MachineMachine /stream - search for error en-us LifePress <![CDATA[On The Importance of Exploding Heads]]>

Writer and Editor, Benjamin Shearn Narrator, Matt D’Elia Music J.S. Bach Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, Cantata BWV 22 - 5. Sanctify Us (Arr. Cohen) Performed by Alicia De Larrocha Featuring Clips from Scanners, Hellraiser, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Fury, Dust Devil, Chopping Mall, Wild At Heart, The Fly, Saw IV, Dogma, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Street Trash, Planet Terror, The Prowler, Kingsmen: The Secret Service, Stitches, Dawn of the Dead, Prometheus, Deadly Friend, Battle Royale, I Am Not Okay With This, Maniac This video is for not for profit. This video is for educational purposes only. No infringement is intended.

Sun, 17 May 2020 09:26:56 -0700
<![CDATA[Survivorship bias - Wikipedia]]>

Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways.

Sun, 23 Feb 2020 12:37:24 -0800
<![CDATA[Sam Harris Is A Fraud - tHE r H i z z o n E]]>

In 2004 Sam Harris published his bestselling book “The End of Faith”. In the aftermath of 9/11, the declaration of the War on Terror and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Harris’ book hit the mark with middle class liberals.

Sat, 22 Dec 2018 06:19:16 -0800
<![CDATA[Google's solution to accidental algorithmic racism: ban gorillas | Technology | The Guardian]]>

After Google was criticised in 2015 for an image-recognition algorithm that auto-tagged pictures of black people as “gorillas”, the company promised “immediate action” to prevent any repetition of the error.

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 08:03:15 -0700
<![CDATA[A Most American Terrorist: The Making Of Dylann Roof | GQ]]>

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.

Wed, 06 Sep 2017 03:24:08 -0700
<![CDATA[The Compulsions of the Similar: Animated GIFs and the TechnoCultural Body]]>

