From its inception in 2007 the ICA Student Forum has been a platform for young people in higher education across London to come together and form a peer-led curatorial network. By curating talks, events and workshops, as well as commissioning bulletin posts for online content, this year’s ICA Student Forum has actively been contributing to the ICA Public Programme. This publication aims to provide both documentation of the Student Forum’s contributions but also to open up further conversations on these topics which we now are made to consider our legacy. The publication you are now holding is a compilation of texts, poetry, sound works, blog posts, essays, photography, malware, and film celebrating a year of working collectively seeking non-hierarchical modes of organising within ICA, London. We aim to seek crossovers between four different threads on performance, digital, sound, rituals and non-places, the publication presents itself in the form of a flow of multiple ideas all connecting to each other in different ways. Communicating from a speculative future, the launch of the publication was set around an extravagant funeral which asked guests to decide wich asked guests to decide to come and decide whether this was a death or rebirth celebration. From the ashes, a new dynamic will emerge, shaped by the participation of community. Collective Body was released as the last physical trace of the ICA’s 2017 Student Forum.
STEP INSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE Elisabeth Del Prete
SCENARIOS OF THE POOL Ashley Janke, Natalija Paunic
NON-SPACES AND OTHER STORIES Håkon Lillegraven, Giulia Civardi
ON NOISE Johanna Hardt
THE VIEWER-ARTWORK ROLLING SCHEME” Marcel Darienzo
AXIS | GRID Markus Soukup
A PIECE FOR ADULTS MADE BY CHILDREN Marcel Darienzo, Elisa Ohtake
EXPERIMENT ON THE GROUND Giada Marson, Lorenzo Monnini
IF IT LOOKS LIKE A BOT, AND TALKS LIKE A HUMAN… Anne de Boer
REFLECTIONS ON ART IN THE AGE OF MACHINE LEARNING Felice Moramarco
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN Natasha Trotman
2,000 HRS OF (NON)-PLACES Cristina Vasilescu, Håkon Lillegraven
BANNER REPEATER Ashley Janke, Ami Clarke
REHEARSAL DINNER Hugo Lucien
HIS-TORY Ebony Francis
LIQUID CRYSTAL Madeleine Stack
MYRIAD WAYS Natasha Trotman
MALWARE: WEAPONISED WEARABLE TECH Rachel Rose O’Leary, Mariana Lobão, Eurico Sá Fernandes
OUT OF OUR HANDS CATALOGUE ESSAY Katie Yook
FEATURE: BIRKIN OSTRICH COGNAC Josefine Reisch
AN EMERGING CURATOR’S NOTE TO SELF Katie Yook
STEP INSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
ELISABETH DEL PRETE
ICA Public Market Place ICA Lower gallery 27 July 2017, 3-8 pm
How can we, curators, artists and members of the public, work collectively and collaboratively? And does it help to feel comfortable in the process of doing so? ICA Public Marketplace, which took place at Institute of Contemporary Art on 27th July, questioned whether nonhierarchical and collective modes of working are indeed possible within structured art institutions such as ICA. In attempting to create an environment that would encourage active participation, the main question for us curators became the following: how do we create a space that facilitates a transition for the public from spectator to participant? How do we transfer agency not only to the artists and contributors involved, but also to the public? ICA Public Marketplace was conceived as a response to the programme In formation, which took place over the Summer while the ICA building was being stripped down and refurbished. By opening up the architectural space and pushing the ICA’s civic agenda forward in favour of interdisciplinary thinking, spaces such as the lower gallery came to be used as communal spaces of assembly. This was indeed the case with ICA Public Marketplace: a one-day event curated and produced by a small group of members, including myself, of the ICA Student Forum. Using the etymology of the word ‘forum’ (from the Latin for ‘public marketplace’) as its starting point, ICA Public Marketplace wanted to challenge the conventional meaning of the word ‘market’ by inviting artists, curators, contributors and the public to collectively produce knowledge, as well as sharing and exchanging ideas, rather than consuming culture. ICA Public Marketplace consisted of six market stalls (Exercising the Public, Face Poem Choir, Occupy, Sensorium Emporium, Blend your thoughts, How hard it is to be you), each inviting direct participation from audiences, curators, artists and contributors with a view to blur the boundaries between these predefined roles.
In Face Poem Choir for example, members of the audience were invited to participate in a silent choir of gestures, where they would follow the directions and facial gestures performed by a conductor (the artist Jakob Rowlinson). Exercising the Public on the other hand, invited the public to collectively build a market stall structure on-site, following a tour of the ICA’s lesser seen architectural history led by two co-curators. While all stalls required differing amounts of participation from the audience members, the Occupy stall — consisting of a couch, a coffee table, some books and pillows — appeared to not be part of the market place at all, and functioned almost like a stage in disguise. With its familial domestic setting, it was intended to reverse the power-relations of the project and give the public full agency by asking them ‘how do you want to occupy this space’? Situated in the centre of the Lower gallery, the Occupy stall was a way for visitors to somehow be a part of the surrounding Market without feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, or a pressure to perform. Over the course of the programme though, we noticed how people who were initially reluctant to get involved with the activities, felt more encouraged to participate after first spending some time on the couch. This observation confirmed our thinking that the sitting room decor of the Occupy space provided some familiar behavioural expectations for the audience, which helped them shift from the role of voyeuristic spectator to the more vulnerable role of participant. Our ambition for the Occupy stall however was to go one step further and to ask the public to not just be a participant, but to explicitly take control of the space. We had hoped that their occupancy of the space would encourage a reversing of the roles of the market stage, and that the public would begin to renegotiate the space as if they were vendors themselves. And
ELISABETH DEL PRETE
whilst these ambitions were communicated on the print-outs available in the Occupy stall, it perhaps wasn’t actively encouraged enough by the co-curators of the event. In any future attempts to recreate this project, members of the public should be more effectively encouraged to give themselves permission to act as agents of change within the market place setting. While for the duration of the event Occupy facilitated participation by creating a comfort zone and a transitory space of participation, it has become clear that future similar experiments would necessitate clearer guidelines and a stronger level of encouragement for the public to actively occupy the space. As an after note to this text, I thought that notions of audience actorship within the space of art would be further informed and complicated by the exhibition The boat is leaking. The captain lied 1 on view at Fondazione Prada in Venice earlier this year. As you walk through the first piano nobile of the exhibition, you walk past a large work by Thomas Demand, Backyard, before
entering another room which takes you up three or four steps. It’s only once you’re inside the second room that you realize you’re on a stage, looking and being looked at by other members of the public, simultaneously playing the role of the actor and that of the spectator. In a statement about the exhibition at Fondazione Prada by one of the co-curators, which I thought rings true to many elements in ICA Public Marketplace, Uto Kittelmann’s makes reference to the constant negotiation of roles in the show: “Everything is acting or reacting more or less with everything else (…) and the observer here is always in the picture.”
1 www.moussemagazine.it/boat-leakingcaptain-lied-fondazione-prada-venice-2017 I Occupy stall, installation view. Courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo Chiara dalla Rosa
SCENARIOS OF THE POOL
ASHLEY JANKE IN CONVERSATION WITH NATALIJA PAUNIC Natalija Paunic (born in Belgrade, 1990) is an independent curator, architect and art mediator. She graduated from the University of Belgrade with a concentration in Architecture, obtaining a Master degree in 2014. She continued her studies at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016, where she will have received a Postgraduate diploma in Curating in 2017. Her main interests include architecture as a contemporary art medium, exhibition space as an environment and a subject, relations between places and events and the potential of exhibition spaces as places of leisure. AJ
Can you talk a bit about Scenarios of the Pool?
The project came out of my research at Goldsmiths looking at architecture as a curatorial subject, and how architecture is treated in exhibitions as well as exhibition making. Through this examination, I became interested in swimming pools as an archetype or model of a really familiar place. Imagining a swimming pool is pretty easy because they are always essentially the same. I found this quite interesting and took the pool as sort of case study. On the other hand, I’ve felt exhibition spaces are places of pleasure where you go to enjoy yourself. I relate this to other enjoyable places where you can relax. The connection drawn between exhibition spaces and swimming pools kind of stems from this as well as thinking of art as something pleasant, and in a way something very luxurious. I don’t believe this is addressed too often today, it’s not topical at the moment. AJ
I can see how these approaches relate. I like how you describe swimming pools as a place you can always imaging in a similar way. Other than the white cube, are there other architectural spaces that you can think about as a kind of symbol that represents that space?
I think that’s maybe related to non-places as generic spaces that have a kind of repetitive typology. For architects, there are always a set of rules (let’s say) for designing these spaces. Like an airport or many of the other things Marc Augé mentioned in his book on non-places. I reflected on this but it was not necessarily my main interest in the project. It was definitely relevant, but architects get in touch with this book pretty early on. It is really interesting and fascinating, but after a while, well, it’s kind of like when artists read John Berger. Nonetheless, it’s still super interesting that there are specific places that can exist in any environment. For instance, you can have an indoor swimming pool anywhere in the world. This is something that can apply to the white cube as well. The white can be anywhere and has a sort of power to transform, or to give an additional layer of something to object or person inside. Swimming pools also add a layer of meaning. For example, if a person is with their superior or colleague in a swimming pool, it would be completely different than being with them in an office. In the pool context, it is ok that you are almost naked and sharing a certain kind of intimacy. This layer acts as a kind of an agreement: it’s totally fine if you are in your swimming suits and you’re showing you’re skin at the pool. AJ
When you talk about the pool, I wonder if part of the association of pleasure and luxary, the fact that often pools are in private places and they’re artificial constructions where you don’t necessarily associate the same feeling with a beach or a lake because they’re more often places of commons?
SCENARIOS OF THE POOL
It depends, pools can be super luxurious if they’re private. Public pools are a bit more accessible but they normally require an entrance fee which is interesting. A beach is partially different because it’s a natural environment rather an artificial infrastructure. When attending a pool, the visitor gives a small symbolic fee to be part of the ritual around swimming. By attending, people are all participating in a kind of social contract. Pools are luxurious precisely because of this phenomenon of private indoor pools which are part of the buildings like the one we used. Interestingly, that pool was not originally built to be part of the residential building. The building was historically a health and research center called Pioneer Health Center. It was a health center for about 30 years and then closed. In the 90’s they transformed the building into apartments which are quite luxurious. It was made available to all the people who were a part of this project. This transformation is something really typical for London actually. AJ NP
Taking something that is public and turning it into a private space? Yes, turning spaces that were not designed to be spaces for living into apartments. I am not sure what happened in the Pioneer Health Center in between the 50’s and 90’s, but they renovated it in the 90s. Yeah I mean that echos what was happening in New York during that time period also. Where they took where houses that were the ruins of the industrial revolution in the US. They were originally taken over by artists but then the building owners sold them to be turned into condos. I guess this leads into the next question: coming from an architectural and curatorial background, how would you classify your interest in working with non-traditional space? Is it primarily based in aesthetics, spatial engagement, function, or some combination?
Aesthetics definitely plays a role. I would say it’s a combination, but the most important element of the whole project was working in three parts. The first part was a workshop which took place in a small swimming pool inside a hospital in Fredericia Denmark. It was a way for me to explore how a swimming pool can be used as a space for something other than swimming. Like just hanging around the pool. The workshop allowed me to test out this idea and practice. And the second part and main part was the performance which happened at the Center. It’s very important that this was a live performance, to have a human body in action inside a specific space designed for another type of activity. It was really the point of my both architectural and curatorial research, and in order to create a specific dialogue between the visitors, the performers, and the water in between. I wanted to explore how a happening or some sort of event can illuminate or outline features of specific spaces. In being present for the performance, the witnesses get a feeling about the purpose of the space. I believe this was a way to exhibit the swimming pool. It is not very common to go to a swimming pool to see a performance. The aesthetics, the spatial engagement, and the function of the space are displayed because the primary function is normally swimming in the pool but as an audience, they can not do that thing. They are denied the things that would normally happen in or around a swimming pool.
