Performance Art: Subversion, Activism and GPS

From a student in our Intro to GIS course:

In 2007 three artists living in the country of Slovenia officially changed their name to Janez Janša. Janez Janša is the name of the country’s Prime Minister, a right wing politician who is hostile towards any opposition. On January 28th 2008, the group performed Signature Event Context’s as part of transmediale 08, a Berlin festival that focuses on the digital arts. The performance took place at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. During the event, each of the artists was equipped with a GPS device, and walked through the memorial while repeating the mantra “Jaz sem Janez Janša, Jaz sem Janez Janša, Jaz sem Janez Janša…” (My name is Janez Janša”).

The performance is available online. Since it would be hard to decipher the movements live, video on the webpage offers a planimetric view of the event. First, it locates the site with a “polygon of action” that is supplemented with longitude and latitude locations. With the aid of video cameras, GPS receivers, and Google Earth we can trace the artists’ paths through the memorial. Each artists’ path is highlighted in green. The final result is a signature, the trace of the creators, the name “Janez Janša”.

The title of the event comes from Jacques Derrida’s essay “Signature Event Context.” The group posts this quote on their website to explain their performance:

By definition, a written signature implies the actual or empirical nonpresence of the signer. But, it will be said, it also marks and retains his having-been present in a past now, which will remain a future now, and therefore in a now, in general, in the transcendental form of nowness (maintenance). This general maintenance is somehow inscribed, stapled to the present punctuality, always evident and always singular, in the form of the signature. This is the enigmatic originality of every paraph. For the attachment to the source to occur, the absolute singularity of an event of the signature and of a form of the signature must be retained: the pure reproducibility of a pure event.(Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context” in Margins of Philosophy, tr. Alan Bass, pp. 307-330)

The group claims that the memorial event puts together three concepts (signature, event and context), which “re-contextualizes the site of signature.”

In relation to their name change and the site of the performance, the meaning of the event is complex. Memorials are supposed to engage each individual in the act of remembering. What happens when three artists collectively sign their name at such a significant place? How and where is the original Janez Janša implied? What meaning are Internet viewers supposed to draw? Our own interpretation of the work is mediated by technology. Antonio Caronia notes that in this case, technology has the semiotic function, because the realization of the concept of identity (the signature) is closely related to the virtual world. In effect, the performance of the three Janez Janšas “places in doubt the basis of everyone’s social and individual identity and wants to deeply investigate on the social conventions that constitute and decode it, aiming at unearthing those processes which lie on the border between mind and society.”

6 Responses to “Performance Art: Subversion, Activism and GPS”

  1. Sridharaya says:

    Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for first aid for a heart attack and your post looks very interesting for me.

  2. To start earning money with your blog, initially use Google Adsense but gradually as your traffic increases, keep adding more and more money making programs to your site.

  3. Lino D. Reid says:

    Hi nice post, i read your blog from time to time but i was wondering something. I also run a blog on a similar topic, but i get 1,000′s of spam comments and emails every day does that happen to you.. Any ideas to stop it? I currently have commenting disabled but i want to turn it back on.. Thanks!

  4. Louviere says:

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and make the feeds also…

  5. Cyndy Wanser says:

    Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking you feeds also, Thanks.

  6. Evan Stromberg says:

    My God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insight at the end there, not leave it with we leave it to you to decide.