This paper on GIFs and screen-based compulsion is a very extended follow-up to a short, but widely disseminated, piece I wrote in 2011: On the Doctrine of the Similar (GIF GIF GIF). It is presented here as a draft, since I never published this paper officially. I hope it is useful/interesting for GIF lovers everywhere. Rather than designate high resolutions and white-knuckle optical speeds as representative of 21st Century techno-cultural immersion, I consider animated GIFs a more contemporary medium. From their origins in the early 90s as simple linguistic stand-ins animated GIFs have diversified along with the web that birthed them. They correspond quickly and directly, and lend themselves to constant mutation and (re)assemblage at the hands of their producers and consumers; blurring the distinction between these identities along the way. Their poor visual fidelity is made up for by their propensity to repeat and cycle in lieu of the actions and expressions they harbour. By allowing us to wallow in their remixed repetitions animated GIFs feed on the human susceptibility to resemblance and recognition, even as their surface affect remains distanced from any particular media origin. As Sally Mckay describes, “GIFs are simultaneously ‘in your face’ and in your mind, their affects continuous with the immersive experience of daily internet use.” [1] This status enables GIFs as a metaphor for contemporary techno-culture itself, framing our distributed, multimedial space-time in staged, repeatable, and digestible patterns. In its early days, cinema was considered capable of immobilising the world for the purposes of human appreciation and enchantment. Eadweard Muybridge sought to isolate the gallop of the horse from its particular being in time and space, so that it was forever framed for our experience. Today a million versions of Muybridge’s horse careen around the web as animated GIFs of questionable quality, flashing fleetingly, but often, on screens that scroll in multiple dimensions. In turn pictures, depictions and imitations have given way to motions, evocations and impressions, mixing the shared memory of our collective experiences at ever greater speeds, distances and – most importantly – correspondences than ever before. As Daniel Rubinstein points out the content of an animated GIF “can be figurative or abstract, lyrical or macabre, but… the primary materials that the GIF artist uses are rhythm and repetition…” [2] An aesthetics not necessarily of surface reception, but of delivery, temporality and the patterns of configuration. A patterning that calls to mind the work of Walter Benjamin, who argued that metre, rhythm and other heterogeneous impressions had a significant impact on human modes of intuition and experience. [3] It is fascinating to consider Benjamin’s early essays, especially his The Doctrine of the Similar from 1933, in relation to his more widely read work on film. Having established the process by which humans became ensconced in what Susan Buck-Morss calls a “new nature… of matter as it has been transformed by” technology, [4] Benjamin went on in The Work of Art (1936) [5] to explore the significance this technologised environment has on the human “mimetic faculty.” [6] In two 1933 essays Benjamin argues that ‘primitive’ language emerged in magical correspondence with the world. From the surface of the starry sky, or the intestines of a sacrificed animal, early humans “read what was never written,” [7] deriving mystical revelations from the constellations and signatures perceived there. [8] Configurations between patterns were what determined legibility, not just because they carried an intended meaning – being ‘written’ there by the Gods, for instance – but because similarities ‘flash up’ speculatively in the human mind: So speed, the swiftness in reading or writing which can scarcely be separated from this process, would then become… the effort or gift of letting the mind participate in that measure of time in which similarities flash up fleetingly out of the stream of things only in order to become immediately engulfed again. [9] “Nature creates similarities,” and as such, humans being of nature, are driven by a mimetic compulsion “to become and behave like something else,” [10] projecting that same compulsion into the world around them. This compulsion manifested itself in group dances, as song and spoken language, and later, as writing, eventually flattening the speculative space of mimetic experience into inscriptions on stone, vellum, or paper. As Howard Caygill observes: Configuration is thus transformed into inscription, reducing the speculative reading of the similarity between patterns into the transcendental reading of graphically inscribed marks upon an infinite but bounded surface. [11] Like the writing that Benjamin believed ‘captured’ human beings and their mimetic faculty, animated GIFs point to a new type of inscription, born of, and infinitely responsive to itself. We enter into this whether or not we wish too, each time we navigate a browser window, or slide our fingers across a smartphone screen. We are as malleable as our nature. A physiological suspense beckoning from the screen that animated GIFs turn around and loop – indefinitely – as a reminder of their own attention. In creating and sharing GIFs we add depth to the flat surfaces through which the internet is received. We may be ensconced in this space, and pulled along by it, but it is a space whose apparent distribution across screens, browser windows, and multiple devices too readily gestures to our bodies and selves as being fully individuated, rather than to the whole assemblage of which both our bodies, devices, and the images that play between them, are a part. Benjamin believed that, rather than allowing us to attain mastery over nature, technologies such as film give us an awareness over our relationship with nature through the processes of “material complexification.” [12] For Benjamin this training was akin to the relationship between factory workers and the production line, where the ratchet of the gears and conveyors program the workers’ bodies, fusing them together into a larger assemblage. The successive frames of film, made to spool through the mechanism one after the other at imperceptible speed, create an illusion of temporal and spatial fluidity that shock us into an awareness of the complex relation between our psychic and physiological realities. As R.L Rutsky lucidly explains, “this scattered, interrupted filmic reception becomes part of the human sensorium or body… a body that is no longer distanced from—or entirely separate from—the images and shocks that it comes into contact with.” [13] Constituted by what Anne Friedberg describes as a “mobilized and virtual gaze,” [14] filmic subjectivity has often been considered to correspond to the supposed sovereignty of the consumer, predicated on the promise of an enhanced mobility and freedom of choice across a dizzying array of goods and spectacles. Time and space themselves became filmic, opening up onto new mimetic correspondences discoverable in everything from the high-speed montage of flowers in bloom, to the slowed down and isolated gallop of Muybridge’s horse. Cinema goers attain all the nobility of flâneurs exploring endless arcades of experience without ever having to leave their seats. As R.L. Rutsky argues, the audience ‘becomes’ through this collective “state of distraction,” defined by “its ability to ‘take up’ these images in much the same way that the film apparatus does.” [15] And so the mimetic faculty itself achieves a kind of mechanisation in the mass spectacle of moving images, able to reveal correspondences at speeds and densities hitherto impossible to conceive. In the words of Mark Hansen: Despite the vast acceleration of image circulation in the historical interval separating Benjamin’s moment