In 2000 Czech dissident artist Milan Kohout and American videographer and performance artist David Franklin collaborated on the performance Flying and Flowing: Horizontal and Vertical at Mobius, an experimental art centre in Boston. Kohout brought his experience of living in the collectivist socialist society of Czechoslovakia to the individualistic context of the U.S. Under Communism, since the government controlled all media, dissident actions were based on a horizontal system of communication among members of society. People insured the ‘underground’ flow of information themselves and thus information was spread horizontally among people, rather than via media placed ‘above’ them. Franklin, whose video and performance work deals with somatic aspects of the submersion and subversion of the desire for political upheaval, also worked as a cameraman and producer in two of the most remote media channels: film and television news, in which communication is oriented vertically in a system composed of individual information ‘droplets.’ Bringing their experiences together to collaborate on Flying and Flowing, Kohout and Franklin contrasted horizontal and vertical geometrical forms in scenography, lighting, and physicality to accompany a series of narrative vignettes. Thus all the components – the visual forms, somatic embodiments, video projections and content of the texts were based on the tensions between vertical and horizontal, each representing differing socio-political power relationships and modes of communication. For example, in one episode of the performance Kohout and Franklin play a dominant-positioning game with an eight-foot long stick held in their mouths. Ironically, the same stick that connects them also forces them to occupy differing orientations in the horizontal-vertical power relationship, and simultaneously distorts their verbal communication such that they are able to negotiate a only a slapstick solution to their dilemma.

In: Seenography: Essays on the Meaning of Visuality in Performance Events