Eric Peter, ‘Economy as Intimacy’

Jan 31, 2020

It took me some weeks to get used to the vastness of Berlin—where time seems to tick much faster, and relations seems to be much more fleeting. Meaning, honestly, it was a bit difficult to “land” somewhere new without the comfort of a community of whatever sorts. In contrast to previous residencies i* had undertaken, i felt it was more necessary here to truly feel home, since i’m to stay here for four months. That makes a huge difference to a one-month residency, where there is perhaps less of opportunity and necessity to create a homebase of the residency’s base. Nevertheless, i had reached a point towards the later week in January where i felt like i’d reached a comfortable work flow in an environment new to me.

Apart of these initial adjustment matters, i have been writing new poems constantly—having by now a few that i consider to be ninety-nine percent completed. One of them is entitled ‘Two-and-a-Half’, another ‘Breathe Moon’, and a third one has to still find it more definite title. I noticed, through conversations with not only my collaborators, but also curator Zohreh Deldadeh, a lot of my writing started to revolve around mania and paranoia. The machine, its never-sleeping mode of consciousness, its ever-watching eye—but apart of “the machine” in the sense of surveillance and tracing, how they become part of a life; when i was writing and theorising earlier within ‘Economy as Intimacy’ what it means to lack body language through digitalisation and automatisation, i started to think more around what the new “body language” with, and through, machines means. Eva Illouz’ ‘Cold Intimacies’ was of major influence in this earlier realisation. This part of the chapter on internet romance, stuck with me:

“What makes the net romance so incontestably superior to real life relationships is the fact that the net romance annuls the body, thus presumably enabling a fuller expression of one’s authentic self. [. . .] In this view then, the body—or rather, its absence—enables emotions to evolve from a more authentic self, and to ow toward a more worthy object, namely the disembodied true self of another. Yet if that is the case, from the standpoint of a sociology of emotions, this should pose a special problem because emotions in general and romantic love in particular are grounded in the body.”**

I continue a practice of disrupting language in how it is corrupted through digital communication (the gaps, the disconnection, the glitch, etc.). Simultaneously, the fears around a world increasingly dictated by machines, and a certain paranoia around that, started to feed into thinking of intimacies as economics. Also, here, we cannot forget to think of how digital footprints are worth money. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, you name it: our data has become valuable. The digital space in itself is less of a Utopia as it maybe was years ago, or how it was maybe initially intended. Instead, it became a perfect mirror of the late capitalist monster, seeing value, profit and competition in anything. It usurps online places that were known to us to be free-spaces, into profit-hungry money-makers. I noticed it lately with seeing how a lot of apps i had been using, were now taken over by Facebook Inc. Of course, we could question whether or not these spaces were “free” in the first place, but i think the point is clear on an increasingly capitalist endeavour taking over the Net, where things were less that in our earlier existence in the digital world. When i talk of Ikea or flowers, next thing i see are commercial ads on Ikea and flowers on websites i visit, or on some apps i use. I did not use a search engine, these data were solely extracted from conversations. Similar experiences i had heard from others—the phone eavesdrops on our conversations.

Apart of writing, i had a few meetings over the time being here with the collaborators on the final choreopoem i’m going to present at Uferstudios the 26th of April. With Ya’nan Wang, choreographer and stage person, we started talking about fear, mania, mistranslations and new languages. She, and the theatre company she is part of, Paper Tiger Studios, are themselves working on something around (mis)translations, and that place where language transcends into the difference between signified and signifier, so we feed into each others thoughts perfectly here. With Monika Dorniak, a choreographer (trained in psychology apart of dance), we talked of emotional landscapes, and where do all these emotions, senses and ruptures under ‘Economy as Intimacy’ fit into gestures, movement, bodily language (on https://www.theekruproject.com/monika-dorniak there is a beautiful interview with Monika). Kari Rosenfeld, a filmmaker and photographer, we initially started talking about a documentation of the final piece—but our thoughts soon went into the intimacies with the machine (i.e. the camera) and incorporating the camera as body. These thoughts are partly borrowed from Merce Cunningham’s and Charles Atlas’ long-lasting collaboration around video performance (e.g. https://walkerart.org/magazine/camera-as-body-an-interview-with-charles-atlas-rashaun-mitchell-and-silas-riener or https://hyperallergic.com/485974/how-merce-cunningham-worked-with-filmmakers-to-make-the-camera-dance/). In Cunningham’s choreographies, the camera was incorporated as performer, and is somewhat of an audience member, but simultaneously a participant. The dancer(s) become(s) watched, and is/are similarly spectator of, this relation between camera as body, and themselves. With photographer and filmmaker Hamed Kabouk, i was talking about the publication i want to make in regards to my endeavours under ABA; this would be Vol. 3 of printed matter under this project. I’m thinking though, considering a timespan, this might be pushed until after the actual performance of the choreopoem. Not just because of logistics, but because it seems better to give the publication a momentum in a near future instead of pushing for a publication launch coinciding with the choreopoem being performed. But let’s see how things evolve over the months left.

All in all, things feel fruitful, and i’m excited about how these collaborations with each and everyone are evolving until now. Simultaneously, it’s been interesting to think more thorough about the human-versus-machine relationship. And by no coincidence, there are a lot of events happening here in Berlin which deal with similar thematics (e.g. transmediale festival at HKW, the ‘Weltbilder’ symposium at Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, and ‘Portraits Drawn by Robots’ at Dixit Algorizmi Gallery among events/exhibitions at other venues).

_______________

* I maybe need to explain this, but i was thinking around the use of capital “I” in English to describe the first-person singular nominative personal pronoun, and i suddenly realised how odd it is to capitalise the first-person, over the other pronouns, as if there is some kind of hierarchy. In historical times, it had to do with confusion over “1” and “j”, so elongating the “i” would make it more distinct from the other similarly drawn letters/numerals; it was the letter most easily overread or misread in times before print.

** Eva Illouz, ‘Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism’, p. 75.