JAM-POD conversations with Togar, Ines and Pamela by Vanesa Miteva, 2021

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In this publication I explore the art of having a conversation. Certainly, there need to be a set of guidelines or some sort of standard that distinguishes good from bad conversations. To be frank, I would also not reject the fact that the quality of a conversation is purely a judgement of taste. With that being said, I would like you to estimate for yourself if the conversations that took place between me and the artists from the JAM-POD exhibition at SIGN, are good or bad ones.

I know I am supposed to be a journalist and direct the thoughts of the interviewees in order for me to extract the opinions that form the topic of my interest, however I did not do that. I left the conversation unattended. I was being recklessly subjective, as well as my fellow conversationalists. This methodology was used as a way to track the chronological and conceptual progression of our conversations, and our frameworks of conversing. Surely, there are many of these. There are people that are frantically trying to establish a consensus in a conversation. Or there are people that like to converse only in absurdisms without any argument to defend. For me, the statement is an independent wholesome act.

The statement is the goal.

talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and

The conversation did not have beginnings nor middle points nor ends

no consensus was ever established

we weren’t absurdist either

your average joe i would say

Conversationalists: Togar and Vanesa

The night opens up with Togar taking a seat behind the drums, in his mobile studio, a shape-shifting space, but with one rule: never adhere to the white cube narrative. Playfully clumsy, as in a studio, the beginning of the jamming session is set, and as it continues, still dwelling in the clumsiness of the sounds, some of the senior audience members seem like they want to approach you just to scream in your face how great music was back in the old days. Of course, this is performance art, not necessarily a musical performance. It is naked, it is raw, it is vulnerable, due to the pressure of it being a performance, and the conceptual elimination of the possibility of not working out, because it is a studio jam session. As more people gather, the momentum of spilled white wines and influx of artsy students builds up, leading to the musical climax of the performance, and suddenly I hear the echo of Togar’s thoughts reflected in our conversation earlier that week.

Vanesa: Now I understand what you mean by systems. Or by rhythms.

Togar: Ahh I see. But, you know, don’t take me too seriously!

Vanesa: *laughter* I like that.

Togar: Like you know sometimes you assume you are pursuing one thing, but in the meantime maybe it is not that thing.

There should always be a space for you to question. I mean, the problem in most of our lives, deep in society, is constructions.

Vanesa: Yes, very relevant for most Western countries. For example, Indonesia, Bulgaria and so on, wouldn’t necessarily adhere to such strict social regulations.

Togar: Ahh i see *realising that I am from Bulgaria*

It is true, but then the question would be what is the position of a country like Bulgaria, that is slowly starting to convert to Western ways of living, I mean, you are already using euro, no, the EU indicator?

Vanesa: Oh, we are not. We are having discussions about it.

Togar: Okay, but what things indicate questions such as what does it mean to be European, from the West?

..because I have been to Slovenia,for example, and Hungary, and I could see the transition happening.

Vanesa: What do you think? How was the situation there?

Togar: Slovenia, I would say, is faster to kind of tap into EU discussions, and there is no way back, and anyways, this demanding of positions, how could you explain Europe, like now, the heart of Europe is essentially Germany, and it is really them, and they have the most definitive political and social framework of what Europe is. Especially now, with Brexit happening.And so I think, it is okay to be messy.

Vanesa: Well, I would say the ideal for what a democratic political regime should look like is quintessentially the ‘European’. But perhaps that is only what the right answer should look like. It is some kind of right to choose one’s government of favour. But I also feel that most countries’ elections are rigged in some way or another, even here in The Netherlands. That’s why I am saying that this democratic ideal is merely what the right answer in, let’s say, WIkipedia would be. In the end, I think the European essence comes to a certain standard of life and all the social, cultural and economic goods you can get thereof. I also think that with Brexit and The United Kingdom leaving the EU, the system is a bit messy now. Everything is re-positioning. The Netherlands and Germany are becoming more important in the EU with this restructuring that is happening.

Togar: Yes, and what I was saying, with such inter-continental processes, I am trying to challenge Europe to embrace this messiness. As somebody, like you now, living and studying here now.

