I have been busy with postdoctoral grants and job applications, which is why I have not gotten this blog off to a good start. Once the fall grant and employment season winds down a bit, then I will be able to write more substantive posts that reflect my current research.
The Folding Dynamism of Time: Experiencing “Asynchronous Realtime” Through VJ Performance
Mark Amerika (a.k.a Professor VJ) has expressed that when he is in the midst of a live VJ performance, remixing and editing disparate video clips together into a continuously projected stream of images, time begins to feel1 as though it is becoming disjointed. As he is VJing, he is editing video clips in the present, while simultaneously anticipating the immediate future as he gathers clips to mix into the stream of images. Additionally, he is taking in the present reaction of the audience who just saw what he recently put together in the immediate past. Depending on how the audience is responding to his performance, Amerika can adjust what he is presently editing and alter what is about to appear. For Amerika, the three registers of time – the past, the present and the future – begin to feel indistinct as they shift and blend into one another during his performances. Time no longer appears to move linearly from one register to the other; rather it dynamically folds, generating an experience of time that he calls asynchronous realtime.
This paper will examine how Amerika’s conception of asynchronous realtime not only emerged from his Vjing practice but also through his engagement with the pioneering work on human consciousness of Benjamin Libet and the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. I will first investigate how Amerika’s experience of dynamically folding time while VJing exemplifies Libet’s research on the perception and consciousness of time. Libet’s experiments during the 1970s demonstrated, first, that there is a half second delay between feeling a sensation and becoming consciously aware of it, and second, that electrical impulses occurring in the brain are triggered prior to a bodily action taking place. What we perceive in the present actually occured a half second ago and we begin acting towards that perception before we actually know it. This disjunction between sensuous experience, conscious perception and bodily action will then be investigated further through Whitehead’s concept of causal efficacy, which explains that an experience presently felt is always composed of what just immediately occurred while simultaneously anticipating a coming future. In this way, through Libet and Whitehead, I will argue that the experience of time Amerika feels is as much a perceptual remix as the images that appear during his VJ performances.