never forget how fragile people are

Installation of a calendarium as formal result of the artistic research project on big data and etyming

alexandra reill: object installation, 2019

As part of the artistic research project on big data, where the research objective is to test the functionality of tagging as an essential social profiling tool in combination with personality evaluation methods (see Big Five / FFM (1)), for a defined period of time, Alexandra Reill declares herself sample of biographical development, which could be experienced by any other person with comparable disposition as well. She is subject to an objectifying self-evaluation method especially considering the relevance of etyma (2) – the “actual” meaning of words. The research goal, however, proved to be brittle: Big Data loses its meaning; meaningful as result of the artistic research process and as its formal result the narrative never forget how fragile peopleremained – a calendarium (3), an autofiction …

The combination of intuitive and statistical methods forms the basis of the model of a self-generating narration developed by Alexandra Reill: For the months 04-07/2019, Reill introduces a scheme: the taking of at least one [everyday] photo per day. For the period 06-07/2019 another scheme applies: She feeds the accumulating images into a screensaver and for one hour daily records exactly one word = audio tag = keyword = term on the occasion of each photo shown to her “coincidentally”, by the algorithm of the screensaver. In doing so, she pays attention to intuitive word finding and submits to the premise of not censoring tags wanting to be forgiven.

Based on statistical analysis, Reill now develops an evaluation system: starting from daily rankings, in which the terms of the day repeating themselves most frequently achieve ranking no. 1; and so forth until place no. 5. As a result, she creates ranking lists for the months 06 and 07/2019 with 25 ranks each and finally the evaluation of the overall period, in which she also allows 25 places.

At the same time, she arranges the images in chronological order and – at first because of examining current legal situations – primarily focuses on the people in the photos. Already during tagging, it shows that particularly all those people who play[ed] an important role in Reill‘s biography develop notable presence, even if they are in the image; and want to be named by Reill, in direct, personal, emotional reference; do not want to be objectified and anonymized.

Reill makes the faces of all those people whom she cannot ask for granting her the right to their own image/s unrecognizable; asks all those she can request for the right of publication of their image/s and the right of personal naming in the ranking lists.

Tagging like rights requests create a process of communication and relationship fostering. The individual reference to individual recordings, namings – the persons themselves – starts changing. Personal encounters / relationships arise, deepen; anonymization hurts …; development and awareness arise in sensitive communication processes – never forget how fragile people are.

In the end, the artistic research process leads her to nothing else but the repetition of hermeneutic understanding, as, on the one hand, the evaluation model delivers enormous quantities of data without relevance, and on the other hand, results that are intuitively known long since. Big data dissolves in itself, loses itself in redundancy, proves itself as a tool that is useless to wo/man; or: as experts agree, big data looks at and analyzes only the past, cannot generate development, does not create cognition. On this level, the objectification attempts led to valid results, but in the end the process of objectification dissolves in itself, as it leads to nothing that is not already known, is not already in your consciousness.

The installation never forget how fragile people are is the formal result of this artistic research process, in which Alexandra Reill constellates everyday photography, tagging and statistical methods, returning to automatic writing – by giving space to intuitive forming as well as the catalogical, lexical to enter into synergy and transform into a narrative thread. Quasi by itself, a dramaturgically structured narrative emerges that sees itself as a contemporary work of Expanded Cinema. never forget how fragile people are is an autofiction with explicit reference to the environment and society, an ethno fiction. It is a set of rules finding its own quintessence – a narration in which wo/man plays the leading role: if objectification can dissolve itself in regard to its meaning, then one thing does not dissolve – the specific calendarium.

For Alexandra Reill, this calls for being human [and having the chance of being human] in the context of individually and socially conditioned biography, thus forming the mission of the artistic research process. Her conclusion leads directly to reflections of ethical questions, considerations of the meaning of ethos (4); and to the title of the work – never forget how fragile people are.

