CUE: a participatory event

CUE has been happening in Berlin since march 2007. Now, more than 10 years later, after more than 60 editions in Berlin and more than 50 editions in other cities in Europe, I am still wondering what is it about; the task of coming up with a clear definition has not been completed yet. During this 5 years I can distinguish 3 phases on my understanding of CUE. At the beginning the idea was closer to an interdisciplinary improvisation, a kind of happening that included any spontaneous expression. Later I started to put more attention on the behavior and how people bring themselves into play through a certain attitude of abandoning the social codes and habits while dissolving themselves into something such as an anarchic party or kindergarten. Today I understand CUE through the notion of awareness and the conditions of possibility for an event to happen.
Today I approach CUE asking myself what is an event and what are the conditions of possibility for an event to happen. There are two big determinations a priori: space and time. We find a space or location where CUE will happen and then we decide when it will take place. An event is the result of time traversing space and CUE starts from intensifying this awareness of time passing across the space. This passing across is the condition of possibility of something to happen and CUE is an activation of this awareness: what could happen during an event? What could emerge from the moment that we say that something is about to happen?

To give a cue means to communicate that the time has arrived. A cue is a signal, an invitation, a hint, a suggestion that the change has arrived. CUE is not exactly an event but rather a call, a wink for the event to happen, a signal that activates the time of the event, stimulates time for something to happen and without expectations of what exactly should happen. This ideas are important to understand when I mention awareness as the keyword to approach CUE. I think CUE has to be mainly experienced through awareness, not through interaction. What happens during CUE? Not actions but incidents, occurrences. This relates with the notion of accidental happening, not according to expectation, where fortuitous simultaneous actions interfere. The ideas of simultaneity and interferences are right now more interesting to challenge the concept of CUE than to explore interaction through a playground of interdisciplinary improvisation.

CUE is a call or signal to make an event happen. This first stage is more important than later what is going to happen. What does it have to happen to say that the event is happening? It is impossible actually that nothing will happen since the moment that everything counts as a response to the cue was given before. This is why CUE is not an event in the sense of outcome or result. It doesn’t make sense to judge the event under the parameters of success or failure. You can judge the organization of CUE but not CUE itself. The CUE organizers don´t organize the event, they organize the conditions of possibility of the event. Actually it is not about organizing but, to be more precise, to determine the conditions, to influence the potential participants with a specific invitation, to stimulate and to give cues before the event starts. The “cue-givers” don´t decide what will happen but they are a big determination since the moment that they decide the location, who should be invited, how to understand the strategies of communication to announce the event, etc.) CUE is an injection and the responsibility of the cue-givers is to inject a starting point without influencing too much the possibilities to interpret CUE the way people need to. CUE is a call for unexpected responses.

Uncertainty reigns. We don´t know where are we going when we are on our way to CUE. We don´t know what kind of event are we attending. With no doubt we know that something will happen but we ignore what exactly. There is a displacement of attention from the content of the event into the conditions of possibility.

CUE is a call to activate a need of bringing oneself into play, bringing oneself into a position within a frame of uncertainty. In any case, the condition is to have the need of CUE, to feel the urgency of receiving a cue. In that case, if you need a cue…

A note on improvisation

Improvisation is not a guarantee of uncertainty. What if we give priority to uncertainty instead of relaying on improvisation. what if we consider improvisation not as a result of our good will but rather as a need: to improvise only when you have no choice, to improvise because the “event” is happening and you cannot relay on previous knowledge or tools.

In many occasions during impro jams there is an excess of will, excess of movement. What if instead of being creative all the time we try to empty out the event, do nothing, or do less, or actually, get bored: what if we start improvising from total boredom?

CUE: between Veranstaltung and Ereignis

The German word Veranstaltung is used to refer to a temporary and scheduled event that takes place in an announced location with a defined purpose, a program based on a theme with a specific content for the participation of a group of people and organized by a person or an institution.

