Politics as networked performance; Trump, LeBoeuf, pepe and the election

I wrote an article for upcoming magazine Attenzione on Shia LeBoeuf’s artwork ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ and the subsequent street and stream battles that took place.

Excerpts below, full article released on publication.

Utilising the structure of an always-on webcam, the invitation of narcissistic self-exposure, exquisite timing and Hollywood star power, Le Beouf activated adoration and admonishment. The HWNDU platform brought fans and trolls from their bedrooms, dorm rooms and basements to physically, symbolically and verbally enrage each other on the streets of New York. Capitalising on discontent once left to stew behind a keyboard, Le Beouf’s art work succeeded in creating a networked political reality show with its own cast of performers, repeat visitors and individuals drawn to troll the setup in-person. Footage streamed online was subsequently cut into fragments by users, providing the project with its own sustaining viral spread over networks. On Youtube and message boards mythologies began to circulate telling of the performative interventions of characters. These repeat visitors were tagged with nicknames by the online watchers; ‘Jackie 4Chan’, ‘AIDS Bjorn’, ‘Based Pole’. Mixing between them were more well-known YouTube and Twitch figures including Brittany Venti and Sam Hyde.

After Le Beouf was arrested for assault at the Queens location the Museum for the Moving Image shut down the project citing a ‘violent and unsafe environment’. The project moved to Alberquerque New Mexico until drive-by shootings led it to being relocated once more. The next iteration of the HWNDU stream initiated a proxy game of ‘Capture the Flag’ or Massively Multiplayer Realtime Trolling. The same Helvetica font with He Will Not Divide Us was applied to a white flag and run up a flag pole with no other geographic or contextual information provided. A white flag with black text framed by a blue sky. Within minutes of establishing a live connection from this new location the self-proclaimed ‘weaponised Autism’ of message board users on 4Chan.org was deployed. Such highly-networked and coordinated intelligence resulted in flight paths being triangulated, geographic analysis shared of regional frog croaking sounds and astronomical star tracking all used to pinpoint the new location of the flag. A video game physicalised into the world, with many points of online cultural cred to be unlocked per each imagined tear of Shia.

Art and Politics in the Age of Cognitive Capitalism

In late May 2018 I will be attending the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles.

http://saasfeesummerinstituteofart.com

Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) is a nomadic, intensive summer academy with shifting programs in contemporary critical theory academy that originated in Saas Fee, Switzerland in 2015 and moved to Berlin in 2016. SFSIA stresses an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the relationship between art and politics. This year, in addition to the Berlin academy, we are hosted in Los Angeles by Otis College of Art and Design with participation of the MA Aesthetics and Politics in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts.

The academy was founded by fine artist and theorist Warren Neidich, is co-directed by art critic and poet Barry Schwabsky. Sarah Beadle is Director of Administration. It was conceived in 2014 as part of an ongoing effort to engage contemporary artists in political, socio-economic, philosophical and historical discourses concerning the power of art. Importantly it realizes that art plays both a generative and emancipatory role in producing theory while at the same time being aware of Neoliberal capitalism’s recuperative prowess.

The program runs two weeks and is structured with half-day seminars, deep readings, and workshops. In the evening SFSIA holds a lecture series, which is open to the public.

Faculty
Alva Noë, Andrew Culp, Arne De Boever, Barry Schwabsky, Candice Lin, Ed Finn, Eleanor Kaufman, Florencia Portocarrero, Graham Harman, Jason Smith, Jennifer Teets, Johanna Drucker, John C. Welchman, Juli Carson, Kenneth Reinhard, Mary Kelly, N. Katherine Hayles, Nima Bassiri, Renee Petropoulos, Reza Negarestani, Sanford Kwinter, Suparna Choudhury, Warren Neidich.

Dopamine and distraction

Geert Lovink of Amsterdam’s Institute of Network Cultures on the attention span economy, Facebook and the self-policing of social media exposure.

The elite is in two minds about the ‘distraction epidemic’, a confusion with profound implications for educational standards and pedagogic approaches. The rulers demand digital skills sets and deep reading abilities at the same time. It is not in their interest to bring the hollow user to life. We’re not just talking about doubts rationalized as ethical issues; the attention issue goes to the core of how the global economy is being shaped. On the one hand, research repeatedly makes the point that considerable productivity gains will be made once access to social media during work hours is prevented. On the other hand, a growing number of businesses benefit precisely from the blurring of boundaries between work and private life. Under employment conditions that make permanent access a prerequisite, going offline is a potentially dangerous affair. The app that hooks us, will also set us free.

https://www.eurozine.com/distraction-and-its-discontents/

Limmy’s Homemade Show

Limmy is Glaswegian. He came from the web, born of early YouTube. Compressed domestic tales from the compressed cloud cover of a pishy wet city.

Between 2010-13 he produced Limmy’s Show, a BBC Scotland sketch show. Ecstasy jokes at funerals. Junkie internal monologues in airless living rooms. Anti-moral tales from the housing estate. A wet surrealism born from desperation, seratonin-depletion and workplace demoralisation.

Limmy faces the camera. He has his location. His battery is charged. He hits record.

He found a niche in Vine, the short-video sharing social network subsumed into Twitter in 2016. Working in such concision his gestures are witnessed in flashes; a gnarl of teeth, a glance, the snatch of a gesture that transmits directly to our reptilian stem. Before we can react we see, and what we see is Limmy’s primordial state. Often in bed, without clothing or the presence of others, Limmy gags for the camera. A slithering tongue followed by a kitchen knife followed by a loving stare to camera. These are the masks of persona trying itself on. A face cycling through numerous emotional states and energies. The additional impact from their cataloguing into 600 Vine Supercompilations on YouTube makes suffocation inevitable.

Limmy will now create his ‘Homemade show’ in 2017. Between cheap high-resolution video cameras and the infinite potential of his apartment. A new form born from hand-held video devices, social sharing and the home.

Hello World

I’m pleased to announce in February I will be embarking on PhD study at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia.

A 3.5 year practice-based research period to study lens-based performance on video sharing networks, gesture and interface online and the influence of algorithmic cultures on the social body.

DERC focuses on understanding a contemporary world where digital and mobile technologies are increasingly inextricable from the environments and relationships in which everyday life plays out.

DERC excels in both academic scholarship and in our applied work with external partners from industry and other sectors.

DERC approaches this world and how we experience it through innovative, reflexive and ethical ethnographic approaches, developed through anthropology, media and cultural studies, design, arts and documentary practice and games research.

Our research is incisive, interventional and internationally leading. Going beyond the call of pure academia we combine academic scholarship with applied practice to produce research, analysis and dissemination projects that are innovative and based on ethnographic insights.

DERC partners and collaborates with a range of institutions in Australia and globally, including other universities, companies and other organisations. This includes collaborative research projects, conferences, symposia and workshops, and international visits, fellowships and publications.

The Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC) was established in December 2012 by Larissa Hjorth and Heather Horst with the aim of consolidating and further developing RMIT’s strength in international digital innovation. The Centre is now Directed by Sarah Pink who will be taking it into its second stage of development from 2016.

DERC members are aligned into Labs to represent their research interests, DERC Labs include:

Data Ethnographies Lab
Design+Ethnography+Futures (D+E+F) Lab
Bio Inspired Digital Sensing-Lab (BIDS-Lab)
Digital Transformations Lab
Visual Impact
Migration and Digital Media Lab