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Joseph S. Ammerman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joseph S. Ammerman
Joseph S. Ammerman.jpeg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 23rd district
In office
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1979
Preceded byAlbert Johnson
Succeeded byBill Clinger
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate
from the 34th district
In office
January 5, 1971 – January 4, 1977[1]
Preceded byDaniel Bailey
Succeeded byDoyle Corman
United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
In office
1961–1963
Appointed byJohn F. Kennedy
Preceded byHubert Irving Teitelbaum
Succeeded byGustave Diamond
Personal details
Born(1924-07-14)July 14, 1924
Curwensville, Pennsylvania
DiedOctober 14, 1993(1993-10-14) (aged 69)
Curwensville, Pennsylvania
Political partyDemocratic

Joseph Scofield Ammerman (July 14, 1924 – October 14, 1993) was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.

Joseph Ammerman was born in Curwensville, Pennsylvania. He served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946. He graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1948 and received his J.D. from the Dickinson School of Law in 1950. He was a delegate to Democratic National Convention in 1952. He was the United States attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, 1961–1963, and a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate from 1970 to 1977.

He was elected as a Democrat to the 95th Congress, but was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1978. After his term in the House, he served as judge, court of common pleas in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania from 1986 to 1993.

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  • ✪ Liz Magic Laser - Performance & Video Artist
  • ✪ Penn College Commencement: May 16, 2015 (Afternoon)

Transcription

- Good evening, good evening, hello, everyone. Welcome to a slushy SVA evening. Not slushy here, slushy outside. Thank you all so much for coming. My name is Tom Huhn, I chair the, what is it that I chair? Oh, the BFA program in Visual and Critical Studies. This evening, we're really, really happy to sponsor someone really special to have here to talk with us about her work, Liz Magic Laser. Liz, I'll tell you just a little bit about her background. Liz graduated from Wesleyean University in 2003. In 2008, she completed the MFA program at Columbia. In the following year, she did the Whitney Independent Study Program. And since then, she's just been really busy with residencies and fellowships and performances. I looked at her CV and started counting things up and realized, over the last four, five years, each year, she's done between three and five solo performances or solo installations. And in each of those years, another dozen or so group shows. So, very busy, very active, very wonderful. I'm really happy that SVA features, I think, at a key moment in Liz's career, because back in 2011, when Performa was going on, we had a wonderful piece that Liz did at the big theater on 23rd Street. It was an incredible success, really one of the key events in the art world that year. Welcome, come on in. Liz is gonna talk with us tonight about her work and show us a lot of snippets from different performances. Please join me in giving Liz a very warm welcome. (applause) - Thank you for having me, and thank you, Tom, for the beautiful introduction. What Tom failed to mention was, he was my teacher, and he really mentored me at age 19 and 20. It was in his class that I was first introduced to Freudian theory and Greenberg's. So it's a pleasure to be here in this lecture series. I'm gonna just jump right into it. This is from my very first scripted video piece. My background's actually in still photography. This first scripted video was a one-sided conversation with an ATM machine, where it was sort of a fraught relationship where it wouldn't give me what I wanted, and I sort of broke up with it. But it also made me quickly realize, because it was maybe five minutes long, that I am not a performer. I have not trained as a performer until quite recently I started to dabble in a few acting exercises. But so, this is actually the first performance that I was in, at a few weeks old. My mother is a choreographer, so I grew up in her rehearsal studio. Where I was going with that is that, luckily, I had been in a community where I knew quite a few performers for the rest of my life. As a photographer, from teenage years to present day, I was doing the production photographs for my mother's company. So, this postcard, or posters, press images. And then some of her dancers started to do their own work as choreographers. This is Aszure Barton. My mother's name is Wendy Osserman. This Aszure was in my mother's company and I would do her press photographs. And the dancers, we would sort of trade and help each other out. They would be in my directorial photographs, tableaus. Around the time I tried that first scripted piece, and realized I was a terrible actor, I was lucky, I think a week later, I was in grad school at the time at Columbia. And a week later, a theater directing student named James Staker asked me to collaborate on a production of his where he did photographs and video for the set of a play called The Error of their Ways, at HERE Art Center. Anyhow, I was not so familiar with working with the theater or working with actors, and I ended up in the tech booth, operating dowsers for three different projectors, and was a little overwhelmed with it, but really loved working with the actors and continued to work with them afterwards. After that first intervention in the ATM vestibule space, I kinda kept thinking about wanting do to something else there. I had this basic recognition of it as sort of the equivalent of going to the bathroom for money and for finances, and that it was like this daily bodily function, where you don't, you know, just the way you probably don't remember the last time you used the gang bathroom stall yesterday, you don't really remember the last time you took money out in most cases. And I started to think about how there's elevator music playing there, and that you don't really, you're