Following this assertion, the task of the organizer of CUE can be understood as the attempt to reduce the event (Veranstaltung) to its most basic components: space, time and participation while leaving the rest of the components undetermined. CUE should have only 3 determinations a priori: where (which location) when (date and duration) and who (social gathering). The rest of determinations will not be giving before hand, they will just happen through the course of the event without the control of the organizer. Strictly speaking, the organizer does not organize what happen in the event, the organizer should take care only that the event happens; what it has to be organized are those three conditions that make an event possible.

What makes CUE an specific event is not to have an schedule or a program. CUE is an event that can´t be prevented from the premise of being uncertain about what will happen. The three certainties are space time and people. The challenge of organizing CUE is to be as less determined as possible; to organize a Veranstaltung only with the three fundamental components; the rest of the components must remain uncertain. The task of the organizer is not to direct the event into any preconceive label.

In this sense when we invite people (potential guests) we can´t use anymore labels such as happening or interdisciplinary event or improvisation or jam. This words imply already many understandings a priori, certain ideas, images and habits appear before hand. This is why CUE tries to question what does it mean an open space since open spaces gradually have become predictable being regulated by what is supposed to happen since it is announced as such. CUE is interested in not knowing in advance what will happen.

CUE is an open a hole in time  

CUE is not an open space. CUE is an open time. The attempt is not anymore to create an open space but rather to make a hole in time, understanding hole as a breach in the scheduled time. What does it mean to make a hole in time? Time is parceled, scheduled by our need of having the impression that we control time. To make a hole in time means to make a hole in the organized time, in the time that we control, we plan and we parcel, the time of the calender, the time of days, weeks, seconds and hours. There is another time that is the condition of possibility for any scheduled time to happen. The attempt of CUE is to make a hole, an aperture to allow another experience of time to happen. It is not anymore the time of the Veranstaltung but rather the time of the Ereignis. Ereignis is the other German word that means event. Ereignis can´t be planned. CUE is a Veranstaltung that aims to approach the experience of the Ereignis.

CUE is an invitation, a signal that aims to bring the attention to what usually remains invisible during an event. CUE is the intensification of the conditions of possibility for an event to happen, meaning that CUE is literally an opening, CUE is being made to open that conditions of possibility allowing them to appear and arising into their own. Within the experience of the opening, what used to remain invisible now becomes relevant, becomes a case and in this sense the event is for the first time available (disponibilité), the open hole allows the event and the guests to let things be in whatever may be the uncertainty. Uncertainty is the condition for becoming.

Instead of organizing an event claiming for control and parcellation of time offering an experience that has been planned, CUE is rather an invitation to make a hole in time and let the event being. To open a space, to make open implies to allow the event to happen from its need to happen. The guests will have to deal with that raw material not as a possibility to control it and dominate the opening but rather as a possibility to listen what the event also demands, what usually remains forgotten (the time between occurrences), to listen how time is traversing space making a hole and letting the event being, letting the event open.

The task of the guest is to let the event being  

What kind of participation CUE proposes?

To let the event being implies to stretch a portion of space and time and let it be on its raw condition without cooking the event, without preventing things to happen. Which things? Everything that remains invisible or forgotten because we organized the event. CUE invites for a specific perception of the event in order to make visible the conditions of possibility for occurrences to happen. The awareness on time passing through the space allows the perception of the invisible, perception in terms of attention and making the invisible becoming a case.

This ideas demand a clear understanding of which role the guest that attends CUE should have in order to let the event being open. CUE opens itself and appears available for the guest and the guest has to appear available for the event. In order to let the event be on whatever may be its uncertainty, the guest has to resign from closing the event and rather adopt an active presence of taking care that the event remains open, taking care of making open. This task could be understood as the responsability that the guest has towards the event in order to let the event being still available. This task of the guest is actually an engagement, CUE demands engagement in the sense of belonging together with the event while having the pre-occupation of taking care of the event.

In this sense we could think that CUE is an event that demands an ethical participation, an ethical awareness, it needs from the guests to dwell the event with the preoccupation of taking care of it. All the guests that attended CUE share this task, this pre-occupation, this responsability of letting the event being available. This is the common task, the  concern that all guests have in common. To listen what the event needs, to intensify the perception of all the possibilities that live in the opening, all the possibilities that become cues, that become relevant, that become available.

Listen to the cue.