Dual Actions / by Kiersten Nash

A Theory of Action, In Action  In her book, Critical Play, Mary Flanagan, points out that "Games, bound by limited information, an emphasis on play, and a manifestation as either a closed or open systems, struck Fluxus artists as a natural path for the creation of a vocabulary based on, or explicitly outside of, popular culture's rules and expectations. Fluxus artists were quick to see that games lay between the rational and the absurd, between mobility and fixed trajectories, and between logic and chance. Furthermore, Fluxus artists understood games as processes as well as outcomes, capable of disseminating even the most elusive of Fluxus ideas."

Dual Actions are exercises, or games, designed to increase awareness of the various ways we communicate with our environment, as well as foster collective accountability and agency for the resources invested in each conversation. Each action requires a minimum of three agents—two human, one non-human:

   Physical Training Workshop: Dual Actions.  Parsons The New School for Design. New York, NY, 2012. Photo courtesy of Jason Rupert.

Physical Training Workshop: Dual Actions. Parsons The New School for Design. New York, NY, 2012. Photo courtesy of Jason Rupert.

Dual actions are performative, discursive, and phenomenological exercises that tend toward the absurd. For example, individuals researching innovative ways to [dis]engage human and non-human agents in a dynamic dialectic regarding the blackwater system woven throughout The New School University Center, received the following instructions:
 

DUAL ACTION

Water

Agents
2 humans: 1 actor . 1 witness
1 non-human : water faucet

Rule
Water access is dependent on human interaction.

Examples Of Use
drinking
washing hands
filling bottles

Instruction
If water is desired, then you must assume the role of actor by declaring to your witness:
I want water.

Your witness will then dispense a pre-determined amount of water (this amount is proportional to the amount of recent rainfall) If the initial amount of water dispensed
is not enough, you must repeat: More water...more water. (until satisfied)

 

Individuals researching air quality in preparation for designing an interesting opportunity to [dis]engage future inhabitants of TNS University Center with the Aircuity system were told:

DUAL ACTION

Air

Agents
2 humans: 1 actor . 1 witness
1 non-human

Rule
This is a volatile organic compound (VOC) free zone.

Examples Of Use
paint
sharpie
disinfectant

Instruction
Upon directly or indirectly releasing any volatile organic compounds in the air, you must don a nose plug for the following 5 minutes. Witnesses are responsible for enforcing compliance.

 

 

The energy group engaging the co-generation system were instructed as follows:

DUAL ACTION

Energy

Agents
2 humans: 1 actor . 1 witness
1 non-human

Rule
All human energy consumption must be offset by human energy production.

Examples Of Consumption
outlet
light
elevator

Examples Of Production
jumping jacks
spinning in place
moonwalk

Instruction
Every time you consume energy from the building, you must off set your action with a physical reaction. Witnesses are responsible for enforcing compliance.

While planning the dual action portion of the workshop, I envisioned a studio of 22 individuals, the majority of whom were diligently working, immersed in their collaborations. But then there were a couple who (seemingly) out of nowhere would be forced to do 10 jumping jacks or sit there with a clothespin attached to their nose or…In my mind, this was fairly humorous. However the humor was tempered by dominion. Dominion of one individual over another. Dominion of humans over non-humans and vise versa. In my mind, the duality of the actions would engage the uncanny.

The reality of the situation proved otherwise. By the middle of day one, witnesses were too engrossed in the development of their ideas to identity and enforce behavior. Ironically this is exactly the reason that I think physical training as a practice to tune up,out, and in is necessary; however, there's a fine line between the benefits and hindrances of engaging and [dis]engaging. It became clear that my intent was actually to foster the ability to do both—to engage and disengage, to learn and unlearn. And, perhaps more importantly, to have the capacity to identify when either is or should happen.