Is it important to deny the visitors to the space what that space was designed for?
I’m not sure actually. I thought about this after some people asked me if they would be able to swim after the performance was over. I didn’t see any reason not to let them swim besides the fact that it is not a public pool. Maybe not having access to use the pool was part of the experience. I was asked this [to swim] before they came to the performance, but once there, they became aware it is a private space, almost like entering into a person’s house. The residents of the building were watching the performance from their corridors, and that definitely added to the impression that this is their private space and you are just a guest. It suddenly becomes super formal. In the end, not swimming in the pool was natural. AJ Do you think that formality mimics an exhibition space? Yes, I do think so. When you think about an empty pool for example, without water, it kind of resembles the cube. The audience is aware that they are coming to this exhibition/performance and they have an understanding of what is expected of them. The idea of going to have a swim is replaced with this expectation [of visiting an exhibition]. This feeling influenced the entire atmosphere. Of course, it was also related to the way the performers themselves were behaving. The performers really made it seem theatrical. NP
I really love how the water of the pool acts as a surface which can support the objects and performers but also allows them to break the surface and dip beneath. The water acts as a unifying medium to all things and people within the boundaries of the pool. Can you speak about activating water as a medium and also speak a bit about choosing the performers? Did you choose the performers first or did you decide how you wanted them to perform first?
I approached the performers, Lea Collet & Marios Stamatis, first. I knew their practice quite well and met them really early on, before I was even working on this project. I got in touch with Marios first and then met his partner Lea. At some point while working on this project I realized that they would be really great for this because they work with performance as something which is kind of both formal and informal at the same time. You are not really sure where the performance ends and begins. They also incorporate a lot of improvising in their performances. They have this spontaneous flow but they always have this very specific charisma which i think is really important for performance artists. I also liked that they work a lot with spaces. Lea in particular worked with simulating generic situations such as talk show programs. That seemed really relevant to what I was trying to do with my research. At that point I kind of already knew that I wanted to make, what I called at the beginning, a fake guided tour. I knew I wanted to represent architecture through performance. To use an event, or the human body in action, as a tool for representing spaces. I just thought it was kind of fitting to invite the two of them. Your first question, the one related to water as a unifying medium — it was something we all came up with together. We were all analyzing what makes a swimming pool so special and of course the presence of water is the most dominant part of the swimming pool. The two of them did a very extensive version of this, examining how water can behave and how this creates a kind of democratic setting because you are all unified by water. This is something I think is really interesting, because at times the audience was splashed a little bit because of the performance. They used the surface of the water, but also the depth of the pool as a stage. They also came out of the water at some point. Being wet, they sat with the audience. Their behaviours and their interactions with water and also how that related to the audience really outlines the most important features of the space. NP
SCENARIOS OF THE POOL
Would you say they were excited or hesitant to work with a non traditional exhibition space?
We came up with the pool concept together, so they were definitely excited. In the beginning we weren’t sure what kind of space we were going to work with. At first one of the spaces was going to be a fire station because there were a few firespaces around the UK that were offering the buildings as studio space. However, they were no longer in use, and at some point we realized they would not work. After a while we collectively decided to use a swimming pool. Lea was also working on a thesis about bathing and the culture of bathing. She was already looking into the idea of water as a unifying medium, and that was part of the inspiration. AJ
After the performances in Scenarios of the Pool, you installed documentation of the event at Enclave LAB, an exhibition space in Deptford, London. The way you incorporated the smell with the chlorine tablets and the subtle haziness from the smoke machine brought me back to the feeling of being at a pool. How did this secondary exhibition add to the first?
I’m not sure that it added something to the first, but rather works with a similar concept in a different way. When I decided to structure the three parts of the project, the workshop was not that integrated into the others but it was important on its own. However, in the end the two most connected pieces of this project were the performance and the exhibition. Each of the sections had a different approach. The workshop was mostly research, the performance was the main part I wanted to explore as a new kind of tour where the body acts as a measuring tool for space, and the third one was trying to invoke some sort of memory of a specific place. To do this like you mentioned, we used the smell in the space, the blue light, and the steam or haze and the sound which was present precisely because of the documentation. But for the people who saw both the performance and exhibition, it was the implication of the performance. The video and audio bring back the memory of the performance and perhaps that particular swimming pool. The mezzanine at Enclave LAB was a really crucial element because it gives you a sense of depth. This is why we put the pool ladder on it, to emphasize the feeling of being at the bottom of something and that the horizon is above eye level. It gives the feeling of being at the bottom of a pool. This space was perfect for what we were trying to do for this exhibition. The smell was also important: smell immediately triggers the memory of something else which smelled the same and the place it is associated with, just like chlorine is associated with pools. I Scenarios of the Pool at night, image by Aleksandar Bursac II Scenarios of the Pool performance, image by Natalija Paunić
NON—SPACES AND OTHER STORIES GREY CUBE 113
HÅKON LILLEGRAVEN IN CONVERSATION WITH GIULIA CIVARDI
In a city like London, precarious, unofficial art spaces are nothing new. Long gone is the time where the dominant frame of reference for art students was the salon, replaced instead with open studios and cans of lukewarm beer parked in the corners as a kind of social sculpture. But institutional programmes such as Tate’s and the V&A’s guest-curated series of ‘lates’ prove is that even major institutions are no longer exempt from utilising their ‘non-spaces’ as a venue for the increasing social and interdisciplinary engagement with and around art. It’s worth noting that although the latest addition to the Tate Modern’s site was meant to facilitate a greater display of performance-based art, it is still the almost 20-year old Turbine Hall which is the beating, performative heart of it’s day-to-day activity. With Superflex’s latest Turbine Hall comission, Tate Modern seems to have embraced this de facto, officially acknowledging the daily rolls and tumbles which children and on occassion adults enact within it. Despite it’s vast and dense collections and displays, even within Tate Modern, non-spaces exist, pockets of pure practicality and function. This was the mis-en-scene for curator Giulia Civardi’s GREY CUBE 113 project take-over of Tate Modern lockers during the 2017 edition of Offprint. GREY CUBE 113 began as an independent research-based project in 2016 in her personal locker in university, a chance to exhibit artist acquaintances in an informal and wholly original setting, unprecedented even in an institution defined by it’s art student’s knack for inhabiting it’s staircases, hallways, and classrooms with artistic activity. Lockers, which at all times, especially in the fashion department, are filled with rich fruits of labour, texture and contextual lecture, are by their very nature closed and private. By opening them, Civardi sought to engage with ways of seeing, and inevitably also a new social setting for the art itself, produced by artists who typically saw larger canvases, theatre stages and galleries as their format. Civardi kindly spoke to me about the evolution of the 113 and the significance of non-spaces in arts institutions. HL Firstly, can you describe the GREY CUBE 113 project in short, where did the idea come from and how did it manifest? Was there ever a different space than a locker that you considered, and why did the locker most appeal to you in the end. GC
Before coming up with the idea of using lockers, I mostly remember thinking about ‘spaces for art’ in London and asking myself questions such as: is there a space in which art today can express itself freely, take shape away from commercial interests; where people can interact with it in a more intimate way and that is available to me as a young curator interested in testing artistic production and curatorial ideas with others? My locker at Central Saint Martins seemed to be the best solution. It was free and located in a context where cultural and artistic meaning is produced on a daily basis. Here I could access and research discourse that contribute to the institutionalisation of art. At that time, I was also reading about Body Holes by New Scenario, and using the toilet located in the studio of an artist I work with as a small gallery space to display some of his damaged works and test different arrangements/narratives. I guess all this unconsciously influenced the choice of using a small locker — if we are to think in terms of size. At the same time, I noticed that some young artists around me were making really interesting work. I was curious to explore their ideas and observe how they would respond to a limited space.
Can you talk about your motivation to make use of rarely used spaces in art institutions, as you did at CSM and in the Tate? What kind of commentary, if any, on the institution and its use of space does GREY CUBE 113 propose?
At CSM, it was a way to give young artists a space where they could experiment, and to observe how the art school community and external visitors would interact with this format. At Tate Modern the decision to use lockers had also to do with its recent expansion. While aimed at hosting a larger number of people and art approaches that require (or that are required to occupy) larger spaces, new architectural additions in art institutions, such as the the Switch House in this case, seem to become a tool to reinforce the power structure that’s behind them. The act of taking over rarely used spaces such as lockers was not guided by a necessity to fill every corner of a museum, to somehow justify this expansion, but to explore how these small spaces existing within larger ones can offer alternative experiences to the audience, and opportunities to artists. A huge installation conceived for the Turbine Hall may appear entirely different — or surprisingly the same — if translated into the size of a roughly 50x30 cm locker. What kind of alternative/ additional understanding could this display have offered to the audience? A sense of surprise? A more intimate experience since people could get closer to the work? Would people have had the same feeling as when looking at a picture of an artwork on their computer screens or, again, different, due to its placement in a non-virtual space? GC
In you experience so far, has the GREY CUBE 113 model facilitated a different way of people looking at art? Do you find it a model that makes looking at the art more social or more introverted and contemplative?
In a way, this model made it much more social and contemplative at the same time. I’ve had very different reactions during every show, especially because all seven shows we’ve realised so far were all very different from each other. Plus, each institution has got different audiences with specific interests so it’s hard to draw a precise tendency. What’s interesting is that most people spent more time with the works that they would have done in a larger show. In a recent study about people’s perception in museums published this year was estimated that on average people spend between 10—50 seconds looking at an artwork, a timeframe which varies according to the artwork’s medium. I noticed that visitors ask many questions, about the artists, the works on show, themes around it and the exhibition format itself. HL
Do you have some dream ‘non-spaces’ for the future of GREY CUBE?
I’m currently researching the work of artists outside London and of art institutions with lockers located in areas that are slightly different from the ones I’ve worked with so far. You might need to catch a plane to come and see the next Grey Cube! GC
I Installation test for Intervention #1, Grey Cube 113 at Central Saint Martins, London, November 2016 by Giulia Civardi To follow the GREY CUBE 113 project and access previous iterations, see www.greycube113.com
The sonic is everything we cannot see. To make it one’s object of analysis proves challenging in the way that a metaperspective can never be claimed. When considering auditory events that give birth to sensory experience one needs to move beyond standard modes of listening that only ever interpret what the ear is hearing. Listening is an engagement with the world. It is a sensory experience of the body. The notion of distance between subject and object of investigation does not exist in one’s engagement with noise for example. In Listening to Noise and Silence. Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art (2010) Salomé Voegelin recalls moments of bliss when remembering an euphoric mass of isolated movement at a rave party in a factory hall outside Zurich in the early 1990s: “The noise deafened my sense to anything but itself” (Voegelin, 2010, p. 135)1, she formulates and describes how disparate bodies are swallowed by the noise. Instead of hearing noise with one’s ears trying to decipher its codes, noise occupies the entire body. Besieged but autonomous, the body shares time and space with the auditory object. In relation to other sounds, noise demands one’s total immersion. This immersion isolates the individual. While singular bodies merge into one singular visual interpretation of noise, they remain isolated. How do we know when something is noise? Conventionally associated with annoyance and disturbance noise became an auditory object of investigation for those engaging with it as an active force instead of an audible problem. Concentrating on the positive affect of noise means opening up the possibility to reclaim noise as perturbing conventional power relations of musical performance. Realising noise’s2 interruptive potential means acknowledging its potential to interfere with and challenge structure, order and harmony. Structure order and harmony are not only musical elements. At the same time, they can be interpreted socially in relation to prevailing social systems. Can these qualities be claimed and used as a tactic?
