Finally Together on Time by Bojana Kunst and Ivana Müller

Finally Together On Time is a scripted conversation between Bojana Kunst and Ivana Müller around the idea of sharing Time together. This performative "pas de deux" reflects on the collaboration between the philosopher and the artist that developed throughout the years, starting in 2003 with Bojana Kunst’s video appearance in Ivana Müller’s piece How Heavy Are My Thoughts and having as last to date collaboration in the 2010’s Bojana Kunst’s lecture Prognosis On Collaboration in Berlin to which Ivana Müller contributed with a letter addressed to Bojana Kunst, that was read as a part of that lecture. This encounter between physically present Kunst and virtually present Müller, treats "Time" both as something inevitable and something that we don’t automatically "have" and which we therefore have the opportunity to "re-make". It juggles with the idea that working together is a process in which we learn to modulate time differently, and in which we "give ourselves" to collaboration not only during the time of "the project" but mostly outside of it.
This perfomative lecture proposes different un-institutional ways through which a collaboration can develop due to the lack of time/space frame that the two collaborators can share within a project: different modes of accidental meetings, coffee breaks, long Skype talks, commissions of texts, video messages, e-mail exchanges. Although the lecture starts from the personal experience, it deals with the universal "problem" of time and its "capitalization" in the contemporary society and with different strategies through which the time in which we are not together but desire to be, can produce surprisingly creative "(un)temporary frames". The lecture is developed during the residency in Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers (November 2011, Paris), was presented during Performing Studies International Conference in Athens (November 2011) and at the symposium To Do As If in Giessen (Germany, July 2012) and will be presented as a part of Encounters in Frascati, Amsterdam (November 2012).

Ivana Muller et Bojana Kunst
Crédit: Ouidade Soussi-Chiadmi

(coming in the space, counting steps. sitting down synchronously. setting the mobile-phone clocks)

Bojana  Two hours?

Ivana  No, let's be realistic. Let's do 45 minutes.

Bojana  But we promised that it would be longer.

Ivana  Let's see. If it is not enough you can always re-play me.

Bojana & Ivana  Hello. Hello.

Ivana  So let's talk about the promise

Bojana   Our promise of coming together has a long history. I think it started eight years ago, when I appeared as a video in the 38th minute in one of your shows.

Ivana  Yes I remember that. We met almost by chance and I ended it up interviewing you about the relationship between body and mind. And finally I made the video of that interview a part of my performance.

Bojana  From there on, basically, we kept promising to Come Together ever since.

Ivana  And actually what helped us in keeping that promise, were the invitations of different institutions, like here for example, to make a "project"… And although most of the time it was either you or me that was invited, hardly ever together, we always managed in some way to involve each other in "the project" and use "the project" as the opportunity to simply come together and to steal some time from that project for our exchange.

Bojana  The possibility for us to "just" spend time together came from a promise we gave to an institution to create a product… which at the end we always did.

Ivana  So, in that sense, the stealing of time, in our case was never really a criminal act, like stealing usually is, it was legal.

Bojana  Yes, it was legitimized by one condition: every time we steal some time we have to share at least a little bit of what we stole with the public.

Ivana  Now you make me feel like a little bit of a Robin Hood.

Bojana  In a way you are, yes, but in its contemporary version. The old Robin was stealing from the rich to give it to the poor, and the contemporary Robin is simply distributing what he stole from one of his pockets to the other.

Ivana  Ok, I get it. But in our case, weirdly enough, while stealing time together we were never, or hardly ever, at the same place in the same time.

Bojana  Yes, that's true. For example, we were once expected to appear together in a lecture on The Future of Collaboration in Berlin. Like we were expected to appear together here ‒ but finally I was there, as I am here now, and you were somewhere else, as you are somewhere else now. And you actually appeared in the lecture just as a voice that came through a letter that you wrote to me.

Ivana  Yes, and speaking about the voice, the letter in Berlin wasn’t even read by me but by a fellow male artist.
Bojana  I don't think this choice was based on gender. He was simply there.

