Public Sandberg Guest Ivan Cheng performed a Facebook Live takeover during the Sandberg Instituut Open Day on February 1st. He joined and was joined by friends, welcoming queries and interlocutors online. 'ABSENCE - VAGUELY (A - V)' is an essay based on Cheng's experiences of the day.
ABSENCE - VAGUELY (A – V)
(18/02/18) Stairs, stratifications, schedules, swipecards; access issues at the Sandberg Instituut. Othering and implication as networked. In the last year, the Sandberg Instituut has drawn wider attention for their negotiation of public and private stakeholders (1). A recent graduate from the Critical Studies department, I was asked by the curator of Public Sandberg to act as ‘guest editor’ for the 2018 Open Day (2). Using my own devices and the format of Facebook Live (3), it was willed that the contribution stand as a work in itself. I was invited to ‘broadcast’, take critical position, and engage with the schedule: a Thursday workday unfolding from afternoon to early evening. An account of all departments (4) as they manifested that day at Overschiestraat 188 (5).
A strategy I thought to deploy from my own practice was a suggestion of multiplicity and unassuming avatars. Open Day arrives as a noisy and unique occasion, one of few moments in the academic calendar when all course directors are in the same city, and a fair fraction of students act as advocates for their departments (6). At this moment, it soaks itself into the most coherent, sited offering of the year.
Having recently left a department of Sandberg, I brim with rich experiences from what I understood as a heavily responsive structure. The department continues in a different manner due to its different students. How also to communicate the school as a golem of departments to applicants or other stakeholders? Bjork’s first person refrain from the opening track of Vulnicura discharged in my head as I puzzled, parallel. Who is open? / And who has shut up / And if one feels closed / How does one stay open? The album, no longer her latest, is considered a post-mortem of a relationship. My housemate, also a Sandberg alumnus, says he’s never really listened to Bjork; she was always too mainstream, too well loved. He used to live with a DJ, who had proposed a New Year’s Eve party, in which a dancing cage on loan from a nightclub would be lifted into their living room. Dominant décor for a jungle themed party; I was titillated by possible decolonial interpretation; a play of complicities and irony. But again, a conflict of mass - with the frameworks that the guest-list inscribed, I broadly inferred that it would lean more to a ribald spectacle of enacting the animal or savage (7). A cage of expectations – the expectations associated with an Open Day broadcast and New Year’s Eve party would be pointless without content or the notion of a spectator.
An introductory post to my presence as guest editor was livestreamed a week before Open Day. I jumped, leapt and slid around, gabbing to camera, my device cradled in another’s hand surveilling me, my vocal clarity lost to distance. I could barely wiggle out of the frame. I learned for the future, I would have commit to speak closer to the device if I wanted my speech to be audible. But it was strongly apparent in my system of thinking that the only foreseeable reason my guest voice might need to rise above any other on the day would be to serve as interlocutor for the online public who had no physical access but had questions and tasks for me. Purpose was paramount. Pleasures should derive from that.
The day arrived and I was there (8), reading excerpts from Middle Distance (9), a 2015 publication that I had sought permission from the authors to render in my voice, trying to outline something about proximity and perspective. I drifted and waited, a folio of other content (10), ready to be triggered by interaction that never came. A series of texts about reduction, summary, rhythm, intertwined with the poetics of corporate identity and coherence, which I never recited. I titled what I was doing ‘Dances of Acquisition’, hoping to gather questions to prepare to find answers to, wishing that the camera was only taking in ambient image. My conduct hoped to be unassuming, to blend, to be a ‘guest’ – to passively see this golem manifestation of the school I used to attend as it might be at that moment rather than what it had been or wished it was.
As the afternoon passed with little engagement, seeing trails of guests clump between departments and desperately strung out on coffee and ‘dirty milk’, I felt a leper for my ambiguous position of public and private. I found myself wishing I was in costume; easy drag as Elmo, for instance - to edge easily into that role of performer without apologising, and flagging myself for another form of interaction than furtive surveyor. What appearance or humour did I need to take on to confidently interface with Facebook Live? What furious hurdles there were to be open myself. Simultaneously, did I dare I fully associate the Sandberg Instituut with the doubly temporary manifestation of departments on view and the building that will be vacated? Had I or the school the capability to arrive as a situated subjectivity to an imagined public?
In truth, the Sandberg Instituut is rendered best on a conditional and social basis through the actions and invitations of its staff and students. Open Day offers a version of focus and order to the independent actions of its permanent and temporary programmes. My presence on Facebook Live preceding and during Open Day remains opaque and borderline shameful to me, unclear, drifting, unsure, but as a cage or trap it remained untriggered, without charge. Peace of mind that it was present, but any harm done? Deny categorisation, refuse access.
1. THERE HAS BEEN MOBILISATION FROM THE FACULTY AND STUDENTS OF THE SANDBERG INSTITUUT REGARDING THE MASTER OF DESIGN OF EXPERIENCES. THEIR PUBLIC STATEMENTS CAN BE READ HERE: HTTPS://MEDIUM.COM/@UUGH
4. MY INITIAL PROPOSAL TO THIS INVITATION WAS TO CREATE TARGETED CONTENT WHICH WOULD HAPPEN INTRUSIVELY OFF SCHEDULE; UNANNOUNCED PERFORMANCES WHERE THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE CAMERA MIGHT OVERWHELM THE SCENE. ROCK MUSICAL, BONE FOR MASSES, ENVIRONMENT BECOMING AUDIENCE, SITUATION BECOMING STAGING. IT FELT IMPORTANT TO THINK ABOUT SITUATED SUBJECTIVITIES, SUGGESTED DIVERSITIES, AND PLAY AT/WITH FORM. PROBABLY WILL HAVE THE LOOK OF A 'DANCE', MORE THAN MUCH ELSE. CAMERA WILL BE QUITE CLOSE TO SUBJECTS AT TIMES, USE OF 'DETAILS' I RECEIVED THE QUESTIONS OF “WHEN/WHAT OCCURS AND HOW IT IS A REVIEW ON THE SANDBERG MOMENTUM? IS THERE A SANG INTERPOLATION FOR EACH DEPARTMENT (5), THE CURRENT TEMPORARY PROGRAMMES (2) AND NEW TEMPORARY PROGRAMMES (2) AND HOSTED PROGRAMME (1)? WE NEED TO CONSIDER HOW WE MANIFEST YOU, AMONGST THE TOURS THAT DAY, AND ALL DEPARTMENTS AND PROGRAMMES WITH THEIR OWN ACTIVITIES AND CROWDS.” FOLLOWING THIS RESPONSE, I QUICKLY RESHAPED MY ANSWERS TO MORE ‘GENEROUSLY’ ACCOUNT FOR THE AIMS OF THE INSTITUTION.