not usually inspired to engage with anyone else there. It's very individuating kind of space. So I went back there and just had this very simple idea, it wasn't even an artwork, exactly. I deposited a slice of prosciutto into my ATM machine, into my account, and it disabled the machine. It really felt more like a stunt. But I kept the photo up on my studio wall, I think, for a year and kept thinking about wanting to go back into that space. As well, every time, I thought, you know, because I disabled the machine and a few people had gotten, a few other bank clients had gotten huffy and walked out, that there might be some kind of repercussion for it, because certainly, it must have been caught on the surveillance system. I had also entered my PIN number and whatnot. So basically, every time I got a Chase envelope in the mail, I kept thinking, "Oh, is this gonna be "some kind of notice or fine?" And it never was, it was always just my statement. It was just kind of vague in the back of my head. So, after maybe six months, it was clear there was never gonna be a fine, and I started to think about, basically, the kind of strange interaction of cameras that had happened during these first two little ventures into the ATM space, that for me, the surveillance camera represented a threat of repercussions, and also that my subjective snapshot camera, or small, I guess it wasn't, I did bring an HD larger camera, probably in the X1 in there. Bringing a camera in there of my own was perceived as a threat by the other bank clients, and, as well, potentially to the bank itself. So I wanted to do a full-on play in that space. At first I thought, "Okay, I'm gonna cast it, "and I'm gonna work with, "it's gonna happen on Sundays, "and there's a bank on every corner in this city. "So if we get kicked out of one, "we can just move to the next and the crowd can follow." At a certain point, I realized I had very little experience working with actors, and this was gonna be very difficult to pull off on my own, and I started to think, "How can I do this, "carry this off?" It suddenly hit me that I could execute it exactly the same way I did the first video, with each person individually. So I basically cast nine actors. It was an early Brecht play called Man Equals Man. I would meet with each one individually, we would work through the script so that they could deliver all of their lines from the play and use the other bank clients and inanimate objects, like the ATM machine, as their supporting cast. So we would find, be sort of looking, for all the double meanings in the script, so that the lines could make sense in the context of the full play once they would be stitched back together, but also, they would make some kind of immediate sense and resonate, you know, their line. So this, without getting too heavy into the plot line, Man Equals Man was, I think, Brecht's second play. It was heavily based on Kipling, the Jungle Book style thing. It's a kind of allegory of brain washing, where this machine gun section of four British soldiers are wreaking havoc along the countryside in colonial India. They break into a temple and are totally trashed, and one soldier gets injured. They steal gold and they end up ditching the injured soldier, their comrade, because they're, like, "You're gonna be "a walking wanted notice. "You're gonna give us away and we'll all get in trouble, "maybe even executed, for this." Anyway, they need to have a temporary replacement for their soldier, and they coerce this guy into pretending to be their soldier, this local simpleton on the side of the road. So I'll just play you a little clip from that. The full-length video, once it was montaged back together, the proper dialog as it was supposed to unfold, with a lot of diversions, from conversations that we had with people in the bank vestibules and such. So this is even more disjunctive than the real thing, because it's about two and 1/2 hours, and this is just a few exerpts. - Herr Bertold Brecht hopes you feel the ground on which you stand sliver beneath your toes, like the shifting sand, so that the case of Galy Gay, recorder, makes you aware that life on this Earth is a hazardous afair. (man applauds, chuckles) - You should get an applause. (chuckles) - [Actress] Thank you. - Well, you do. - You're called, have, have a moment. Yeah, yeah, you did. - Perfectly true, that's my name. - Catch anything? - Oh boy, I am catching things. This is a shocking establishment. (trash can rattles) - Oh, my foot's stuck. (trash can rattles) I can't move my foot now. - This temple doesn't fight fair. - You can't-- - This poster has been up around town, saying that a military crime has been perpetrated, in our town. And none of the parties have yet been identified. (door squeaks) - I had just put the water on, around this time yesterday. But you never brought the fish. - What's this about fish? You're talking as if you lost your wits, in the middle of all these gentlemen, too. - Swore the sun has set seven times, this man must become another man. - Can it really be done, you're changing one man into another? - Yes, one man is like the other, man equals man. ♫ Oh, moon of (slurs word), you must go under soon ♫ Your dear old, good old mother ♫ Would like a brand new moon. ♫ - So you caught that scene where his wife comes looking for him and he pretends he doesn't know her, even though he never came home to make the fish. As I was editing it, I was able to go to the Brecht Archive in Berlin, and do some research on the early productions of the play. It was the only place you could see this 1933 production, a video of it, a film of it. I was totally shocked to sit down and watch it. It was still images, it was one frame per second. It wasn't a film exactly. It was a film, but it was a film, a stop-motion film. So it took, actually, even the director of the Archive didn't know why. It wasn't until an art historian friend of mine, Tom Williams, sent me this essay that explained how both Bertolt Brecht, I should've explained, is a German avant garde playwright and theorist and director, working in the 1920 and onward. He and Benjamin and a lot of that kind of Frankfurt school and avant garde theater practitioners of their day became very preoccupied with