Suchan Kinoshita Detournement I, II, III, Van Abbe museum, 2011


In Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, Kinoshita invited six professional singers with classical training to make a detour. Working with each other for a couple of days, Kinoshita and the singers exchanged information and knowledge about their mutual professions. Figuring out how their practice of singing was structured, how they organized their training and what their palette of rehearsal techniques looked like especially, Kinoshita and the singers developed a choreography through the exhibition that was installed in the art center at the time. At unannounced moments, the singers came in, one after the other, and made their way through the exhibition as visitors, looking at the paintings, videos and the installation. Behaving like the perfect beholders, slowly moving and focusing on the works on display, they occasionally performed singing rehearsal techniques - mostly repetitive exercises that consist of producing specific sounds involving a specific treatment of their breathing; facial muscles and pose - while staying in their roles as visitors. In this work, similar to the ones mentioned before, the situation stays intact but is at some moments pulled into an exceptional direction and then springs back again.

In Dublin, Kinoshita showed "Opening Act", a film she made of a theatre stage." This stage she filmed for a couple of hours prior to when the play would be performed for an audience. She had asked the theatre for permission to spend time there, just to hang around and learn as an intern, and this film was one of the 'results' she took back with her. Simply registering the stage from a fixed camera position, situated at the tribune and thus shot from audience perspective, the film shows the stage, the props, and the technicians preparing the light and sound. The fixed frame heightens concentration on what happens on stage and imbues every action (for instance a removal of a prop, or the descending of the light grid to fix a lamp) as well as every entrance 87 facial muscles and pose - while staying in their roles as visitors. In this work, similar to the ones and exit of the personnel with a theatrical quality. Disconnected from the narrative for which it is set up, the stage and the ordinary work executed there for functional reasons turn into a performance that is exciting to watch, as if one were to observe special specimens and an obscure ritual. Seeing the film in public, the audience became research workers, like Kinoshita was at the time of filming, instead of the conventional passive spectators.

The singers' performance and the film are works that Kinoshita made within the wider frame of developing the stage that she refers to in working terms as 'roundabout' and that is a core element in her thinking about detournement. Materially present within the exhibition in the Museum Ludwig as well as the basis for the films shown, this stage is round and turns on its axis in a one-minute rotation. In the center of the stage there is a seat for a performer. About ten music stands supporting small blackboards are placed on the floor around the stage. On these blackboards, words are written (and wiped out) by another performer. The performer seated in the center of the stage is invited to deliver an improvised monologue based on these words. This 'roundabout' belongs to a family of other works that Kinoshita calls "sets" or "theatres". There is, for example , a theatre based on the Kulissentbeater (wings theatre), " made of white punctured board on which Kinoshita animates all kinds of objects passing as 'individuals' in review. Another stage, based on the storage space or backstage of the theatre, consists of a structure of shelves holding different kinds of objects, all with performance potential.

The term 'detournernent' can be interpreted in many different ways: as deflection, diversion, rerouting, distortion, misuse, misappropriation and hijacking, among others. Thus in general one could say that the word implies something that has turned away from its normal course or purpose - with the connotation of potential, but not per se harmless.

Detournement is also known for being a technique used by the Situationists in the 1950s and 1960s, with real political and critical implications. This technique, pioneered by the Situationist Guy Debord, implies the reworking or replacing of existing cultural works of art or mass culture in different contexts. For the Situationists, who were a driving force behind the events of the Paris uprising of May '68, detournement was a method to be executed in traditional media. They used detoumement in films, art, graphics for their journal, as well as in their posters, reusing cultural elements to produce a subversive message. A well known employment of the technique of detournement was that of writing new words into the speech bubbles of pre-existing comic strips. One explanation of detournement given by Guy Debord and Gil Wolman in their '1956 publication A User's Guide to Detournement is close to Kinoshita's work in spirit: "In closing, we should briefly mention some aspects of what we call ultra-detournement, that is, the tendencies for detoumement to operate in everyday social life. Gestures and words can be given other meanings s: and have been throughout history for various practical reasons. The secret societies of ancient China made use of quite subtle recognition signals encompassing the greater part of social behavior (the manner of arranging cups; of drinking; quotations of poems interrupted at agreed-on points ). The need for a secret language, for passwords, is inseparable from a tendency toward play. Ultimately, any sign or word is susceptible to being converted into something else, even into its opposite."

Recently, Kinoshita employed the rotating stage for a piece titled "Bloomberg Disco". To develop it, she sent out an open call to all employees working at the London headquarters of Bloomberg to come and participate as performers on the platform. Seated in the middle of the rotating podium, those who had responded were invited to speak about their profession while reacting to the words Kinoshita had written on the blackboards. By engaging the employees in this project and encouraging their contribution, Kinoshita activated a detour in their language. A highly specialized language with inner logic and purpose-led syntax was interrupted by means of an invitation to improvise in response to the words 'thrown' at the speaker. This forced the performers to deal with 'intruders' interrupting the natural flow of their narrative .and language. Yet there was also another detour activated. By asking the employees to leave. their own departments and to move to the fourth floor where the set was installed and the film shoot took place, Kinoshita's work acted as an incentive to interrupt the employees' usual route through the building. As Bloomberg employees seem to be organized level by level according to skills and tasks, this introduced a different layer of rerouting. Participation in the work meant an interruption in the daily schedule and Kinoshita 'stole' time from their working hours in a situation that they could not completely oversee.

In different works by Kinoshita; the round, turning platform has played a role. Thus it has obtained quite a history since 2004. It is important to stress the nature of this revolving platform as an instrument. In her work, Kinoshita uses instructions, exercises and incentives for improvisation, allowing her to investigate in a collaborative manner the way in which an artwork can come into being. Kinoshita often mentions exercise, alluding to her sense of manufacture and her interest in process. But fore most it reveals her inclination towards a dialogical way of producing knowledge and creating a participative situation. As such, her way of working incorporates a latent critique on the conventional division of roles, often leading to feelings of alienation, and instead opens up the prospect of emancipation. (text : Frédérique Bergholtz)

Suchan Kinoshita Detournement I, II, III, Van Abbe museum, 2011

Suchan Kinoshita

Detournement I, II, III, Van Abbe museum, 2011