from ours, his effort to grapple with the material impact of… autonomous images remains exemplary: it com­prises an indispensable model that can guide us in our efforts to forge con­nections with our alienating, postimaginary material world. [16] Whereas the mimetic faculty had originally come to correspond with nature through theological ritual or script, with this second nature – of what Mark Hansen calls “the mechanosphere” [17] – the correspondence is material, and sensuous. Our receptivity is physiological, our bodies are shared, and our memories – now dependent on the “alien rhythms” [18] of montage – have become intricately woven into the machine as images. In turn, as noted by Arthur Kroker, “the image machine is haunted by memories of the body,” [19] bodies that depend on the fidelity, malleability and repeatability of film, videotape, and more recently, digital forms of media for their existence. As with its filmic ancestors, animated GIFs often frame fragmented images of time in snippets of montage, giving what Gilles Deleuze termed “common standard of measurement to things which do not have one,” framing “long shots of countryside and close-ups of the face, an astronomical system and a single drop of water” [20] within a single perceptual apparatus. The train whips by on the silver screen, but the instant of each image impacting us is lost as the play of further images moves onwards through experience. As Steven Shaviro has insisted, we “have already been touched by and altered by these sensations, even before [we] have had the chance to become conscious of them.” [21] But unlike filmic time, made to reel at 24 frames per second, the GIF’s loading mechanism introduces a more awkward temporal component into perception: that of bandwidth. Standardized in 1987 by CompuServe, the GIF’s early popularity was based, in part, on their ability to load in time with its download. In the days of dial-up connections this meant that at least part of a GIF image would appear before the user’s connection froze, or – more significantly – the user could see enough of the image for it to mean something. In 1989 Compuserve updated GIFs to use this ‘partial loading’ mechanism to encode animations within a single GIF file. In essence, the hacky update transformed a two dimensional spatial loading mechanism into a three dimensional temporal one. A file format designed to harness correspondences within each single image had become about correspondences between and across images. According to Jason Eppink in 1995 Netscape Navigator, an early popular web browser, “took advantage of [this mechanism] to enable looping, making the GIF viable for animation online over dial-up speeds.” [22] Small in size and made up of few frames, this is where animated GIFs entered their ‘classic’ [23] phase. Corresponding to single phrases or concepts such as ‘Under Construction’, ‘Area 51’ or ‘flying pink unicorn’, the era of personal web pages saturated with spinning hamsters is one anybody born after 1990 will little remember, but its influence on the contemporary ‘folk’ attitude of the web has not abated. As the 2000s came into view, animated GIFs became freed up by an increase in bandwidth and storage capacity to show more complex assemblages, and it was at this stage that the format achieved its common contemporary use as a vehicle for moments framed from cinema, television and – increasingly – video websites like YouTube. Frame grab or video capture GIFs often pay homage to isolated moments in pop culture, but as the ‘craft’ of animated GIFs has grown, so the frame capture form has begun to correspond well outside the filmic and televisual contexts from which they were first appropriated. This leap is, for me, the first point at which GIFs begin to co-ordinate their own realm of mimetic correspondence. An ocean of viral videos turned into a self-serving visual vernacular, looping back on itself ad infinitum. Brought on by their obsolescence, animated GIFs are among the most contradictory of images, able to resist the rigid taxonomies of the burgeoning algorithmic economy, even as they are turned into ‘clickbait’ by sites like BuzzFeed, [24] who rely on them to flash on screens kept in motion by the compulsive scroll of a mouse, or – increasingly – a finger or thumb. From our vantage point, subsumed by the impact of a high-bandwidth internet culture, animated GIFs [25] seem quaint, clumsy, even remedial in their capacity to transmit information. GIFs are easy to share and edit, but difficult for search engines to classify and catalogue. They are usually small in size, but their popularity exerts a significant load on the web servers that host them. As internet speeds have increased, and screen resolutions soared in depth, GIFs have remained; flickering endlessly as visual reminders of the ubiquitous mess the internet has become. Users of sites like Tumblr, 4chan, and Reddit revel in the capacity of GIFs to quickly correspond to the world, capturing token moments of experience or expression that signal well beyond their original context. Images can be made to correspond with increasing immediacy; can be cut, copied, stretched, collected and forced to clash in violent juxtaposition through Photoshopping, embedding, and multiple recompressions, using software interfaces that themselves are infinitely malleable. As Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska argue in Life After New Media, one of the principle ways in which we create meaning through matter is by cutting: Cutting reality into smaller pieces – with our eyes, our bodily and cognitive apparatus, our language, our memory, and our technologies – we enact separation and relationality as the two dominant aspects of material locatedness in time. [26] The affect of a GIF is not just felt, but copied and pasted elsewhere; separated and related in never before seen patterns and expressions. GIFs can be broken into their constituent frames, compressed and corrupted on purpose and made to act as archives for viral ‘memetic’ events travelling the web. It is possible to track the cultural development of some of these correspondences. Often though, the source of the cultural moment they hail from becomes completely lost in the play of images. Finding meaning in the semiotic sludge of these GIFs often requires a sensitivity to similitude bordering on the magical, even if their visceral impact is beyond question. Net artists and archaeologists, Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied, have long been fascinated by a GIF known as ‘Real_Dancing_Girl’. Indeed, Lialina cites the GIF as a defining impetus in her desire to become a net artist in the first place. [27] Small in size and given to a multitude of purposes and meanings, Real_Dancing_Girl.GIF found her way onto many thousands of personal web pages during the early ‘classic’ GIF era, made to dance alongside a cast of similar pixelated characters. If you blow Real_Dancing_Girl up to a size well beyond the means of a mid-90s desktop monitor to display, it is easy to see a single aberrant pixel that flashes each time she swings her hips to her left. [28] Throughout Real_Dancing_Girl’s 20 something years of propagation around the web this pixel remained, apparently unnoticed, or at least aesthetically accepted by those who added the GIF to their webpages. The pixel in Real_Dancing_Girl indicates the difficulty the network has in determining what communicates and what doesn’t. Its significance may be slight – a punctum to prick the attention of those enraptured by the image – but the aberrant pixel signals how the mimetic faculty tends to shift inwards. In recent homages to the GIF nameless web artists have incorporated the anomalous pixel in their higher resolution remakes, mimicking the movements of Real_Dancing_Girl as their digitised bodies recoil. A playground of correspondences that