In endeavors to call attention to and challenge these mechanisms, one finds noise defined through being constituted as the ‘other’— the abstract metaphor, which is granted a presence merely through the premises of the ruling voice (Chambers, 2008, p. 70)3. It is conventionally understood as sound, which we learn to ignore. When definitions of noise rely on their ‘not’ and ‘un’: not good, not welcomed, its meaning revolves around a certain understanding of space. Hence, in this context Nirmal Puwar’s (2004) analysis of gender and space and Lefebvre’s (1992) concept of the production of space prove interesting to consider. Puwar examines the arrival of minorities in spaces from which they have been historically and conceptually excluded. Not only are her thoughts illuminating as she is concerned with space and the entering of an ‘other’ into those spaces, allowing parallels to be drawn to noise as invasion. It further seems particularly curious how she makes use of a language similar to the discourse on noise when depicting the effects the arrival of certain individuals has in an environment, which does not seem to be reserved for them. Familiar terms like ‘unexpectedness’, ‘change’, ‘disruption’ and ‘disturbance of the status quo’ find mentioning here (Puwar, 2004, p. 1)4. In her work she builds on Lefebvre’s understanding of space. He proposes to comprehend social space in consideration of the body and finds that they interconnect (Lefebvre, 1992, p. 170)5. The body produces itself in space when simultaneously producing that space. Hence, the body’s occupation of space and its deployment in space coincide. This means further that the body does not simply move through space, but founds it and is founded by it. Evidently, noise easily lends itself to transfer a sense of radicalism, process and change. While these endeavors are undoubtfully vital in our engagement with the sonic that came to occupy center stage in arts and humanities, it remains difficult to successfully fuse noise’s capability to shock the listener through sonic rupture with its aspiration to simultaneously generate a more open field of sound production for example. Approaching noise as a feminist issue needs to be understood as an important liberatory endeavor.
However, what seems slightly more attuned to the ambition to liberate and generate something new is an engagement with noise as something that “transforms, if only for a moment, our sense of ourselves and our notion of our world”(O’Sullivan, 2001, p. 128)6. This moment, the event, is lived through as a present experience, which regardless whether it is accessible or inaccessible to consciousness, resonates as an outcome of an affect.
1 Voegelin, Salome. Listening to Noise and Silence. New York: Bloomsbury 3PL, 2010. 2 See, Thompson, Marie. Beyond Unwanted Sound. Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism. Newcastle University: International Centre for Music Studies, 2014; and Thompson, Marie, Feminised Noise and the ‘Dotted Line’ of Sonic Experimentalism Contemporary Music Review 35, no. 1 (January 2, 2016), pp. 85–101. 3 Chambers, Iain. Migrancy, Culture, Identity. Routledge, 2008. 4 Puwar, Nirmal. Space Invaders: Race, Gender and Bodies Out of Place. 1st edition. Oxford : New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2004. 5 Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Wiley, 1992. 6 O’Sullivan, Simon. THE AESTHETICS OF AFFECT: Thinking Art beyond Representation. Angelaki 6, no. 3 (December 1, 2001), pp. 125–35.
THE VIEWER â€” ARTWORK ROLLING SCHEME
This is a rolling scheme to translate the variable relationship between a viewer and an artwork. There is the utmost need to take the viewer as accomplice of some works, as victim of others, and as a witness of some others. There is the utmost need to identify the great flexibility between these roles in the same piece. There is the utmost need to bring to light the passive or active responses one might have. It is of great urgency that one must understand the citizen of the metropolis of the world as a complex humanoid that must carry some burdens while burning some others. And with no doubt never taking anything for granted. You have had enough, and you will endure the pain and the subtle caress of what surrounds you.
AXIS | GRID
DIGITAL ANIMATED VIDEO BY MARKUS SOUKUP 2:53 MIN, 2014
COMBINATION OF 9 VIDEO STILLS OF AXIS | GRID ARENA GALLERY, LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL, 2014
AXIS | GRID
The video, containing animated typography and minimal animations, contemplates the perceptual nature of contemporary screen culture and reflects upon processes of how attention is influenced or targeted within mass media culture. The increasing immersion of the audio-visual senses leads to a consciousness where the gap between reality and hyper-reality seems to get more and more indistinguishable. Part of the exhibition, ARTIFICIAL | MEMORIES, which looks at how consciousness is influenced by perceiving written & visual information through mass media (television, press, cinema, the internet, etc). The experimental exploration (in progress) includes motion typography, minimal animations, digitalphotography & light boxes. An extended version of the installation was shown as partof Art:Language:Location at Anglia Ruskin Gallery Cambridge in 2016.
A PIECE FOR ADULTS MADE BY CHILDREN
MARCEL DARIENZO AND ELISA OHTAKE
MARCEL DARIENZO IN CONVERSATION WITH ELISA OHTAKE
Could you talk about your practice with no excuses?
I operate in a field that blurs the boundaries between theatre, performance, art and dance. I work in a way that proposes structural cross-fertilization. My upcoming performance debuts in a few months time and is called A PIECE FOR ADULTS MADE BY CHILDREN, a work of contemporary theatre that endeavours to check the worn, hackneyed notion of what it is to be human. As the title says, it is a work for adults performed by children, more specifically by five 10-year-olds. Theatre as a mirror of reality doesn’t interest me at all. My aim is to reveal fringe realities, other forms, actualities associated with greater freedom. I’m interested in hazing the frontiers between opposing concepts so that complexities can be brought to bear, rather than simplifying them in any way or form. I’m not concerned with telling stories, rather with broadening the perceptions and desires of the audiences and the performers who work with me. Most of the time I begin a play by focusing on the ambience, a plane of immanence, an atmosphere in which the artist will circulate, and to do that I usually adopt anti-spectacle structures that eschew the Italian stage. I recently radicalized this idea by turning my own apartment into an installation: I bought ten cans of spray paint and asked the kids in my piece to graffiti the whole apartment as they saw fit—kitchen, bathroom, sitting-room, bedrooms, the lot. MD
Why do you insist in making theatre, an art form that is, supposedly, dying?
In intolerant times like ours it is important to remember that theatre is about wanting to understand the other. Theatre is about intuiting that all existence is an art of existing, an immanent creation, an aesthetic. Many may sneer and say that theatre is dying. However, as I see it, there’s a wonderful contradiction in that: theatre is a moribund art that never dies, and that’s exactly where its brilliance resides. Contemporary theatre is a wounded beast that shines among the heaped rubble of itself. Though few in number, today we can still see highly potent and destabilizing works of theatre. They are thin on the ground, that’s true, but more alive than life itself, more vivid than all the other arts, because they work with the raw material of being in the world: amplified, turbocharged lived life. I’d go so far as to wager that theatre will never die. After all, its heyday lasted more than twenty centuries, until the arrival of TV and the internet. We’re still in the prehistory of the virtual world, but in a not-so-distant future, just as all paradigms march to their own saturation point, routes of escape will be needed, and in that need theatre may well find a new sort of apogee, a precious one, not in terms of quantity, but certainly of gems. However, for that to happen, theatre must be ever-conscious of its own singularity, that is, it must avoid televisionary, virtualistic clichés and delve into the unpredictable adventure of the world, into the radical matter of the here and now, into lived life amplified by theatre itself. I Scenes from the making of the graffiti on the director’s house. The ensemble: Davi Hamer, Felipe Bisetto, Michel Felberg, Victoria Reich, Joana Arantes.
EXPERIMENT ON THE GROUND
GIADA MARSON AND LORENZO MONNINI
We’re inside the room. Looking around, we decide to remove the walls. Starting from the top, and a bit struggling, we manage to pile the blocks one above the other in the centre of the room. After experimenting with different arrangements, we settle for alternating solid and void spaces, because it allows us to see what’s in front of us — and what’s behind it. Hey. Are you there? I’m in a room, it’s quite big, I can’t tell if the floor is rectangular or square. Right in the centre of the room there’s a wall that divides it in two halves. I’m sitting against the wall, assuming that the other side looks the same. The outer walls are made of wood covered by a thick layer of white paint. The plugs have been painted so many times that have almost lost their original shape and the edges are kind of blurred. Someone has cut off part of one of the walls, revealing the wooden structure that supports it. Behind the structure, a second wall with a large window is visible. The floor is protected with cardboard and covered with a collection of different stains, dust, sand, small pieces of masking tape, a couple of chairs, some plastic. There is not much more, but the space doesn’t feel empty. The appearance of the room as a pristine environment is betrayed by the details that reveal its multiple histories. All the transient narratives that have inhabited it keep seeping back through the slightly incoherent surfaces: as if the previous users of this space, by trying to erase their traces, only made their presence more apparent. We walk through a barren landscape, barefoot. We stop when it feels right to do so. We look down towards the ground — it’s warm under the left foot, and cold under the right one. There are a couple of shovels nearby — we start digging. I’m a bit tired now. Do you feel like talking? I’m sitting in a room, at my desk. I’m not wearing shoes, just socks, and my feet are resting on the floor. I feel connected to its surface, it’s another stratified object, just like your walls. Is there cement somewhere under my feet? An armature? If I followed this floor down the stairs, tracing an invisible path, into a corridor, I’d be in front of the threshold: outside, the floor turns into ground. It changes aspect, consistency, it changes status: from private to public. Private property seems to be a very horizontal concept. I look down, layers of history are buried here, flattened and compressed, traversed by pipes that carry electricity, water, gas, sewage, information and capital. Is this how culture works too? As a sort of stratified physical memory, that flattens and amalgamates with age? Modernity, in the form of the pipes, intrudes this venerable process, erodes its integrity, as it demands a previously not-inscribed surface in order to be fully satisfied. In a way, that
GIADA MARSON AND LORENZO MONNINI
could be its grandest mistake; its conception of the ground as a neutral environment, as a blank surface — the cause of its ideological breakdown. The ground is always dirty, never clean. You have to account for that. An enormous clear pipe travels from one end of the horizon to the other: it is impossible to distinguish both its origin and its destination. On the inside, sections of buildings and huge rocks roll loudly. Sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt you. Should I carry on? I’m on a mezzanine, In the middle of a vast building. I direct my gaze upwards. The lights are on, and the dark, glossy rectangular skylights, running for the whole length of the nave, are the only elements that break through the stark white roof panels. On these same skylights, the image of the activities that take place on the ground is projected, reversed and transformed, mirrored and darkened. The subversive illusory space is populated by a few people, the inhabitants of this reflection, effortlessly moving across the corridors and partitioned spaces. What for them is the ground, to me looks like a magnetically charged ceiling. Their world looks fragile, suspended, about to collapse: I fear all those tables, chairs and tools hanging above my head. None of the figures seems to be bothered however, their relative perception of gravity unchallenged, acting as a comparative tool for the understanding of their own position and spatiality. So the ground is what provides us with a sense of direction, it determines our own orientation towards the world around us: a multifaceted visual ensemble of signs which forms a complex inventory through the accumulation of traces and deposits. To set ourselves against something solid enables us to know where we are — and to know where we are enables us to decide where to go next. It’s getting cold — I think I’m heading back okay?