Vanesa: I think a good example of such a challenge is the big influx of Middle Eastern immigrants in Europe, especially Muslim people. I think that the social domain is slightly shaken by the confrontation between the two cultures. And part of the reason why there is social dissatisfaction, from the side of the Europeans, is because there is a divorcement between the state and the people’s desires and objectives on this matter. The state is motivated by economic figures, and society and national communities operate through culture. Therefore, the question that is posed is what can be done for Muslim people to adapt and integrate? Is it possible for a culture that is strongly defined by religious codex to persist existing in an atheist society? What has to be done from both sides, for there to be consensus? And in this process I could see the demand for a structure, as you say, the demand for sticking to what you know.

*here Togar decides to take up the concept of a physical space and expands on that idea in relation to the art world; the archetype of the state is replaced by the term institution, as both me and Togar refer to these terms as a body that attains and exudes authority and power.*

Togar: It’s always in the European conversation, I mean, like for example, in an artistic context, we learnt a lot from last year, what does it mean to be in the same space, and now these [drums] don’t necessarily have to be located as such [in an art space] for art to happen. Indeed, last year showed us that art can happen anywhere. And so the function of the institution is not as relevant, as a means of educating. Everybody was working from home, and the education happened on the internet. The physical space of the institution is losing its relevance. It is still not the main thing doing things through the internet; through Zoom or Instagram; it is not the main thing but this process is slowly finding its own way of providing us with specific ways of doing things and some people are gaining momentum though this mechanism.

Vanesa: Through working from home, and disavowing the institutional body you are saying that something new springs out from these circumstances, so what exactly?

Togar: The thing is we live in a time where almost anything is possible and I don’t know if you know but there was a deadlock in music. Music was all the same white men doing the same shit over and over time, and then electronic music happened, and the approach shifted and of course some of the old music like jazz and blues created the base from which electronic music could emerge, and fast forward to our day and age now if you want to do music, you have to study music, and nobody wanted to institutionalise it in the beginning.

Vanesa: But do you think it’s better that it is institutionalised, since a characteristic of the institution would be an inclination towards enforcing the narrative of artists becoming cultural workers, which replaces the idea of artistry as an bohemian and spontaneous act.

And because you are supposed to produce work all the time and participate in various cultural events non-stop, the meaning of an artist in society has completely changed. And so in your opinion, how do you see this process of art being conducted by institutions in such a way?

Togar: The institution was always there. I think you have to look into what this institution means in that specific society. Some institutions really had to be there because there was nothing else, whereas other institutions are not trying to mimic, to perpetuate, the idea of a nation or a state, but really trying to give a space for other’s choices. The institution that establishes that artists run space. In Indonesia, photography is not considered art, or performance art is not considered art, video installation is. It really depends on the context. And here, for example, how can we look at SIGN as a space, as an institution. The idea is that it always starts somewhere but it also stops somewhere.

Vanesa: Yes, it is similar to that concept, circle of belief, that Pierre Bourdieu coined, that once one person pushes something an artefact to be presented in a museum, and then first, the value of the institution is transmitted to the object, and second the value that the audience prescribes to the object through their attention, automatically turn the object into art. And this phenomenon works in reverse as well, if you put something considered as art, that transmits that same value to the space, consecrating its value as a cultural institution, and the people that put the ‘art’ there, cultural agents. And that’s the whole process really. It seems ridiculous and absurd.

Togar: You can always challenge this idea; and to gain it to claim that space, what does it mean for these institutions to realise that they are valuable. What does it mean to have a support system? I don’t know if you know but there is this fund where you have to actually give the money back, when you are stable enough. And so you use this money that belongs to the state. And by being surrounded by so many artists, you (the government) realise that there is so much potential. And what do you do with this potential? You, as a governmental body, allow for the growth of this potential.

Vanesa: The only problem I have with this financing framework is the political censorship and polarisation that come with it. However, as I said, earlier artists nowadays, at least in Western societies are indeed cultural workers, emphasis on the word worker. Of course, that concept destroys the myth of the artist as a bohemian but that was merely a reflection on the state’s attitude towards art. Nowadays, the mystery and the romanticization are gone. The artist is treated as a worker by the neoliberal state. Using that logic, then one should be paid steadily and consistently, equal to any other actor in the capitalist system.

