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Kisses, Kisses essays conversation lists travelogs love letters puzzles games paper sculpture good times for all Exhibition zine on the occasion of Yael Kanarek's fifth solo exhibition at bitforms gallery, NYC 2016 Co-curated by Kerry Doran and Dylan Kerr

Net art: worldofawe.net/kisseskisses

World of Awe 1994-2016


Travelog: backpack_list54598.txt

Unsorted list: 1. Dirt digger 2. Map: Eep (+ manual) & Moo 3. Pincer 4. Small containers for specimen 5. Magnifying glass 6. moodRingBaby 7. Socks & underwear 8. Food rations: jerky and crackers 9. 7 rolls of duct tape. 60 yards each = 420 10. 1 can of "Smiling Mink" oil 11. Flashlight 12. Small pan 13. Notebook 14. Pen 16. Coin probe 17. OFF! SkintasticŽ 18. Gasmask 19. Cortizone•10 20. Goggles 21. Hairbrush Items unintentionally left behind: 1. Electroorganic glue 2. Toothbrush


from 1997


Addendum to Jennifer Dalton's Essay Nearly twenty years after the publication of Jennifer Dalton’s essay “Yael Kanarek’s Love Letters from a World of Awe,” the closing paragraph calls us to look back at the entirety of Kanarek’s World of Awe to see what of this world came into being. As Dalton suggests––and is the reality of Kanarek’s world-making practice––there were still many aspects of the world that were taking shape in the late nineties and through the 2000s. A selection of these works are featured in Kisses Kisses, including Speaker Tree (2001), Roam (2001), and Feedback-Loop (2004), as well as 3D rendered landscapes from the series 48 Nowheres (2001-2003). Many objects from this period can also be found in the vitrine of ephemera included in the exhibition. Kisses Kisses is reflective rather than exhaustive. It is another iteration of the World rather than a retrospective. As such, the exhibition includes work that are foundational. The three browser-based chapters of WOA—what many visitors will be most familiar with from this body of work—were born out of the early works on display. Kanarek kept updating a flow chart for the world up until 2011. Every object, performance, and offshoot was connected. The works fed into one another. As they took shape, they shaped the world and everything that would follow, as indicated in the chart below. The earliest of these charts left spaces blank; now, every box is filled in. Even so, there is still a book to be published, browser-based chapters that could be written, and future projects and collaborations that have yet to be fully imagined. While Kanarek “exited” the world in 2011, it is the kind of venture that can never be completed––it is as alive as the world we live in. — Kerry Doran

World of Awe Flow Chart

Updated: 05.22.11

11 Sculpture

Completed projects

3D environment

Project status *

Roam, a 3d roaming environment for PC, 1999

Narrative flow Concept flow

Y P

R B

G

Y B

Yael Kanarek

Feedback Loop 2004

RSG, perl programmer

Y

bnode, architects

10 Wall Print

T

Taly Malka, multimedia

S

Evann Siebens, dancefilmmaker

K

Meeyoung Kim, Flash

Z

Mushon Zer Aviv, designer

N

Nao Bustamante, performance artist

L

Shawn Lawson, programmer

H

Jalal Hassan, Arabic translater

M

Miriam Meir, Hebrew translater

A

Andrea Parkins, composer

H

Harold Ha, jeweler

Video

Schedule_task 2004

Love letter 543/65 cut with a sawzall into the drywall, 2011

Y

2 Net Art

data mining

Y

K S G Y

9 Jewelry

H Y

6 Enhanced Music CD

Bit by Bit/Cell by Cell Innova Recordings, 2005 Primitives: Dice, pearls and keys, 2010

Y H M L

Interactive installation Object of Desire Control Chair, 2006

Y

Y

Y

White series: The word ‘whore’ in five languages, 2010

12 VideoClocks

Design mRB: A moodRingBaby prototype

Y R

Y B

Photographs Screen saver

World of Awe Screensaver, 2001

Y T

* For details, please refer to the main document

Cycles 1 & 2 series, 2004

Y

Computational video Custom-design software

A L Y 4 Textworks

Matrices: Words in multiple languages attached in matrices onto a wall, 2010

Installation

9000 Vowels in Chapter 3 cast in salt

Y T

Y

4 Textworks

Notyetness series: The word ‘not yet’ in Hebrew and Arabic, 2010

4 Textworks

4 Textworks

Y

Lemon: A lacy composition of the word ‘lemon’ in forty langauges, 2009

Y

Nude series: The word ‘white’ in nine languages cast in a range of skin tones, 2010 Y

