Managing Boundaries with your Intelligent Personal Agent

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Karen, my life coach, was supposed to teach me about changing my attitude towards relationships.[1] Over the past ten days, she has mostly taught me about how not to be caught up in one. I've watched her get wine-blind with Dave, her lecherous roommate. I've seen her wallow in her pajamas over the man who got away. She doesn't practice radical self-love. She is reductive, aimless, even pathetic, but I don't have the heart to fire her.

Karen is an iPhone app developed by Blast Theory and Dr. Kelly Page.[2] Over the course of 17 interactive videos, I meet with its protagonist, Karen—a sweet, crumpled woman played with pitch-perfect melancholy by actress Claire Cage.[3] I log in at all hours to watch: from the airport, during my commute, and late at night. I am sucked into her chaos. She has no boundaries. I can walk in on her eating breakfast, doing her makeup, or daydreaming in bed. I am more careful to draw my own.

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First Look: Miranda July - 'Somebody'

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Miranda July's messaging service Somebody is presented as part of First Look, the New Museum's ongoing series of digital projects, now co-curated and copresented by Rhizome. Because the app relies on face-to-face interaction, the New Museum (along with other sites around the world) will serve as a "hotspot" for users of the app. 

Miranda July, Somebody, 2014 (still, featuring July). Video, dir. Miranda July. Courtesy the artist and Miu Miu.

"Texting is tacky. Calling is awkward. Email is old." —Miranda July

In Miranda July's 1998 experimental video The Amateurist, a young woman with a jet-black pixie haircut in a stiff professional dress (played by July) studies a TV set displaying a fuzzy surveillance feed of a blonde woman (also played by July), who is squirming in the corner of a small cell. While speaking to the camera, the pixied professional reels off all sorts of absurd quantifications and explanations of the surveilled woman's movements. She maps her emotions to a numbered grid, psychoanalyzes her behavior, quips about her habits, and consistently runs roughshod across boundaries between doctor and patient, subject and object, viewer and viewed, public and private, in what is ultimately an excessive examination without any apparent justification. Since the video was produced, July's body of work has expanded from video and performance to include online works, novels, and feature films—all of which attempt to dissolve boundaries between fictionalized personae, or between the artist and her audience. It's significant to note that July started out in the experimental-video scene of the '90s, since so much of her work is about how the adaptation of new technologies affects us on a very personal level. Regardless of medium, her works reflect how broad social changes inflect our most intimate relations.

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