An Encounter MomentOlivia Chen
What will happen here? What could we produce here? What should I do? and so on.
These are undoubtedly some personal questions, but at the same time, I ask myself, is there anyone else with the same questions as me? Not just about what are you making, but how you feel about the things you are making now. Then Orit Gat’s article “Could reading be looking?” gave me a mind shot—what if I let people read as if they were writing it? May this lead readers to share empathy and awareness with me? This is the initial impulse that brought me to write this diary that mixes self-experience inside the project to dig out, what the potential of this curatorial project is, the secret thoughts in my mind, and the romance of O.T.O. Here, you don’t need to know what moving image is, or music videos. Eventually ,you will know it all.
I remember the first time I visited LUX and met Ben. It is a small space located in Waterlow Park with a bright sunroom and a shadow reading room. It is a bit far away from the city centre, it's not the ideal location at all, but also makes it secluded from the hustle and bustle of London. This place always has fresh air, and the green, vivid plants create a tranquil atmosphere. Every time I pass by the library corner, the multicoloured spines of the books tempt me to imagine how many avant-garde curatorial projects have taken place and how many wonderful moving images have been exhibited here. It's our turn now, will our project become one of these silent archives, just sitting here waiting for the next passenger in a corner? Is this the only place to be? Or can it be somewhere else? What will happen after this project is completed? Whatever, the garden is the best place to compose, and no rush, take the time, take it as one time only.
No matter whether you are an independent or institutional curator, you will always need to meet the demands of the upper decision-maker, and in this case, the institution stands for us. This directly influences why we can do this, and how we do it, except for what it is that we want to do. Just like Paul O’Neil claims, “the fragility of this dynamic period of productivity, progress and visibility for curators has meant that many have avoided pinning down exactly what is dynamic about their practice. There is a need for individual curators to articulate which curatorial initiatives have influenced their practice and decide what forms of curatorial practice are akin to their own” (O’Neill, 2005). So every time I look back at the process and the format we chose, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to say, this is the most surprising part for me— Ben as the director of LUX, set no limitations for our project, agreing with us to focus on a club night which wouldn’t happen at LUX but in FOLD, encouraging us to not be strapped down by the institution’s collection and suggesting we think deeper for the reasons why we chose music videos, and why music videos need to be problematised.
I have always imagined the exhibition as a garden, and the curator is a gardener. I, therefore, also expect O.T.O. to be a garden where people take off their uniforms after a busy day at work and put on clothes that make them happy, pop culture, music videos, and club nights emerge together. People pass by, find a comfortable corner with their friends, greet, talk, laugh, hug, and say goodbye. This is a place where encounters and voices are emphasized, rather than a screen show.
I tried to ask myself, if I was sitting in a darkened screening room, would I want to talk and share with others? It's hard to say, because no screening room would allow for conversation. But if the seats inside were removed and the screening became a live performance, the moving image ceased to be the main character and became the backdrop to all the action happening here, hidden behind people. As each person is submerged in the glow of the electronic screen, we can only see their backs outlined in the light, and no one can quickly tell what they look like, their gender, their nationality, and when all stereotypes have no reference point, everyone has no choice but to dance in the dark with their eyes closed. Maybe the one drinking and shaking his head in the first row is a professor at school, maybe the one vomiting in the corner is a serious guest lecturer, or the one shaking his shoulders with his eyes closed next to you is a classmate who usually rarely speaks up, it's such a wonderful place: everyone unloads all their social identities and the seeds of relationships buried in the fertile soil germinate quietly in the music and images and people's conversations. It is this blurring of context that allows everyone to meet others in music and images and conversations, in 'exhibitions' and 'moving images' that you forget about, in an honest and fearless way. At the same time, when you see similar images years later, when you hear the music of that night, do you remember what happened, remember the joy, remember yourself dancing in the dark?
It reminds me of Spinoza's concept of joy, as not an emotion at all, but an increase in one's power to affect and be affected. It is the capacity to do, and to feel, more, it is related to creativity and the embrace of uncertainty. As with Bergman and Montgomery's conception of happy militancy, militancy no longer refers to images of machismo and militarism, but can mean fighting internalised guilt and oppression; furious support for a friend or loved one; the courage to sit with trauma; subtle acts of sabotage; perseverance in recovering subjugated traditions; drawing lines in the sand; or simply just being ready to risk (Bergman, Montgomery and Alluri, 2017). They intentionally combine joy and militancy in order to think through the connections between fierceness and love, resistance and caring, combativeness and nurturing. Just as O.T.O. combines moving image, music video and the live, making club nights a site where everything meets in “joy” and dance. The potential of the music video form is revisited to critically discuss the moving image in the context of its obscurity and marginalisation bysociety which takes it to be a simple form rather than a medium with its own complex technologies of creation, distribution and consumption. In the heated collision of the moving image and the music video, in the intense dance and constant encounter of people in the dark — alternative channels of access to the moving image are opened up.
What if curating no longer simply means a place to display or reproduce symbols, but a way/place to deal with the relationship between individuals and society? To borrow Michel Maffesoli's terminology: “flags, logos, icons, signs, all resonate and share, all create bonds” (Maffesoli, 1996), and curating reinforces the impact of bonds in order to produce empathy and sharing, and on this basis the exhibition produces new bonds to connect with music videos to personal memories that may have been forgotten. The curatorial project of the club night can then be a space where the past, present and future can be encountered at once. There are no longer rules about not being able to talk, people imagine
O.T.O without limits, just as they imagine without limits what flowers and trees will grow in that garden, what people will appear here and what stories will happen.
“There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” —Audre Lorde (Lorde, 1984, p. 4)
19 April 2023
References: Bergman, C., Montgomery, N. and Alluri, H. (2017) Joyful militancy: building resistance in toxic times. Chico, CA Edinburgh: AK Press (Anarchist interventions, 07).
Maffesoli, M. (1996) La contemplation du monde: figures du style communautaire. Paris: Librairie Générale Française (Le livre de poche Biblio essais, 4223).
Lorde, A. (1984) Sister outsider: essays and speeches. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press (The Crossing Press feminist series).
O’Neill, P. (2005) Art monthly: article: the co-dependent curator – paul o’neill on the dysfunctional relationship between independent curators and institutions. Art Monthly. Available at: http://
www.artmonthly.co.uk/magazine/site/article/the-co-dependent-curator-by-paul-oneill-november-2005 (Accessed: 18 April 2023).