Study of Waves: an interview with SCRAAATCH

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Still from digital re-performance of SCRAAATCH No. 8 (2015)

We have been following the work of Philadelphia-based artists SCRAAATCH aka E. Jane and chukwumaa (E+c) since crossing paths at an event at MoCADA in Brooklyn. Recently, they came back to New York to prepare for an upcoming performance at The Kitchen. We had the chance to sit down for a conversation in Chelsea. After parting ways, we were struck not only by all the common ground between our teams, but also by the divergences. We realized we wanted to talk more about how they work and where their practice is going. E+c will perform their work SCRAAATCH no. 9 at The Kitchen as a part of the S/N series this Friday, June 5, between 4 – 6 pm.

M+K: We've been working together almost 20 years, so we are always interested in how teams function. Why do you choose  to collaborate? What does it make possible for you as individuals or what are you trying to say by collaborating?

E+c: One thing we loved hearing in Kanye West's Zane Lowe interview was his idea of having multiple outlets. He described how having different containers for different creative impulses prevents you from clouding up one project by trying to put too many ideas into it. We're both really generative and are engaged with conversations around a lot of different fields, ideas, inclinations, audiences and questions. SCRAAATCH allows us to channel some energy that might cloud our individual work, which can sometimes be much more project-centered.

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Caitlyn Jenner and the Facebook Real Name Policy

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Protesters in Menlo Park yesterday. (Photo by Gareth Gooch).

Yesterday, Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself to an eager public via a magazine cover, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. The Twitter account gained a million followers faster than the previous record-holder, Barack Obama, and the Facebook page garnered hundreds of thousands of likes in its first day. Coming a week after the news that IMG had signed Hari Nef (onetime host of Ed Fornieles's NY NY HP HP for Rhizome), the news heralded a new level of public visibility and acceptance for transgender people.


The irony of Caitlyn Jenner's Facebook popularity is that the social media site has such an unsupportive official stance toward name changes in general. The policy not only forbids creating profiles under stage names or personas or alter egos, it forbids profiles under any name that can't be backed up by a legal document, such as identification or a piece of mail. (The rules are different for Pages, such as Jenner's). Facebook is like the right-wing uncle who deliberately misgenders you, on principle. 

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Stay With Me: AIRBNB Pavilion at IDEAS CITY

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Saturday, May 30, 12-6pm EST 
Live-stream at rhizome.org 
Live-stream viewing session at Houston Street Center, 273 Bowery (Information and reservations: info@rhizome.org)

As part of the 2015 IDEAS CITY Festival, Rhizome and the New Museum invited AIRBNB Pavilion to organize a day-long salon addressing Airbnb and contemporary domesticity in New York. 

For his 1971 tape Chinatown Voyeur, the artist Gordon Matta-Clark recorded images of domestic spaces from the street, using the nascent medium of video. The spaces were partly hidden, shadowy and grainy, and lived in. Today, Airbnb has given the domestic sphere a new, public role in the city's economic and political life, making it newly visible: immaculate, unpopulated, and overlit. With this new visibility, the practice of interior decoration takes on a new urgency. As arguments rage about Airbnb's impact on city life, we invited the AIRBNB Pavilion to consider the questions: How might interior decoration intervene productively Airbnb's ongoing transformation of this city? And, to what end?

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Artist Profile: Mark Dorf

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

Mark Dorf, Untitled (Sketch) (2014)
 
Kerry Doran: Your work, though seemingly based on nature and natural formations, is very much about human-made, technological constructs, using a visual vocabulary we are familiar with to show us unfamiliar and often invisible forces like networked activity and virtual spaces.   More broadly, it probes at the notion of “the scientific,” or what we consider to be objective truth. As religion and its iconography once were, science is now our foremost means of making sense of our landscape; a way to understand the world through categories, systems, principles, equations, and technologies, which are all human-made and therefore arbitrary or fallible. How do you use landscape as a catalyst, and even a sort of iconography, to deal with the construction of objectivity or lack thereof?

Mark Dorf: Landscape itself is the set of symbols that human beings have been looking at the longest— perhaps only second to the body. It's where we originate from, so it follows suit that our symbols originate from here, too. With such a deeply rooted biological and elemental connection to the land, we find its aesthetics intensely fascinating. For instance, you would be hard-pressed to find a single person on this planet that would not consider a photograph of the Grand Canyon, even of the most amateur of quality, a quintessentially idyllic scene. We are drawn to these images, and upon seeing these kinds of symbolic references, there is an immediate sense of connection despite a void of human presence.