Performance Y

Text Object

software327-25.txt Silkscreen on parchment, 2004 Y

Y

Y

2 Net Art

A Traveler’s Journal Chapter 4: Time

Spin_lock, 2004 Heart in Heart, 2005

5 Email

4 Textworks

Y

1 Novella A Traveler’s Journal

Sculpture

Love Letters sent via email 1999-2005

M G Y S

Sculpture

Y R P

data mining

3 Paintings

Acrylic and mixed media on canvas 1994-1998

Y R P

Y

“I found the Key to Extreme Beuaty” 14k gold necklace

2 Net Art

A Traveler’s Journal Chapter 2: Destruction & Mending, 2002

Portal, an interactive dance for the internet in three parts, 2003

Photographs

I found the key to extreme beauty series, 2010

Y

A Traveler’s Journal Chapter 3: Object of Desire 2006

2 Net Art

7 Net.Dance

Y

8 Site-specific Installation

Travelog: Oldy159-78.txt paragraph 7 Wall vinyl, 2010

A Traveler’s Journal Chapter 1: Forever, 2000

Yoav Gal, composer

Safe (Prutza), 2010 Mosler safe, wind soundtrack

Y

Sculpture

Luis Perez, JS & C++

Sculpture

Travelog: Oldy159-78.txt paragraph 7 letterpress print, 2011

Y

Abandoned projects

1

10 Broadside

The Treasure Crumbs capsule is an unlimited edition in the making since 1995.

In development or ongoing

On the Twenty-Somethingth Mile R2R Festival, NYC 2006 N G Y

Digital Prints

Nowheres: Digital landscape illustrating Sunset/Sunrise w/ handrawn tracking data of visitor’s movements thru the net art works Y


While Kerry Doran, Dylan Kerr, and I, were conducting an overhaul survey of World of Awe works for this exhibition, we came across Jen Dalton’s essay from 1997. Here I found the only evidence for the cardboard laptop “computer” sculptures. I thought I kept one that had rainbow sprinkles and paper boats in it. But it didn’t appear during the survey. It’s tempting to recreate a them. Some works disappeared. Some were destroyed. Some I destroyed. Some works never materialized. The book only reached its first draft in 2011. It’s still in its first draft, but I’m eager to see it completed. But who is the right person to edit it? You never know the lifespan nor timeline of a project. In the Kisses Kisses exhibition, World of Awe is manifesting its holistic vision for the first time and is entering its celebratory phase. The fertile ground for this world is in place, with many works, seedlings, and projects to work with. Now we can start to combine and recombine the works in space to highlight the complex relationship between self, desire, and tool. It’s with the coming of age of the digital native generation that new chapters come to World of Awe. I met Dylan Kerr when I read a piece he wrote on Artspace. In his review of the first net art chapter of the Traveler’s Journal, I heard a genuine interest in the work. I didn’t know he recently graduated Vassar College and this article was one of his first assignments at his new job. When Dylan expressed interest in the early paintings, I began to think that perhaps the moment has come. I invited him to co-curate the exhibition with me. We started cataloging every bit of WOA, opening drawers and boxes, pulling things from hard-to-reach closets at home, unrolling rolls of prints. Things got even better when Kerry Doran joined bitforms gallery as Associate Director and brought on her academic interests in early net art, performative identity, and non-linear narrative. I stepped out of curatorial role and handed it to both of them. I wanted them to bring their readings together to build an exhibition as the sum of our overlapping interests. The three of us scavenged my storage unit to catalog what was there. When you tuck work away in storage you never know if or when it will resurface. It could go from storage to the dumpster, or to the New York Times. On visits throughout the years, I would look at them and ask: Did they still moved me? Was their “spirit” still alive? Was there was a freshness about them? In 2011, I completed the story and “exited” the world. What I mean by that is that the process of mining my imagination to form that world through narrative has come to an end. I also felt that I found the exit from all worlds, when attention is placed on the present moment. I was returning from Trader Joe’s one day with two full bags and stopped to allow the blood to return to my fingers. I sat on a bench on Third Avenue. And I sat there for three hours absorbing everything that was going on. On a busy avenue, it felt as if I suddenly discovered reality. Senses overwhelmed, all worlds of the imagination faded into the back of my mind. For a couple of years all I wanted to do was discover reality. World of Awe is an ongoing thought, like a continuous generative algorithm. Now that the opportunity for this curatorial dimension to be opened, let’s see where that takes us. — Yael Kanarek


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Love letter 272/5 Sunset/Sunrise My Love, I found the hole of the lost treasure. How awful. I realized that the treasure vanished seconds before I arrived. The hole still embodies its presence and with the support of my magnifying glass I collected 13 treasure crumbs less two. As the crumbs touched my tongue you shouldn’t eat them I started to feel so tremendously expanded; and new energy and hope were born in me. Now that I have traces of treasure within me, I know I'll have a better sense of direction. My dear, the hole so is beautiful that I am afraid to imagine what the treasure itself looks like. Although the lost treasure by nature is lost, the hope born in me again and again makes me keep pursuing this mission. And now with my little bundle of treasure crumbs nothing can stand in my way. Please allow me to apologize for my awe–foolishness.

Yours forever Your Sunset/Sunrise forever yours Yours forever yours.


