Interview: Esther Marveta Neff
The Scraping Shape of the Socially Cyclomythic Womb (2016) Tempting Failure, London, UK. Photo by Julia Bauer
In anticipation of the upcoming festival, Experimental Action 2019, ExA reached out to a couple of the participating artists to give attendees a taste of what's to come. Our first interview is with Esther Neff, who operates across many disciplines as, to quote her website, "performance artist, librettist/director, theorist/thespian, and organizer".
ExA: Have you ever been to Houston? What do know of it and it's performance art scene?
EN: No! I haven't, I'm really looking forward to visiting for the first time, having heard a lot of great things about the performance art "scene" and met artists working from Houston...what i think i can see from afar is that the community seems very supportive of each other, non-competitive, respectful of difference, self-organizing...? Such values and practices often define performance art (e.g. it is defined by the performances of persons in community, both our performances-of-art and our intrasocial, political, economic, emotional performances....and not so much by sameness-of-practice or disciplinary technicalities)...
ExA: Can elaborate (sic) on how Performance Art and in particular PA festivals facilitate your (anti)discipline art?
EN: Because so much "performance art" (including my work) is context-specific and relational, being able to travel and make performance in different situations with/for different persons is crucial. I appreciate performance practices that don't involve the production of an "object" of experience but rather exist within and materialize in situ; such practices really benefit from the performative and (p)articular conditions of "festival" formats (festivals are themselves social/collaborative/public/institutional performances, through which contexts and personal relationships are formed...). I especially enjoy PA festivals that are emphasizing event-forms and ways that performance interfaces with witnesses and those present, as well as the ways in which performance artists interact with one another. I am very interested in Experimental Action's co-housing situation and living with the other artists during the festival, especially since my work will involve interviewing/interacting with the other artists as well as attendees and others present.
ExA: The format of your piece is basically a survey in which you interview a number of people about their worldviews and deliver or perform a "report"? What makes it different than say census report, which reveals a worldpractice through financial, biological, and geographical data / answers?
EN: I am interested in how census or demographic reporting procedures use forms and in how those forms are interpreted and used by those being surveilled/(en)counte(r)d....usually though, these forms of in-formation are very static and not at all relational, open to interpretation, or interested in any affective interaction; those interviewed/surveyed are expected to input the same types of information in the same exact ways and those "reading" data are expected to be (in)formed and therefore (per)form reflexion/reporting in a consistent, mathetic format. My interviewing performativities materialize/(p)articulate worldviewing processes and do not result in data, though they use forms (literally, surveys, pamphlets, drawn diagrams) to attempt communication about elements of sensation and perception that are usually quite difficult to communicate about and hard (impossible?) to reduce to "data." They use and result in forms, which in-form of (per)formance of world/self-viewing, but do not necessarily categorize, quantify, qualify, or gather "information." My inquiry with this work is about how persons standunder/understand one other (especially emotions/affective sensations and perceptions) and if/how we/I can per-form/in-form (each) other('s) reasoning and envisioning (worldviewing/world-forming/per-forming/in-forming) processes...
ExA: You've performed a version of this piece in a number of places such as Grace Exhibition Space, Supercheif Gallery, and Rapid Pulse. How does the location / local culture affect the process and outcome of the piece?
EN: I have never performed the same "piece" twice and I don't make pieces :-) sry that sounds didactic but i think it's critical to the work that it's not mimetic (or in any way about "data," I'm trying to see how listening/learning/communicating forms can be per-formed/in-formed otherwise, the consistency of forms is a really problematic territory here)...in any case, my processes in Houston will involve intentions/interests/concepts that I'm working on under the name 'ARC" (an acronym that changes, at Rapid Pulse for example it stood for "Affaction Research Center," at Supercheif during AUNTS it stood for "Automatic Response Choreography"...the Rapid Pulse iteration/full process is framed and documented here, for example) I will be making a new kind for form/process for Experimental Action, the diagram-form will be made and printed in advance but I learn how to perform(and [become] present) through interaction with individuals...I'm hesitant to share my assumptions and preliminary associations about contexts and locations in advance...