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'Bodies are packages made to be opened': Shu Lea Cheang's 'I.K.U.' (2000)

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The following is an excerpt from The I.K.U. Experience, The Shu-Lea Cheang Phenomenon, an essay in New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut (2013) by B. Ruby Rich.

Just step right up, ladies and gentlemen, the carnival is about to begin. Come inside, surf the net, play the video game, dive into the screen, cruise the future, come get fucked, just come, come, come. Bodies are packages made to be opened, minds are penetrable, sensations communicable, orgasms collectable.

I.K.U. invents a future cybersexual universe, where trained replicants roam the empty spaces of unseen metropolises, hunting willing prey for orgasmic sexual marathons conducted in the service of science. The irresistible replicants are equipped with unicorn-like arms which – presto -- turn into dildo machines specifically calibrated to collect and transmit the specifications of orgasms into the centralized corporatized databases of the future. Meanwhile, the species of the future are wildly indeterminate, gender-blurred or homo-sex, oversexed or just, well, willing. Shorn of emotion, sex isn't just work. Data has its pleasures, too.

And the audience? Like it or not, you're implicated in it all, swept up by the throbbing techno soundtrack, plunged directly into the action by the animation tunnels that materialize at the onset of arousal.

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Don't Fight It: On "/Performing the Text," curated by Kerry Doran

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Screengrab from Martine Syms's Nite Life (2015)

"Don't you believe me?" "Huh?" "What's wrong with me?" "Somebody…" "You know what I'm saying?"

Asks Martine Syms's Nite Life. These texts appear through an invisible cursor on a purple backdrop, mimicking the rhythm of a nervous diction before quickly deleting themselves. Some level of interaction seems to be expected, but there is no way to reply—in contrast with Syms's recent project with Gina Trapani for Seven on Seven, Insecurity Questions.

The website's performance of these words—which Syms culled from Sam Cooke's asides to the audience on the record Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963—is diametrically opposed to the bravado we often associate with recordings like "A Change is Going to Come" or with Cooke's voice in general. Even after successfully crossing over from Gospel to Pop (a transition that included a comparatively restrained appearance on Ed Sullivan), Cooke's live performances were characterized by their energy and the intensity of the audience's interaction. These characteristics resulted in executives deeming this live recording “too black" to be released; the recording did not see the light of day until Cooke's style was no longer in vogue.

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Serial Experiments for a Better Future: Holly Herndon's 'Platform'

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Ever the defender of the laptop as a gateway to more accurate and speculative expressions of the self, Herndon goes for the throat of the issues of our contemporary future with her second album, Platform

Having gathered together several collaborators with varied abilities and perspectives, she holds a sort of speculative symposium in the form of ten audio tracks. Her focus is the "exit" to a new "platform," a collaborative space in which possible futures may take shape. There is a brighter future ahead in Herndon's world; technology has the effect not of separation, but of creating a deeply intrinsic closeness and intimacy strewn through collapsed spaces. The laptop: the medium is the message, is the massage.

Drawing on the work of philosopher of design Benedict Singleton, Herndon is proposing a mechanization of "platform dynamics theory.” Traditional planning for the future will always fail in the face of complexity and contingency, the theory goes, so instead we should focus on the design of platforms—the material and social infrastructures we inhabit, which have certain affordances and limitations and therefore open the way to different kinds of futures.

Herndon’s album, as a collaborative space for development, is offered as one such platform. The future is cooperation; Herndon has moved on from thinking about the laptop as an extension of the body to thinking about it as a platform through which a superstructural, collective experience can be had. Along with “platforms,” the album’s other essential keyword is "exits," signaled by the title to Track 06, “An Exit.” Exits leading from our present situation to new platforms, that is, rather than escapes to impossible utopias.

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Poor Media on Demand: All the files of Printed Web 3

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Printed Web 3 is currently featured on the front page of Rhizome.org as a browsable Apache directory.

Earlier this year, I announced an open call for the third issue of Printed Web, a semi-annual publication dedicated to web-to-print discourse. I received a stunning array of files from recognized artists like Olia Lialina, Kim Asendorf, and Clement Valla, but the real beauty of the open call was connecting with a new group of people working with material found or created on the web —147 contributors in all. A particularly diverse view of networked culture formed on my desktop through an accumulation of notes, attachments, tweets, and downloads. Gathering this community around Printed Web was immensely satisfying for me, and I wanted to include every submission in the issue — but having received hundreds of PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and GIFs, the logistical challenges to this have been considerable.

My intention had always been to publish all of the files received in a single print edition, but as submissions poured in, I decided that “scattering” the material across different networked versions would allow the project to occupy multiple apositions in a way that suited its multiplicitous content.

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