[still searching for lost treasure] Kerry Doran 4/8/16 ...in the last few hours I’ve begun conversing with this image of yours. Then it dawned on me that by the time I return, hopefully with what I’m here to find, the YOU in my head will be far removed from the person I’m going to meet. See, the YOU I imagine and converse with, will alter as I will, throughout this journey. I can see no way around it. That’s when I realized the importance of sending you these letters, even though you cannot respond. Through these short scribbles, I hope you’ll understand what’s happening to your image in my head and when you feel it has become too removed from the source, make sure you cut all attachments because, I am afraid, beloved, that is sign that I have gone too far. and that scares me–– –– Yael Kanarek, A Traveler’s Journal: Faithfully recorded A love letter is a romantic way to express feelings of love in written form. Whether delivered by hand, mail, carrier pigeon, or romantically left in a secret location, the letter may be anything from a short and simple message of love to a lengthy explanation of feelings, which could be tiring to read if it is too long. But it could go either way. Love letters may 'move through the widest range of emotions - devotion, disappointment, grief and indignation, self-confidence, ambition, impatience, self-reproach, and resignation.' –– Wikipedia entry for “Love Letter”

A Traveler’s Journal (with the impossible caveat of a subtitle, Faithfully recorded) is one of Yael Kanarek’s many modes of relaying the multimedia, non-linear narrative of World of Awe (1994-2011). While the world itself started to come into formation in 1994, the Journal is a collection of love letters, travelogues, and prosaic categorical documents written over the course of the project, now in its first complete draft. For nearly twenty years, new additions were made or old entries were edited and removed as the world came more into being. Seemingly the most tangible aspect of WOA (its static format is misleading) the Journal was a living document that evinces Kanarek’s practice of world-making. In this world, parallel to ours, a traveler sets out on a quest to find lost treasure, leaving behind a “beloved” in Manhattan. With some semblance to our own, the prepared traveler begins the expedition with familiar tools––a dirt digger, magnifying glass, flashlight, notebook, and OFF! Skintastic ®––and other, more exotic objects, including a moodRingBaby and a map, comprising Eep (+ manual) & Moo. Tools of Kanarek’s invention, these super-objects are not so much techno-utopian as they are beautifully fallible. The moodRingBaby is one such tool: With the ability to store dialogues and tell stories, it can “hold conversations with its owner.”1 Reminiscent of virtual pets and prescient of social media, its function in WOA is to mitigate the traveler’s loneliness. Then there is the map: a double-sided interface-like object, its two sides are named Eep (digital) and Moo (leather), respectively. Joined by their backsides and woven together with human hair, it is the purely human material that binds the two diametric yet interactive sides. Eep is difficult to use, but advantageously tapped in, interactive, and responsive, alerting and instructing the traveler on the whereabouts of the peripatetic lost treasure. Moo is “an old treasure map drawn on leather,” a motif that Kanarek makes sculptural in Feedback-Loop and Text Object: Software327-25.txt, both 2004. Each side of the map is indicative of supposedly divergent technologies; in both, we ultimately find the best and worst of what we hope(d) technology could be. 1 All quotations are from Kanarek’s A Traveler’s Journal unless otherwise noted.


Like the other objects that form WOA, Kanarek’s Journal is not a typical travelogue. In “Sunset/Sunrise,” time stands still. Thus, a different mode of narrative is necessary. In lieu of traditional entries detailing sequential days, the traveler writes love letters that propel the narrative forward. If the poetic lists and travelogues detail the world in form, it is the lover letters that give the world meaning. The Journal underscores that language is the driving force of WOA, even as a multi-modal work: “I walk this barren landscape and translate it into the language I brought with me––the toolbox of my perception.” The internet is predicated on language, both human and computer. We rely on language for its construction and interpretation, much like the interconnected sides of Kanarek’s map. Like the semi-fictionalized character of Chris Kraus in Kraus’s I Love Dick (1997), compulsively writing letters to the eponymous “Dick,” Kanarek’s traveler incessantly writes to an anonymous beloved. In both instances, the format of the love letter is more a structural choice than an expression of affection. It is familiar form: we know it as a space where it is okay to be raw, expressive, and guilelessly emotive. And yet, the structure is also a proxy. Meaning does not hinge on this format; the format is a vehicle for compulsion, where feeling secretes into words. Words pour out of the traveler, like sweat dripping down the back of the figure in Candy Poop (1995), like the rings of sweaty dirt that stain eventually disrobed underwear worn by the traveler, as instantiated in Briefs (2004). This is feeling made physical in a digital world, brought to life in analogue form.

Kanarek’s traveler and the character of Kraus in Dick are shamelessly effusive, rejecting theoretical jargon, academic tone, or any other valorized writing convention commonly employed to demonstrate an author’s authority. Repudiating strictures of discipline––characteristic of Kanarek’s earliest WOA paintings, as well––expands authorial voice. There are more modes of expression and points of view than convention allows or accepts. At the time of the WOA’s inception, third-wave feminism predominated theoretical discourse around artistic practice. Kanarek’s post-gender traveler, who is never identified as male or female, is a departure from the male-female dichotomy that this movement of feminism still relies on. The non-denominational traveler speaks freely, has revelations, is vulnerable and poetic––all of which is made strikingly public by sharing the letters via the newly accessible world wide. What’s more, as our traveler is unnamed, unseen, and (aurally) unheard, identity politics and normative power dynamics cannot play out in these love letters: One human speaks to another, human to human. Yet, there is no postal service in “Sunrise/Sunset”––the lover reading these letters is beside the point. So, why speak to anyone?


