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As if the Heart Was not Enough: Thoughts about Loops

10.08.2014 | Migrating Art Academies
Photo: Lina Albrikienė

Patrick Buhr


This author is concerned. He wants to do justice to his fellow participants at MigAA’s Ringa laboratory. He writes a lot, but he is not a writer. That’s why the beginning of (t)his text will give off an apologetic aroma. That’s why he takes a step back and refers to himself as the author. On day four of the laboratory, he questioned the apologetic introduction of a fellow participant. Now he feels the need to do the same with t(his) text. However, the self-referential language makes it a meta-apology. In other words: this paragraph was not an apology, it was just an introduction.


The author enjoyed the company of his fellow participants. The unique combination of attentive international minds challenged him to choose his words carefully and remain focused throughout the week. The author felt obliged to think more intensively about the workshop’s theme: loops and feedback.


Day two. The small wooden church in the Latvian Museum of Ethnography contains a few dozen candles — all of them (apparently) used, but all are free of wax-drippings and all are the same height. As the church is in use from time to time the questions are posed: “Who fixes the candles?” and “What need does this practice serve?”


The presentations took place in the kim? Contemporary Art Center’s white cube. This cube demanded sensorial focus because of its affinity for reflected sound waves. Some talks became a productive practice in listening. The carefully listening mind rapidly ran through small circles in order to process the thoughts before they fell out. Kim?’s cube reflected what remained and let interferences thrive.


If big muscles are evidence of will power then the whiteness of the cube was evidence of a focused attitude. Keeping walls white and candles trimmed requires continuous effort. Keeping things tidy in a certain way implies that the host is challenging the guest to be more respectful and focused on what is taking place. In that sense the act of artificially cleaning up can be read as an invitation for thought.


Day three. The author and his fellow participants visited a historical gadget-collector on the outskirts of Riga. The participants were introduced to old Soviet radios and televisions dating back to the Second World War. They were for the most part imitations or even copies of Western devices. The most significant distinction that stuck in the author’s mind revolved around the metaphor of Soviet citizens “drinking the content of their television’s lens that was filled with vodka due to the refractive qualities of the drink.” Post-colonial issues brought up in several presentations highlighted the use of stereotypes in conversation and made them the object of both spoken and unspoken debate — especially within international convocations where cultural stereotyping is common- ly used as an instrument for initial connection. The collector concluded his presentation by flashing us with the biggest light bulb the author has ever seen.


This is an appropriate occasion for speculating on the psychology of collecting. Besides relying on mere momentum and fetish, the act of collecting might be a medium for certain states of mind and emotion. Collecting something means that one is interested in the variations of the same. The same, once again, but always a little bit different. Is this a method of re-living the same emotional experience (or metaphor) over and over again through the right balance of similarity and difference with- in the collected items? Perhaps this is a special kind of loop. A loop that remains essentially the same, but keeps fulfilling its purpose by perma- nently incrementing its form just enough to create a sufficient amount of difference necessary to triggers a fresh experience. In the particular case, vintage televisions and radios — functioning as the modern camp fire with family and friends gathering around drinking TV-lens-vodka — act like trance objects that reconnect the admirer to moments (or ideas) of deep human connection.


But is true repetition even possible? Can a loop stay the same? Rep- etition always creates difference: AA feels different than A, and AAA is not AA. Considering the perspective of qualities (perhaps the only “real” perspective), the idea of “repetition” is always a construct. Experiencing a repetition as repetition just means that one has gotten used to or simply doesn’t notice the perpetually emanating difference. Hazily pondering, perhaps the difference between science and art might be that in one of them there exists the assumption that true repetition is possible.

As if the heartbeat wasn’t enough. They got us using drum machines now. The hums of the machines. Trying to make our drums humdrum. — Saul Williams


The most significant ontological concept might be Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence of the same.” It is the first loop that is the foundation of our perception. The “same” does not refer to behavioral patterns or history, rather, it describes the persistence of being, the fact that the world is still there after we re-open our eyes. Each new moment is a repetition of the principles and laws that applied to the previous one.

The second loop that lies at the core of our perception is the human body itself. Or, to be more precise: the in and out of our respiratory system and the pulsating cycles of our circulatory system. The lungs air condition the drumbeat of the heart. The harmony of interdependent bio- logical loops are supporting all thought and perception — a “conservative” system conserving energies in order to make progress possible.