Five questions with: Samir Gangwani of performance collective P O S T • V I V O

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P O S T • V I V O

Public Space One — Monday, May 27 at 7 p.m.

P O S T • V I V O — courtesy of the artist

On May 27 at Public Space One, P O S T • V I V O will offer the Iowa City area an opportunity to experience their collaborative performance work. The event is free and open to the public. P O S T • V I V O blends and bends the virtual and the physical, offering a malleable, multi-sensory environment that opens a glimpse into a potential synesthesiac futural form of communion and communication.

The event divides the artists into three roles: Performer, Visualist and Instrumentalist. The Visualist and Instrumentalist provide real-time compliments to the Performer’s movements in space, using an array of digital positioning technologies, pre-set programs and live interventions. During the event, the Performer’s costuming, which includes materials that slowly deteriorate, will alter as the event progresses.

The collective includes AI Markus, a non-binary musician, artist and perception scientist currently at Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information. Markus integrates art and science to create queered sensory contexts in their life and performances. Adrienne Cassel, who identifies primarily as an artist, works at the frontier of 3D digital art, sound, and performance art, emphasizing radicalized autonomy and femininity. Cassel’s work is informed by contemporary philosophical pursuits, such as object oriented ontology; by 2D and 3D art forms; and by experiences in neurological surgery. Samir Gangwani is a composer, performer, installation artist and software designer whose work has been shown throughout the country.

I had a chance to email with Gangwani and ask about the nature of the performance and the collaboration:

How did the collective emerge and unfold as this kind of event? Given the diverse talents and areas of overlapping interests, what was it about your combination that let you understand what you could do collaboratively that you couldn’t do alone?

We started off jamming together just as instrumentalists and enjoying the diversity that we bring to the table through sound. I had seen Adrienne’s paintings in a gallery before we met and I saw Austin’s live visuals at another show. For me, even before I had met both of them I was blown away by their art.

We then started talking about our art practices and realized the connections and overlap between our personal practice and concepts. I first began collaborating with Adrienne a little over a year ago and the very first performance we created was about the idea of deconstructing and reconstructing the body, unpacking our individual experiences of having politicized bodies as a queer femme and queer POC. We were also obsessed with the idea of creating a space where we can transport people into their own worlds.

P O S T • V I V O — courtesy of the artist

Our first trio jam was a b2b DJ set with live-coded sounds, with us all taking rotations over a course of four hours. After the set we realized that if we can create nonstop for that long without having to speak to each other we should probably make more art together.

Although we’ve all tried, combining sound, visuals and performance art it is extremely difficult on your own. Being able to feed off of each others energy and dividing the workload allows us to express a unified vision. Beyond the technical aspects, we’re always finding new ways to communicate with each other.

What sorts of new ideas have you had since developing this collective? How has navigating the challenges that have emerged since deciding to perform together allowed you to grow as creators?

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Since we’ve started performing together we’ve gone through many different collaborative permutations, the first being the live-coded techno and visuals combined with a DJ interface, then a sacred music group accompanied by live-coded visuals, multiple arrangements of acoustic trios (including free jazz at one point which was my personal favorite) … each permutation brings a variety of new ideas individually and collectively as we share new visual and sonic techniques with each other.

What is it about experiencing P O S T • V I V O that you have found audiences have appreciated most? What preconceptions, in particular, do you become most excited about helping audience members move past?

Since this will be our first time bringing P O S T • V I V O to the public, we are eager to share our concepts in practice and reflect on how they are received. Particularly, we are excited to work to counteract the growing notion that modern computational media — including software, artificial intelligence and machine learning — merely exist as inaccessible industrial tools for profit-driven social homogenization of the modern human experience, and that they must exist in opposition to raw physical and emotional humanity.

By channeling the unique perspectives we share with each other to demonstrate how these techniques can be synthesized with organic performance and transformed into a means of representing and celebrating queerness and otherness, we hope to harness the deconstruction of these imagined divisions with our audiences in order to promote our vision for a radically inclusive future.

P O S T • V I V O — courtesy of the artist

What about the performance has changed through its live installations and iterations? What about those changes has been most inspiring to your individual and collective work?

When we first began working on this performance, the costume consisted of gluing jagged plastic chips to my body and has transformed into a series of hand sewn head pieces with plastic chips flowing down my body. The machine-learning component was trained based off of an amalgamation of images that inspired us, but now it’s purely centered around queer art and history in order to create a queer AI; the digital avatar was a Silver Surfer-type of character which has now transformed into a body representative of both my costume and the queer AI we have developed.

Aside from the performance itself we have created a support system for each other that encourages us and inspires to create more around queer narrative

What advice would you offer to people who are not accustomed to performance art events but are curious about ways that you attempt to create new possibilities for thinking? Even if there’s no single “idea” to “understand,” what kind of orientation would be helpful guidance for those new both to your work and to the genre generally to enable maximal appreciation?

It’s always important to keep an open mind and try not to see a one-to-one ratio of meanings or situations. Often in performance art the body is used as a subject/object to open a dialogue; don’t be alarmed by how it may be portrayed (nude, painted, etc.).

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