(stand up—30 seconds)

Ivana  I counted till 30. What about you?

Bojana  I forgot to count. I was just waiting for you to seat down.

Ivana  Well, speaking about unconventional ways of working together… You were once hidden in one of my performances as a ghost writer…

Bojana  and only the people who carefully studied the evening program realized that I was a part of "the project".

Ivana  Yes, you were in a way invisible, but present. Some kind of an "eminence grise" of that performance.

Bojana  And speaking further about collaborative ways of working, we spend a lot of time on Skype, mostly after 9 in the evening. Outside of the official working hours and when our kids are sleeping.

Ivana  Just to be precise, all of this is not about being romantic.
(to the spectators)
All of this is, in fact, a catalogue of methods that Bojana and me intentionally or un-intentionally developed as a way to work together continuously over the last 8 years.

Bojana  And, finally, after all these years, this is our chance to be together in the same space and the same time…  and interestingly enough we are here today to perform a dialogue on Time.

Ivana  And as always, we kept the promise: we are doing it right here and right now. But to be perfectly honest, as you can see, we are actually not exactly together in the same space and at the same time…

Bojana   Maybe it is important to say, this impossibility of being together for real, was once again, a result of a very banal set of coincidences.

Ivana  You mean me getting pregnant and you getting a new job.

Bojana  Yes, something like this. Our lives are always made of multiple temporalities that are sometimes difficult to overlap…  And one always has to make choices because we simply cannot be at different places at the same time.

Ivana  But then the wonderful thing about this "impossibility" of us being together in the same space and the same time longer than 4 days in a row, is that it gives us a real "problem". And when we have a problem we also have a promise of a project, or something that we can really share, that we have to take care about together and something that we will potentially never manage to solve. As long as we don’t solve it, this problem gives us a future. A future together… with you.

(pause: we stand up, make one step, turn towards each other)

Bojana  This time I count. I can trick you.

(afterwards go back to chair)

Ivana  OK.

Bojana  OK, speaking about the promise, here is a small inventory of times necessary to complete a promise of being Finally Together On Time. 12 steps to reach the chair.

Ivana  3 steps to disappear.

Bojana  7 days to write this dialogue. And 45 minutes to perform it.

Ivana  9 months to create a life.

Bojana  never more than 7 days to stay away from home.

Ivana  8 years of collaboration to come to this point.

Bojana  376 hours of work for which nobody paid us.

Ivana  36 hours of work that we officially counted and that we did get paid for.

Bojana  Maybe this time I got paid a little bit more than you.

Ivana  Working no more that 8 hours a day and preferably no longer than six o’clock in the afternoon.

Bojana  Maybe exceptionally after 9 in the evening… on Skype.

Ivana  45 minutes from home to this place, or more precisely 16 metro stations, with 3 changes.

Bojana  4 hours from home to this place, or more precisely 700 frequent flyer miles, flying directly
plus some taxis.

Ivana  18 kilos of food of different sort, which, if we calculated it correctly, comes down to 2 days of non-stop eating together.

Bojana  5 liters of coffee, which represents more or less 1634 minutes of "coffee breaks"… if we don’t include going to the toilette afterwards.

Ivana  530 hours of reading, mostly on planes, trains and in other public transportation.

Bojana  2093 minutes of audio-visual material, viewed either on your or on my personal computer.

Ivana  Countless hours of time spent on the internet.

Bojana  In total at least 15 days in which we supposed to work together, that we canceled. 

Ivana  Hours of shows made together—none.

Bojana  Books written together—none.

Ivana  Proposals made together—plenty.

Bojana  Minutes of synchronous public appearance—none.

Ivana  Should we take a break?

Bojana  Ok let’s do that.

(2 minutes of break. break: holding hands, after that go back to chairs)

Ivana  OK, so lets talk about Deadline.

Bojana  How personal shall we go?