text | translation alexandra reill
production kanonmedia | vienna 2019

NEVER FORGET HOW FRAGILE PEOPLE ARE installed at

— studio kleinlercher / kosai / vie / a / 19

NEVER FORGET HOW FRAGILE PEOPLE ARE featured in | by

— esel / vie / a / 19
— kuoka / vie / a / 19

(1)
The most scientifically recognized model for personality evaluation works i.a. with a lexical approach – the assumption that all personality traits are contained in speech. (cf. Courtney Ackerman: Big Five Personality Traits: The OCEAN Model Explained, in: PositivePsychology.com, https://positivepsychology.com/big-five-personality-theory/, date of publication: 23-06-17, update: 10/07/2019, access: 22-10-19
(2)
The term etymon denotes “the so-called original form and meaning of a word”. (Etymon: in: Duden, https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Etymon, date of publication unknown, access: 17-10-19
(3)
In the Roman Empire, the calendarium is a list of loans and debtors, linked to payment dates. Only in the course of time, the term was used for the rasterization of time itself, of periods and the note of events, mostly as an annual calendar, here from the beginning with emphasis on certain days or incidents.
“Das Ältere Verbrüderungsbuch […,] introduced by Bishop Virgil of Salzburg […] in 784 AD, is the first major testimony of the Libri memoriales, which listed individuals of clerical and secular status, as well as entire congregations of monasteries fraternized in prayer.” (Karl Forstner: Verbrüderungsbuch von St. Peter, in: Amt der Salzburger Landesregierung, Kulturabteilung [ed.]: Sankt Peter in Salzburg. Das älteste Kloster im deutschen Sprachraum. Schätze europäischer Kunst und Kultur. Katalog der 3. Landesausstellung vom 15. Mai bis 26. Oktober 1982. Sonderschau des Dommuseums zu Salzburg, 2008)
Related to these are necrologies and books of the dead (Latin: libri anniversariorum), often used alternatively but de facto having different meanings and purposes. The name of older monastic necrologium, originally not emphasizing specific persons, is a neologism probably combining ancient Greek and Roman word roots (presumably a composition of νεκρός – dead person; being dead; λόγος – word, speech, reason; also λέγειν – eloquence or elogium – in Roman antiquity inscription on tombstones, statues, etc., eulogy are considered) was a register of deaths (cf. Berlin-brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften [ed.]: DWDS. Der deutsche Wortschatz von 1600 bis heute, https://www.dwds.de/wb/Elogium, date of publication: 24-10-19, access: 24-10-19; cf. Handschriften aus dem Archiv der Zisterzienserinnenabtei Seligenthal – Übersicht, in: Bayerische Landesbibliothek Online, https://www.bayerische-landesbibliothek-online.de/seligenthal-uebersicht, status: 30-12-12, access: 22-10-19).
Both the necrologium and the later “[…] book of the dead […] refer to the idea of the ‘quota for the soul‘ developed by Greek church fathers in the 4th/5th centuries. For his salvation, the Christian must bequeath a considerable part of his fortune (at least one third) to the church. The medieval church recommended that the soul be ‘equipped‘ for the afterlife with a charitable foundation, the so-called donation for the soul, which, in addition to shrift and final rites, was the precondition for absolution on the deathbed. The resulting foundations for the salvation of the soul combined the donation for the soul with the condition of an annual holding of a memorial service on the day of death for the donor and his family. The necessary data were noted in books of the dead […] , i.a. name, date of death, endowments, donations to monasteries and poor, number of masses and priests involved. Occasionally, books of the dead also contain chronicle information. […] Books of the dead of monasteries are known since the early Middle Ages […]; in parishes they became common in the 14th century. From the late Middle Ages, the books of the dead moved away from the idea of the donation for the soul […].” (Karl Heinz Burmeister: Jahrzeit, in: Historisches Lexikon des Fürstentums Liechtenstein online, https://historisches-lexikon.li/Jahrzeit, status: 31-12-11, access: 22-10-19) The book of the dead became an essential document for the administration of clerical assets and foundations. In Das Lexikon des Mittelalters Norbert Angermann and Robert-Henri Bauthier [ed.] distinguish between necrolog (book of the dead) and the later obituary. In the obituary, which in German until today is called Nekrolog, entries to personality, life phases, merits of the deceased and other are found – an interesting innovation as the obituary went beyond the principle of factual registration and opened a focus of appreciation of the specific biography, of the specific person.
“[… With calendar printing, this medium […] is regarded as the key to questions of popular education, alphabetization and literacy from the 16th to the 19th century. […] It was not mainly the actual calendar, but the respective appendix, which contained prognoses and practical medical or economic advices, at times also entertaining short stories, which was of special interest.” (Harald Tersch: Schreibkalender und Schreibkultur. Zur Rezeptionsgeschichte eines frühen Massenmediums, Volume 3 in: Harald Weigel [ed.]: Schriften der Vereinigung Österreichischer Bibliothekarinnen und Bibliothekare (VÖB), Wolfgang Neugebauer Verlag, Graz–Feldkirch 2008; cf. a. Michael Koscher: „[…] noch hübscher ausgestattet wie der vorige. Über Kalender & Kalenderverlage im Wien des 19. Jahrhunderts“. Diploma thesis LA Deutsche Philologie, University of Vienna, 2008)
“Calendars are media for structuring and regulating the annual cycle of communities. Their designations determine human action and create reality. At the same time they serve the formation of groups and identity. Medieval calendars show this in particular clarity, since these were always valid only for a certain community (a diocese, a city or a congregation) and frequently were ascribed to even smaller groups of people, for example through family chronicle entries.” (Marco Heiles: Die Entstehung des modernen Kalenders, in: Mittelalter. Interdisziplinäre Forschung und Rezeptionsgeschichte, https://mittelalter.hypotheses.org/22042, date of publication: 07-06-19, access: 22-10-19)
In the 20th century, the calendar was mainly conceived as a set of rules, as a tool for recording time-related events and at least in direct reference to its semantic relevance lost on meaning in populations. Today, the term enjoys new interpretation and popularity, i.a. in data management, object-oriented modeling and in social marketing [cf. i.e. the term social calendarium], thus indicating interesting social developments of contemporary relevance.
(4)
Greek “[…] ẽthos = habit; mode of behaviour, civilization; character” (Etymon: in: Duden, https://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Ethos, status / access: 22-10-19). As synonyms are attributable, i.a.: mentality, mindset, way of thinking, [inner] attitude/s, cast of mind, tune; values, belief, position, paradigm; disposition; self-image; attitude towards life; view of the world, culture (cf. i.a. Ethos, in: openthesaurus.de, https://www.openthesaurus.de/synonyme/ethos, status / access: 24-10-19).