Originally posted (under the title ‘beta test 11-10-08: preamble’) on November 25, 2008 in response to the testing session with Franziska Schroeder, and to Franziska’s article. This testing session took place a year and a half before io 0.0.1 beta++’s public debut, and at this stage io was very much work in progress.
Almost eight years ago, when io-to-be was a bunch of discorporate code fragments, Sara Roberts remarked that the enterprise of constructing a machine improvisers wasn’t so much megalomanic as Frankensteinian.
Fifteen days ago, during the break between beta test sessions, Franziska Schroeder asked a pithy question that cut to the core of this enterprise: what do I hope to achieve? My answer surprised me even as it reminded me of Sara’s observation: my goal with io (and io++) is to encapsulate my take on improvisation—its mechanisms, its sociality, its significance. As I’ve written elsewhere,
improvisation is performance; it is an act; it is something you do. In order to make an artifact behave analogously to an improviser, I need to ascertain what might pass for, or what might function in the place of, improvisation. To venture into the construction of an improviser is to ask what is improvisation.
I’d anticipated that consulting with other improvisers with different backgrounds, practices and histories would be helpful to this construction, but I hadn’t guessed that it would bring into relief issues that lie at the kernel of this enterprise.
the techno-musical is political? personal?
This is the first time I’ve embodied the role of (techno-musical) project leader. That’s a problematic enough… but the interrogation and problematization of the technical construction was an interrogation and problematization of Han the constructor, improviser and, for lack of better word, theorist.
As I’ve stated elsewhere, I am reminded that this exploding—this interrogation and problematization—is how improvisers evolve, and the conditions under which practices and approaches mutate.
the machine that once could
In a sense io is stuck as a un-mutant improviser. It encapsulates what I though of improvisation seven years ago. Fine then; not now.
In my report to the Arts Council I wrote that
in exploring improvisation… and in the collision with other approaches and sensibilities, I have learned that this enterprise is ever-evolving as it adapts to new situations and contexts.
Although, io 0.0.1 beta++ as a funded project has a (bureaucratically necessary) end, perhaps it, as an entity, and as a focal point of practice and performance, is—road movie-like—a much more open ended enterprise.