  I think that we can go quite personal here, because, we are all here in a more or less similar situation when it comes down to deadlines. We have been looking at the percentage of the emails in the "sent" section of our mailbox that started with:

  Sorry for the late reply.

  Sorry for a slight delay.

  Sorry for getting back to you so late.

  Herewith I am finally sending you the text you asked me some weeks ago.

  I do hope I am still in time.

  I do hope the sending of this email still makes sense.

  I sincerely hope that this late reply didn’t cause any damage to your project, but I had a very busy week.

  I apologize for my silence.

  I apologize for my absence.

  I apologize I took some days of holidays.

  I apologize I was lately travelling a lot.

  Sorry but I have lately been overwhelmed with my work.

  Or simply...

Sorry late again.

  So, we realized that more than 30% of emails we sent in the last years started with being sorry or being aware of messing up with deadlines.

  Does this make you feel guilty?

It could have had if we wouldn’t look at the Inbox section of our mail boxes, where we realized that a great amount of emails that we received starts with the similar type of sentences. And, to be perfectly honest, I was calmed to find out that other people also mess-up with their deadlines. And also, I felt relieved when realizing that others wait for me more than I wait for the others.

  Did you perceive this situation, in some way, as a personal success?

Do you think that I should feel successful because I have less time than the others?

Yes, that means that you are in a better social position, maybe, that you have more "projects" and that you give priority to something or somebody else and not to those who are waiting for you. This is why being busy gradually excludes us from being synchronous with the others. Ivana  We become synchronous only with ourselves.

  We are never exactly in the “present” with the others.

We are exclusive.

  We become elite.

  We belong to the "projective future".

   We become a project.

We then slowly become a brand.

  We should not become too moralistic about this. The way we go around with deadlines in the context in which we are working  it is also some kind of a game. We are like small children, constantly wanting more time for what we do. But we are not  extending time because we enjoy it but because everybody we play with is familiar with the same rules. Let's say that the rules of the game are following: Rule number 1: You know you can be late because the others expect you to be late, too.

Example: If they tell you that you should deliver a text on the 25th of January, you know that they don't count on you before the 30th of January. That means, that you can in fact deliver it until the 5th of February, which means that you will finally send it on the 7th of February.

You will feel good about it when the text is finally sent.

You will probably experience it as an achievement.

  All of your guilt feelings will disappear at once.

  And you will take a little break, before you start attacking another deadline.

Rule number 2: You know that consequences of you being late are not going to be very dramatic.

  Example: In the corporate world you can loose a job if you miss your deadline. In our working context it is very unlikely that you get kicked out of the project just for being late. In fact being slightly late might confirm our freedom as creative workers to escape dominant patterns of efficiency and constant delivering of a result.

  Of course we should not forget that we do pay for that freedom...

  By being paid very badly. 

So we are always in debt of time, we owe time to the others, but at least our debt is circulating among us, which is good, because at the end, nobody keeps that time in his or her possession.  And this makes us some kind of a community, a community of the ones who are always late, and don't need always to return, what they succeeded to steal from time.

(short break: glass of water, a break like in a lecture.)

Bojana  As we all know artistic practice is inherently non-efficient, although everybody in the arts market expect from us to work effectively to deliver a product.

Do you think that here we suggest to people to be late in order to be free?

  No, I don’t' think that we suggest anything. I think people here, already have a very clear personal opinion about that. To be late could be seen as an act of resistance towards dominant modes of exploitation. But such resistance can be very differently motivated. For example: I'm late therefore I resist. With that I find a perfect excuse for myself, first I'm late and then I resist. I see my practice as privileged. In this case I'm always late in a passive way. I'm justifying my lateness with resistance.

  Can this resistance then be seen as the ultimate form of laziness?

For some it could be. But there is another way to say it: I resist therefore I'm late. With that I express that I don't want to be exploited in the temporality of the product based art market. This would then be an active position. But for that I have to invent other modes of production in which I can be late and resist. And here we have a bit of an irony. What market actually loves, is me being actively involved in the production of resistance. Me being revolutionary.