In Amalia Ulman’s The Annals of Private History (2015), a liberally modified history of the diary is told in a PowerPoint style presentation, similar to Ulman’s performative lectures. According to the legend, the diary as we know it today dates back to the 17th century when a teenager named Lisabetta––relegated to her bedroom for an emotional outburst––was given a book in which to write her thoughts (since nobody wanted to listen to her). This event spurred a tradition of girls writing their inner thoughts in private journals, while men were encouraged to share their written thoughts with the world.

Like Ulman’s character of Lisabetta, Kanarek’s World first came into being in her bedroom. Having recently completed her art degree, Kanarek was without studio space; and, questioning what her work was even about, the bedroom was a private sanctuary, with connotations of childhood exploration. Working with materials that typically stay within the visual world of girls (stickers, glitter, puffy paint, candy sprinkles––materials that are not replete with historical or canonical weightiness) Kanarek turned inward to search for a worldview that was only later expressed outwardly as a world. The internet enabled this worldview to be shared, bringing it to life beyond the privacy of a bedroom: the computer functioned as a window out, through which the private could become public. It is worth noting that Ulman’s presentation is also a love letter. A female voice has a one-sided dialogue with her romantic counterpart, speaking in mawkish clichés: “You know that I’d die for you.” “I’ve come to understand the meaning of love in your absence.”2 Kanarek’s are authentically sentimental––“Yours forever,” “Beloved”––but both artists employ this tactic for similar ends. In contrast to the diary, the love letter offers a space for female expressive to be validated: Will you love me? Will you write back? Rather than keeping emotions under lock-and-key, love letters were the most public domain for female 2 Amalia Ulman, The Annals of Private History, video, 2015. Amalia Ulman & Arcadia Missa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C_Ebe9OsqY.


expression until recent history. As such, love letters function as an intermediary between private and public thought. In all three instances––Kanarek, Kraus, and Ulman––the love letter as a traditionally female space is subverted through its content and intent, further radicalizing the gesture of using the format altogether. What differentiates Kanarek’s love letters, though, is their context within emerging internet culture. For internet users in the early nineties, an expanded sense of self was forming: there was the general feeling that the body could be extrinsic to identity. With computer language as the digital infrastructure of the internet, and human language its mode of communication, bodies could be left in the physical world: “I can’t refrain from concluding that I am contaminating this place with my presence. In my mind, I, apologetically, reduce myself to a wandering eyeball. Perhaps then my steps will cease to imprint.” Leaving one’s body behind to become a “wandering eyeball” online, gender felt as though it was fluid, on a spectrum rather than constricted to dichotomy. This was true for other markers of “identity,” as such. One could construct identity out of language; one could construct an entire world. And this is what Kanarek sought to do, and arguably achieved. Relying on language––the toolbox of our perception––and with the interface as intermediary, we took on personae, had multiple identities, inhabited characters. This period in internet history was one full of hope. Longing for the internet’s latent potential is pervasive throughout WOA. Like the super-objects that populate “Sunrise/Sunset,” WOA as a world takes on the characteristics of everything we wanted, or hoped, technology would be, the opportunities it would afford us, the world it would create. For as full of hope as this world is, it is never false hopefulness: there is despair, grieving, struggle, and nostalgia. With geolocative apps, branded content, and data mining, we are more linked to our physical bodies now than our pre-internet selves. Returning to Kanarek’s World, the nostalgia we encounter is not a desire to go back to that time, but to keep searching for lost treasure.


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Be a Web Artist: Color with the Web Safe Palette

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4=#cc9999 5=#996666 6=#663333

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Make Your Treasure Crumbs Capsule Fill capsule B with treasure crumbs from capsule A by drawing the empty spaces

A

empty space

B

treasure crumbs


A

B

Me & the birds

Enlarge picture A in the area of picture B. Copy what you see in each square.


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Unscramble the words and place them in the fart buble


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Love letter 687/6.77 Sunset/Sunrise My dear, My memory was sold. Ah...I sold it. If I remember correctly. Slightly undermining my commitment to systematically collect and catalog evidence. I think. Tragic, but then I'm always up for the challenge: how to keep a credible search for a lost treasure, despite the constant erasure of data...I think. Possibly maybe. The merchandise reaped a significant reward. Yes...what was it? Ah . . . don't remember. Great freshness in constant erase. forever young — forever fresh

Yours. I think.

[Remind me your name again?]