scientific management and these kind of films, a la Muybridge, you know, the horse galloping, that were used to innovate the assembly line, and that's why this play had been documented that way. It's something that really stuck with me, and I ended up using it. You'll see that method a little bit later in a subsequent project. This was the artificial elephant prop that was a key plot device in the play, and then this was my artificial elephant, which became this elephant constume for a kind of play within the play that was performed at the exhibition opening. Moving on to the commission I did for Performa, here at the SVA theater in 2011, it was called I Feel Your Pain. The theme of that year's Performa, which is a biannual for performance art that happens in early November every other year, was Russian constructivist theater, which was quite lucky, in terms of my interests. I became really interested in this moment, where the Soviet and German avant garde reacted against the traditional theater's use of emotion and illusion, especially because I was noticing, as were many editorial journalists at that time, in 2010, 2011, noticing the emotionality of American politicians. It was this era of John Boehner crying frequently, that kind of rise of the Tea Party Movement, especially male politicians were often crying or displaying their emotionality and seemingly, it was a highly cultivated performance of emotion, or a cultivated rupture. So I became interested in how these techniques of method acting, that the performing art and art world had forsaken long ago, were in full swing on the political stage and wielding quite a bit of power, and that they were becoming ever more efficient in their innovation of how to use these techniques. Also around the same time, I saw an interview where Glenn Beck was interviewing Sarah Palin. It was supposedly their first meeting ever, and he starts the interview by opening up his diary and saying to her, "Sarah, I wanna read to you "what I wrote about you in my journal last night." That struck me even more so as him sort taking a line out of a Hollywood movie, something like a 80s romance. I ended up scouring many different interviews with politicians, with American politicians, looking for these moments where the dialog took on the character of romantic banter or a marital spat. I wrote a script that was entirely adapted from these snippets, although I replaced a lot of pronouns and often would take sentence fragments and spliced different interviews together. However, my rule was, I wouldn't make anyone sound more ridiculous than they already did. It was done as a live film in the movie theater on 23rd Street. There were three videographers, and it was a live feed and everyone who showed up in the audience was also in the film. I'll play you a moment from that. (audience giggles softly) - Hey, can I read you what I wrote in my journal last night? It's about you. (laughter) - Yeah, okay. - [Man] Yeah? - Yeah. - "Tomorrow, I meet her for the first time. "I'm actually a little nervous, "as she is one of the only people I can see "that can lead us out of where we are. "I don't know yet if she's strong enough, "if she's well enough advised, "or if she knows she can no longer trust anyone. "I don't know if she can lead us and not lose her soul." - Remember when Ed Muskie cried? - Oh, yeah, in '72. - Yeah, that journalist slandered his wife, and he jumped on the soap box to defend her honor. - [Voiceover] By attacking me, by attacking my wife, he's proved himself to be a gutless coward. And maybe I said all I should on it. It's fortunate for him he's not up on this platform beside me. A good woman. (wails) - Do you get the anger? - I have the anger inside me. (laughter) - A guy that's been in the gutter and spent a good deal of his life in the gutter should think twice about accusing me. - Okay, fingers don't come any closer. - [Man in green shirt] Fuck him! - Boy, that's it! - [Man in green shirt] Fuck him! - Come on, guys! - Take it easy, take it... - Will you resign? - [Both women] Do you expect to stay? - [Voiceover] I came here to accept the full responsibility for what I've done. - The question that people, your constituents and a lot of us have is-- - [Both women] What were you thinking? - [Voiceover] I don't know what I was thinking. I don't think I was thinking. - [Voiceover] It wasn't part of a plan. - [Voiceover] Have you really apologized to the people? - To all of you who were misled, to everyone-- - [Multiple men] To all Americans, I am sorry. I apologize to you. - And so, all the source material was cited, both in intertitles on screen and as well as in a playbill, program. So that's also something I should mention, that I'm usually, tend towards the TMI in terms of making sure it's clear what material is being adapted, and precisely where it's being sourced from. Also something that, some research material that came into the writing of the script was looking into this form called the Living Newspaper, that's manifested as a number of different incarnations over the years, but first and foremost as a form of Soviet street theater, and quite a massive collaboration between journalists and theater practitioners, actors, theater schools, involving 1,000s of people, in the early 1920s. This is an image from one of the street performances, although there were also stage performances. An American theater director, producer, came there on a Fulbright and saw some of this work, and basically imported that idea of a living newspaper 10 years later for a Depression-era WPA theater program that was also called The Living Newspaper. That was a stage form, and it was more of a performed essay. This was one by Joseph Lucie, who, in this case, Injunction Granted was about the history of labor rights in this country. There were a few fixtures to that form, like having a clown. In this case, it was more of a tramp clown. I had a more present-day quintessential red-nosed clown. And there was also a voice of the living newspaper, a live voiceover. I pulled some of those elements into the writing of my script. That was something that really made it congeal. After doing this first fairly large-scale endeavor, or two, in the months afterwards, I needed to find a way to