Performance Art in telepresence

Information and communication in the world net of computers

Maria Beatriz de Medeiros

Par l'espace, l'univers me comprend (sense I) et m'engloutit; par la pensée, je le comprends (sense II). Pascal.  …sense I – to involve the whole; to embody; …sense II – to perceive through knowledge, to decode, learn, know, acknowledge, feel…
Petit Robert Dictionary



We call telepresence, presence in real time, or almost real, mediated by technology, be it video or computer. In our current work, the Corpos Informáticos Research Group  accomplishes research in Performance Art in telepresence through the computer, that is, in Internet. [1]

What are the possibilities of doing art in the world net of computers? When is the net a net of information? What is information? When is the net a net of communication? What is communication? Is presence in telepresence capable of Art? What are the possibilities of doing Performance Art in telepresence?


            Art, communication of affection


Art is language, however, an uncodifiable language, a language incompatible with words, irreducible language. The languages have communication as their function. [2] Art is non-linguistic communication. [3] For Kant, beauty gives pleasure without concepts. We would say art is communication through a language without a concept, giving pleasure or non-pleasure. The proper of art is to produce affects and percepts, as would say Deleuze and Guattari. [4] Art is communication, without a concept, through affect, and the very cause of this unexplainable affect. In communication of affect one cannot tell precisely its cause, and its effect is not limited.


It is appropriate to remind that we refer to the philosophical affect “which consists in suffering an action or being influenced or modified by it” [5] . To Aristotle, affect would be any modification suffered by the soul, affect would be produced by the sensitive qualities and would happen in the soul. Affect


"… hasn’t necessarily an emotive connotation" … "the term affection"… should be considered extensive to all determination, including that which has the faculty of knowing, which presents a character of passivity or can in any way be considered a quality or alteration suffered." [6]


The means used to produce art does not depend on the affect produced. Any technical means can produce art, if it produces affect and percept. Therefore, the world net of computers and Internet are capable of art. We research, at the moment, two artistic forms in the web: web-art (see and performance in telepresence. Reflections on these practices of the Corpos Informáticos Research Group are published in , especially in the text “Actualisation of the human being".

The different comprehensions of the term Performance

            Performance Art is one of the languages of art (maybe the most non-linguistic); it is live art, by excellence the art of presence. Its product is a process and its process is ephemeral, by principle. The body is subject and object of the art “work”, but all the resources and techniques are sympathetic to this multi- and trans-disciplinary art.

            To John Langshaw Austin (1911-1960), english philosopher of language, information is a constative enunciate, that which describes an event, for opposition to a performative, “which has the property of having an intrinsic sense that doesn’t let itself be comprehended independently of a certain action that it allows to be accomplished." [7]

            So we can say that art is communication, communication of affect, communication through performative enunciates (non-enunciable). Here, we are far from the idea of performance and performativity with a sense of efficiency measured by a relation of input/output, in search of an optimization of the production, of efficiency. Here, performance is the direct result of a specific known cause, which has an effect, both measurable and  predictable.
Communication generates, and is generated by, intelligence.
-        Interlligere- to read inside, interior reading.
-        Intelligence, in Greek noésis, is full of dialog, discursive knowledge (we would say, knowledge, pure and simply, since discursive knowledge is always sensitive, intuitive, trespassed by the imaginary, and full of psychism).
-        dianóia; nóia, that is, ourselves.
-        Intelligence is fruit of the being as a whole and with the whole, not having hierarchy in the states (in reality one only state) of being.
-        Thinking, the interior dialogue, also involves all the senses, all the body, and all of the social body.