Travelog: hardware341-632.txt The list below includes 127 classic personal computers plucked out of four piles. I organized the machines in a straight row between the mounds of ware. I needed to see and orderly form. Geometry. Initially, in a chronological order than switched to alphabetical. Easier. There’s never disagreement to organizing in alphabetical order. Different alphabet systems, different order. Nevertheless, when in doubt, organize alphabetically. Any alphabet. I went for English. Yet alphabetical order suddenly felt arbitrary. Why on earth, well maybe on Earth, but why in the Sunset/Sunrise should L come after K? When inserting the Olivetti M10 between the Non-Linear Systems Kaypro 2000 and the Olivetti M15 I had to shift the machines from either side of the series to make space in the row. After 127 machines I dreaded the letters K,L,M,N,O,P, Q,R,S. A family of four, born in the 1980s, populated the row: The Japanese Kyocera Kyotronic 85, the Italian Olivetti M10, the American Tandy TRS-80 Model 100 and another Japanese NEC PC 8201. Except for their outfits and variations in the programs, the four where one—the same machine conceived by Kyocera. This first generation laptops were popular with journalists and writers because they ran on 4-AA batteries for 20+ hours and had a built-in modem. Who was the sexiest? The Italian, of course. I played with its snazzy tilting screen. “Olivetti, Olivetti,” I sang with operatic gusto and walked over to the Ns. Who’s the coolest? the Japanese NEC for its triangular cursor keys. Who sold the most? Tandy by Radio Shack. My fingers count air dollars, nothing between them but dust. Standing by the As, I looked at a naked Apple 1 as it was when first sold in 1976 for $666.66. Beaten, the beautiful piece of seductive trash wanted a place in my backpack. Really wanted a place in my backpack. In the igloo, before falling asleep, a lucid moment brought to light that the detour into the canyon wasn’t for an apple but a treasure. Apple 1 and the family of four stayed behind.


s r e t u p m o C ic s s la 127 C Acer Anyware ACT Apricot F10 ADDS Envoy Altima One Altima Two Altima Three Amstrad PC-20 Amstrad PDA 600 "PenPad" Amstrad PPC640 Apple //c plus Apple Lisa (Upgraded to Mac/XL) Apple Macintosh Plus Apple Macintosh SE Apple Macintosh II (*) Apple Macintosh IIci (*) Apple Macintosh IIsi (*) Apple Macintosh Portable Apple Powerbook 140 Apple Powerbook Duo 230 Apple Powerbook Duo 280 AST PenExec (aka GRiD 2260/2270) A T & T Safari Atari 130XE game machine Atari 1040ST (+) Atari 520ST (+) Atari 600XL Atari Falcon (+) Atari Portfolio Bondwell B310plus Bondwell B310sx Casio FX-820P Columbia Data Products 1600VP Commodore Vic-20 Compaq Concerto Compaq LTE Compaq Portable Plus Compaq Portable 2 Compaq Portable 386 Dash 030 (*) Data General One Model One Data General One Model Two Data General Walkabout SX Datavue 25 Datavue Snap Epson Equity LT Epson HC-20 Epson HX-20 Epson PX-8 Fora LP-386C Fujistu Stylistic 500 Fujistu fmR-50lt Gavilan SC (8-line) Gavilan (16-line) Generic "Portable PCIII" lunchbox Generic "Portable 286" lunchbox

GRiD Compass 1101 GRiD Convertible 2260 GRiD Convertible 2270 GRiD GRiDCase GRiD GRiDCase2 GRiD GRiDCase3 GRiD GRiDCase 1450sx GRiD GRiDCase 1520 GRiD GRiDCase 1530 GRiD GRiDCase 1535 EXP GRiD 1550sx GRiD 1660 GRiD GRiDPad 1910 Halikan LA5040 Hewlett-Packard 75D Hewlett-Packard 94E Hewlett-Packard Integral PC Hewlett-Packard Portable 110 Hewlett-Packard Portable Plus Hewlett-Packard Portable Vectra CS Hewlett-Packard Vectra LS/12 Iasis Computer in a Book IBM Convertible IBM PC Radio IBM Portable PC Model 5155 IBM PS/2 L40SX IBM PS/2 Model P-70 Lunchbox IBM PS/2 Model P-75 Lunchbox Interactive Network iXO TeleComputing System TC-200 Kyocera Kyotronic 85 Linus Technologies WriteTop Motorola Envoy Modular Micros Zorba Morrow Pivot National Educational Corp. Educational Laptop NCR 3170 NEC MultiSpeed NEC MultiSpeed EL NEC MultiSpeed HD NEC PC-8201 NEC PC-8201A NEC PC-8401A "Starlet" NEC Powermate NEC ProSpeed 286 NEC VersaPad Non-Linear Systems Kaypro II Non-Linear Systems Kaypro 10 Non-Linear Systems Kaypro 16 Non-Linear Systems Kaypro 2000 Olivetti M10 Olivetti M15 Osborne 01 Osborne Executive

Osborne Vixen Otrona 2001 Otrona Attache Outbound Notebook Panasonic HHC (HandHeld Computer) Panasonic Senior Partner Quasar Hand Held Computer Random Colleague Portable Terminal Random Keyboard Computer KC-216 Seequa Chameleon Sharp PC-1500A Sharp PC-4 Sharp PC-4500 Sharp PC-4600 Sharp PC-5000 Sharp PC-7000 Sharp PC-7100 STM Systems PC Tandy/Radio Shack 1400LT Tandy/Radio Shack Color Computer Tandy/Radio Shack Color Computer 2 Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model III Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 4P Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 102 Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 200 Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 600 Tandy/Radio Shack WP-2 Televideo/Federal Data Corp Portable PC Texas Instruments Compact Computer 40 Texas Instruments 99/4A Texas Instruments Pro-Lite Toshiba T1000 Toshiba T1100 Toshiba T1100 Plus Toshiba T1200 Toshiba T1200XE Toshiba T1600 Toshiba T3100 Toshiba T3100/20 Toshiba T3100e/40 Toshiba T3100sx Toshiba T3200sx Toshiba T5200 Toshiba T5200/100 Type-O-Graph V-Marc 88a Victor 9000 Visual Commuter VTL Computron Wang LapTop Computer (WLTC) Xerox Daybreak Zenith ZP-150 Zenith ZF-161 Zenith Z-170 Zenith Supersport 286 Zenith ZFL-181-93