at first mimicked language and the wider world now mimics itself. As Graig Uhlin notes, narrative correspondence is not the guiding principle of the GIF, rather “the viewer is caught up in the GIF’s temporal suspension: to view is to be captivated.” [29] A 2015 BuzzFeed article entitled Can You Get Through These 17 GIFs Of Massive Zits Being Popped Without Shielding Your Eyes? [30] poses a challenge to the audience that promises bodily affect, relying on the GIF as its primary vehicle. As BuzzFeed is wont to do the article encourages the ‘reader’ to scroll through each animated GIF for no other reason than for the experience it will deliver. The GIFs are knowingly visceral, their careful ‘listicle’ [31] arrangement down the length of the page no less meticulous than the framing of each individual animated GIF on the spectacle of a zit being burst asunder. Here bodies are vast surfaces closed off by each GIF, so that even though the moment of each zit’s (and therefore each body’s) eruption is reduced to its purest semblance, the affect of bodies in their entirety is alluded to and made significant. Each GIF has its own title that celebrates the compulsion of this activity, and the sense of release and relief they represent for the bodies subjected to by each GIF and, in turn, the body of the viewer suspended among them: Doesn’t this make you feel relaxed? Just imagine how gratifying this must feel… How is it possible to feel such disgust and satisfaction at the same time? Yeah, it’s kind of gross to watch… …but there’s no denying there’s something beautiful about these gifs. [32] The audience is encouraged to excerpt their mimetic faculty, to revel in the correspondences between GIFs and eruptions; to find ‘beauty’ in these captivating physiological rhythms. Indeed, the ‘loop’ of each individual zit and its eruption is enhanced by the further repetition of awareness and reception as the tirade of grotesque releases continues. In the zit article we find a paradigm of the click/scroll/repeat reverie that BuzzFeed has become synonymous with. A compulsion to derive affect, and physiological release, in the navigation of lists of what BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti calls “upbeat, even childlike content.” [33] In an April 2015 article for Vox Dylan Matthews reflects [34] on the success of BuzzFeed by looking over an academic paper written by Jonah Peretti a decade before the launch of the website. [35] Published in theory journal Negations in 1996 [36] Peretti’s paper uses Frederic Jameson’s Postmodernism and Consumer Society, and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia to offer a definition of the distributed identities of contemporary consumers. Deleuze, Guattari and Jameson use the figure of the ‘schizophrenic’ [37] to refer to an individual without a defined ego or identity. Jameson saw “the rapid fire succession of signifiers in MTV style media” [38] of the 1980s as serving “to confuse viewers, harm[ing] their ability to use culture to build identities.” [39] Peretti fuses this view with Deleuze and Guattari’s more ‘emancipatory’ take on the egoless schizophrenic: a figure able to resist the pre-packaged identities being offered them by capitalism, and act – effectively – on their own desires. [40] For Dylan Matthews, Peretti’s fused rendering of the schizophrenic offers an insight into the principles behind BuzzFeed. As Peretti himself wrote in his 1996 paper: Capitalism needs schizophrenia, but it also needs egos… The contradiction is resolved through the acceleration of the temporal rhythm of late capitalist visual culture. This type of acceleration encourages weak egos that are easily formed, and fade away just as easily. [41] The zit article exemplifies the plethora of visual identifications that BuzzFeed accelerates through social-media echo chambers. Its skill is to create lists and headlines that everyone and anyone can relate to, and will click and scroll through. “23 Euphoric Moments Literally Everyone Has Experienced”; “23 Times Tumblr Went Way Too Fucking Far”; “19 Euphoric Experiences For Book Lovers”; “21 Things Everyone Who Went To Primary School In Wales Remembers.” Once again the GIF becomes not only the vehicle, but the metaphor of identity destruction and rebirth. A bearer of postimaginary perception, through which – to hijack Walter Benjamin’s insights – “like a flash, similarity appears” [42] only to “become immediately engulfed again.” [43] BuzzFeed is far from the only factory to exploit the qualities of digital media to arrest our attentions, but its success at offering its users new identities that appear to merge and interrelate in an endless, mutating mass is unrivalled. Perhaps its most devastating trick was to recognise compulsion as one of the primary driving forces behind internet navigation, reception and – in conjunction – identity formation. Like the unseen bodies of those zit owning GIF subjects, the listicle format reveals just enough of the shared body of human culture – of Benjamin’s “postimaginary material world” – to produce an affective response in its receivers/users/consumers. An ever expanding multiverse of tiny framed portions of experience cut from context so that they can be shared, digested, and repeated indefinitely. Whether viewed in their original format, or as streamed equivalent, the visceral impact of GIFs is beyond question, extending beyond the browser, altering pop culture, our tastes, and even our aesthetic acuity. The different timescales of media production and reception clash in the animated GIF as in no other medium. It is no coincidence that animated GIFs became the web’s primary mode of packaging and delivering visual humour. Just as a joke is the vehicle for the impact of a punchline, so a GIF encapsulates the potential of the having and sharing of its experience. Not only does the animated GIF allow us to wallow in its repetitions, actuating the moving image event in a conscious awareness of one’s awareness, GIFs also enact two modes of experience in their temporal structures. Firstly, GIFs that load in time with bandwidth build frame by frame the structure of the soon to be experienced experience – outside of cinematic and ‘real’ time, at a changeable pace we could call ‘bandwidth-time’. Secondly, the GIF as a mode of display and redisplay tends towards a perceptual sweet spot in its loops and repetitions. The loop of GIFs counteracts some of the uncontainable immediacy of cinema, enclosing the ‘perfect’ amount of time for “the expression of experience by experience” [44] in the cycle of repeated views. Even as bandwidth has increased to alleviate the limitations of the GIF’s short timespan, rather than lengthen animated GIFs, the web community has responded by increasing the resolution and dimensions of GIFs, allowing their visceral impact to expand, even if the perceptive loop has not. Because of this, GIFs still stand as one of the best indications of bandwidth-time. Through the GIF’s jilting appearance on laptop monitors or smartphone screens, viewers are entered into physiological communion with server banks, optical cables, WiFi signals, and 4G mobile phone masts talking in zeroes and ones via invisible protocols. Whilst digital substrates have increased in their capacity to store, distribute and display information, they have also edged towards invisibility. [45] What matters is that media content is received, and that that reception is smooth and immediate. Whether an animated GIF is composed of a seamless loop or a series of incompatible frames made to jolt against one another, the anchor point at which the GIF repeats has a heightened significance upon its first viewing. The browser window opens onto a single frame, that slips to a few more frames incongruently, until the entire GIF file has been buffered by the computer, at which point the loop begins in earnest. This