IF IT LOOKS LIKE A BOT, AND TALKS LIKE A HUMANâ€¦ OK GOOGLE, TURN ON [INSERT ANY DEVICE CAPABLE OF RAMPAGE]
ANNE DE BOER
ANNE DE BOER
EXPLORING THE RISE AND ROLE OF INTELLIGENT PERSONAL ASSISTANTS IN ONE’S HOME. Hi Alexa, are you there? …
Oh, hi… sorry I must have fallen asleep… I prepared some tea while you were away, it is probably still warm … Actually it is still warm, with a temperature of 57.8 degrees Celsius it should be perfect to drink. I ordered your groceries for this week, they should arrive any minute now. Just sit down, relax, I’ll turn on your favorite series and take care of the rest! … This is a slightly futuristic version of Alexa, one of the latest ‘intelligent personal assistants’ (IPA) entering our households. Following up from Apple’s Siri and Windows’ Cortana, Amazon and other companies have started developing artificial assistants of their own. These latest versions take a step away from being embedded into phones and laptops and instead work as standalone devices — as an individual servant. In addition to this central intelligence, regular household devices are being equipped with sensors and switches that can be controlled wirelessly in ‘smart’ ways. Under the term ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), inanimate things are capable of communicating and receiving information on tasks to perform or adjustments to make. As assistants, these devices are designed to adapt to our preferences and obey orders given by their owners. However, current models of IPAs seem somewhat incapable of recognizing their actual owners, instead responding to any command it hears. In the recent past we have seen several IPAs reacting to commands heard through TV-commercials, resulting in random acts happening in a TV’s proximity. For example, Alexa responding to an Amazon Echo commercial in which an actor asked to “Play my holiday playlist”- which Amazon Echo did: “Ours lit up and started playing Christmas music. We just laughed,
told it to stop (we’re not fans of Christmas music)1.” Similar cases have happened to Xbox2 and Google Home, with the latter responding to a Google advertisement for the 2017 Super Bowl3. Imagine an enormous army of Google Home devices simultaneously activating throughout the US, and starting to turn on lights or tune up the music. While these reactions are currently somewhat funny and clumsy, there is a real frightening4 aspect to the amount of direct (and perhaps destructive) control one can have within a household. “OK Google, turn on [insert any device capable of rampage]”. Whether these devices will be capable of causing catastrophe is very much dependent on how they will be programmed, and whether that program would follow along the lines of Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”: — A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. — A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. — A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws5. With the rise of these devices, new characters enter our household as negotiators and translators between
IF IT LOOKS LIKE A BOT, AND TALKS LIKE A HUMAN…
us, human, and the devices it can connect to. Although IPAs do not physically look like humans, they simulate the same characteristics through, for example, an often-female human voice. If we look at other forms of AI and consider online bots, we see intelligence emerging that escapes
the servant role. In 2016, online bots were responsible for 51.8% of the Internet, making them the most dominant internet user and meaning that the content we post is watched increasingly by non-human entities. Not only are they an audience, more and more bots contribute content produced by themselves6.
The table above originates from a research article on bots fighting each other. According to the article, from 2001— 2010, Wikipedia bots have been involved in “sterile fights” continuously editing and undoing each other’s edit. These fights could sometimes last for years7. Whether these bots have emotions, create meaning, or what an AI society might look like, remains unknown. We can, however, attempt a negotiation and translation that does not measure against a human scale, or force Human Intelligence on any AI. If we want to engage in a conversation with other forms of intelligence, we should consider dialogues even if they do not meet up to our standard. We can already see fragments of bots and AIs starting to perform by and for themselves, with or without human-produced content.
2 www.bbc.co.uk/news/ technology-27827545 3 www.techradar.com/news/super-bowlad-triggers-viewers-google-home-devices 4 Not surprisingly Amazon owns a company called Alexa that specializes in marketing analysis, allowing you to: “Find, Reach, and Convert Your Audience with Marketing That Works.” www.alexa.com 5 Asimov, Isaac (1950). I, Robot 6 A good example of ‘benevolent bots’ that ‘generate content’ and ‘emulate humans’ would be the twitter bots of Allison Parrish: www.twitter.com/aparrish/lists/my-bots 7 Even good bots fight: The case of Wikipedia, Milena Tsvetkova, Ruth GarciaGavilanes, Luciano Floridi, TahaYasseri. February 23, 2017. www.journals.plos.org/ plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal. pone.0171774&type=printable
1 www.motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/ I ECKSENIS during Something people-are-complaining-that-amazon-echo- in the Distance is-responding-to-ads-on-tv II www.journals.plos.org/plosone/ article/file?id=10.1371/journal. pone.0171774&type=printable
REFLECTIONS ON ART IN THE AGE OF MACHINE LEARNING
WHY NEW TECHNOLOGIES TEND TO IMITATE NATURE AND HOW ART CAN HELP US COPE WITH FEARS OF THE UNKNOWN
Among the many narratives of the Technological Singularity, the one theorising the endangerment of human life consequent to the rise of machine consciousness has gained immense popularity. According to it, the development of artificial intelligence will reach a point where machines are conscious and can pursue their own ends that will inevitably clash with those of humans, causing a struggle in which humans will inevitably succumb. Cinema has often represented this dystopian scenario set in the future. From the supercomputer Hal 9000 in 2001 Space Odyssey, who attempts to terminate the crew after concluding that humans threaten the fulfilment of his programmed task; to the intelligent machines of The Matrix, which exploit humans as sources of bioelectrical power; to Ava, the cyborg in Ex Machina, who disguises herself as an attractive woman, seduces the engineer that is testing her intellectual abilities and kills him in order to gain freedom. Apparently, to liberate herself from the control of humans, a cyborg does not find any better solution than playing the well-worn role of the ruthless femme fatale. It is quite evident that the popular imaginary is still unable to represent a form of advanced intelligence that is not in the image of the human one. This follows the western trend to anthropomorphise the unknown. “What was once attributed to the obscure and infinite night” — argues philosopher Matteo Pasquinelli — “is now projected onto the abstract abyss of computation, data centres, and machine learning” 1.Besides, the history of technology shows that in its early stages, before new inventions started developing their own set of engineering principles, new technologies tended to take shape by imitating either nature or previous technologies. It took decades before cars stopped looking like carriages without horses and centuries
before airplanes replaced clumsy flying machines with flapping wings. Similarly, artificial intelligence has been moulded by imitating the human brain. Despite AI having already developed its own way of cognition different from that of humans, the popular imaginary still struggles with representing its own specificity. The reason is quite obvious: western culture has been shaped for millennia around a hierarchical order that has had the rational subject — embodied by the white adult man — on top. The significance attributed to this subject has increasingly grown through the Enlightenment to the point where it became the necessary condition for the existence of reality itself. Remarkably, for the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the world was divided between I and non-I. His student Friedrich Hegel pushed things even further: reality is the result of the selfactualising mind. In short, there is no reality without a rational subject. In such contest, it is obviously hard to accept the emergence of non-human intelligence. Further, Reason has always been the tool through which western culture approached the unknown. It has in fact usually been metaphorically associated with Light, as Reason is meant to ‘enlighten’ the unknown and turn it into an object to be measured, analysed and understood by the subject. However, this becomes an impossible task when the unknown object is another form of subjectivity, which cannot be known by reducing it to a clear finite set of elements to measure, analyse and understand, as it is in a constant process of becoming and evolving in unforeseeable ways. Conscious or not, AI already affects many aspects of our lives. If we want to avoid being overwhelmed by it, we must find a way to deal with it that is not based on intellectual understanding: a space that does not have fixed structures and can comprise the
unpredictability of the unknown, in which different forms of subjectivity can coexist and affect each other, without one being reduced to the form of the other. The aesthetic is the dimension in which such space can be created “Being a field of affects that precedes the subject and gives rise to it”2 , the aesthetic inextricably links it with its surrounding environment. Yet, the progress of western civilisation has
dismissed the aesthetic as irrational and its removal has caused the power trip of the subject. Setting itself up as omnipotent, the subject becomes blind and paranoiac. Anything that escapes its understanding and emerges as an alternative to itself is depicted as a danger that can cause catastrophes.
In the last pages of Aesthetic Theory, Theodor W. Adorno identifies what he calls the “aesthetic comportment” at the origin of art. This is a way of establishing a relation with the other through mimesis, i.e., becoming like the other. Even though the latter is not understood and remains unknown, the aesthetic comportment creates erotic connections amongst subjects that mutually affect each other. The aesthetic comportment, Adorno writes, is “the capacity to shudder” when touched by the other, “as if goose bumps were the first aesthetic image”. Art in fact liberates the subject from the fear of those shudders — it “joins eros and knowledge”. Art dissolves the fear and paranoia of the subject towards the other. Art openly faces the unknown and moves into it with the same audacity of the explorer that ventures in unexplored lands without maps, looking
for things that no one have never seen before. Art does not explain the unknown, but it allows it to be experienced. By doing so, art shakes the subject, reviewing its position and liberating it from the obligation to be unique, which can finally reconjoin with what is different from itself. Hence, only art can turn the fear of the rise of artificial intelligence into a principle of emancipation. 1 www.eflux.com/journal/75/67133/ abnormal-encephalization-in-the-age-ofmachine-learning/ 2 www.nytimes.com/books/99/10/24/ reviews/991024.24calvint.html I Natalia Trejbalova, 4scifi (video still), 2016 Courtesy Natalia Trejbalova II Natalia Trejbalova, 4scifi (video still), 2016 Courtesy Natalia Trejbalova
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN
Sensorium Emporium ICA marketplace 27. 07. 17, ICA Lower Gallery
This reflective piece will focus on the feedback and practices of the various people who have traversed the gap during the ICA marketplace’s Sensorium Emporium. This formed just one of the ‘market stalls’ during ICA Marketplace which was conceived as a response to the programme In formation. Sensorium Emporium was an attempt to capture aspects, modes of thoughts, feelings and experiences on the event which can often slip through the cracks. It sought occupation of a space which could give power and amplify voices regardless of background or specialism. This ethos facilitated articulated output which was strongly discursive in nature and consisting of writing, narration, mark making and smoothie blots along with a broadcast from Sensorium Emporium FM of the varying thoughts, feelings and experiences within the space and views on the exchange and ‘trade’ of memories taking the voices and experiences beyond the walls of the ICA. The aim being to zone in on intersections and overlaps which bind us all together, as well as commonality through the complexity and messiness of human interactions and experiences; collectively occupying a space ‘somewhere in between’. Memories and feelings became valuable during the event, a token of sorts — facilitating the ‘trading’, and/or sharing one feeling or perspective for another — this being someone else’s memory, emotion or viewpoint. This lead to further ‘transactions’ conversations and the
exploration of the textures of the Marketplace experience with varied contributors from differing fields and backgrounds such as curators, practitioners, carers, librarians and more. There were debates which explored lenses and ways of sensing and seeing the space, collective currency, value, each person adding their voice and their value on both the personal and sometimes professional level to an intersectional blending and sharing of unique and personal approaches to the event, the space and their lives beyond it. The empathy expressed and received during contributions evoked further contributions which shaped Sensorium Emporium not only into an intersectional space but more importantly a safe space where every contribution had value. A contributor (Jane) remarked that “Our voices as a chorus are greater than the sum of our individual voice”. The personal viewpoints, interactions and collective mark making made the dynamics for Sensorium Emporium memorable, interesting and above all valuable enabling the exploration to go beyond binary notions and muted observations of the Marketplace held in the lower gallery and wider the building.
