Sensory Strolls

Contemplation, Reading and Solitude in the Economy of Attention
Ian Mikyska

If we are living in an “economy of attention,” how we direct our attention through reading, looking, listening and being is crucial in constructing our relationship to the environment and being in time. I will discuss my own work in relation to approaches (through text and listening) to ideas of the everyday, waste, impermanence of experience in self, with the goal of articulating a concept of personal contemplative politics, with connection to current trends in philosophical thought, including new and speculative materialisms, as well as ideas on time from Bergson and Deleuze.

I will mostly focus on a series of “sensory strolls”, book-guided installations made in Prague (Convent of St Agnes – National Gallery) and Pardubice (Automatic Mills) in 2017. The visitors receive a small booklet, which provides both maps and instructions for navigating a particular path through the space, as well as “scores”; instructions for performative events. These events, however, are generally not outwardly performative, and rather involve “performing” with one’s senses: seeing or hearing or touching in a particular way, with a particular focus. Each of these walks was tailored to a radically different space: The memory of these spaces was crucial in both walks, as well as the theme of solitude in concentration. While in Pardubice, topics of technology, utility, uselessness and our sensory apprehension of these elements were dominant, in the Convent – a much more public space – solitude and contemplation were more present. In both cases, finding new ways to engage our environments in a contemplative manner, thus reclaiming (public) space, is a central concern.

Ian Mikyska is a Czechoslovak composer who generally works on the edges of sound: he makes installations, walks, videos, texts, as well as sound in collaboration with other artists. He works for theatre, film, dance and radio. In 2016, he published his first book, Partitury pro čtenáře (Scores for Readers). In 2017, he prepared two "sensory strolls"; installations with book-form guides focusing on sensory perception, one in the Convent of St. Agnes in Prague (National Gallery) and one in the abandoned Automatic Mills in Pardubice (Offcity). He co-founded the multimedia improvisation ensemble Stratocluster, who have recently published their newest CD, Éternagy. Ian is also active as a translator from Czech into English.