5. OVERSCHIESTRAAT 188 HAS SERVED AS THE TEMPORARY SITE OF THE SANDBERG INSTITUUT SINCE 2015. FROM THE RECEPTION ENTRANCE, A VISITOR IS ABLE TO LOOK OUT THROUGH WINDOWS TO SEE THE STUDIOS OF THE FINE ARTS DEPARTMENT BELOW, A PANOPTICON LIKE ATTRIBUTE. DURING THE PERIOD THAT THE SANDBERG INSTITUUT HAS OCCUPIED THE BUILDING, TEMPORARY WALLS BETWEEN DEPARTMENTS AND STUDIOS HAVE BEEN PROGRESSIVELY CONSTRUCTED, DESPITE INITIAL VISION TO DIFFUSE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN DEPARTMENTS. MORE ON THE NEW COMPLEX OF BUILDINGS AT THE FREDERIK ROESKESTRAAT SITE HERE: HTTP://NEWBUILDING.RIETVELDACADEMIE.NL/EN/INDEX
6. IN THE FORTNIGHT PRECEDING THIS PUBLIC MOMENT, I HAD MADE POSTS IN TWO CLOSED FACEBOOK GROUPS (SANDBERG INSTITUTE AND ANOTHER SANDBERG), REQUESTING TO BE CONTACTED IF STUDENTS HAD MATERIAL THAT THEY WISHED OR CONSENTED TO HAVE LIVE-STREAMED ON THE DAY; I’D EXPECT EXACTING SPECIFICATIONS ABOUT THE CONDITIONS OF DISTRIBUTING CONTENT. A HANDFUL OF MUTE INTERACTIONS WITH MY POST FROM FRIENDS AS IT DRIFTED DOWN THE PAGE. I INFERRED I HAD NO PERMISSION NOR REFUSAL FROM INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS TO HAVE THEIR WORK RENDERED BY MY DEVICES OR THEIR OWN, JUST THE INVITATION OF THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE. HOW WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE TO REPRESENT WITHOUT MISREPRESENTING, AND, OBSERVING HOW RESPONSIVE EACH PROGRAM IS TO ITS PARTICIPANTS, HOW TO SPEAK AS A GRADUATE?
7. THIS PARAGRAPH AND THE NEXT WISH TO FUNCTION AS ‘CENTRAL’ IN THE STRUCTURE OF THIS EXPLANATORY, ARGUABLY MODERATING TEXT.
8. ANNOUNCED AS SUCH: FACEBOOK LIVE IS BILLED AS A "FUN, POWERFUL WAY TO CONNECT WITH YOUR FOLLOWERS AND CREATE NEW ONES ALONG THE WAY". ALLOWING FOR A DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE BILLED AND THE EXPERIENCED, JOIN FORMER STUDENT AND PUBLIC SANDBERG GUEST IVAN CHENG AS HE PERFORMS A FACEBOOK LIVE TAKEOVER DURING THE SANDBERG INSTITUUT OPEN DAY ON FEBRUARY 1ST. HE WILL JOIN AND BE JOINED BY FRIENDS, WELCOMING QUERIES AND INTERLOCUTORS ONLINE ONLY.
9. MIDDLE DISTANCE, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM GIANMARIA ANDREETTA, ANNIE GOODNER, WILLIAM POLLARD, NOLWENN SALAÜN. PUBLISHED ON THE OCCASION OF THE SANDBERG INSTITUUT CRITICAL STUDIES END OF YEAR PROGRAMME, 2015. MEETING ¾ OF THEIR CLASS IN BERLIN DURING MARCH 2015 ENORMOUSLY INFLUENCED MY CHOICE TO APPLY FOR THE FALL TERM. IT WAS ON THE MORNING OF OPEN DAY THAT I HASTILY MADE THE REQUEST TO USE THIS MATERIAL, HAVING REALISED ITS POTENTIAL AS FRAMING DEVICE.
10. INCLUDING A.E BENENSON, NOTES ON FIA BACKSTRÖM’S POST-SENSITIVE RHETORICS, KRISTIN SHAW, AC: 1.897665139750955811, TAN LIN, LINGUISTICS, LISA ROBERTSON, HOW TO JUDGE, AN INDIGNANT MONOLOGUE I HAD WRITTEN TO PERFORM AS AN INTRODUCTION AS HOST TO SANDBERG ORIENTATION DAY 2016, AND THE LYRICS TO THE DONNA SUMMER VERSION OF MACARTHUR PARK. MACARTHUR PARK WAS THE SONG THAT MY 2018 NEW YEAR HOST, FRIEND, AND FORMER CLASSMATE ÖZGÜR KAR EXACTED A PROMISE TO BE PLAYED AT THE TURN OF THE YEAR.