Togar: I believe that artists are still the heart of culture. There are things we want to share with society, And it was never really meant for oneself, it was always for somebody else. There is always something to be proposed. Oh well, what I am planning to do now is to really challenge myself. What does it mean to do this? I mean sometimes my studio becomes a space for people to hang out; to talk about music; about painting; about doing; to share knowledge, and that is important because we as artists have particular knowledge that we could share to the world. And back then, there were shamans that had a very particular knowledge of a thing; about the body, about drawing, about sculpture, whatever. And they would transmit it from generation to generation. In this sense, I am willing to share that knowledge, it is part of one’s purpose as an artist.

*muffled speech, due to one of the witches scrubbing the dishes*

Vanesa: The reception of the work is extremely important. Absolutely. Because only after viewing a work, the work could be contextualised in the mind of the audience member.

Togar: What does contextualised mean?

Vanesa: It is the way that an art work affects you on a cognitive level. The attention you grant this object, and consequently the qualities you prescribe to it as a viewer, which in turn, consecrates it as an art work, again relating to the circle of belief. And so if you are here and you are playing, and we as an audience are not here, what is it?

Togar: Nothing, there is nothing.

Togar: Whenever you are jamming, sometimes you really get that feeling that you are achieving something, and after that – it’s done! And you are trying to tell your friend how great it was, and even if we have recorded it, and we try to listen to it, it is not the same. It is immediate. And so I really do believe that it is about the social aspect of it. And I am thinking, what if I continue moving like this? I am in it, you know, I don’t necessarily have my own interpretation of what I am doing, as I also want to leave space for other people to leave their own interpretation. If there is something, if, I don’t know, if I am being too loud, or being an attention-seeker..

Vanesa: Okay, one thing I don’t fully understand is that you work with order, and that sort of mimics the order you are trying to challenge, and so your intention contradicts your means to do it. And so how can this happen? The logical means would be chaos, no?

Togar: Well, whenever you say chaos, you immediately establish your tendency to give order. To shape a certain order.

Vanesa: Well, let’s take noise music as an example, it is a type of music that embodies pure chaos. It is, in fact, so chaotic that you cannot even find a rhythmic pattern, even if you wanted to. It’s an apparatus for disturbing public order. Everybody hears you and it’s terrifying, so you cannot fall back into the oblivion of your everyday life. The Saturday you have gone out so you can recreationally shop at H&M is totally ruined! You take them out of the fantasy!

Togar: I am not going there. It’s okay to be noisy, but in my opinion, as long as it is accepted. If it is accepted you can play longer. It’s really about endurance. What does it mean to endure the music itself? What does continuous 6 hours of playing achieve?

Vanesa: But then it is more of an intrinsic performance, I mean, it relates more to you as an individual, and how you endured these 6 hours of playing. You get the full effect of the artwork. How is the audience supposed to react to the artwork then? It is a different art work for them.

Togar: If you are playing for 6 hours and people watch you for two hours, what does that mean you know? I am not looking for anything in particular. I am not looking for a shock.

Conversationalists: Vanesa and Ines

The function of the altar

Vanesa: So you are placing the fresh herbs and by the end of the exhibition they are supposed to be dried out. What does the cycle with the herbs actually denote in pagan practises?

Ines: Well, the cycle begins with the new moon, as it is a good time for one to set new intentions. The opening of the exhibition is marked by a full moon and it circles back to a full moon at the closing of the exhibition. The cyclical phenomenon represents, symbolically and astronomically, the idea of beginnings and endings, as it is going to be visualised through the journey of the plants, from being freshly-picked to being dry and lifeless. Mint, rosemary and sage.

Vanesa: Is there more hidden symbology in your installation?

Ines: Everywhere. For example, the electronic lights that you and Sarah made, resting in the vases with the flowers, highlight the relationship we have with technology and nature, which is essentially what makes us sWitches. We also have some relics of our own that played a central role in our past performances. By placing them on the altar, as they are embodying the role of vessels of our past, they become sacred objects who have the ability to attain and exude energy.

Vanesa: What is the purpose of an altar actually?

Ines: It is a space to honour and remember; a place that connects the living and the dead. Also an altar is usually constructed by placing objects which hold a particular significance to you, like images or offerings to the dead. Consequently, this place you create has the ability to amplify the energy you are trying to channel within the ritual.

Conversationalists: Vanesa and Pamela

void setup

void start

void update

the code that sets the new script




Pamela: I think what we try to say through our practice is that we see the core of many of the theories that we have been researching, eco-feminism, cyber-feminism, more radical feminism movements, and when you read all these theories, and then you are questioning, ok what are they trying to say, in sWiches, we are incorporating a lot of different elements. And of course, a lot of these theories are quite problematic. The roles that technology and nature take are super problematic.