Okay, Let’s Go Somewhere: Yael Kanarek in conversation with Dylan Kerr 3/25/16 In 2016, it’s easy to take digital storytelling for granted. The internet is social now, and everywhere we look there are people straining to make themselves heard, to construct a world online better than the one beyond the screen. Yael Kanarek’s World of Awe was not the inspiration behind this contemporary flowering of creative self-expression (we tend to have no problem bending new media to our collective will), but it is one of the first examples of an artist working through the possibilities and pitfalls of the web for an extended period of time. Her sustained engagement means she’s tackled some of the issues we’re only just beginning to grapple with—as users still exploring the digital, we benefit from her early expeditions. Now, after more than twenty years of play and experimentation (and heartache and yearning, too), she’s returning to the world she created in her bedroom to share it with us once again. Let’s start at the beginning: when did you first start building the universe that would become World of Awe? I remember the first time I thought about world building was years before I started working on World of Awe. I was sitting with a group of people around a table having lunch back in Israel—I was probably seventeen. I remember thinking how every person around had a different worldview, a fundamentally distinct way of understanding reality. That thought really stayed with me, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t even know how to think about it. Years later, I came to New York for art school and had participated in a show at the Drawing Center in 1994. It looked great, but I felt that it wasn’t authentic for me—I didn’t know what the next step was. I went home and started compiling a list of all the things that I loved, simple things that were interesting to me: sunsets, candy sprinkles, glitter, travel, learning, et cetera. One of them was the idea of worlds as they appear in literature and film, especially the magical realism of Latin American writers like Borges and Márquez. I was mostly a painter at the time. Just out of school, working in my bedroom, I started to bring those things that I loved into the space of paper and canvas in a very simple, direct way, turning off art world voices in the process. It all came from a simple desire—let me surround myself with the things that I like, things that make me giggle. When you started making these early World of Awe paintings you were a practiced portraitist with a portfolio of traditionally well executed and realistic paintings. Why did you feel the need for the kind of deskilling the works in this show suggest? Portrait painting is a very particular practice and I’m glad I took it on at an early stage. It’s boot camp for rendering. When you’re sitting and drawing someone who’s about to pay you, they will definitely let you know if they’re not happy. The pressure is very high. I practiced it everywhere—on the street for ten dollars a head to the mansion of the Israeli president. It taught me what it means to develop a practice. The start of this deskilling process was a feeling that I didn’t have anything new to bring to that traditional way of painting. What I was doing was either following someone else’s ideas or someone else’s techniques, and I just had to undo all of that. I wanted to go on adventures to places I didn’t know and I didn’t see in SoHo. Part of this undoing was to make myself completely unconcerned with the traditions of classical painting. I didn’t know which direction to go in, so I went towards the things that made me happy, turning to the list of things I loved. In that little space I carved for myself, I felt like I could do something. I love sunsets and sunrises, so that’s what I


painted. I love candy sprinkles and stickers, so I put them in the paintings. I like kisses, so I used the paint tube to “kiss” the paintings. The results were a youthful visual language. I was using the elements that had come together in the paintings to tell a story, like a language of icons. What I wanted to capture was the particular innocence of exploration that comes at a young age. I wanted to be in that mindset as I explored the world I was creating, with all the curiosity and joy and horror that goes with that. I was also trying to move away from the ideas of gender politics as they were practiced at the time, because that space felt foreign and limited. I was trying to find a new language to express a post-gender experience by moving away from the malefemale binary into a creature that had a more mythological feeling to it, that could inhabit a non-gendered, non-political space. When did you first start articulating the world you were building as the written World of Awe narrative we have today? In the beginning it wasn’t even a narrative, just these love letters. I never thought that language would become such a dominant motif in my art practice, but these love letters just started coming into the paintings. After that, these very short stories started to appear as well, and I just wrote them into the paintings with all the typos and grammar mistakes. Eventually I gathered more letters than paintings, because the paintings took longer than writing—plus, I had less space for paintings in my bedroom. How did the transition from this analogue art practice to the new frontier of the internet come about? I had a shitty job at a travel service that gave me access to the web. After I designed and built the site for that business, I immediately wanted to create a website for myself. Suddenly, the physical limitations of my bedroom disappeared. I had access to this endless space. At the same time, I also experienced this kind of liberation of the imagination. It was another moment that I remember as if it was yesterday—I realized that I could imagine in any direction, that there were no restrictions other than the ones I impose. I realized that if I lifted the restrictions I could go anywhere. I was like, “Okay, let’s go somewhere.” The first website was a random mix of those love letters and little stories about my life in the East Village. It was through that I found Rhizome, which was one of the earliest communities of artists and thinkers discussing the possibilities of the internet. I met the founder, Mark Tribe, after I got job BMG Marketing North America as their first in-house web designer, where I built websites for their artists. He told me about Rhizome—I didn’t fully understand, but I thought it was interesting. It took another year or so until I became active. Once I had that community, I suddenly started to feel that this was the area where I really could grow as an artist. From there, I started organizing meetings for artists in new media, because I needed that more physical aspect of the community. Because everything was so new, there was a group of artists, designers, technologists, and visionaries, and people who wanted to explore and throw money into those kinds of things that formed downtown. It was a very enriching environment, where a lot of different kinds of ideas were exchanged. It was multimedia from the very beginning. As a painter, what drove you to the idea of making an artwork using the medium of a website? Why did you feel that this world you were just beginning to build needed that digital context? I always had a feeling that I wanted to be close to new technology, but I didn’t have access to computers. I was twenty-five when I held a mouse for the first time—and how awkward it felt. Once I finally discovered the web, I sunk my teeth into it. It took four days for me to learn HTML and I on went from there. I was also fascinated by the idea of the computer as studio and the internet as exhibition space. I was drawn to its global potential, and how I didn’t have to get any kind of approval or permission from the gallery world. I had just come to New York—the art scene was so daunting. Suddenly, I could just upload something. There was so much invention. I had always