But same thing can also be said in yet another way: I'm late simply because I'm late. Here I'm expressing my failure in fulfilling the productive modes, which are more and more expected from me. I cannot follow. I don't want to follow. It is actually not possible to follow. As long as there are many of us who failed in the same way, nothing bad can happen to me. That's why I guess we are all playing this game. Supporting each other in the stealing of time.
(appearance of somebody else in a virtual world)

Ivana  So, let's talk about Greece.

  You mean that in the ancient Greece there were two concepts of Time, Kairos and Kronos, where Kairos means the moment which you have to grasp, and Kronos is related to continuity of time.

No, I mean, let's talk about contemporary Greece. Let's talk about our lecture in Athens next week.

  Ok. I think it would be good if we first explain the situation here. But I will need more time to do that, so I will pause you, it will be only for a while, hope you don't mind. One of the reasons Ivana is on the screen and I'm sitting here for real is, that she could not travel to Athens. Nevertheless we both wanted to keep the promise, which was given to the organizers of the conference here. With fullfiling that promise we created a problem for us and at the same time we are continuing with our tradition of  never appearing publicly together in the same time and in the same place. Last week we met for four days in Paris, to work together on the research in Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers. But we used this opportunity for efficient management of stolen time and actually produce two public appearances. The first one happened last Sunday, which indeed put Ivana in a difficult position, she had to sit behind the screen all evening, to remain the illusion for the audience of her not being there. She was doing that not only because she was taking care about the audience in Paris, but also because she knew, she would not be able to travel to Athens, so she was also taking care about you. As you can see, it is all together very complicated and it just goes to show that artists often need to do opportunistic compromises in order to be present in con-temporary times. The same goes for theoreticians, in this case, myself. In order to maintain the illusion of being together on time, I have to actually perform here alone on stage, even if don't have a clue how to perform. I would probably feel much better being hidden behind the screen instead of watching you now still for 2 minutes.

(Ivana back on screen—minutes break, Bojana is only sitting).

Ivana  Maybe we should talk about our differences being engaged together in this illusion of the same space and the same time. First of all, if we talk about time, I could maybe compare myself with Kronos, because I will last in this temporal mode as long as I can be reproduced. I will stay like this forever. I will never age. I will stay pregnant forever. And I will always be at your disposition to play me and replay me again. I will never forget my lines and my quality of presence will always stay equal. I will never be able to surprise, but I will always stay reliable.

  Ok, Ivana, if you see yourself as Kronos, I could then maybe, with a lot of imagination, see myself as Kairos. I'm live, I'm time in-between two of your sentences, I always have to catch the right or opportune moment to speak, I have to master my time of speaking (not too fast, not too slow), because I always have to refer to my cue. Every time we do this lecture I will always change, I will age, I will never be able to repeat myself exactly, I will be in a position to change my text, because I'm live. I'm fragile, but I can surprise. And if I think about myself in this way, I realize that I come very close to some modes of contemporary production, which is nowadays also known as post-fordist, where with your creativity you have to catch the right moment, you should not last forever, you should not endure, you should always change, and you should never repeat yourself.

Yes, you could be right. But at the same time, from my perspective, I can see you more functioning in the fordist economy. You are physically present, that means you are there. You do the work and you get paid. Me, on the other hand, I'm not really here, I can disappear any moment (Ivana disappears from the image), my work is immaterial and I'm not getting paid (Ivana comes back to the image). That actually makes me operate more in the context of post-fordist economy. So in a way, if I would think about us as being a comedy duo: we would probably perform in a show called: "Kronos and Kairos, a paradoxical encounter in synchronous time".

  Yes, and this would probably be a stand-up comedy.

(Bojana & Ivana stand "up together" to create "ONE BODY" in the middle of the stage)

Bojana & Ivana  THANK YOU

(the alarm on the mobile phone rings)

Text published in Le Journal des Laboratoires, September-December 2012