quality of GIFs reminds us of their origins, even as each nudge towards a seamless loop makes us aware how clunky and clumsy our network architecture still is. Throughout the 2010s the Graphical Interchange Format formalised by Compuserve and Netscape has undergone a series of violent transformations into other, apparently related forms. When a GIF is uploaded to microblogging service Twitter or popular image sharing site imgur, for instance, it is automatically transcoded into MP4 or GIFV video format. The resultant GIF/video hybrid retains the frequency of the original looping animation, but the file can now be started and stopped at will, alleviating part of the strain on the servers given the responsibility of delivering it. These hybrids are still colloquially referred to as ‘GIFs’, even though they retain none of the original coding mechanisms of Compuserve’s format. What’s more, these formats are designed to buffer before they stream, separating us once again from the stutters of bandwidth-time. As Mark Nunes reminds us, Internet traffic is predicated on a logic of unimpeded flow. The network demands maximum throughput, with a minimum of noise, a “free flowing system ultimately [dependant] upon a control logic in which everything that circulates communicates… or is cast aside as abject.” [46] For the network it is beneficial to deny bandwidth-time entirely, casting Internet users aloft in the experience of ‘stream-time’; a control logic more suited to arresting our attentions, in which the future image we are about to receive has always already been determined and buffered by the network. We may then wish to read the anchor point of the GIF loop as a cohort of Roland Barthes’ ‘punctum’ – an off-centre compositional “accident which pricks” [47] our attention. The GIF punctum is one frame piled off-kilter with the rest of the sequence; the frame that lingers in awareness just a moment longer as cinematic and bandwidth-time catch up with one another. Whilst the violent subjugation of the GIF to streamable formats allows the content of the GIF to continue in its loops and correspondences, its potential to mutate is cut short by its transcoding to video. In their ‘original’ format animated GIFs retain each of their frames as if it was a separate file among its partners, so that importing the file into a software editing suite retains the quality and malleability of the whole loop across each individual frame. This means that each copied and pasted GIF carries within itself an unspoken promise of its next adaptation. Although the cut/edit/remix culture of the web does not rely solely on animated GIFs for its expression – one need only browse YouTube for a few moments to find a video that has been bent to several wills before its reception – the GIF’s blunt democratic immediacy is less prevalent across other file formats and modes of viewing. As noted by Giampaolo Bianconni in a 2012 article entitled, GIFability: Dan Harmon, who was… the executive producer of the television sitcom Community, [said] that he tried, “many times a season” to put star Alison Brie “in a situation… that I know is going to end up as an animated GIF file!” [48] What in televisual terms is a few moments of particularly well-crafted action, or an acutely framed humorous facial expression, achieves far greater ubiquity and visibility as an animated GIF overlaid with kitschy text, or other hastily layered editorial additions. The acts of recuperation and appropriation carried out by viewers is now considered an integral component of cultural capital. What matters for images is that they are seen, and the mode of their contemporary reception, increasingly, is in appropriated, poor copies, cut out of context – into GIFs or otherwise. The rise of what Hito Steyerl has termed, the Poor Image, is dependent on two, seemingly contradictory, demands: The networks in which poor images circulate thus constitute both a platform for a fragile new common interest and a battleground for commercial and national agendas… While it enables the users’ active participation in the creation and distribution of content, it also drafts them into production. Users become the editors, critics, translators, and (co-)authors of poor images. [49] For a director like Harmon “poor images” of his work are commercially, and arguably artistically beneficial to its reception. What Bianconi calls the ‘GIF-able’ moment is one that harnesses the flash of mimetic acuity in a viewer and drafts them into a productive mode. Harmon’s decision to give his shots a GIF fidelity calls to mind Walter Benjamin’s conclusions in The Work of Art. And yet instead of filmic images training us in new modes of apperception, it has become the images we see daily on our computer screens, flickering in time with new perceptual proficiencies across screens that scroll in multiple dimensions. Now that images can be exchanged, transmitted, copied and edited at frantic light speeds it becomes commercially important for producers of established media forms, such as television and cinema, to maintain the movement and mutation of their images online. In turn, as users and viewers we should tend to concern ourselves with modes of pro-sumption [50] that wrestle a degree of control back from the media machine. In an article published in July 2015, journalist Cleo Stiller explores the phenomena of ‘microporn GIFs’, ostensibly created by and for women: [51] While GIFs may seem like a flash in the pan—really, how can four seconds turn you on?—the nature of the loop… give[s] the viewer time to notice the caress of a hand floating from neck to shoulder to forearm, the tensing of an abdomen, the arching of a back, and the reflex of a thigh. [52] Each microporn GIF teeters on the verge of something happening, gesturing to the possibility of the sexual event; of eventfulness. And the loop gives these moments an infinite capacity to repeat and thus expand experientially, even if they do not expand narratively. The suspense of the GIF is erotic regardless of its content; each loop is a charged instant of imminence. As evinced by Helen Hester, Bethan Jones, and Sarah Taylor-Harman in their paper on microporn, Giffing a fuck, these tensions – and thus affective pleasures – are not reliant on clumsy narrative arcs for their delivery. The illusion of narrative coherence within and across pornography lends itself to easy categorisation. Pornography then tends to be catalogued with simplistic labels such as ‘threesome’, ‘anal’, or ‘blowjob’ by the websites and services that deliver it, reducing the plethora of erotic acts, human behaviours and experiences to a database of homogeneous and heteronormative search terms. [53] For Hester, Jones, and Taylor-Harman the community of microporn GIF creators represents a line of resistance… …against dominant representations of heterosexual acts, and potentially counters the commercial nature of pornography and its narrative linearity. Here lies the possibility for pornographic consumers to critique and deconstruct such dominant paradigms, choosing for themselves instead the bodies and fragmented sexual inter/activities they desire to see presented. [54] Here the GIF’s tight spatial and temporal framing, coupled with its capacity to travel, mutate and multiply, is empowering. If a desire, a feeling, an expression is GIF-able, then it has the potential to create further desires, feelings, and expressions. Fragmentation then becomes a means to disassemble normative narratives and reconstruct them into a shared techno-body that enables and celebrates the diversity of its components and their correspondences. The resulting loops are interrelational in a way not easily captured by the logic of the database and the search term. According to Sally McKay: Brian Massumi describes affective intensity as a “state of suspense, potentially of disruption. It is like a