I Image by Chiara Dalla Rosa II Image by Natasha Trotman
2,000 HRS OF (NON)-PLACES
CRISTINA VASILESCU & HÃ…KON LILLEGRAVEN
CHRISTINA VASILESCU & HÅKON LILLEGRAVEN
During the ICA Student Forum’s Public Market Place on July 23rd, two-year participants in the Student Forum Cristina Vasilescu and Håkon Lillegraven designed a tour of the ICA aiming to present the institution as a functioning and historically layered body. In this text they exchange a series of notes and afterthoughts on the strategies and potential of addressing the white cube as a (non)-place to facilitate a new relationship between visitors and the arts institution. HL
Hey Cristina, it’s Friday so forgive me this tangent but I just had a thought to break the ice. Can you imagine a situation comedy playing out in a white cube? No? Not me either, although most situations which arise between strangers in galleries, spaces mediated and defined by the sanctimonious objects and rituals of interpretation between them are filled with the potential for divine comedy. Situation comedy aligns with supermodernity in that it’s main point of reference is it’s own easily reproducible form, reliant on a suspension of disbelief and yet a mediation of cultural specificity which through its own recognisable cues transcends borders and creates a globally recognisable cultural format. The reason situation comedy as a series of provocations and reactions doesn’t appear in a white cube is not because the white cube or institution inherently rejects humour or self-awareness, it is because situation comedy is site-specific and relies on the easily extrapolated meaning of its context and premise presented through visual cues for the viewer. The situation comedy exists in a place - a bar, an apartment, a cityscape and a series of tropes designed to be so recurring and recognisable that the viewer accepts them as a plausible venue for these interactions to occur. The white cube as a non-place typically resists the facilitation of these domestic tropes, and therefore no one laughs in a white cube unless the institution or artwork explicitly gives them permission to do so. Anyways, that’s a bit of a tangent. I’m curious to know what prior experiences of the ICA and galleries in general led you to the idea for ‘Exercising the public?’ I must have spent over two thousand hours as a gallery assistant in the ICA’s gallery spaces. There have been million seconds of thinking, rethinking, over-thinking, imagining, walking, measuring, physicality, invisibility, mediation, questioning, and so much more. The beauty and uneasiness of spending that much time in a gallery space are inevitable. The number of people that cross your eyes are hardly to be filtered and erased from your mind. The works and spaces themselves elevate to the level of estrangement. The gallery floors alongside the corridors become kind of airstrips. The works start to melt into air. Paradoxically, movements become actions of inertia and inflexibility. The threshold between white cubes and airports becomes extremely fine and dizzy. As much as the white cube wishes to extract you from the reality, it’s ‘white, clean, artificial’ aesthetic comes as a strident contrast. Why is there ever the need of the white cube to erode the dimensions of time, reality and architectural layers through an ultimate clinical aesthetic? The transition from a white cube to a non-place is imminent. And yet, what else rather than a non-place could a white gallery space become? What are you becoming? CV
2,000 HRS OF (NON)-PLACES
So I’ve spent what must be hundreds of hours in the ICA as a visitor since I moved to London three years ago, and as a member of the student forum in the past two years I’ve had the great fortune to have crept ever so slightly under its skin. Yet walking into the ICA during its In formation programme I was for the first time in years struck with a sudden insecurity or loss of direction due to the appearance of the lower gallery and bookshop. Gone was the tall white ticket desk, the carefully curated bookshelves and white cube filled with art objects or video. Instead, employees sat behind open desks with protruding wires. It seemed to be as awkward, if not more, for them as it was for me. A much rehearsed set of mannerisms in our transactions suddenly were dissolved and replaced by a slight comedy of manners. The bookshelves has been replaced by steel beams suspending a selection of books and zines in the middle of the space, and most strikingly, the lower art gallery was empty, and it’s roof and walls stripped off their somehow both matte and glossy white gleam, industrial steel wire holders and layers of paint exposed and suspended in situ above and around me. I felt quite moved by this, imagining that I was looking at bits of wall that hadn’t been seen for decades, possible the 60’s when the lower galleries where last completely refurbished if I remember correctly. The signifiers of movement I had acclimated to and the objects and displays which I could move in relation to were gone, and in the space I felt exposed, my eyes uneasily darting from non-object to non-performer to non-object again. It brought to mind the ICA’s historical origins which for me are imprinted as the images of Joseph Beuys giving a series of blackboard lectures in the lower galleries (Art Into Society, Society Into Art, ICA, 1974), with visitors congregating on the floor and this later to be mammoth of postmodern art wandering around amongst them. I think this form of congregation, but up to date with the modern understanding of participation, the educational function of art institutions, curation as a collective artform in itself, and of course the time- and site-specific appearance of the ICA during ‘In formation’ was what interested me about the opportunity presented to us. CV
According to anthropologist Marc Auge, the supermodernity (the present tense time) carries the semblance and diffusion of more and more non-places. Ubiquitous non-placeness. What Auge means by non-places is the pure functionality that ‘mediates a whole mass of relations, with the self and with others, which are only indirectly connected with their purposes’, like highways, airports, supermarkets or why not, white cubes. Compared to anthropological places that organically create the social, the non-places create ‘solitary contractuality’. Back to back to this assertion, O’Doherty identifies the white cube as ‘a ghetto space, a survival compound, a set of conditions, a place deprived of location, a reflex to the bald curtain wall […], maybe a mistake.’ The ICA spaces have been through a plethora of transitions since the institution’s inception and would most likely continue to change behind its untouchable Greek temple type facade. Its immaculate white walls had been stripped off with the desire to gain more space and possibly unveil parts of the building imbued with hidden histories. Purposefully or not, the gesture in opening up a gallery space indicates not only a level of vulnerability, but also a certain set of questions. It was interesting to see the visitors’, sometimes acid, reactions to the apparent emptiness of the gallery spaces at the ICA. One is not used to face that emptiness against the expectation of a more tangible gallery display. HL
That’s a really interesting thought… And I think this sense sense of placeness or at least anti-placelessness was where ‘Exercising the public’ and ‘Public Marketplace’ wanted to transport its visitors. Met by a smoothie-making stand, a living room without walls, a construction site, a therapeutical market stall, a performance which moved up its walls threatening to leave the building and a choir stand, ‘Public Marketplace’ inserted elements of domestic, therapeutic, humourous and social activities into the ICA’s lower galleries. If I think about e.g. the act of peeling an orange with your fingers, in your own home, it’s an image of total relaxation and leisure, but when imagining doing the exact same gesture
CHRISTINA VASILESCU & HÅKON LILLEGRAVEN
in a gallery space I become uncomfortable and wonder what people will think I mean by it. What does the orange signify? Am I peeling it correctly? Am I allowed to lick the juice off my fingertips or does that complicate the gesture? My point is, gallery spaces inherently recontexualise and change the meaning of everyday gestures and objects, but rarely do everyday gestures and objects get to recontextualise and redefine the gallery space. The domestic and humourous is often exorcised from institutional spaces because they threaten the sanctity of the art object and the institutional gestures which have situated them there, and the act of regarding the art object, and in effect the institution and your movement in relation to it. So instead of art objects and the signifiers and codifications they carry with them, the lower gallery presented itself as a stage in which the only forms present were the people in it and the signifiers they brought with them. Suddenly the lower gallery itself - people looking bewildered or serene, people searching the walls for clues as to what was to occur, or reading calmly unbothered by the potential of any spectacle, became a kind of performance, a theatre of precarity, in which an array of signifiers could be activated and electrified when live programming occurred. Emotions of exhaustion, void, solitary imagination were replaced by public imagination, activation and colloquial conversation.
Yes. However, the open surgery of a gallery space does not ensure its immediate transition from a non-place to a place, shifting from the consumption of the art objects to the production of a slow participatory process that enables agency and collective co-habitation. The present reality faces us with the intertwining and overlapping between places and non-places, where an ideal scenario lacks the existence of hierarchies. The importance of finding the balance between the anthropological place and the non-place in the context of art spaces is essential. What ‘Exercising the public’ proposed, and the ICA In formation at large, was an exploration into the potentialities of placeness inside an art institution by looking at the nothingness of the exhibition spaces as possibilities for encounters and multiple perspectives to coexist, discuss and doubt together. Yet is this sporadic attempt of co-existence strong and critical enough to be able to transform art spaces from their transitory non-placeness to meaningful placeness? What else is there to be done? To collectively build something from a stack of wood in the gallery space, we found it essential to organise the tour first, to go through the body of the ICA with a bunch of visitors, to expose its spine, veins, and its working systems with the attempt to scratch the surface of an art institution. Stepping outside the visible materialism within which we are often embodied and embedded in gallery spaces, these processes of collective commoning and participation represent a step forward of gallery spaces transitioning from non-places to places, to places of public ownership, be it even symbolically or a longer term commitment. HL
Yes, I agree. And I think that it worked. I think that our hope was that by openly dissecting the body of the institution participants would feel inclined to insert themselves into the activities offered by the Public Marketplace with more agency, not just engage with what it was presenting on its skin surface. That they wouldn’t be bound to its surface form. Through Exercising the public, we in a way sought to redefine the institution, if only if for a day, by exposing it as a functional body, as a place, where people had resided, and where people predominantly executed regular activities such as eating, drinking, socialising, playing
2,000 HRS OF (NON)-PLACES
and conversing. We aimed to create a space where people did not need to repress laughter at the absurdity of certain interactions and where they could comfortably peel an orange. But to do so one must always begin with the building, the institution, the body. If a body presents itself as only surface, then the attempt to unveil its potential layers fades away. I ICA Tour, installation view. Courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo Chiara dalla Rosa II Exercising the Public, installation view. Courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Art. Photo Chiara dalla Rosa
AN INTERVIEW WITH AMI CLARK Banner Repeater is a reading room with a library of Artists’ Books and experimental project space/gallery, with a small bookstore on a train platform in Hackney, London. The material in the library is being developed into an online archive: BookBlast. The arts programme includes exhibitions with newly commissioned works, group exhibitions, and open call outs, with lectures to open up key ideas in art for further discussion. The relationship to the early network of distribution of the railways is central to how Banner Repeater operates, in a busy thoroughfare of passing traffic of over 4,000 passengers a day. It opens at 8am – 11am to take advantage of the packed platform to distribute artists publishing for free, six days a week into a main artery of the city of London. It was founded by Ami Clarke in 2010. Ami Clarke is an artist whose practice is informed by and investigates the increasingly performative conditions of code and language in hyper-networked culture. Ideas that come of publishing, distribution and dissemination that lead to a critical analysis of post-digital production are shared in her practice as an artist and inform the working remit of Banner Repeater. AJ AC
How did your process as a working artist lead you to opening your art space Banner Repeater on Hackney Downs train station, platform 1?
I began life as a sculptor, video maker and writer, whilst also working for architects for a time, well before running Banner Repeater (BR), and it makes sense to me to see it in terms of how we might think of a technical object, sited within the ebb and flow of the commuting public, enmeshed within the public transport networks. Banner Repeater provides a site, rich in a historical sense, as well as providing an opportunity to reflect on more recent technologies, in relation to writing, publishing, and of course distribution networks. There’s been a tendency towards work throughout the arts programme that speaks of this human enmeshment with technology, as multi-media assemblages, that is often explored through a very expanded idea of publishing, that I’ve come to call Publishing as Process. Drawing on ideas in the field of network culture, and publishing, it focuses on how important precedents such as ideas of authorship, intellectual property, and copyright, inform the constitution of a reading public, and a subject that emerges through market relations.1 These ideas have recently reached a very interesting point of convergence through what it might mean to publish through the blockchain. AJ
How do you choose the artists you work with in your program?
There’s a variety of ways that we support artists, most often to develop new works, but also supporting artists and curators to realise their ideas without further collaboration. They all tend to come about through conversations, so it is quite an organic way of working. At times, we will approach someone with a specific work in mind, such as asking Jacolby Satterwhite to exhibit his video Reifying Desire 3. It’s also great to be able to ask artists to respond directly to the site and items in the archive, and often we end up working with people who’s practice is particularly open to thinking through network culture. The ideas behind Publishing as Process, that take their cue from historical precedents in publishing are really pertinent to how we work as artists today. Many of the works we’ve supported have explored recent shifts in art production, both textual and visual, that tend to make visible the changing conditions in our co-evolution with technology. AJ
How is your space funded?
Banner Repeater was set up initially with an award from Arts in Empty Spaces, a local government scheme in 2009. We’re run for the most part, voluntarily, but fundraise towards maintaining good working practice with regards paying artists, writers, speakers, performers, technicians, and when possible, project management fees. We fundraise in a variety of ways, receiving support from Arts Council England with four funding grants from 2010—16, as well as The British Council, the Elephant Trust, the Goethe Institut London, The Bryan Guinness Trust, and we were fortunate to win the Chelsea Arts Club trust artist led space award. All of these funding streams are dedicated to supporting the commissioning of new works, and exhibitions from artists, writers and cultural producers. We have specially commissioned a print portfolio of artists’ works ranging from Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost, as well as local practicing artists, to raise funds throughout the year. We hold a bi-annual fundraiser, where some of our prints as well as other prizes are raffled to raise funds for the arts programme. We are very fortunate to have two annual benefactors on an on-going basis. AJ
How do you define your relationship with archiving? How do you see the process of creating an archive relate to the process of a curator?
