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De/synchronized: Queer Voices in the Art Practice of Sharon Hayes and Antonia Baehr

Project leader:
Ana Hoffner

Funded by:
Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) | DOC

Ana Hoffner, Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Duration: 1.8.2017 – 14.11.2020

To move or operate together, to standardize times of accidental occurrence are agreements necessary for present-day social, economic and political systems that depend on the availability of all resources at all times. What happens very obviously on the level of technology is crucial for social processes as well: the synchronization of data on technical instruments from laptop to smartphone indicates in what way individual life should be represented or assigned to a place in society and historical writing. Searching and scanning events, places and bodies in order to include them into one main, general temporality are organized around this obsession with the error or failure of synchronization. An integrative part of synchronizing forces is therefore to transform desynchronization into a positive, representable modus operandi in order to avoid that that which can’t be synchronized disappears from the global screen. Can desynchronization become something like a slippage rather than a negative counterpart, a coincidence rather than a technique producing coinciding temporalities? Is it possible to think of desynchronization as a process of wandering, as a queering of togetherness and belonging?

The research project explores if and how de/synchronization could possibly signify a search for forms of appearance and disappearance, presence and absence, which are only selectively perceptible and/or representable in official calendars and can be found in queer performance art practices of Sharon Hayes and Antonia Baehr. Here de/synchronization is an always-already erratic instrument. It is unstable, undoing, unsettled and includes the error in performing togetherness and belonging of past and present performers, bodies and voices, images and narratives as a productive moment in creating time and temporal experience. The techniques of both artists don’t only require a different way of speaking, listening and responding, they also actively propose different relations between the performer and the audience. How do Hayes and Baehr intervene in hegemonic synchronizations of individual and objective time, of biography and history in a wider social context? Can their performance art practices produce other (non- coinciding) temporalities and if so, what mechanisms have been invented to enable such processes?

The project will take the performance practice of Hayes and Baehr as a backdrop in order to research on the potentialities of de/synchronization on a theoretical level, mainly to examine de/synchronization as a figure of organization of movement and collectivity. De/synchronization as a method will be analyzed regarding ist operations in creating the simultaneity of presence and availability and its prominent role regarding cooperation, coordination, monitoring and surveillance in present-day societies of control. While being synchronized creates the illusion of being contemporary, what is the temporality we are currently taking part in? Hayes and Baehr actively use the de/synchronization of body/voice, sound/image, present/past in order to develop performance techniques challenging temporalities of togetherness. They involve thereby a wide range of differences expressed by queer voices of past and present performers which embody male/female, old/young, human/nonhuman etc. relations and/or affinities without synchronizing them into normative patterns of temporal belonging.