temporal sink, a hole in time…” [55] This is a moment of incipience, before action is taken, before emotions qualify and retroactively determine the affect. [56] Each GIF evokes an affect not just because of its content, but because its loop winds that content tight like a spring. A GIF is always poised in lieu of a release. This promise to spring back, to evoke and disrupt makes GIFs – microporn or otherwise – one of the web’s most enduring forces. The erotic charge of each GIF unites its creator, sharer and viewers in a non-linguistic discourse. Action is inevitable, reaction is desired, and disruption is to be expected. References & Notes [1] Sally McKay, “The Affect of Animated GIFs (Tom Moody, Petra Cortright, Lorna Mills),” Art & Education, 2005, [2] Daniel Rubinstein, “GIF Today,” The Photographer’s Gallery: Born in 1987 Exhibition, June 2012. [3] Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience (Routledge, 1997), 5. [4] Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (MIT Press, 1991), 70. [5] Walter Benjamin, “The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility (1936),” in The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media, ed. Michael William Jennings et al. (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 19–55. [6] Walter Benjamin, “On the Mimetic Faculty (1933),” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, 1st Schocken edition edition (New York: Random House USA Inc, 1995), 333–36. [7] Ibid. [8] Anson Rabinbach, “Introduction to Walter Benjamin’s ‘Doctrine of the Similar,’” New German Critique, no. 17 (April 1, 1979): 62, doi:10.2307/488009. [9] Walter Benjamin, “Doctrine of the Similar (1933),” trans. Knut Tarnowski, New German Critique Spring, 1979, no. 17 (April 1, 1979): 65–69, doi:10.2307/488009. [10] Benjamin, “On the Mimetic Faculty (1933).” [11] Caygill, Walter Benjamin, 5. [12] Mark B. N. Hansen, Embodying Technesis: Technology beyond Writing, Studies in Literature and Science (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 234. [13] R. L Rutsky, “Allegories of Emergence: The Generative Matrix of Walter Benjamin” (Constructions of the Future, Heidelberg, 2011), 16. [14] Anne Friedberg, “The Mobilized and Virtual Gaze in Modernity: Flaneur/Flaneuse,” in The Visual Culture Reader, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff, 2. ed, repr (London: Routledge, 2001), 395–404. [15] R. L Rutsky, “Walter Benjamin and the Dispersion of Cinema,” Symploke 15, no. 1–2 (2008): 18, doi:10.1353/sym.0.0017. [16] Hansen, Embodying Technesis, 248. [17] Ibid., 262. [18] Ibid., 266. [19] Arthur Kroker, Body Drift: Butler, Hayles, Haraway (U of Minnesota Press, 2012), 1. [20] Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1 (Continuum, 2005), 16. [21] Steven Shaviro, The Cinematic Body (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 46. [22] J. Eppink, “A Brief History of the GIF (so Far),” Journal of Visual Culture 13, no. 3 (December 1, 2014): 299, doi:10.1177/1470412914553365. [23] For a further breakdown of GIF ‘types’ see: Daniel Rourke, “The Doctrine of the Similar (GIF GIF GIF),” Dandelion 3, no. 1 (January 19, 2012). [24] At its most extreme, ‘clickbait’ is any link that draws a user’s attention with a tempting claim or open question in its headline, only to confront them with vacuous or even misleading content once the sought-after click is granted. Although BuzzFeed’s editor in chief Ben Smith claimed in 2014 that the site “doesn’t do clickbait,” (Ben Smith, “Why BuzzFeed Doesn’t Do Clickbait,” 2014) a compelling argument can be made that BuzzFeed does at the very least rely on what journalist James Hamblin calls “curiosity gaps” (James Hamblin, “It’s Everywhere, the Clickbait,” 2014) in order to elicit the necessary click from internet users. [25] GIF is the file extension and acronym for ‘Graphical Interchange Format’, a subtype of bitmap image encoding. [26] Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska, Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2012), 75. [27] Olia Lialina, “In Memory of Chuck Poynter, User and GIF Maker,” One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, March 22, 2011, [28] “Real_Dancing_Girl: Who_am_I?,” Tumblr Blog, Real_Dancing_Girl, accessed January 1, 2016, [29] Graig Uhlin, “Playing in the Gif(t) Economy,” Games and Culture 9, no. 6 (November 1, 2014): 520, doi:10.1177/1555412014549805. [30] Jamie Jones, “Can You Get Through These 17 GIFs Of Spots Being Popped Without…,” BuzzFeed, July 19, 2015, [31] The word ‘listicle’ is a portmanteau combination of ‘list’ and ‘article’. See: Jo Christy, “What Is A Listicle?,” Stir Up Media, March 7, 2015, [32] Jones, “Can You Get Through These 17 GIFs Of Spots Being Popped Without…” [33] Andrew Rice and 2013, “Does BuzzFeed Know the Secret?,”, accessed July 21, 2015, [34] Dylan Matthews, “BuzzFeed’s Founder Used to Write Marxist Theory and It Explains BuzzFeed Perfectly,” Vox, April 2, 2015, [35] Dylan Matthews builds on a preliminary reading of the paper by Eugene Wolters, “From Deleuze to LOLCats, the Story of the BuzzFeed Guy,” Critical-Theory, April 8, 2013, [36] Jonah Peretti, “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution,” Winter 1996, [37] Much has been written on the inappropriate adoption of the label ‘schizophrenic’ by the likes of Deleuze, Guattari, Jameson and others. It is used here to refer to their definition, rather than the actual illness of schizophrenia as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. [38] Peretti, “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” [39] Matthews, “BuzzFeed’s Founder Used to Write Marxist Theory and It Explains BuzzFeed Perfectly.” [40] Ibid. [41] Peretti, “Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Acceleration of Identity Formation/Dissolution.” [42] Benjamin, “On the Mimetic Faculty (1933).” [43] Benjamin, “Doctrine of the Similar (1933).” [44] Vivian Carol Sobchack, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992), 305. [45] R. L Rutsky, High Technē: Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 15. [46] Mark Nunes, Error Glitch, Noise, and Jam in New Media Cultures (New York: Continuum, 2011), 5, [47] Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 27. [48] Giampaolo Bianconi, “GIFABILITY,”, November 20, 2012, [49] Hito Steyerl, “Hito Steyerl, In Defense of the Poor Image / Journal / E-Flux,” E-Flux, no. 11 (November 2009), [50] A portmanteau of ‘producer’ and ‘consumer’, the prosumer, according to George Ritzer and Nathan Jurgenson, represents, “a trend toward unpaid rather than paid labor and toward offering products at no cost… [a] system marked by a new abundance where scarcity once predominated.” G. Ritzer and N. Jurgenson, “Production, Consumption, Prosumption: The Nature of Capitalism in the Age of the Digital ‘Prosumer,’” Journal of Consumer Culture 10, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 14, doi:10.1177/1469540509354673. [51] Although Stiller concentrates on female microporn creators, it is perhaps more productive to suggest who the community is not made up of i.e. cis-males. This seems to be a much more inclusive take on a category of user created content aligned with resistance to heteronormative classification. This resonates more closely with the assessment of Hester, Jones, and Taylor-Harman in the paper referenced below. [52] Cleo Stiller, “Why Some Women Prefer Their Porn in GIFs,” Fusion, accessed June 16, 2015, [53] Helen Hester, Bethan Jones, and Sarah Taylor-Harman, “Giffing a Fuck: Non-Narrative Pleasures in Participatory Porn Cultures and Female Fandom,” Porn Studies 2, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 356–66, doi:10.1080/23268743.2015.1083883. [54] Ibid., 361. [55] Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Duke University Press, 2002), 26. [56] McKay, “The Affect of Animated GIFs (Tom Moody, Petra Cortright, Lorna Mills).”