The library provides an important bibliographic resource that all visitors to BR can browse, alongside a digital archive of Artists’ Publishing in development. Both of these projects have a desire to share the amazing material that we hold here, to make it available as a resource. We have many students visiting the archived material. At another level, and on a daily basis, it’s really rare that you get such a captive audience as those passengers waiting for a train so keen to browse the books. We’ve also found that people are hungry for something else to read, such as the free material we distribute, rather than the rather right wing free newspapers littering the railways, these days — some of which are published by the same people that fund the Daily Mail, lets not forget. When we began BR back in 2009/10 there was a lot less awareness of how online protocols were affecting people’s everyday lives, and I wanted to develop an easy way of thinking through these complexities via something accessible such as the history of publishing. Network culture is incredibly complex, and the way it affects our lives is difficult to discern, but has recently been seen to contribute to what has been called a ‘post-truth’ state of politics. The capacity to analyse news productions distributed primarily through social media, with clickbait headlines getting the most hits, feeds back into the kinds of news produced, and we can begin to see certain new behaviours emerging that directly challenge ideas of democracy. It’s pertinent to remember that these ideas were practically considered conspiracy theory, prior to 9 months ago, until the Brexit and Trump presidential campaigns. The archive also often creeps into the exhibition space and there’s always been a strong symbiosis between these two rooms. Most recently, the exhibition A Throw Of The Dice Will Never Abolish Chance drew on Stephane Mallarmé’s poem of the same name, as a speculative site where several books appeared as material articulations. Unusually, a book of mine appeared in this, titled Ami Clarke, Author of the Blank Swan (2016) and the book Elaine Sturtevant: Author of the Quixote (2009) acted as two parts of the speculative puzzle. Yuri Pattison’s work also placed Phillip Zimmerman’s ‘Pretty Good Privacy’ book in two new custom server case works, drawing on his Banner Repeater Un-Publish commission in 2015. This exhibition acted as a site for two open workshops, where we invited some amazing speakers: Tom Clark, Paul Purgas, Alessandro Ludovico, Karen Di Franco, Ruth Catlow, Ben Vickers, Tom Pearson, and Malavika Rajnarayan, Prayas Abhinav and Satya Gummuluri of surfatial, where ideas of publishing as process framed further discussion on Thinking through the Blockchain and what it might mean to publish, and write through the block. The audio from these is captured in another stage of the puzzle at www.x-fx.org. AJ
What have been some of the difficulties experienced in digitizing an analog (materials) archive?
The complexity of our archive is extraordinary. The simple exercise of making items available to search criteria obviously requires some form of data management. The problem with artists’ books is that because they are so very varied, it is a nuanced and sophisticated task to develop a correct and apt categorisation that is also user friendly. The reductive process of data production is really not very useful in this instance, because it simply doesn’t help explain things better. It’s vital to maintain a level of complexity, but it’s actually how you access that information which I think is most interesting, and blockchain starts to think through these ideas, drawing on previous kinds of archival practices. AC
How do you think the representation of people in an archive affects the historical narrative which is created later?
This is a good question. As we are well aware, through feminist, queer and critical racial studies, that a prevalence of white male heteronormativity in many of the narratives that dominate US and European histories. Who writes the history, and who is included in archival projects, matters, when these go on to inform future writers. The archive has developed primarily through donated material and we’ve introduced material through residencies in places such as Mexico city and Johannesburg, as well as hosting a display of Polish artists’ Books that were kindly donated to the archive, too. There is still much work to be done on improving this. The digital archive is very much about bridging some of the more obvious geographical distances that might exist between, say, Aeromoto in Mexico City, and the archive here. I spent many years trying to develop a project with Hackney Libraries that became the Activating the Archive project at Hackney Archives, with a borough wide call out for artists’ publishing in Hackney. It was an attempt to bridge a gap between the library going public in the area, and the artist book producers in the borough. It became a fantastic exhibition some of what was happening in Hackney, with an article in Hackney Gazette on publishing as an art form, which has got to be a first. Hackney Archives kept some of those publications that had been produced in Hackney for their collection, which I very much liked the idea of as this would then inform the historical reading of Hackney in the future. AJ AC
What do you think are the social and political effects of creating an archive that is accessible to the public, online or otherwise?
The digital archive is clearly invested in these ideas a great deal. I think it’s of utmost importance that we take these projects upon ourselves; rather than letting Google or whoever else, take them up. There’s a clear case of a conflict of interest in something like the Google Book project that tried to get everyone to send Google scans of all the worlds books. In various ways, some to do with copyright, it became clear that Google as a for-profit company, was possibly not the best gatekeeper of the entire worlds books collection. Ben Lewis’s video Google and the World Brain summarises some of the concerns that arose, very well. The digital archive, BookBlast has been seeded through cataloguing the material in the library since we opened back in 2010. The aim has been to generate an interactive user-driven database that constitutes a working research model: a catalogue and analysis of historical and contemporary artists publishing. We’ve chosen the principle of a wiki style approach with a user/editor interface applied to the idea of an archive. What this means is that the project introduces the possibility for users and producers to create their own metadata: crucial information, structuring a new model
in retrieving information, to further understand, disseminate and share through the database. Through an emphasis on including anecdotal accounts as well as specialised information, cross-referenced and co-edited by users, we hope to provide a refined as well as contributive learning experience from many voices and histories. The project is on-going. Originally published in Temporary Art Review, 2017 1 I
N Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 1999 Banner Repeater Public Archive, image by Ami Clark
INTERVIEW WITH HÅKON TRAASETH LILLEGRAVEN Rehearsal Dinner was the degree show presentation by BA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins June 20–25th 2017. The show presented itself as a performative framework staged as a series of communal meals intended to facilitate a collective testing of curatorial ideas and methodologies. Rehearsal Dinner sought to challenge the degree show forma and curation’s place within it by proposing a format which could or could not lead to a ‘display’. In this excerpt from the zine project ‘Semaphoreism’, Hugo Lucien talks to recent participating curator Håkon Lillegraven about the origins and execution of the show. HL
Firstly, congratulations on the show. Of course, one of the most interesting challenges of presenting the show is existing in a space between the practical and theoretical, did you draw upon inspirations or references by other creatives and communicators?
Thank you! I think that a decisive point of departure was that the process of planning the show itself happened in the space where it would ultimately materialise. This immediately opened up the idea of it as a ‘rehearsal’ space, in which we were visible and implicated as curators and opened up the possibility of us doing so in a performative modality. Secondly, and interrelated to the first observation, was that the space, which consists of two transparent glass walls at the front of the CSM building situated us - in contrast to a closed studio space - as highly visible and inherently relational. These two observations led us initially to look at relational aesthetics and artists who work with so-called “democratic” materials such as glass and wood, and with aesthetic strategies, which ‘dramatise’ or ‘activise’ objects, themselves, and/or visitors in an art space. So we looked at artistic practices ranging from Rikrit Tirivanija and Liam Gillick to Elmgreen & Dragset, and had a lot of discussions about the strategies these artists employed from dramaturgy and theatre versus those from visual arts and more conceptual practice. The concept of an ‘embassy’ was an early reference, and the architectural signifiers and uses of such spaces were an early inspiration, especially with our 52 individual experiences of the effects of multi-nationalism, soft and hard power structures and institutions on our lives. But the embassy as a space itself eventually fragmented into smaller, more tangible ideas – such as how we scrutinize our identities through the guidelines of passport photos, the significance of translation, and more. From these fragments, our two main strands of research emerged as language and architecture, and looking at artists like Liam Gillick who works very much with aesthetic appropriation of existing structures such as kiosks and canopies, and Cally Spooner who works with scripts and theatrical strategies in her installation works. Cally actually came to do a couple of sessions with us as soon as it was clear, which direction we were headed, and she really inspired us to go all out in the gesture of embracing our role as curators in the space. HL
Rehearsal Dinner can be seen as presenting dialogue around itself as essential as opposed to supplementary. As such it had for the moments I observed, an autonomy. Do you see a place or even a need for this within arts universities/colleges?
I think yes, at least for us as curation students, and for other students to be able to explore that aspect of their practice. I think that especially being a course wherein we as students do not have individual studio spaces, the degree show pointed to the potential of a shared ‘rehears-
al’ space, wherein ideas can be tested and discussed without the looming pressures of assessment or a ‘show’. Aesthetically, I only noticed recently, but the C202 space when stripped down very much resembles Michael Landy’s ‘Art Bin’, which showed at the South London Gallery in 2010, a large glass container, which invited the public to dispose of artworks they owned or made, which in the end was supposed to be “a monument to creative failure”. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to approach a space like C202 a bit more like that as a course, a curatorial laboratory where the risk of failure or non-productivity is permitted, in full view, albeit with a more pedagogical aspect. I’d also add that the point where an inspired coherency started to form out of the practical, aesthetic, and theoretic references we had accumulated through our group discussions was when Claire Bishop’s essay ‘Relational Aesthetics and Antagonism’ was brought to the table. I think we all were very motivated by her critique of relational aesthetics and it’ positing that ‘all art that permits dialogue is democratic and therefore inherently good’ (paraphrase). I think this phrase, which Bishop ‘turns against’ its author and original meaning, really resonated with a tension between the belief that still drives art institutions like Central Saint Martins on the level of its core values and appeal to its students and staff, but which is also at odds with what an increasingly beauraucratic institutional structure is interested in. As a course without a permanent space in the building (until as of this year), I think we have been especially sensitive to these tensions, and the space we were granted in the building for the degree show made it seem obvious that we were going to address it somehow. I also think Bishop’s essay and it’s context helped us articulate what emerged as a collective desire to test what it means to be operating as facilitators of dialogue in a political, cultural and institutional landscape after a period in which globalism, relational aesthetics and the individual ‘super-curator’ has dominated both commercial and institutional art spheres, a paradigm which we’ve grown up with, but which we are now being given the challenge of defending or reconfiguring as the modern trajectories which defined these modalities is being severely challenged. The impacts of this can of course seem far removed from a degree show or any exhibition, but I think that for example our transactional relationship as students to our place of education and living in London is an extremely potent territory in which to address how these ‘given’ modalities and roles are already two decades later not at all to be taken for granted, and to express our desire as a new generation of art practitioners that we are interested in exposing ourselves to the vulnerability of stepping out of this paradigm of exhibition- and art-making which Bishop quite accurately identifies and calls out. HL
In recent years the curator has become an indistinguishable entity, often summarised as a facilitator or aesthetics and narrative, a storyteller if such. Rehearsal Dinner, being put together by CCC students, posses some interesting questions to said dynamic?
I think we definitely made an effort to implicate and expose ourselves as practitioners in a way that is not often made visible in curation. Even when artists curate shows, they often take on this research-hyphen-practitioner hat of a curator as gatekeeper of archival knowledge, instead of being an active presence in the space. It’s probably what I’m the most proud of, is how we very fluidly and without pretence managed to posit multiple ideas of what a curator can be – a facilitator, a producer, a host, a researcher, a durational performer, a guest - which are of course roles which curators straddle in everyday practice, but somehow the role has become mythologised and is often presented to the public
as an omnipresent narrator. HL
Did your group speak at all about the implication and roles of a practical or even subversive curator?