work in a more gradual, small-scale piece, and I was also, in retrospect, have often realized that I'll sort of bounce to what I left out or excluded from the last project. In this case, I'd been so focused on rhetoric, and I then kind of bounced to body language afterwards. It was something that came up because of Obama's 2012 State of the Union address, in, I suppose, February of that year, I believe. Or maybe it was January. He was so virtuosic in his gestures, and it already felt like this mash-up of many different references, and I started to look back at previous American Presidents and look at their use of gesture, and I was quite surprised to find, I wanted to look at this streamlining, again, of the techniques from the performing arts that were being used by politicians and business leaders. So I thought, naturally, it would be Reagan who I could compare him, Obama, to and show this arc of the development and the maximizing the efficiency of the politician's empathic display. But Reagan didn't move his hands at all during either his inaugural address or any of his State of the Union speeches. It was actually Bush, H.W. Bush, Bush, Sr., who in 1990 first started bringing gesticulating back into play, for these more official speeches at least. Debates are a little bit of a different story. That has some gesturing. But the more official speeches, it was, like, hands on the script, you could take a sip of water. And as time has gone on, those kind of little human things are vanquished from the politician's display. Anyway, I worked with two Cunningham dancers. Alan Good on the left was doing a selection of gestures I culled from Bush's 1990 State of the Union, and then Cori Kresge, also a brilliant dancer, was doing selections of gestures from Obama's 2012 one. This is some other research material that has been quite important to my work. The French theorist named Francois Delsarte, who was an acting teacher and theorist of the mid-19th century. He codified quite explicit meanings for various hand and arm gestures, as well as facial expressions. So that was something I looked at a lot. I also thought back to this stop motion film as a language that is used to maximize the efficiency of every gesture, you know, that you don't take, if you don't recoil the hammer quite as far, you can get 20 more hammers done per minute. So I was looking at that use of the stop motion film for streamlining gesture. In the end, that became a way to actually rearrange the tools necessary for a political speech, and there was a camera going at a frame per second, that then I put them, instead of having the dancers speak, the mic was put up to the camera and it became, actually, an amplified metronome that gave that sort of a mechanical efficiency air to the piece. So you hear that? (rhythmic clicking) Initially, they were on pedestals in a gallery setting. Then I also did it in a geodesic dome. We staged it at PS1 in their geodesic dome, which was a great setting for it, as well, because it felt more like a political rally scenario. Then, the following year, I did a, sort of, international edition of it that was called Stand Behind Me, where I used a selection of nine different politicians in the lead-up to the performance. The performance happened in three places. First, at Lisson Gallery in London, and then in at WIELS in Belgium, and then in Bulgaria, in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the National Palace of Culture. I had this kind of line-up to take it on tour. I wanted to engage with each place we were rehearsing and performing in. It became a way, also, to have a conversation, have an engagement with the curators or organizers in each place. I would tell them to let me know every time an interesting speech had happened or incident had happened. And actually, there was, I think the week after I made that request, there was an assassination attempt during a minority leader's speech in Bulgaria, in Sofia. So we ended up staging the performance in the same place where that had taken place. Anyway, in this case, I knew that I needed to communicate who was speaking when, what they were saying. So I used a teleprompter to let the audience know, and it also became a device for making people look into the camera. The reason I came to desire that scenario for it is, I simply noticed that, during the election cycle, leading up to it, this seemed to be a more and more common media strategy, to have people behind a speaker, which is kind of ridiculous, because you would never wanna look at someone's back while they're speaking. But it's clearly staging this liberty leading the people-type of image. I was interested in arranging that for this. (rhythmic thumping) And it was great. This became known shortly after as the Chancellor Rhombus. It was designed for Angela Merkel, that Chancellor Rhombus. This was in the Palace of Culture in Sofia. Next, I may kind of breeze through this one a bit. I also became interested in the setting and scenario of the television news, and wanted to work with the way the news basically stages reality, and start to look at how that's staged by the performers of the news, or the deliverers of it, and that you have this anchorman in the studio, or anchorwoman in the studio, and they cut to a reporter on the scene, who's closer to the event. And then you get a clip of a real person who is experiencing the event. I came to find out that, in news speak, they call that the actuality, and it's supposed to be 12 1/2 seconds of a real person giving testimony. So I wanted to work with those three roles. And I started to think, "Okay, what script can I put "into this context, to "unearth these strange dynamics, and also the dynamics "with the public, with the audience watching it?" It dawned on me that it had to be, of course, Sartre's No Exit or Huis Clos, which I had come to feel was almost every play I saw, certainly most Beckett plays are some kind of version of No Exit. This allegory of a three-way relationship that's unhealthy and a vision of hell seemed like the proper thing to put in this scenario. This happened in Sweden, in Malmo, and I'll just play you a short clip from that. It was rehearsed with the actors in the same space, and then they had to deal with