The communication that is generated by intelligence and generates intelligence happens in interlocution: subjectivities offering themselves to reciprocal internal reading. The communication demands the recognizing of oneself in the other, recognizing of the other as an equal, it is itself proper to the Jean-Paul Doguet‘s "nous originaire" [8] , where the You and the I, the heart of an Ourselves, are recognized as capable of sharing the pleasure felt before beauty, beauty capable of giving pleasure, universally – of a symbolic universally (Gérard Lebrun), without concept. Communication demands sharing with the other, that is, demands openness, penetrability and contamination (sic). Communication exists when actions occur, actions in the interlocutors. Art exists from the moment when affect occurs in the spectator. In Performance Art, the affect re-felt gives way to participation, generating affect in the performer, thus, interlocution, an interlocution with unexplainable cause and without concept. So in communication, as in art, performance, non-measurable and non-predictable, happens in the interlocutors. Or still, there will be communication as long as there is performance between and in the interlocutors. The world net of computers, through telepresence, can be a world net of communication.
The world net of information

The word "cybernetics", for professor of mathematics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and one of the founders of the technologies of information, Norbert Weiner, assigns "the study of the communications that exert effective control, with sights to the construction of the calculating machines". [9] These calculating machines are, today, the computers and the automatons that, besides carrying through operations, allow a feedback of the human being, being called intelligent machines.  Machines that receive messages, that is, information, codifiable information, transmissible and decodifiable. In the decoding, data previously stored are modified and they generate, many times, new codifiable messages, transmissible and decodifiable.

            From the explained above one could say there is a swap of information between human being and machine or between machines, and still, that this swap of information, this interchange, is capable of generating news.
Let us remember that information only possesses impact when it is new. This impact is reduced when there is repetition. In theory of information, one would say that information possesses the reverse function of its frequency. In reality, repeated information already no more informs, really ceasing to be information.

The world network of computers is a means of communication, however it is, over all, a means of information. [10]   Information is a constative enunciate (Austin), that provokes a reduction of uncertainty concerning any environment; it is (it intends to be) a certainty and therefore does not require sharing. It is "communication" in one only direction. Communication is necessarily, at the very least, a way of two hands. There will never be communication when there is search for "effective control"!

            In interlocution, information generates news, modification.  For example, if I inform someone that it will rain, this someone will not only store this information; perhaps, from the stored information his/her will modify all his/her day as well. If I inform him/her, that 200.000 people have died, in some place, yesterday, probably this information will generate a new state of spirit in my interlocutor (affect).  And still, if I inform that a friend passed away (affect), this information will be able to radically modify the life of the person informed. Let us highlight that the affectation, generated by information, does not represent an invitation to dialogue, since this last one is closed and conclusive: "200.000 people have died", "that person died".

The swap of information between human beings and machines and the subsequent swaps of information between machines also can generate catastrophes. Thus the viruses come to destroy all the information of one, or many, machines. In another way, from the swap of information between human beings, this destruction will not generate affect; therefore, even so there is decoding, and for times catastrophe, there is no understanding. In interlocution, in communication, there is interaction, desire and necessity of participation, of performance; there is sharing, and still, responsibility. In French, to share, we would say, "partager", to make… to be part of.

Understanding could lead to diverse thinkers. Let us cite Wilhem Dilthey (1833-1911), where "understanding is the discovery of the ‘I’ in the ‘you’" [11] … where understanding is interpersonal knowledge not susceptible of causal explanation. This German philosopher held that the study of human sciences involves interaction of personal experience; the reflective understanding of personal experience; and an expression of spirit in gestures, words, and art.

As we saw, strong information generates necessity of redefinition; however it does not break the consensus.  It establishes (imposes) a new that wants itself definitive. While information is capable of impact, it will generate modification in the subject, information, however, remaining intact. Communication will happen while no consensus is established, while no rule is stabilized, while there is possibility of tact, affect and percept, in all the interlocutors involved.

We are in constant modification in the voluminous and tormented sea of information in which we live. Internet can be a communication place, but it is, over all, the place of information, where there is no possibility of interlocution, interaction, and reply. The choice between previously defined possibilities does not represent communication. The mere choice of paths, the pressing of buttons - called "surfing" - does not imply communication.  In interlocution and Performance Art in telepresence, the World Wide Web and the Internet becomes a network of communications.

 Information, reduction of uncertainty concerning a given environment in-forms, gives definite shape to what used to be misshapen, fluid, open. Information is molded form. Communication sculptures, without necessarily concluding any workmanship. If, at the end of a communication, we arrive to consensus, we have a certainty; this will be the consensus, the end of the communication, the extinguishing of the performance possibility, it would be as a matrix, a mold, a negative form, from which positive forms would be created, that is, information. New in the principle, valueless in the end. In communication there is no consensus, there is the possibility of performance in the others and in oneself exactly.