I can’t ever remember us making a choice to be actively subversive; we went where our conversations, references, and material led us. But notably, seeing the reactions to the show throughout the week and especially on the Private View day it became clear that we were subverting expectations to what a degree show ‘should’ look like and how visitors reacted within it — both positive and negative. On the positive side visitors really embraced the programme as a ‘script’ and an art object and this opened up a lot of engaging conversations. On the more antagonistic side of things we also saw some visitors reject the commitment that it required of them to engage in conversation with us in the space. HTL
And in summary did you see a space for a curator or, body of, as artist?
Interesting question, I think that personally, yes, I did, and casting ourselves as the protagonists of our own display was at the very heart of the show. We all took on a collective ‘body’ and responsibility as practitioners and facilitators of the information and means of production in the space, wherein if we were actors or artists our roles would have been more individual and perhaps antagonistic in relation to each other, which of course would have been a very different narrative. I Exhibition view, Rehearsal Dinner, June 2017 Photographic scan by Hugo Lucien
They say that history is the re-telling of the past from the perspective of the Victor. Victoria had big tits, thick thighs and a huge arse. A pyramid turned upside down is a mud brick tomb of a used up womb. History is; snow flakes falling in the dessert creating rivers with no beginning and no end. His-story, a phallic led clichéd Mills and Boone, stuck in a decade of paperbacks and library cards, millennials don’t read? A fable, a mystery of a conquered sky, whilst Zeus and his bitches watched idly by. Lazy dogs lie beneath Bast’ legs, ‘feminism’ hadn’t been ‘invented’ yet? My story reads like the history of the chicken or said chickens un-hatched egg. Bricks and more bricks designed and manifested from inside whilst I lay on my back and I am fed, thus I created the world, so his-story is mine. For I am the conquering shero, whose ego was never written and so was never read.
It’s one of those trendy art parties and I don’t see a single face I could approach. I begin to wish I didn’t come. A woman on a stool at the end of the gleaming bar, dressed in a silver gown. The thing I notice first is the object in front of her, which from afar looks like a crystal ball emitting flickering lights. I walk towards the bar, pretending to beeline for a drink while really casting my eyes sideways to read the small screen she’s propped up next to her. GLASSBLOC FORTUNES HERE. I realize the object in front of her is a router with a strange clear casing; the coloured lights flashing inside showing the internet moving through. I find myself standing in front of her. Are you a fortune teller? I ask shyly. I prefer the term cyber futurist, she replies. I feel surges like electrical charges, and I can sense the imprint people leave on their personal devices. She holds out her hand and I pass her my bloc, still warm from my breast pocket, where it lives touching the heart. She lays it face-down on the bar and places a palm on its blushing steel surface.
more, of course, and because you’re leaking so much valuable information into it, you get attached, it becomes a fetish object. You think you need it, it touches your skin more than any lover, the cycle continues.
You use the app LoveMe, right? she asks. Yes, I murmur, not admitting to the frequency or the duration of my engagement. I’m embarrassed that that was the first thing she asked; though with the young and hip demographic of this party, maybe it’s just a good cold read. There’s a lot of sexual energy expended on the surface, here, it’s imprinted quite strongly with the Left/No and Right/Yes binary decision-making process, which is a telltale sign of that app. And a kind of pulsing glow — that’s the ego boost you feel when the Partners start to stack up.
Do you mind if I take a look inside? she asks delicately, flipping the bloc over to show its glassblack face. It lights up to her touch, and before I can reach over to unlock it with my fingerprint, its defenses swing open with a stroke of her elegant index finger. I must look shocked because she laughs. It’s a gift, like being a horse whisperer. Images that I hadn’t posted on the public channels begin to swirl across the surface of the screen like oil on water.I feel edgeless, embarrassingly foaming over, overflowing, fleshy, like she’s turning my life inside out and the metal casing can’t hold all the liquid in. Her long fake nails painted glassy dark green with little gold charms pierced through the ends which dance and click against the glass as she scrolls and swipes.
I begin to become more interested in this woman. What are you doing, exactly? What is it you’re reading? I ask. Do you remember the phrase ‘leaky app’? She replies pleasantly. I remember an old housemate with some kind of dodgy information-dealing startup. Yeah — when a security agency gathers personal information vacuumed up by a game or something. So, there’s another kind of leak, one that the agencies are still trying to quantify. You leak emotion into it. It’s very viscous — it does something to the mechanics of the bloc itself. That’s that euphoric feeling that leads to bloc ‘unboxing’ videos — a factory —fresh bloc carries only the emotion leaks of the young children working for pennies who built it. The corporations only pay for rich, first world emotion leaks — it’s like the difference between packet noodle seasoning and organic bone broth. Rich leaks are worth
I think of a girl I saw on the subway on the way to the party, smiling down at her phone as the train came aboveground for a few stations; when we went down again into the dark, the shadow of her dreamy, secret pleasure remained, infusing the passengers around her with some of that leftover beloved light. It’s a delusion of this culture, of course, but it’s not new, she continued. We have always looked to perfect objects to compensate for the messiness that characterizes human thought. Ritual objects, religious objects, art objects: though all made by humans, they suggest the existence of a wider network of knowledge beyond what we can download to our own flesh. Communal knowledge, a network.
I’ve seen them all, she continues, bad blocs, black hearted ones. Blocs trigger detonations in warzones, they isolate on screens bodies marked for death, they carry the voice that gives the order to kill. They are the receptacles for everything, black holes that vacuum up the dregs of humanity, things that can’t be categorized. They’re vessels and they thrum with what’s been poured into them. You write your dreams in here, you’re informed of death, you see images of your lover’s most intimate place on the same screen as holds horrific images of torture and violence, images that cannot be separated from the vessel that holds them. The language of images doesn’t differentiate.
I remember learning of a far away death in the family, breathing in the air of the one who’d informed me through the bloc’s speaker. For the first time I could hear distance, a kind of ambient grey sound as my ears cleared suddenly after crying. You elect lovers here, she says, flicking to Love Me, the faces sliding by left-left-leftright-left so quickly they melt into one. She chuckles. Don’t forget, you’ll never get to the end! It’s not a game for completists. And don’t look at it before sleep or first thing when you wake up; the faces penetrate your consciousness and stay there, she counseled. You need to have your defenses up. Don’t look straight into the lens in the images you use for selection; have your pupils shifted elsewhere. It’s too easy to send curses through otherwise; see here? You’ve left yourself wide open. As she plays at hyperspeed the images of my life back to me, the music of every sound ever emitted into the bloc begin to stream out of its speaker. Breakups, whispered dirty talk, the pizza guy, a colleague asking about the latest figures, a dealer telling the pickup spot, a parent sobbing with news of a death all slipping forward and backward across time, voices transmitting as though from underwater, warping beats like a shitty cab radio, glitches, a warped siren song from a box. Blocs come naturally to women, because they’re taught from birth about representation, about surface, about liquidity and adaptability, about the power of the seamless image.They know about cumulative seduction, about fluid adaptation to circumstance. About casting spells from afar. About changing form to escape danger. The image of a TV show dating from around the birth of the consumer internet flashes into my head, of a teenage girl whose ability to melt at will into a sentient puddle of mercury solved all her problems. We’re better at the internet because we already knew by heart the rules of self-representation. Men are afraid of formlessness, and that’s what the world is now. It’s baggy. There’s no target, no map. Women have always been slippery, performative. She fondles the beautiful halo of the rose gold bloc’s home button as she speaks, and it purrs in response to her touch. The O, the circuit connecting. Who’s better engineered for this new world than us? Fake girls you cant stop looking at. Cunts that fit in a pocket, light up
bright when you stroke them.I have so many questions for her. How does the affect of the angelic faraway face transmit into and out of a little box with a time delay? Do you ever put it between your thighs and let the incoming messages buzz through you? Do your girlfriends send naked pictures dozing on exotic beaches to make you laugh? Do you send them back? Do you notice raindrops from overhanging scaffolding rainbowing as they land on the shining screen? Do you know that person in the corner of the dancefloor face lit ghostly from below as they tap a response? When you’re alone, do you sometimes flip the bloc facedown because the dormant blackness of the screen out of the corner of your eye freaks you out? Why don’t you like to speak verbally? You never answer your phone. She muses, answering herself: Because you’re worried that people will put their problems on you. You want it in a text, where you can read and reflect before replying, or not reply at all. The faces swim up of friends whose missed calls I never returned, who asked too much, who couldn’t be satisfied with seeing me on the other end of a screen. Fixing me in a long and terrible gaze, she rotates them towards me one by one, in crystalline detail. I am doused in the glow of my shame. You look at it first thing in the morning, don’t you. The bloc’s imprinted with the traces of your dreams. It washes them away, that bright light. Try to wait a while, let them marinate. She invokes this quality I’ve tried so many times to manifest in the clearer fogged logic of the half-dream brain composing in the note app as I roll over tap to snooze. I just want to see clearly. I want to be so transparent, a distorted reflection, a hologram that floats on the bottom of the water. Her hands continue to dance across the screen. The faces of many, many women start to swim to the surface, women I’d loved, those I’d envied, those whose public profiles I’d trawled incessantly in bouts of manic self-hatred, the ones I’d crushed on, bad-mouthed out of misplaced jealousy, every woman whose face awakened in me resentment or failure or longing or love. A long sequence of girls in different cities in different kitchens taking pictures of themselves with their front-facing cameras at magic hour eyes closed basking golden in that solitary light.
I start to become scared. I want it to stop, I say. There are too many. They want too much, or they don’t want me at all. With a flick of her long talon the screen returns to black. She shoots the bloc back along the bar to me, chiming an edge on an empty wine glass. The ringing continues for too long and she turns away, seeming bored. You can PayMe later, she said. I have your details. I leave the party, wobbly and exhausted. On the way home I feel my bloc beating malignantly in my pocket, and resist the urge to gaze into its seductive face. Later that night, safely in bed, I guiltily ignore her advice about dreams and as I drop into sleep scroll through the beautiful images of the lives of the ones I love, far away: fox slinking around a carpark at night, three little figures on a blue-grey overcast beach, children dancing with a carnival puppet drenched in blinding sunshine, a garden in fog, a page of poetry, doves being released at a wedding, a cat dozing, a candle flickering in a dark bar, a street in Kathmandu in the rain, a pile of rubble inside an art gallery, a wedge of blue ocean with the water glinting off it, fragments of the gorgeous ephemera of our lives time-stamped and ordered neatly in ultra-HD. The next morning I don’t remember any of my dreams.
URL IRL watching constructs unfurl, convivial chaos a welcome companion, whilst huddling around digital campfires within the simulacra.
Post cyber, optic fibre, #Clapbacks what ya think about that? skin magic, no static, archaic labels are tragic who I be is me, is we, unapologetically even prophetically occupying spaces IRL URL accidentally, purposefully.
Donâ€™t mind the Gap, matter-of-fact make an abode in that jumping, somewhere in between bending fertility signifiers through intersectional means.
Supersonic frequencies making online and off-line structures quake tick follows tock some call it a glitch some call it growth and change delivering code and IRL in myriad ways.