being in separate spaces and with communication breakdowns and a three-second delay for the satellite system, a bit like extreme sports for actors. - Hm. So here we are. - [Voiceover] Yes. - [Male Anchor] And this is what it looks like. (electronic pop music) - [Voiceover] Yes, this is what it looks like. And we're rolling. We'll be going live in five. Is there any information you require? - Okay. This is the way it works here. Okay, I see, thank you. Torture by separation. Must you be in there all the time, or can you take a stroll outside now and then? - We're stuck here. - Oh. That's too bad. - Please, Garcin. - What do you want of me? - You can help me. - If you want help, apply to her. - That's right. That's right, trust away. She wants a man, that far I can trust her. - This camera is, now is the moment. I look at this thing, and I understand that I'm in hell. You remember all we were told about the torture chambers, the fire and brimstone? Old wives' tales. There's no need for red hot pokers. Hell is other people. - So, also another channel in the video became myself and the whole tech crew who are, as well, stuck in this situation until the actors were able to finish performing the play. It was then presented at the Konsthall in Malmo, in Sweden, as a five-channel video. So it was the three characters, the control room, and the teleprompter. I also, then, came back to New York after doing that and had some ideas about doing more process-oriented performances and videos that would more immediately respond to the news of that day and that week. So, I had been invited to do a residency on the street, in a storefront, on a street in Chinatown, at a place called Forever and Today. I set up my News Bureau of Reception, was how I was thinking of it. And the day I moved in, I got an email from CNN, asking me to do a video for their online gallery and the lead-up to the election that year. I think, in the interest of time, you can find it online quite easily. It was called Push/Pull, and it was basically looking at the manipulative nature of so-called man-on-the-street interviews, and on the influence that polls have in determining public opinion in elections. Then, following up on that, the following year, in 2013, I did a project in Muenster, Germany, at a Kunstverein there. I enlisted a local journalist there, who was doing a few Vox Pop, man-on-the-street interviews a week for the local news, as well as an actor. The thinking for this piece was to elaborate further on this News Room of Reception set I'd been working on in my studio, and to make a full-on theater set of it. So I worked with a stage set designer, and we built this model, which then was built in full scale at the Kunstverein, and used both for the filming and the viewing of the video, which was basically a conversation between these American and European archetypes of democratic discourse, the American one being the reporter and the European one being this Little Man, or Kleiner Man, who hangs out in the cafe and spouts off. It was looking into these ideas of the public sphere in Europe and coming from Habermas, the German sociologist, and this idea of cafe culture, but it's also really one that's proliferated in film and television, this idea of the cafe being the place where public discourse really happens, where people form their opinions and can speak about the daily news. So we set it up as a functional cafe, as well, where people could come and have coffee and read the newspaper. So it was a hybrid cafe-meets-news bureau set, in this case, with a 3D news logo behind the scenes that then was filmed and became the back splash for the second set. So I used a disco ball and made it into a globe, to become the kind of screen saver for them, a TV, television news studio meets nightclub bar, which was not used in the film, but used as the setting for viewing the film. So you could sit to watch the V2 channel video and be kinda caught between the two characters. You would sit in the swivel chairs at the anchor desk and spin back and forth. Maybe I'll just do the very start of it. - [Female Reporter] First, (man speaks foreign language) fast, accurate. (man speaks foreign language) Yeah, okay. Hold on a second, I think I know that guy. I don't think we can continue. - [Man] Really? Have we met? Not that I know of. - So the guy in the cafe is both speaking to the other people in the cafe and speaking to the TV as if it's addressing him. Shortly after that, I did this project at a sort of project space at Paula Cooper Gallery, set up nearby here. In this case, I wanted to work with the scenario of a political strategist basically marionetting, puppeteering, a would-be candidate. Also, at this point, I'd started to work with journalists as well as political strategists in some projects, and had this kind of excess material from interviewing people and workshopping material, and basically got back in touch with the political strategist in Texas I had worked with, to talk about the script for this project, which became a cross between all this material I had collected from my own workshops, and the play, the French play, by Edmond Rostand called Cyrano de Bergerac. You probably know the Steve Martin version called Roxanne. It's the guy with the big nose, and he has a way with words, and he helps this young good-looking brute seduce the woman he's in love with, by feeding her lines. In this case, it was the would-be candidate was fed lines by the political strategist in the back room. I also used this audience response system keypad device, which then produced, let's see. If you'll see, it produced graphs that the candidate and the test case audience were then green screened onto, so about 12 audience participants entered in their data, gender, income, and so on, marital status, and then the graphs, they had to enter constantly their approval rating or disapproval rating for my candidate. Moving on to a more recent piece that I finished a year ago. I started to branch off from, you can see, from what I've shown you that I was very focused on politics and news production for a good four years there. Strangely, TED became my branching off point because its immense popularity seemed to be emblematic of how important public speaking is