However we must add that the consensus, the agreement, is an unattainable horizon.  All the consensuses are local and momentary, fragile and escapable.

Information is, also, circumscribed, ephemeral, and, not rarely, false.

            The world net of computers is, mainly, a net of information: codifiable information, capable of generating and controlling machines, but also commercial, educational, weather forecasting information, verifiable, controllable. As a means of artistic expression the net may come to be the space of art, as web-art, that is, as a means of artistic expression, thus capable of generating affect. With telepresence, this net becomes effectively a net of communication, space of interlocution, space (and non-space) - topos and utopia - of performance, since performance in the interlocutors is a sine qua non condition for effective communication, and still, the space (non-space) - topos and utopia - of the art of performance, inter-subjective communication of affect.
Summarized bibliography
Abbagnano, Nicola, Dicionário de Filosofia, transl. Alfredo Bosi, 2° ed., São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1998.
Deleuze, G., e Guattari, F. Qu'est-ce que la Philosophie?, Paris: ed. Minuit, 1991.
Doguet, Jean-Paul, "Je, tu, nous. Contribution à une philosophie de l'interlocution", magazine Les Papiers, n° 48, Collège International de Philosophie, Paris, julho 1999.
Ducrot, O., Todorov, T., Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences du Langage, Paris: ed. Seuil, 1972
Franco, Marcelo Araújo, Ensaio sobre as tecnologias digitais da inteligência, Campinas, SP, Papirus, 1997.
Kant, Emanuel, Critique de la Faculté de Juger, trad. A. Philonenko, Paris: ed. Vrin, 1984.
Kunzmann, P., Burkard, F.-P., Wiedmann, F., Atlas de Philosophie, Paris: ed. La Pochotèque, Le Livre de Poche, 1993.
Lyotard, Jean François, La condition Post-moderne, Paris: ed. Minuit, 1979.
Medeiros, M. B. e Rocha, Carla,
Medeiros, M.B., diversos textos em português, francês e inglês, www.   ???
Prado, Plínio, Teoria do aspecto e a arte de julgar, course annotations, Collège International de Philosophie, Paris, 1999.
Weiner, Norbert, Cibernética ou controle e comunicação no animal e na máquina, SP: Polígono e USP, 1970 (1947).

[1] The technology employed in the accomplishment of performance in telepresence is the same used for making teleconferences. We use it to experiment the possibilities of Performance Art in telepresence.
[2] Remember that we are talking about a communication full in aspect, of unarticulated (Wittgenstein), of unspeakable (Barthes), and not of the German theory of communicational pragmatics (the first Habermas).
[3] In the Brazilian dictionary "Novo dicionário Aurélio", we found as the fifth definition of “language” the following: “Everything that is used to express ideas, feelings, manners, behavior, etc and that excludes the use of language."
[4] Deleuze and Guattari, Qu'est-ce que la Philosophie?, Paris: Munuit, 1991.
[5] Abbagnano, Nicola, Dicionário de Filosofia, translated by Alfredo Bosi, 2nd edition, São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1998, p. 19.
[6] Idem, p.21.
[7] Ducrot, O., Todorov, T., Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences du Langage, Paris: ed. Seuil, 1972, p. 427,428. Let us remind, once more, that when we take Austin we are not approaching the theory of Habermas, and the concept of speech act.
[8] Doguet, Jean-Paul, "Je, tu, nous. Contribution à une philosophie de l'interlocution", Les Papiers magazine number 48, Collège International de Philosophie, Paris, July 1999.
[9] Weiner, Norbert, Cybernetics or control and communication in the animal and the machine, SP: Polígono e USP, 1970 (1947).
[10] When the world network of computers wants itself commercial, to inform becomes synonymous to deform, as in all good commerce; when it wants itself to be educational, it propagates data previously collected on which some temporarily agree.
[11] Kunzmann, P., Burkard, F.-P., Wiedmann, F., Atlas de Philosophie, Paris: ed. La Pochotèque, Le Livre de Poche, 1993, p. 181.