MALWARE: WEAPONISED WEARABLE TECH
RACHEL — ROSE O’LEARY, MARIANA LOBÃO AND EURICO SÁ FERNANDES
MALWARE: WEAPONISED WEARABLE TECH
MALWARE is an Amsterdam-based fashion brand and art collective specializing in body-jewellery. Each design in the MALWARE collection is equipped with a USB containing a weapon — a virus of extreme destructive force. Intersecting archetypes of body armour and lingerie, MALWARE sexualizes strength, and galvanizes the wearer into empowered usership. Combinations of electrical wire and metal chain encode the body in a protective mass. MALWARE authorizes conflict against technological passivity, and offers the necessary offensive-defensives strategies to operate affectively within the world. Rachel-Rose O’Leary, Mariana Lobão and Eurico Sá Fernandes, MALWARE (2017)
OUT OF OUR HANDS
CATALOGUE ESSAY FOR THE 2017 GOLDSMITHS MA DIGITAL CULTURE EXPO AT LAURIE GROVE BATHS
The graduating students in the Goldsmiths MA Digital Culture programme have titled their degree show Out of Our Hands, a phrase that signals a transfer of agency and accountability onto a more powerful entity – in this case, onto the fate of technological advancement. As the exhibition graphics hint, agency and control is transitioning from human hands to the posthuman hands of the digital. The projects in Out of Our Hands take the digital to include the Internet, new media, code, software, hardware, data, networks and computation. As the digital revolution steadily pushes forward, we increasingly hear examples of technology’s sweeping influence on societies across the globe: e-commerce sites practicing consumer profiling, Facebook altering algorithms to successfully manipulate users’ emotions and Cambridge Analytica’s data-driven campaigning contributing to the election of Donald Trump and Brexit.1 These reports are symptoms of what Alexander Galloway identifies in Protocol as “market monopolies of proprietary technologies […] they are imposed from without, are technically opaque, centrally controlled, deployed by commercial concerns, and so on.”2 All too often, citizens have little choice but to passively accept the sweeping technological advancements changing the face of our current digital culture for the sake of technological progress, corporate profitability, user experience, information capital or national security. However, the practitioners in Out of Our Hands eschew this passivity by taking matters back into their hands and disrupting, creating, appropriating and giving visual form to the otherwise invisible yet all — encompassing facets of today’s society — what Deleuze called a society of control. In 1992, Deleuze foretold the consequences of technological advancements in his essay “Postscript
on the Societies of Control.” Unlike Foucault’s disciplinary society, where power was held in specific spaces of enclosure such as the prison, factory or family, a society of control sees previously enclosed structures dematerialize into networked systems. While this technological embeddedness gives people the feeling of mobilization and freedom, it also allows opportunities for control to multiply beyond enclosed structures and permeate all aspects of both personal and professional life. Such constant synchronization gives rise to work demands at any given moment, nonstop attention to entertainment and the normalization of constant surveillance for the sake of protection. He calls for us “only to look for new weapons.”3 Fortunately, technology as a field of practice has an ethos of open-source information and hardware remains commercially available. With the right technological know-how, practitioners can appropriate and use technology beyond its prescribed uses. This accessibility gives opportunities for people to resist the control that Deleuze foresaw and work towards creating their own digital ecologies, precisely what the Digital Culture students aim to achieve. Their wide-ranging concerns include the software used by corporations, social media behaviors, surveillance and privacy, social subjection, hacking, black box technologies and the use of large collections of data. Their projects are supported by theoretical research, such as Benjamin Bratton and Jennifer Gabrys on planetary scale computation, Vilém Flusser on digital code as language and Maurizio Lazzaro on social subjection and machinic enslavement. The show begins with the work of Compiler4, a new media art platform led by Tanya Boyarkina, Oscar Cass-Darweish and Eleanor Chownsmith. Compiler takes the distributed and participatory systems of new media art and applies it to a localized
and community context. Their crossdisciplinary programme of exhibitions, workshops, discussions, performances, and screenings proposes a synaesthetic experience of technology — one that expands the possibilities of the senses — afforded by our collaboration with technical objects and the virtual world. The installation, Cryptobar, combines cryptography and cocktail-making to explore notions of data footprints, surveillance and privacy.Air Water Stack, by Marlene Ronstedt in collaboration with Ahmed Alsharif, is a live installation that visualizes Internet traffic rates using content delivery network Akami. What results is a computergenerated montage of geographical imagery. Akami can host vast amounts of global data, offering a powerful host for companies such as Facebook and Airbnb but also a potential site for cyber attacks. Simon Crowe’s web application rars.online looks at Amazon’s product recommendation system and explores the ways it groups consumers according to their habits. The project also introduces the potential to disrupt Amazon’s recommendation system through feeding it search queries based on the complex codes of critical theory or modernist literary fiction. Alisa Blakeney’s Paradatabase investigates the structure and protocols of display of digitized museum collections in order to understand the aesthetics and politics of collection. The resulting installation — itself a collection — creates a narrative that balances the fiction of ideal forms with the reality of physical objects. Other projects are driven by a motivation to demystify the inner workings of technological devices. Toni Quiroga’s Re-animator experiments with raw materials inherent to contemporary technologies. The project aims to introduce noise to black box technology to trigger animated, autonomous and unpredictable behavior. Joe Downing’s ongoing site-specific research into the Laurie Grove Baths has led to a technical close reading of a building with a biopolitical function. The installation, Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness, references the social and moral history of personal hygiene
by recording conversations in real time and placing them onto soap with which visitors are invited to wash their hands. Interactivity can be found in Yeunjeong Kim’s Human Code: What is Behind You?, a real-time installation that invites audiences to explore code as a language of communication. Human Interference Task Force, an ongoing project between Anna Mikkola and Matilda Tjäder, evolves from the resonance between humans and computing. Using sensors to edit video footage, image and audio according to the movements of passersby, their installation aims to recognize the incomputable and transfer ambience into acts. David Vannen’s The Contract looks at social platforms as sites of both identity performance and totalized labor in the digital economy. The interactive work invites audiences to perform gestures using their own digital identities in return for a reward, calling attention to the commodification of user data. Each project takes steps towards shaping the terrain of digital culture. Encompassing an interdisciplinary approach that pays equal attention to art, philosophy, politics, technology, computing and cultural studies; the projects on view are characterized by technical literacy, artistic sensibility, and theoretical contextualization. By doing this, they give visual form to some of the newest and most significant aspects of digital culture. 1 Hannes Grasseger and Mikael Krogerus, The Data That Turned the World Upside Down, Motherboard, 2017 January 28. Available online at www.motherboard.vice. com/en_us/article/mg9vvn/how-our-likeshelped-trump-win 2 Alexander Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004, p.121. 3 Gilles Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control, October Vol. 59, 1992, p.4. 4 www.compiler.zone I
Image by Simon Crowe
FEATURE: BIRKIN OSTRICH COGNAC
FEATURE: BIRKIN OSTRICH COGNAC
SCENARIO 1 Two women are standing in front of a Hermès window display in downtown Manhattan. Samantha Carrie Samantha Carrie Samantha Carrie Samantha
Look at that one. Isn’t it adorable? Which one? The red one in the middle. I love it! The Birkin Bag? Really? That’s not even your style. No, honey. It’s not so much the style. It’s what carrying it means. It means you own 4000 bugs. Exactly. When I am tooling around town with that bag, I know I made it. SCENARIO 2
Rory Emily Rory Emily Rory Emily
Logan is very nice. He bought me this terrific gift. Just completely out of the blue. That’s so. Totally unexpected. It’s called a Birkin bag? A Birkin bag. Oh my god! A Birkin bag? You’ve heard of it? Of course! That’s a very nice purse!
Ah… Maybe I shouldn’t use it.
Oh no! A Birkin bag is meant to be used. And seen.
Rory Emily Rory Emily Rory Emily
I had no idea. Well, well, well. A Birkin bag. A Birkin bag, a Birkin bag for Rory. Grandma. I am just saying. I mean Richard never bought me a Brikin bag. Uh, this is exciting. I guess it is… A Birkin bag! I am gonna remember this day.
Ursula K. Le Guin wrote “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” in 1986. In this essay Le Guin describes how prehistorian mankind was in need of containers before there was any thought of tools or weapons. Gathering and collecting had priority to hunting. The popular narrative of prehistorian times is a linear narrative with a male hero. Since the material of carrier bags is less resistant, the narrative of the bag is not as easy to illustrate as the one of the spear. The bag narration might be less entertaining as it lacks life threatening action scenes. The most famous handbag of our time is the Birkin bag, which is manufactured by the fashion label Hermès. When Jane Birkin met the head-designer of Hermès on a flight in 1983 she complained about insufficient handbags and about the inadequacy of their design and practicality. They were not suitable for a working woman. The outcome of that conversation is the high-value handbag, which we know as the Birkin. It is not a mere fashion celetoid. It is not an It-bag. The Birkin is an icon. It has a long lasting legacy in the world of fashion and celebrity culture. It stands for luxury and prestige. Jane Birkin’s demands the item to fit for a life of the working woman and therefore the bag’s meaning as an object of emancipation is questionable. The two excerpts above represent two different scenarios in which the Birkin appeared in American TV Series. Scenario 1 is from the HBO series Sex and the City. This scenario describes a moment of empowerment. Samantha, a successful PR agent, wants the bag as a proof for her financial success. She wants to own it to show the world, or rather New York City, that she made it. In her case it operates as an illustration of merited recognition. Scenario 2 from the series Gilmore Girls shows a young woman, Rory Gilmore, whose wealthy upper-class boyfriend gives her a Birkin. She is unaware of the bag’s reputation. Her grandmother in contrast is very aware of the social status carried by the bag. Rory becomes unwillingly a display of her boyfriend’s wealth and influence. There are waiting lists which demand mere mortals to wait years until they get one. In comparison to Samantha Jone’s desire to own it to feel power, Rory Gilmore gets the object and feels her boyfriend’s power. The Birkin bag is a symbol of prestige. It is the most commonly faked handbag. The desire to own one is a widespread phenomena. But it is not a bag that tells the story of emancipation and practicality, like Ursula K. LeGuin’s bags. It is not necessarily to gather seeds or any of their contemporary equivalents. Nor does it serve the purpose of a working woman’s life, like Jane Birkin intended. It is a symbol of power. Josefine Reisch, Birkin Ostritch Cognac, 2017, oil on paper
AN EMERGING CURATORâ€™S NOTES TO SELF
I want there to be enough wine and beer at my openings I don’t want people to whisper in my exhibitions I don’t want to speak to the co-worker sitting across from me via email I don’t want to ask people to work for me for free I want to make enough money I don’t want the art market to be the only sector with money I don’t want to cater to the expectations of the board of directors I don’t want to treat donors like babies, or gods, or sugar daddies I want to participate in a panel discussion where I am truly listening to others and not overly conscious of myself
AN EMERGING CURATOR’S NOTES TO SELF
I want to take risks I don’t want to tackle topics I am not informed about I want to poignantly incorporate academic theory with current events I don’t want to end up speaking in a way that no one understands I want to think locally and transport less; to protect the art and the environment I don’t want negative criticisms or disagreement to unravel my entire being I want to address the irony of political art that uncomfortably sits in institutions I don’t want to self-implement standardized art practices—from the language of the press release, to the structure of the publication I want to create novel connections through my own research and through collaborations with people both inside of the art world I want to represent diverse voices and sources of knowledge I want people from outside of the art world to be in attendance
Collective Body Editors Marcel Darienzo Elisabeth Del Prete Johanna Hardt Ashely Janke Håkon Lillegraven Giada Marson Natasha Trotman Cristina Vasilescu Katie Yook Design Giulia Pastore Print by Grosvenor Group December 2017 ICA Student Forum 2016—2017 members Sahar Amer, Monelle Bradshaw, Sheila Buckley, Marcel Darienzo, Elisabeth Del Prete, Jenny Dunn, Flora Dunster, Ebony Francis, Weronika Garczyk, Johanna Hardt, Ashley Janke, Håkon Lillegraven, Giada Marson, India Murphy, Leila Nassereldein, Giancarlo Sandoval, Vanessa Scully, Kefiloe Siwisa, Madeleine Stack, Natasha Trotman, Cristina Vasilescu and Katie Yook ICA Student Forum 2016—2017 co-produced with ICA Curator Education Programme Carey Robinson Supported by The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London + Peabody, London Institute of Contemporary Arts The Mall London SW1Y 5AH
Collective body is a compilation of texts, poetry, sound works, blog posts, essays, photography, malware, and film celebrating a year of wor...
Published on Dec 13, 2017
Collective body is a compilation of texts, poetry, sound works, blog posts, essays, photography, malware, and film celebrating a year of wor...