across every field these days, that it's no longer just the politician or business leader that needs to be charismatic and persuasive in order to wield power, but a scientist who needs to fundraise. I'd been hearing stories about people being, an MIT scientist being asked to do a TED talk and spending a good bit, chunk of time for a year to prepare for it, because it's that important for determining whether you get to move on in your career or not. So it seemed to me emblematic of both a techno-idealism, if you are the best you can be, then you will benefit the greater good, you will benefit all of society. If you are the best entrepreneur you can be and the most charismatic you can be, and the best performer you can be. Again, I'll usually either have a scenario that I wanna work with, or a script, and I'm kinda looking for the right context or script to pair with it. And it's usually kind of generative friction. That is somewhat elusive at times, and I'm looking for. In this case, there were a number of scripts, there were a few scripts that I scrapped before arriving at the idea of working with an adaptation of Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, which then was a perfect fit because it's really an attack on the socialist ideal of enlightened self-interest. Again, that idea that, if you're the best individual you can be, you will benefit the greater good. So it was the perfect attack to insert into a TED scenario. So I'll play you a minute from that. - People everywhere, and at all times, have preferred to act as they chose, even when it was contrary to their own interest. And sometimes, they absolutely should. And that is my idea. One's own independent choice, however wild it may be, is that most advantageous advantage which we have overlooked. While I'm alive and have desires, I would rather my hand shrivel and fall off than overlook my independent choice. You believe in building a perfect world, a crystal palace that can never be destroyed. But I'm afraid of your ideal system because I'm not allowed to criticize it. I can't even stick my tongue out at it. And I don't say this because I love sticking my tongue out at things, but I resent systems that stop me from doing so. Go ahead, stick your tongue out at me. Come on, I'll do it back. (giggling) - It was an audience of extras of actors, they had to watch this, they had to watch, slash, listen to this speech a few dozen times, so I ended up using their kind of malaise to be this image of apathy. As well as, I worked with a 10-year-old actor named Alex Ammerman, and I ended up as well using his moments of feeling overwhelmed by the $40 words and intensity of the material, and that kind of upset and frustration in the final video. Oh, and so the big coup of it was that TED asked to put it on their blog and wrote a review of it, which I got quite excited about, because I'm quite game for these moments when the work can reach a wider audience, and to be put out there through the same platform that it's critiquing and engaging with, was exciting. This is from the installation of it at a gallery called Various Small Fires in Los Angeles, and there was also a companion piece that I made with a vocal coach and her 10-year-old daughter named Ella. I had the vocal coach, Kate Wilson, teacher her daughter how to be the coach. As I was working on rehearsing the TED piece with Alex, we were looking at the techniques for preparing that are used to train and prepare someone for public speaking and trying to find workshopping ways to find like-minded analogies for these training exercises that would be in line with the Dostoevsky text. I was also just thinking about how public speaking is all about affirmation, and to invert that and make these exercises about negation. I'll also play you a minute from that. - Imagine your worst enemy is right here in front of you. And since you have a bow and arrow, you decide to shoot them. As you pull back your arrow, do a "ng" sound. And as you release your arrow, and it goes onward, do a "ah." So pull back your arrow, - [All] Ng, ah. Ng, ah. Ng, ah. Ng, ah. Ng, ah. Ng, ah. Ng, ah. Now drop it. - So, everyone come together. Now, imagine the three people you most hate in the room. There's one standing here, one standing there, and one standing there. And you just made this amazing new language, where the three worst things you can say are bebee, bebay and bebah. So let's try that, bebee, bebay, bebah. - [All] Bebee, bebay, bebah. - Pepee, pepay, pepah. - [All] Pepee, pepay, pepah. - Tetee, tetay, tetah. - [All] Tetee, tetay, tetah. - [Girl] Dedee, deday, dedah. - [All] Dedee, deday, dedah. - [Girl] Kekee, kekay, kekah. - [All] Kekee, kekay, kekah. - [Girl] Gegee, gegay, gegah. - [All] Gegee, gegay, gegah. - These are also some sculptural works that were in the show, that were meant to be devices for training in this new method of public speaking and learning. This was also based on the work of Francois Delsarte. He had this diagram to illustrate the meaning of arm gestures. Again, the code is all about affirmative gestures, and I replaced them. Instead of glorification, it was self-promotion and terms that were like acute consciousness that were coming from the Dostoevsky text as well as ideas that were coming from the TED scenario. I'll just finish with the most recent video I made, that was working off of this last training exercise video as a departure point. I wanted to continue working with this performance training and coaching, and I wasn't sure how. I had a invitation to do a commission in Toronto at a great nonprofit called Mercer Union, and started visiting there maybe a year ago in the dead of winter and thinking about ice hockey and ice skating being a natural thing to work with in Toronto. I ended up writing a number of different scripts. I think at first it was a sci-fi child custody dispute on ice that was mixing figure skating and ice hokey. It went through a lot of, cycles through a lot of different failed scripts for this. And I went and actually cast for one of these earlier scripts, and I was looking for a mother, father and child. I got a nice tour of all the different ice skating rinks on the outskirts of Toronto early in the morning. And I went to meet with this