wanted to be part of the cutting edge in art, and it became clear very quickly that this was really the area, that something incredibly huge was about to unfold. Tell me more about the Rhizome community and the people who were first interested in this kind of work. It started as a listserv, founded by Mark Tribe. People were writing thoughts and theory looking for language to describe what this internet art/net.art/Net Art and culture is/can be/shouldn’t be. Many were artists and we would send links and look at each other’s work. There were a lot of collaborative works and participatory projects. We played with the ideas that would become Web 2.0 until the technology caught up. I mean, you can think of the diaristic content of World of Awe as a precursor to the blog. This is how new is all was: I was teaching HTML at Chelsea Vocational High School as an Eyebeam teaching artist with Sanford Biggers. The first class was HTML on the blackboard. The students copied the code to paper because the computers weren’t ready. The internet seemed so abstract. What kinds of reactions were you getting to this in the ‘90s? People who were becoming interested in new media. The Razorfish folks, Pseudo, young startups before the word “startup” meant what it means today. Many of us knew each other. After I made the second site in 1997, I felt that I really needed to know more about the story that was forming shape with me. I needed to actually dedicate time to discover it. I took a year off just to work on the first chapter of A Traveler’s Journal. I put a lot of thought into the text and how I wanted to present that text. I studies early GUI Macs manuals, Windows iconography, Unix, and more. I used Bryce to create the 3D landscapes, which brought an early gaming aesthetic into the story. At the time, styles in web design were just coming and going so quickly. I was thinking that if it took me a year to make this, whatever new design aesthetic I chose would already be passé. I also wanted the interface to be a device in the narrative and part of the storytelling, not just a decorative element. That’s when I came up with the idea of using the classic graphical user interface (GUI) from the early Mac and Windows, which was already twenty years old at the time. It was nostalgic, but it was also a tactical move—I knew that if it was already classic at that time, there’s nowhere for that aesthetic to go besides vanishing out of consciousness completely. How did the work continue to evolve at the turn of the 21st century? The first part of the decade was highly productive. By the end of 1999, I figured how to present the Traveler’s Journal in an interface that would be integrated with narrative and by 2002, the curator Christiane Paul decided to include it in the Whitney Biennial. It was a good year overall—SFMOMA commissioned the second chapter, I joined bitforms, and Upgrade!, a monthly gathering of new media artists I was organizing, was adopted by Liz Slagus at Eyebeam. It was the beginning of a productive ten years relationship with the organization. We used to joke that I have a very long umbilical cord to Eyebeam. Upgrade! eventually became an international group and developed dozens of nodes and four international festivals before it declined around 2010. Jo-Anne Green of Turbulence.org was a major force in expanding Upgrade! Internationally. In the meantime, my World of Awe projects expanded into sculpture, prints and music. In 2006, I launched the Object of Desire, the third chapter of the Traveler’s Journal. Thinking about the internet as a space of languages, I was trying to create a truly polyglot internet artwork. The choice of languages—English, Hebrew, and Arabic—led me to research more contemporary cultural themes and motifs rooted in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. In contrast to what I had been doing with World of Awe, this polyglot space is political, geographical, and historical, and I needed to work through this side of myself. I developed techniques to cast words in silicon and amass them


