fase, Rosas danst Rosas, Elena’s Aria, Bartók (2012), a video lecture by a Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. Her face while dancing looked almost like the face of someone who is talking or remembering something. It was neither the expressive face that we might normally expect from a dancer, nor the blank face that we often see in a contemporary dance performance. Her face is often distinguishable from those of other dancers in her own dance pieces. In this case, it was a very real and natural face, as if she was still thinking about something on the stage. I believe that this ‘thinking face’ is one of the key elements that makes the moment exciting, by highlighting the border between an imagined time and space within a performance and the actual time and space in which the performer’s physical body is present in front of the audience. For the last few years, I have collected moments from which the ‘thinking face’ derived. These are usually junctures that require extreme focus and control (such as multiples of parallel tasks, consecutive engagement without even a second’s break, or work that entails a chain of actions where one mistake will necessitate a reworking from the beginning). The moments that I collected were mostly connected to performers on stage. However, I have realized that perhaps this face can be observed among audience members as well. Faces of young students who are trying to figure out a painting of Picasso, in I See a Woman Crying (2009) by Rineke Dijkstra, or the face of a spectator at a Steve Reich concert in the documentary Steve Reich: A New Musical Language (1987), would be good examples of the ‘thinking face.’ Whether they belong to a performer or an audience member, these faces share one thing: ‘still undecided.’ However, it is not merely remaining ‘undecided’ that produces the ‘thinking face’ but ‘trying to decide’ or being ‘in the middle of a decision’. The tension that exists while a decision is just being made, makes a moment exciting and beautiful.

Can a performance work as a score?
I have investigated forms, structures, and meanings of score through my work. For example, I have analyzed structures of Western classical music then recomposed the abstract structures into concrete scenes; I have re-drawn a score composed only of its interpretation; and I have experimented with a form of score that has its own timeline, apart from that of the performance, which is enacted on the basis on that score. This year I conducted a set of interviews with artists who use scores in their work across diverse art disciplines, such as contemporary music, dance, and visual art. Through these interviews, I drew the conclusion that a score is a device for reasoning the process of making performances, and its form is never fixed, but constantly changing and moving. Therefore, if someone tries to make a very unstable score, to maximize its mobility, the form of performance could offer good material to play with.

Can a performance incorporate a blend of the inside and the outside of the stage, or an inside-out process?
In a contemporary performance, it is not only the score, but also the roles, the process, and the causes and effects that move during the making of it. A musical performer might produce a sound on stage that the composer has never imagined before. A dancer often participates in planning her/his own movements based on her/his body and experience, together with a choreographer. An improvisational performer has to observe her/himself while performing. Sometimes the border between the stage and the auditorium is obscure. Performers attempt to communicate with the audience and invite them in to the performance. The current performance can be a rehearsal of the next performance. The process and the result can become confused. Internal and external parts overlap. Roles get tangled. Whenever needed, elements of performance change their bodies and move. If they are destined to move, perhaps I can shake them even more.

These three individual questions have something in common, in terms of ‘instability,’ so, as I was searching for the answers, they complemented one other. During the work on Audience and Performers, I attempted to create a platform where insecurity and control could live together.

Audience and Performers observes two individual performances whose cause and effect are intertwined. The preliminary score of Audience gave rise to the score of Performers. Performing Performers works as a practical score for Audience. There are five characters in Audience, who look like an audience, but who are, in fact, performers rehearsing through a reading and learning of Performers, as if it is their score. Although I said just now that they are not an audience, they are, in fact, an audience of Performers. On the other hand, there are five other counterpart characters in Performers (a dancer, a video installation on a stage, sound, a choreographer, and a camera person) who are positioned inside (the dancer, the video installation, and the sound) and outside (the choreographer and the camera person) of the stage; and who are either part of the finished outcome (the dancer, the video installation, and the sound) or part of the process (the choreographer who is still choreographing and the camera person who is recording the performance), coexisting in the same space and time. The camera person in Performers is recording Audience, which is either being rehearsed, or is an observation of Performers.

To induce the ‘thinking face’ from the characters of Audience, Kinesthetic Response was used as a key material for the work. Performers are on stage and know what movements they will make, but not in which moment they will make the movements. Each character stares at her/his counterpart character in Performers to catch signals, and tries to develop instinctive responses to them, which reflects a process of rehearsal, while a musician studies a musical score. Eventually, performers of Audience are performing a rehearsal. If we can say that this performance continues repeating perpetually, at some point, before we reach eternity, the performers might figure out the logic of the signals, or their bodies will learn to develop automatic actions. This means that at some point, they can perform Audience without its score (Performers). This would be the moment when the artificial transforms into the natural, or is it the other way round? This specific performance should be identified as the finalized performance of Audience (Audience'), distinct from the rehearsal version of Audience (Audience). However, since I don’t seek a moment when either the artificial or the natural overthrow each other, but remain tightly intertwined, Audience’ doesn’t have to be performed and can live only in concept.

Many practical questions around how to embrace both the natural and the artificial together, have informed a substantial part of my work. In particular, I tried to develop a system through which to control the movement of the performers, while helping them to remain self-governed without my influence. The control here should look organic but still be cognizable, and rhythm works as a contributing factor for that. In the end, I made three rhythm sets for five characters, which are compounds of the regular, the irregular, and something in between.

  • Rhythm 1 (working title: 40 sec), 2 min
    — camera person: no planned rhythm
    — dancer: rhythm D (2 min) × 1 time
    — sound: rhythm S1 (40 sec) × 3 times
    — choreographer: rhythm CH1 (2 min) × 1 time
    — video: rhythm V1 (40 sec) × 3 times
  • Rhythm 2 (working title: 30 sec), 2 min
    — camera person: no planned rhythm
    — dancer: rhythm D (2 min) × 1 time
    — sound: rhythm S2 (30 sec) × 4 times
    — choreographer: rhythm CH2 (2 min) × 1 time
    — video: rhythm V2 (30 sec) × 4 times
  • Rhythm 3 (working title: 20 sec), 2 min
    — camera person: no planned rhythm
    — dancer: rhythm D (2 min) × 1 time
    — sound: rhythm S3 (20 sec) × 6 times
    — choreographer: rhythm CH3 (2 min) × 1 time
    — video: rhythm V3 (20 sec) × 6 times
Audience and Performers