seven-year-old girl to have her audition for the part. She fell and cried within five minutes. Her mother was her coach and was, like, "She's fine, she's just being dramatic." And she's, like, "Just do it again." And she was totally fine and she did it again. Her older brother, who's 11, named Axel, Susannah and Axel, and the mother's named Marie, he was also doing his axles and tricks around on the rink. I became quite enamored with this family and left thinking, "I have to forget it. "I don't need to cast a family. "I'm gonna work with this real one." I had been, in this case, collecting material for some kind of large essay, extensive essay I was never gonna write about the status of the child. Anyway, I'll just play you a minute from it and you'll get the gist. (skates swish and scrape on ice) - [Voiceover] I think I'll permit you to forget your dreams for a little while. In reality, you place too much importance on them. You look at these little people around you and think you know what we are. But what we are is actually what you have come to think about us. - Let's move on, double right away. (boy squawks) Line your arms up, please. Come on. Down in your knee. And up. Back hand Anna, stretch please. - [Voiceover] Do we even remember being a child? You might just as well have never been a child, for all you can remember about it. You think of it as a gentle time, when actually, childhood can be violent, coarse and cruel. - [Voiceover] Children did not always exist. They were invented. Before the 16th century, there was no concept of childhood. There wasn't even a word for child in most languages. It was only later that we began to see children as innocent and in need of protection. - This world is not a good place for children. Everyone discriminates against us. We're invisible, ignored, impotent. - Wow, this is getting better, too, Axel. I'm happy. (boy squeals softly) (skates swoosh and scrape) (cries softly, sniffles) - Yeah, I think that's all for tonight. But if you have any questions, let me know. (applause) This is them at the exhibition opening, dancing around in front of themselves. - [Voiceover] How did you approach the family? - Well, basically the mother, Marie, is the resident coach at this rink. And I had written up a casting call that I asked this nonprofit to send out to skating schools and skating clubs. And since this woman, Marie, is the coach, and I was looking for a child figure skater, she got in touch and said that they wanted to do an audition for it. I wasn't sure how she would react a month later to me saying, "Okay, I wanna work not only with Anna, "your seven-year-old, but with all three of you, "and I wanna make it about you, "and really observe what you do. "And I'm gonna find a way to weave "this script I've been writing "into what you do." So it was some new territory for me, or maybe more reminiscent of my days as a photographer, where sometimes I would venture into more documentary work. Up until the last moment, I was nervous how they would feel about the film. But they were all, they were quite open and interested in talking about the ideas. I think that specifically with figure skating, there is a lot of awareness about the child both being so delicate and innocent, but also capable of rigorous hard work and capable of understanding larger ideas. I think I was also quite lucky with how open they were to the idea. But I was even the night before the opening, I was calling her at 10:00 o'clock, saying, "Did you see the edit? "Are you okay with it?" And she was, and we all went to Sleeping Beauty on Ice to celebrate the night after. - [Voiceover] Did that hark back to you to your first image of your performing with Wendy Osserman? - Yes, oh, yeah. I did not think of that til now, but it's, yeah. I have noticed, I'm aware of the mother-child motif that, in terms of this slide show I hadn't purposely made it so cyclical. - [Voiceover] One other question. Did you think that maybe the reason that Reagan didn't act as much as the others is because he's a film actor and not a stage actor? - Well, it wasn't only him. It was every one, every American President before him, as well. So it was really not part of the lexicon. My, sort of, educated judgement of this, without foundation, exactly, is that I imagine there was a media strategist or multiple media strategists early on when political speeches first started being filmed and televised, and someone must have decided it didn't look good on film, that it was distracting to have hands waving around. We were still used to seeing preachers, like Martin Luther King, gesticulate gracefully on camera, but it wasn't part of the politician's performance, or wasn't brought back into the fold, in my mind at least. I imagine these stump speeches in the 18th and 19th centuries, that people probably did hold forth and the oratorical tradition was likely in full swing until these things started being televised. However, I have yet to find the PhD student, you know, PolySci PhD student who is working on this. And I've asked a few, I've asked at least the political strategist I worked with. They also have speculations, like I do, but no one seems to have the full back story. - [Tom] Well, I've a question, which is, trying to, unfortunately, put all of your work in a single category, to understand it better, and it seems to be one of the things I wanna say about it is that your work has to do in part with the way the public doesn't know itself. The public doesn't even know the formats by means of which it's presenting iself and by means of which we're interacting with one another. So, sort of by distilling out the gestures or the recasting the interviews, you're providing this really wonderful reflection back to the public, which is already presenting itself, and in effect, the implication is, we are opaque to ourselves in some really important way, and that you so often choose, or have in the past chosen, the realm of the political in which to show this opacity, seems like that's part of the power of what you're up to here is, boy, we don't know what we're doing here. I'm just curious, what do you think about it? - Yeah, I think of it as a very odd mutation of both performing arts practice and aesthetics. For instance, I'll