into wall sculptures, which marked a real shift in the kind of materials and themes I was exploring. Work started to sell, and I moved on from working in the World of Awe narrative to working with the formal and abstract properties of words. Still, the connecting thread throughout my practice is a deep-rooted attraction to language, so much so that when the opportunity presented itself, I extended into business and co-founded a fine jewelry brand dedicated to text jewelry. It was during a 2011 residency at Civitella Ranieri in Italy that I pulled up the Traveler’s Journal file again. Residencies are magical and this one was a fairytale. With the encouragement of a fellow poet, I was finally able to begin the process of completing the narrative. Following my return from Italy, I spent four months straight finishing the story. Shortly afterwards, I exited the World of Awe. As you continued to develop this world, you constantly moved between digital and physical modes of expressing your story, eventually taking the form of various sculptures, prints, and music. Why did you feel the need to physicalize these ideas? As soon as I started thinking about these interrelated ideas as a world, I knew that it had to expand. A world is a multisensory place, and the computer itself is a multi-sensory medium, so it was very natural to create things with sound, with moving images, with digital and physical media. I wanted to populate this environment in every possible way. The more complex and integrated and multifaceted a project is, the more real it feels, and I wanted to see how real I could make this for other people, even though it’s very insular in many ways. I’m glad you brought up that dichotomy between public and private. One of the things I find most interesting about World of Awe is the interplay between this highly idiosyncratic, personal world constructed in your bedroom and the radical openness and exposure of the internet. Why share this world? Wow. I’ve never really thought about that. I don’t know if I understand it, even. I think that I’m inclined to present, to share. That meeting place is where World of Awe can really become a world—a fabric of ideas that become “real" among people. Some people create their work for themselves and that’s where it lives, and some people have to take it out. For me, I think, I become visible when I show my work. To be present in the world is to show the things that I make, to bring my toys to the playground. It’s very difficult to open yourself to people in this way as every artist or performer knows, but I think when love comes to the work—when it makes people feel happy or inspired—that’s when I feel the most loved and alive in the world.

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Love letter 1111/25 Sunset/Sunrise My love,

Silicon Canyon

didn’t eat all the crumbs not poisoned

opulence

mention it first

didn’t eat all the crumbs

you told me

detour

opulence

hanging by the wires

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detour

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didn’t eat all the crumbs

Silicon Canyon

hanging by the wires

opulence

not poisoned

detour

opulence

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Silicon Canyon

not poisoned

didn’t eat all the crumbs

Silicon Canyon

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didn’t eat all the crumbs

detour

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opulence

mention it first

worth while

mention it first

mention it first

Silicon Canyon

not poisoned

Silicon Canyon

Yours forever Your sunset/sunrise forever yours Yours forever yours


Love letter 951/2 sunset/sunrise <oath> Beloved, I have found an old (so it seems) issue of MacWarehouse (which was a cause for great joy because I ran out of ass paper). While flipping through the catalog, I was looking for the value of a box of floppies. I flipped thoroughly page by page, front to back, back to front and upside down...no trace of a floppy. I saw other storage media but no floppies. I looked closely at the drives in the pictures, through the magnifying glass, but none looked like floppy slots. I was baffled. Could it be that technology has advanced so much since my departure? Will I come back to a world with no floppies? I looked at the ones in my pack and a warm feeling spread in my heart. Right there and then, I took an oath of loyalty to the 1.4 MB storage media. Stop progress for me. I had my share. Really, I don't need anymore. Please just say: "Stop! Stop it right there!" Is it too late? Yours forever your sunset/sunrise 4ever yours yours forever yours </oath>


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My tygor luv, I opened the suitcase. Inside I saw: half a mousse jaw With one painted golden tooth – just like mine Inside I saw: One rubber alligator – just like me Inside I saw: A book – just like the one I'm gonna write. How did you know? ("I just know," I can hear you say) inside I saw: A dozen red roses. Inside I saw: A my rubber heart. It was pounding. "Shit, the batteries!" I thought I locked the suitcase and lost the key. Another case added to my belongings. Another case. No longer can open nor leave behind. Your forever, Your sunset/sunrise forever yours Yours forever yours.


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Love letter 8986/95 Sunset/Sunrise My love, You know, sometimes it’s tricky to figure out what’s right and what’s left. I thought about that while climbing the high terrace on my way to the next excavation. Suddenly I noticed that everywhere I looked, I saw this inscription: “It’s time to go home” I mean, everywhere! Every little stone, dead tree trunk, ant, rock, leaf, grain of dirt. Confusing. Nothing on my map said anything about such phenomena. Perhaps an error or maybe I was projecting myself on the landscape, I took it upon myself to clean the area as I moved on. Surprisingly the inscription came right off as it was written in chalk. So, picture me walking around wiping and wiping but the job never ends. Worse, the pickier I got the more: “It’s time to go home” ‘s I found. Nevertheless, I had found solace in the intricate landscape that opened up to an extraordinary view: Powerful earth tones of deep ocher to fierce red to coal black. And I was breathing it in, breathing it in, and then it dawned on me that about 60 miles long, out there, all the way out there, spreading wide it said: “It’s time to go home.” I sat down in despair thinking to myself, "Howww, how for heaven’s sake am I going clean that?! Such an enormous task would be a terrible delay of my mission." I opened my pack and pulled out my black scarf, folded it carefully and tied it around my eyes. I picked up my map and gently touching the lines, I started navigating my way ahead. My other hand was holding chalk and scribbling: “It’s time to go home.” Yours forever, Your sunset/sunrise forever yours, Yours forever yours


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Love Letters from a World of Awe

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World of Awe, Kisses Kisses  

Kisses Kisses zine is a World of Awe project published for Yael Kanarek's fifth solo exhibition at bitforms gallery, 2016.

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