iii-resident Jaime del Val on the alien and the body

Jaime del Val is a transdisciplinary media artist, philosopher, activist, promotor of the Metabody Project, Forum and Institute, and the non profit organisation Reverso, currently based in Madrid and the rural area of Salamanca, after periods in London, Florence and other places. Since 2000 Jaime develops transdisciplinary projects in the transvergence of arts (dance, performance, architecture, visual and media arts, music), technologies, critical theory and activism. Jaime’s projects propose redefinitions of embodiment, perception and public space that challenge contemporary control society as well as normative conceptions of affect, sex, gender and ability, and have been presented with over 100 performances and installations in over 50 cities of 25 countries, across Europe, North and South America Asia as well as Asia and Africa, mostly under the collective REVERSO.

Jaime performed at No Patent Pending #34 on October 13, 2018.

iii-resident Jaime del Val on the alien and the body
Metabody - Photo Jamie del Val

Cybil Scott- What excites you about the word meta, and what does it mean in relation to your work?

Jamie del Val- Meta- in ancient Greek means both in-between and in-excess of. It implies both the sense of relationality and of becoming that characterizes my art and philosophy..

Do you think that artwork has to be rooted in philosophical or theoretical bases to secure a place in art history?

I am not very concerned with art history nor with securing places. I am a philosopher as much as an artist and both aspects evolve in parallel and become entangled. Which means none of them is in service of the other. I don’t do philosophy to justify my work nor do I do artwork to ground my philosophy. Yet I do think that when one does things (in art or anywhere) that exceed existing concepts, one needs to invent new concepts for it, or at least avoid using obsolete conceptual boxes. Likewise, philosophy and thought is for me an embodied process that requires embodied experimentation to take it in new directions and beyond the dominant tradition of the disembodied mind.

 

iii-resident Jaime del Val on the alien and the body
Photo Jamie del Val
I don't do philosophy to justify my work nor do I do artwork to ground my philosophy. Yet I do think that when one does things (in art or anywhere) that exceed existing concepts, one needs to invent new concepts for it, or at least avoid using obsolete conceptual boxes.

What’s the difference between art and entertainment? If something looks too good should one be wary of it? Is it a dangerous line to cross in your projection-based performances?

Art has the capacity to create new perceptions, whereas entertainment mainly builds upon existing ones. If something looks “too good” it means it’s perhaps not unsettling existing perceptions. But having an audience that looks from a fixed external position always implies the risk of not generating new perceptions.The fundamental problem for me is to undo the spectator-performer divide that places the audience as passive external observer. That’s why I tend to perform less and less for an audience and do more one-to-one encounters with audience members or immersive installations where it’s all about their perceptual experience.

As for the projections, indeed that’s a danger. For me it’s an issue of how the whole intervention, even while performing for an audience, may become an alien presence that opens up perceptions even in sustaining wonder (the “beauty” can be a seductive layer for people holding onto the alien), but the danger is always there…. the comments I got after the performance in the Hague were “Amazing, weird, alien, crazy… and funny”. I was positively surprised about the funny aspect of it.

METABODY/METATOPIA/Amorphogenesis 5.11 – MetaSkin Floating Adrift – Indeterminate Body for a Justice to Come

What’s your perception on how the body served a role in feudal societies as a primary production machine until now? What’s it’s current primary purpose, and is how is it different for male/female aspects?

The body was conceptualised as machine in industrial society, from the XVII century on, also with regard to the unrecognised work of women in the house and reproduction, with the nuclear family model. At the moment bodies are subjected to increasing and new modes of capitalization in an algorithmic culture that is capable of capitalizing on any previously useless activities.

What’s the value of theory in performance artworks? Do viewers need to have prior or foundational knowledge before they can truly engage? Is it the case for you?

I don’t think one can generalize the first question. In relation to my work, see reply to question 2. In relation to the audience, no, they don’t need any background.

How do you see the future? Is it something you constantly think about when making work?

No. The future is unthinkable. Yet, I work for contestable futures that don’t impose a particular teleological line.

Is it difficult to maintain so many facets as a multimedia artist, lecturer, activist etc? How do you know where and when to spread your attention and efforts?

It’s a difficult issue, one has to develop always new strategies for the economy of attention and effort. There is no magical recipe for this.

Metatopia @ Chile - Photo Jaime del Val
Photo Jaime del Val
At the moment bodies are subjected to increasing and new modes of capitalization in an algorithmic culture that is capable of capitalizing on any previously useless activities.
iii-resident Jaime del Val on the alien and the body
Photo Jaime del Val

What do you struggle with?

The dominant alignments that the environment imposes, setting limits to my own perceptions.

Did you experience or learn anything new during your time at iii?

I don’t do residencies very often so it was interesting to spend two weeks developing a new kind of process in which the concept and final performance emerged from the interplay of three aspects: Working with communities, specific outdoor locations and developing technologies.

What does it mean for you to constantly evolve as an artist?

Constant evolution (in a non-Darwinian sense) is to me a general condition of life in a world in constant movement.

Do you find that doing residencies is essential to an artistic practice in contemporary culture?

No, I hardly do them. What I do is to coordinate my own transdisciplinary projects, creating my networks and a mobile in-between space that doesn’t exist elsewhere. I haven’t so far found sustained spaces in the art world for my work, maybe it’s too transdisciplinary. I work across many fields without belonging to any of them (meta- disciplinary).

iii-resident Jaime del Val on the alien and the body
Photo Jaime del Val

What does this mean, can you unpack it a little more?

“My proprioception becomes extended, as an alloceptive(?) swarm, to the structures and projections, echoing in the water, adrift in the canal. A Body in continuous untrainment (disalignment and mutation) in relation to the algorithmic ecologies that expand its proprioception, in a process of behavioral indetermination.”

Alloceptive is a neologism of mine to define how proprioception (the internal sense of movement of the body) is always in becoming, opening up to the alien, like a swarm that is consantly opening up to indeterminacy, thus in untrainment (continuous disalignment) rather than entrainment (a popular term in AI and machine learning that speaks about synchronization and automation of processes).

What’s the connection between refugees and your art? How does this directly relate to your performances or installations?

“In times of refugees, human traffic and borders, how to create positive zones of opening within the very borderlands that impose violent lines of domination? From pre-socratic philosopher Anaximander to contemporary feminist philosopher Karen Barad the idea of indeterminacy as justice-to-come haunts our ontologies: a justice that is inclusive not only of the already known but that includes a sense of ongoing opening to that which is constantly emerging and which may never fully take shape.”

I have worked twice in Refugee Camps, in Lesvos and in The Hague. Refugees occupy one of the many violent border zones, along with queers, neurodiverse and others, borderscapes which may also become zones for openings. I think it’s important to do things with (not so much for or about) the people one wants to support.

iii is an artist-run-platform for research, production, presentation and distribution of radical interdisciplinary practices based in The Hague. No Patent Pending is their performance series presenting radical interdisciplinary practices that engage with sound, image, space and the body.