look at, especially with that first news room piece in Sweden, I ended up thinking a lot about the costuming and the set for the television news, and how did it get to be so cheesy, you know? It's really this sort of mutant cycle of each thing imitating the thing before, and market researchers determining that we have to appeal to the lowest common denominator, to the most amount of people. So then that's how taste gets made now. But I mean, I think about it more as, I'm more, I guess, focused on how these artistic practices are being taken up by the kind of bureaucratic entities that hold sway, and how no one's exactly the puppeteer. It's this kind of bureaucratic structure where you have the equivalent of dramaturges advising, and theater practitioners advising, again, world leaders on both their policy making and their behavior and how they should answer questions and, at the end of the day, also make policy. I see it as a very strange apparatus, where nobody totally knows what they're doing, but they have learned to behave like they do and to specialize on their one task. You know, I'm the person who comes in and tells Obama what to say about healthcare, and I'm the person who comes in and teaches Hillary how to perform her gestures. And all of these things add up to massive decisions getting made at the end of the day. But artists are in terms of their probably more savvy in terms of their ability to dissect and design that kind of behavior or costuming. I think we're just at a very strange place. It got a little hairy there. - [Tom] The TED piece is the most disquieting one, because there, it's not sort of politicians presenting. That's more what, this is one of the most popular formats now for showing the best and the brightest of not just individuals but of human thinking. And other people have pointed this out, too, it's such a narrow format. If you've watched many, or a few, TED talks, you see it. It's very, in a way, scripted. People rehearse it in order to make it look very spontaneous and everything. This format has emerged and is now the mark of a certain kind of excellence and intelligence. It's strange. I mean, I bemoan it because I always thought the college professor was the model of intelligent performance. And now, TED talk is. (Liz giggles) It's a funny moment in American intellectual life, that the TED talk has become this media phenomenon. - Yeah, it's lecturing. It is essentially some kind of pedagogical presentation, seemingly. But it's all for the effect of inspiring, first and foremost, with some vague outlet that's... - [Tom] This is what professors are now, just-- (laughter) - [Voiceover] Thank you for your talk. It was very enlightening. I wanna know about what inspires you most when you make your work. I don't quite understand it yet, but I feel very drawn to it. And, what are you looking to do next? - It's really been identifying and dissecting how the arts are used in these other sectors, and how much power they have, that has been my source of inspiration, I suppose, for the last four to five years. Next, I've been working on television show treatments, so that's sort of a side fantasy for me right now. First it was reality show treatments, and now it's moving towards sketch comedy, but it wouldn't really be a comedy. It would be drier than that. So, yeah. And I'd like to do something in the lead-up to the elections. So that's, I'm working on the treatments for that right now. (student speaks off-microphone) What? - [Voiceover] What TV station do you see your shows in? - Well, I found myself, it's a little bit off-hand, but I find myself walking around saying, "Oh, I wanna do a Netflix reality TV show "about the news," and that was, I think, because I was watching things like House of Cards and thinking how good online TV has gotten and the production value. It's both, but content-wise and story line-wise, it's becoming, in a lot of cases, more interesting than a Hollywood film, Hollywood cinema. So I started to get intrigued. Then I also figured, you know, they haven't had a reality show that super sort of twists the form yet. - [Voiceover] You have an interest in cable? - What? Cable? - [Voiceover] Yes. - Do you know someone? (giggles) - [Voiceover] You're kind of working some news show, and it seems, like, traditional (mumbles). - No, I would be interested in broadcast in a variety of different forms. I think it's clearly changing right now, with online TV. The live TV broadcasting techniques have also, I didn't show that much of that work, but I have also done a lot more of the live greenscreening and seven camera live editing before. (student talks off-camera) - [Voiceover] You'd mentioned that you're sort of like thinking about the upcoming election. I was wondering if you'd noticed if any of the candidates thus far have used the gesturing you'd mentioned, namely, like, Trump, or if he sort has any gesturing? - With Trump, I've been interested in how dismissive gestures and facial expressions, he uses them quite a bit, and then that kind of proliferates. He's, kind of, like, pff, talk like throwing things out or brushing things aside, and kinda scoffing facial expressions. He's popularizing them. You definitely see it spreading more. He really reminds me of this kind of trope of an older brother in a movie, who would, like, stick his younger brother's head in a toilet or something. You know, he's got this real, he's often got that kind of retort where he shuts people down quite effectively, in a blunt way. So I've been noting that quite a bit. - [Tom] Okay, can we thank Liz Laser for her talk this evening? (applause) - Thanks.

References

  • United States Congress. "Joseph S. Ammerman (id: A000177)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Pennsylvania State Senate
Preceded by
Daniel A. Bailey
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate for the 34th District
1971–1977
Succeeded by
Doyle Corman
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Albert Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 23rd congressional district

January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1979
Succeeded by
Bill Clinger
This page was last edited on 16 May 2019, at 19:32
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