Pamela: Judy Wajcman, who is a feminist theorist, researches how feminism can steer a path for technophobia and technophilia, and for me this is crucial; seeing how fucked up technology is but also how magical it is. Like, criticising it but using it, and when you persist on using it, you start controlling it so well that it doesn’t control you. And this is the narrative around our practice. But we also all the time try to criticise our choices, our artistic choices.

Pamela: For example, we were present at the presentation of this Mexican activist organisation for the preservation of indigenous land, and we felt a bit uncomfortable because regardless of it being an artistic talk, the realisation of you really being there, and knowing that this is a real problem people deal with, and have to confront on a daily basis. And you are there, and you are like, yea, I am just doing my art here, using all these materials, and I am super privileged. And the question is, we all can do something, even if we are not able to save the world, we can at least say something or question. Also, the debate about living sustainably, we are living in cities, so that is already super polluting. And if the goal is to produce zero CO2 emissions, I must change my life completely. But I think that baby steps also matter, like, not taking the bus everyday. And in this specific work, we are questioning it all the time; being aware, being aware, being aware;

Vanesa: And how does this actually happen?

Pamela: We keep on researching and keep on realizing..In the beginning we were more feminist-oriented, more women-oriented. And in the last year of our studies, we got more into these feminist movements that are more queer, less essentialist and less binarist. And that made us think of tweaking the manifesto since it alludes to women. In our third year we had a trans teacher, and we asked him if he would read it and tell us what he thinks. And so in the manifesto we had a part where we were talking about a womb as a metaphor, and he had a daughter, already being a trans man, and the daughter was born out of a father’s body,

Vanesa: So the guy was a girl before. And did he give birth while he was a woman, or a man?

Pamela: Yes, and he gave birth while he was a man.

Vanesa: But so his ovaries were not removed.

Pamela: No, he had a womb but I think he had a vasectomy though.

Pamela: And so he made us question, because his daughter was not born out of the womb of a female, but a womb of a father, so she can no longer relate to other women in the same way, and that was one of our first confrontations with defining our practice, and the way we define the public we are addressing with it. And by being confronted our work evolves, as all the different feminst movements also evolve and they also go with different cultures.

Vanesa: Yes, I recognize the contemporary nature of this theorization of your practice. It is happening in the ‘here and now’, as we are all being confronted with the novelty of these discourses, which are a product of ‘the now’, and evolve as we evolve as a society.

Pamela: And it is also important to note, that we are cis women, living a cis women life, and we are sometimes confronted with the queerness of it, but we really try to avoid all essentialist language, essentialist behaviour. Like for one of the acts in our performance there is a vaginal probe that moves the drums, and I wrote my final thesis on it explaining that I am aware that women that do not have a vagina, are not excluded from the community, and in the performance I am using my body as a catalyst, but I am not saying if you don’t have a vagina you cannot have this battle.

Vanesa: Yes, I do agree on that. I do feel that people that have this femininity in them, regardless of their gender, could relate to the movements. Even on a very physical level, where body language is concerned, there is a certain level of fluidity that people with generally more pronounced femininity attain.

Pamela: Yes, we all carry it, the difference is, some more than others. It is just statistics and hormones. But yes, nowadays, you can even hack the hormones. We did some research on that; the relationship between feminism and technology. As part of one of the theoretical discourses, technology seems to take a central role due to its ability to hack anything that biologically oppresses you. And that is for everyone, also for people with disabilities, and anyone who wants to modify their body.

Vanesa: It is a cyborg queerness.

Pamela: Yes, we are quite inspired by it. Of course, we are not necessarily labeling our work as queer in its totality. Or we are not trying to push the idea of being part of one community, or rather to push the necessity of being accepted as representative of any these feminist communities.

Vanesa: Do your perspectives change from doing live performances, as for example does the reaction of the audience influence you, or do you consider the audience at all?

Pamela: Well, I did this performance as my graduation project, and I danced there for the first time; I am not a professional dancer but I noticed a lot of old men wouldn’t look at me afterwards; and the older women would come to me be like “Wow that was such a…I really felt it” , and the younger people would be like:

Vanesa: …”whatever”



Pamela: Yeah, would be like, yeah I understand. But I think the older generations were the ones that really approached me, or didn’t approach me, like it was really confrontational towards them.

