Recording KMA's Installations


I was recently asked about how we document KMA's work. The short answer is badly, if at all. But the question got me thinking;

A security camera high above a library reading room documents the passage of time, the comings and goings of readers, and their most basic disposition (their engagement with reading, doodling, their phone, other people etc...). It may be a useful document in a number of ways; It says a lot about the size, shape, and layout of the room. It may be used to help prove the popularity of the library, to describe the demographic of its users, it may illustrate how long the average reader stays, and other equally dull but potentially useful statistics. With luck it might even support an alibi or expose an indiscretion. It may do all of these things, and more, but it records almost nothing of the real activity that is taking place under its lens. It would, in short, be impossible to deduce anything from the recording about the activity taking place in the readers’ minds, about the relationship between their minds and the texts in front of them, about the real reason for their presence.

As someone who makes live work in which the focus is not some external spectacle but a spontaneous empathic engagement between strangers, I’m as frustrated with lens based documentation as an author seeking a response to their work might be in the library analogy above. 

Being brutally honest we document KMA's work (in so far as we do) to trigger our own recollections of the moment, to prove we made the work, and to show that people came and were engaged. We can do little else.

That said those documents do, as in the library example, say quite a lot about the mechanics of the work and its historical development. They help fossilise otherwise ephemeral moments and make it possible to see developments that might otherwise be forgotten in the haze of memory. 

I’ve often thought about more interesting and effective ways that we might record the work. So far I’ve always rejected them. I think I rather like the momentary nature of what we do, of making things that resist being recorded accurately. 

Since our earliest ancestors so much cultural endeavour has gone into the act of not-forgetting, of finding ways of fossilising the now, memorialising the past so that it (and we) can live on.

And now, for the first time in history, we are living through a truly extraordinary shift.

We are the first human beings in history for whom forgetting is now becoming harder than remembering (Internet, social-networking, tagging, ubiquitous camera phones etc). 

KMA’s works come out of a background in performing arts where pretty much everything now gets photographed, filmed, blogged and recorded. In this field there’s always a subject to point a camera at. It’s a small contribution to the cultural debate I know, but I really like that our work (though large and occasionally spectacular) has no subject and, like the library analogy, resists being understood by a lens. It requires a sentient present mind.