Vanesa: But do you think that the senior men were just so confronted with the fact that a woman could so openly project her sexuality?

Pamela: For sure that.

Vanesa: But did you think that they were frightened because of the personages you embody during the performance, or purely because you are playing with the established social constructs?

Pamela: Maybe they wanted to be respectful towards my body, and the way they did it was by taking some space for themselves. But also that generation, the generation of my dad, really takes things personally; as if you are attacking them.


Pamela: I think their reaction is connected to the way they were brought up to think about sex, the implications of one’s naked human body and their own sense of sexuality. So whenever they see a naked woman, they feel guilty, because they have been brought up thinking it is wrong to expose the female body in an overly sexual way.

Vanesa: I think it is also connected to voyeurism because when one watches porn, the presence of a sexualized object does not exceed the boundaries of the digital world; it does not walk around you after the act has ended. And so they are watching you dancing in front of them, and they embody the position of the voyeur, wait, but do you look them in the eyes? During the performance? This is important!

Pamela: No, usually after only.

Vanesa: Okay, okay, so they are able to look at you without you knowing, and through the workings of the male gaze your image, not your body necessarily, but the image you create in each individual’s head, becomes entrapped in the fantasy. But as soon as the performance stops, and you start walking around, having gained full consciousness from the dream you have been enacting, you project your agency in contrast with the sexualized version of you. And that is truly confronting. It is a very good way to break the fantasy.

Vanesa: It is quite similar to the writings of feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, who was raised some very good questions regarding the objectification of women in early Hollywood cinema. Brecht’s alienation technique was the one that was mostly utilized by feminist or activist filmmakers, as a way to counteract the male gaze, or even just generally to challenge the viewing experience of the audience. In Jean Luc-Godard’s Contempt, he used the alienation technique in the scene where Brigitte Bardot was lying all naked on her tummy, and the audience can see her body from head to toes, then slowly she lifts up her head and looks right in the camera, thereof counteracting the spectator’s fantasy. However, I think this technique is not so effective in cinema, the characters are still entrapped in their universe and do not have much influence on the way I am perceiving them. It works so much better in theatre and performance.

Pamela: Because it is really there.

Vanesa: Indeed, because it is really there, and you could hear the person; smell them; touch them. They exude agency.

Pamela: That is true.

Vanesa: And only in that setting can the relations of power be actually switched around.

Pamela: Earlier this year we actually got confronted, ourselves, by the public’s agency. Our installation got destroyed. And so we got the impression that the festival did not put any effort in creating a safe space in which we could be comfortable being vulnerable. And you have to be careful when taking these things into consideration.

Vanesa: It is interesting you say that. If you didn’t say that, I would have assumed that generally you would have wanted to share your practice with people that would react, perhaps because they were confronted, perhaps because what they would be seeing is new;

Pamela: Yes, well, the graduation was a good example. The people there were respectful. They were able to give us a reaction, and yet be respectful. The problem is that if there is any different type of crowd, you can end up harming yourself.

Vanesa: Are you usually a person that is comfortable in their naked body, and doesn’t mind being seen?

Pamela: Yes, I have been like that since I was younger. I do nude modelling and I go to nude beaches.

Vanesa: Perhaps in these situations, your body is exposed to different people whose presence you have no control over. How is this different from choosing or not choosing the suitable audience for you to show your body to?

Pamela: I think they choose themselves. Either it is the right place or it isn’t. In the KABK, the general public that comes there has certain fundamental beliefs that predispose us to be vulnerable. Similar to a nudist beach where the people are generally fine with looking at the naked body without sexualizing it.

Vanesa: So did you do that performance in Enschede at the end?

Pamela: I didn’t. I wore the thing and I was just standing there. I did not put myself into a trance mode. They could still see my naked body but it is not about that really. It wasn’t activated.

Vanesa: Yes, I agree your naked body is not solely your naked body. It embodies the functions you prescribe to it. When you are dancing it’s different from you merely walking around after the performance. It is like an oracle in a way; as a transmitter of a message and pure energy.

*sanding, chatter, sanding, chatter, chatter, sanding, chatter*

*drilling, eet smakelijk, looking for the stripper, moving the table, drilling, piano*