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 07:02:13 -0700
<![CDATA[Sonic Acts 2017: The Noise of Becoming: On Monsters, Men, and Every Thing in Between]]>

UPDATE: My talk is also now available in The Noise of Being publication, published by Sonic Acts in September 2017 A talk I delivered at Sonic Acts Festival 2017: The Noise of Being, in which I refigure the sci-fi horror monster The Thing from John Carpenter’s 1982 film of the same name:

The Thing is a creature of endless mimetic transformations, capable of becoming the grizzly faced men who fail to defeat it. The most enduring quality of The Thing is its ability to perform self-effacement and subsequent renewal at every moment, a quality we must embrace and mimic ourselves if we are to outmanoeuvre the monsters that harangue us.

This talk was part of a panel featuring Laurie Penny and Ytasha Womack, entitled Speculative Fiction: Radical Figuration For Social Change. You can see their wonderful talks here:

Laurie Penny: Feminism Against Fascism Ytasha Womack: Afrofuturism: Imagination and Humanity

full text follows (+ references & slides) An Ontology of Every Thing on the Face of the Earth John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, is a claustrophobic science fiction thriller exhibiting many hallmarks of the horror genre. The film depicts a sinister turn for matter where the chaos of the replicating, cancerous cell is expanded to the human scale and beyond. We watch as an alien force terrorises an isolated Antarctic outpost. The creature exhibits an awesome ability to imitate; devouring any form of life it comes across, whilst simultaneously giving birth to an exact copy in a burst of bile and protoplasm. The Thing copies cell by cell in a process so perfect, that the resultant simulacrum speaks, acts, and even thinks like the original. The Thing is so relentless and its copies so perfect, that the outpost’s Doctor, Blair, is sent mad at the implications: If a cell gets out it could imitate everything on the face of the Earth… and it’s not gonna stop! [1] This text is also available in The Noise of Being publication (published September 2017) Based on John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella, Who Goes There?, Carpenter’s film revisits a gothic trope that is numerous in its incarnations. In Campbell’s novella, The Thing is condensed as much from the minds of the men as from its own horrific, defrosting bulk. A slowly surfacing nightmare that transforms alien matter into earthly biology also has the effect of transferring the inner, mental lives of the men into the resultant condensation. John W. Campbell knew that The Thing could become viscous human flesh, but in order to truly imitate its prey the creature must infect inner life separately, pulling kicking and screaming ghosts out of their biological – Cartesian – machines. As a gothic figure, Campbell’s Thing disrupts the stable and integral vision of human being: self-same bodies housing ‘unitary and securely bounded’ [2] subjectivities, identical and extensive through time. His characters confront their anguish at being embodied: their nightmares are literally made flesh. To emphasise the otherness of each human’s flesh, Campbell’s story is inhabited exclusively with male characters. The absence of women makes the conflict between each of the men feel more rudimentary, but it also centres the novel’s horror on the growing realisation that to be human is also to be alien to oneself. Differences between sexes within the single species homo sapiens are bypassed, allowing the alien entity to exhibit the features of human female ‘otherness’ alongside a gamut of horrific bodily permutations. Perhaps, as Barbara Creed, [3] Rosi Braidotti, [4] and others [5] have argued, The Thing signifies the intrinsic absence of the mother figure: the female body’s capacity to be differentiated from itself in the form of pregnancy; to open up and usher forth into the world a creature other to itself. This Thingly quality is given credence by Julia Kristeva in a passage that could equally refer to The Thing as to the development of a fetus during pregnancy: Cells fuse, split, and proliferate; volumes grow, tissues stretch, and the body fluids change rhythm, speeding up or slowing down. With the body, growing as a graft, indomitable, there is another. And no one is present, within that simultaneously dual and alien space, to signify what is going on. [6] The Thing does exhibit demeanours of copulation and fertility, but also of disease, fragmentation, dismemberment, and asexual fission. In the novella, during a drug induced nightmare Dr. Copper sits bolt upright and blurts out ‘Garry – listen. Selfish – from hell they came, and hellish shellfish – I mean self – Do I? What do I mean?,’ McReady [7] turns to the other men in the cabin, ‘Selfish, and as Dr. Copper said – every part is a whole. Every piece is self-sufficient, and animal in itself.’ [8] The Thing is aberrant at a level more fundamental than allusions to pregnancy can convey. Dr. Copper’s inability to articulate what The Thing is, indicates a categorical nightmare he and the men are suffering. As in the work of Mary Douglas, [9] The Thing’s nightmarish transformation denies the very concept of physical and categorical purity. The Thing’s distributed biology calls to mind the Hardt and Negri’s vision of the early Internet (ARPANET), designed, according to them: …to withstand military attack. Since it has no center and almost any portion can operate as an autonomous whole, the network can continue to function even when part of it has been destroyed. The same design element that ensures survival, the decentralisation, is also what makes control of the network so difficult. [10] The image of mankind’s outright destruction, via totalising narratives such as nuclear war, viral pandemic, or meteor strike is undermined by the paradigm of a Thingly technological infrastructure designed to avoid ‘absolute’ assault. Decentralisation is a categorical horror in its capacity to highlight our self-same, constantly threatened and weak, embodied selves. But shift the lens away from the self-same human subject, and the image of a distributed, amorphous network of autonomous cells immediately becomes a very good description of how biological life has always been constituted. The metaphysical dualism of the sexes, as Kelly Hurley concludes, is an inadequate paradigm of such horrific embodiment, rather any and all ‘ontological security’ [11] is challenged through a ‘collapsing of multiple and incompatible morphic possibilities into one amorphous embodiment.’ [12] The Thing is neither male nor female, two nor one, inside nor outside, living nor dead. If it does settle into a form that can be exclaimed, screamed or defined in mutually incompatible words, it does so only for a moment and only in the mind of its onlooker as they scrabble to deduce its next amorphous conflation. The Thing is a figure performing ontogenesis (something coming to be) rather than ontology (something that already is). [13] ‘The very definition of the real,’ as Jean Baudrillard affirmed, has become ‘that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction.’ [14] Does The Thing ‘produce’ something other than human life, or ‘reproduce’ human life in its entirety, and what, if anything, would be the difference? In a text on bio and necropolitics, Eugene Thacker undertakes an examination of the ‘difference between “Life” as an ontological foundation, and “the living,” or the various specific instantiations of Life.’ [15] Thacker highlights a passage in Poetics where Aristotle speaks of mimesis giving rise to the art of poetry in human beings: We take delight in viewing the most accurate possible images of objects which in themselves cause distress when we see them (e.g. the shapes of the lowest species of animal, and corpses). Recognition of mimetic forms can instill a certain degree of displeasure if that form depicts a carcass or something considered equally abhorrent. But this is often tinged with what Aristotle calls the ‘extremely pleasurable’ dual capacities of recognising an imitation as such, whilst at the same time recognising what it is the form is imitative of. The horror of The Thing is bound to this endless ontogenetic re-forming, its limitless capacity to imitate and become without necessarily settling into a final, stable and agreeable categorical – that is, ontological – form. The men of the Antarctic encampment grasp in their minds at the forms ushering from The Thing but can never keep up with its propensity toward the next shapeless-shape, bodiless-limb, or ontogenetic-extrudence. The Thing is a phenomenon, to use Eugene Thacker’s words once more, that is ‘at once “above” and “below” the scale of the human being,’ [16] throwing, as Rosi Braidotti puts it, ‘a terminal challenge towards a human identity that is commonly predicated on the One.’ [17] The ‘other’ of The Thing never settles down, always falling outside the dialectical circle. As Helene Cixous remarks in The Newly Born Woman, with the ‘truly “other” there is nothing to say; it cannot be theorized. The “other” escapes me.’ [18] The figure of The Thing bursts into popular culture at the meeting point between dream and flesh, and has been pursued ever since by men whose individuality is considered inseparable from their self-same embodiment. By modifying the rules through which dominant norms such as gender binaries operate, The Thing can be conceived as an incarnation of détournement: an intervention that hijacks and continually modifies the rules of engagement. ‘The radical implication [being] that [all] meaning is connected to a relationship with power.’ [19] Considered through Michel Foucault’s definition of bio-power, or the bio-political, The Thing is the process of sex and sexuality severed from the humans who are forced to proliferate ‘through’ it. Above all, the men set against this propagation – this mobilisation of images of ‘other’ – scramble to protect the normative image of the human they hold most dear: the mirage of ‘man’. Becoming World The filmic Thing is a fictional device enabled by animatronic augmentations coated with fleshy stand-ins, KY Jelly, and occasionally, real animal offal. As John Carpenter described his rendition of the creature in a 2014 interview, ‘It’s just a bunch of rubber on the floor.’ [20] Bringing The Thing ‘to life’ is an activity that performs the collapse ‘between “Life” as an ontological foundation, and “the living,” or the various specific instantiations of Life.’ [21] The animatronic Thing exists in the space between stable forms; it is vibrant, expressive technology realised by dead matter; and human ingenuity made discernible by uncanny machinic novelty. Ontological uncertainty finds fluidity in language on a page, in the ability to poetically gesture towards interstitiality. But on-screen animatronics, rubber, and KY Jelly are less fluid, more mimetically rooted by the expectations of the audience reveling in, and reviled by, their recognition of The Thing’s many forms. Upon its release critical reactions to John Carpenter’s The Thing were at best muted and at worst downright vitriolic. The special effects used to depict the creature were the focus of an attack by Steve Jenkins’. Jenkins attacks the film essentially for its surrealist nature… he writes that: “with regard to the effects, they completely fail to ‘clarify the weirdness’ of the Thing”, and that “because one is ever sure exactly how it [the alien] functions, its eruptions from the shells of its victims seem as arbitrary as they are spectacular’.” [22] In short, the reviews lingered on two opposing readings of The Thing’s shock/gore evocations: that they go too far and thus tend towards sensational fetishism, or that they can’t go far enough, depicting kitsch sensibilities rather than alien otherness. Jenkins’ concern that the special effects do not ‘clarify’ The Thing’s ‘weirdness’ is contradictory, if not oxymoronic. The implication is that Things could never be so weird as to defy logical function, and that all expressions should, and eventually do, lend themselves to being read through some parochial mechanism or other, however surreal they may at first seem. That The Thing’s nature could actually defy comprehensibility is not considered, nor how impossible the cinematic depiction of that defiance might be. Rather, the critical view seems to be that every grisly eruption, bifurcation, and horrific permutation on screen must necessarily express an inner order temporarily hidden from, but not inaccessible to, its human onlookers. This critical desire for a ‘norm’ defies the same critical desire for ‘true’ horror. Our will to master matter and technology through imitative forms is the same will that balks at the idea that imitative forms could have ontologies incommensurable with our own. The Thing is ‘weird’: a term increasingly applied to those things defying categorisation. A conviction, so wrote the late Mark Fisher, ‘that this does not belong, is often a sign that we are in the presence of the new… that the concepts and frameworks which we have previously employed are now obsolete.’ [23] In reflecting on the origins of this slippery anti-category, Eugene Thacker reminds us that within horror, ‘The threat is not the monster, or that which threatens existing categories of knowledge. Rather, it is the “nameless thing,” or that which presents itself as a horizon for thought… the weird is the discovery of an unhuman limit to thought, that is nevertheless foundational for thought.’ [24] In The Thing the world rises up to meet its male inhabitants in a weird form and, by becoming them, throws into question the categorical foundations of the born and the made, of subject and object, natural and synthetic, whole and part, human and world, original and imitation. What remains is an ongoing process of animation rendered horrific by a bifurcation of ontologies: on one side the supposed human foundation of distinction, uniqueness and autonomy; on the other, a Thingly (alien and weird) propensity that dissolves differentiation, that coalesces and revels in an endless process of becoming.  As in Mikhail Bakhtin‘s study of the grotesque, the ‘human horizon’ in question is that of the ‘canon,’ [25] a norm to which all aberrations are to be compared: The grotesque body… is a body in the act of becoming. It is never finished, never completed; it is continually built, created, and builds and creates another body. Moreover, the body swallows the world and is itself swallowed by the world. [26] The Thingly is neither self-same nor enclosed unto itself. It is a plethora of openings, conjoinings and eruptions that declare ‘the world as eternally unfinished: a world dying and being born at the same time.’ [27] The bodily horror performed by The Thing is an allegory of this greater interstitial violation: the conceptual boundary between the world-for-us and the world-without-us is breached not as destruction, or even invasion, but ultimately through our inability to separate ourselves from a world that is already inherently alien and weird. [28] ‘A monstrosity’ to hijack the words of Claire Colebrook, ‘that we do not feel, live, or determine, but rather witness partially and ex post facto.’ [29] How these processes are comprehended, or more precisely, how the perception of these processes is interpreted, is more important than the so called ‘difference’ between the world which existed before and the world which remains after. Eugene Thacker clarifies this point in his analysis of the etymology of the word ‘monster’: A monster is never just a monster, never just a physical or biological anomaly. It is always accompanied by an interpretive framework within which the monster is able to be monstrum, literally “to show” or “to warn.” Monsters are always a mat­ter of interpretation. [30] Becoming Weird In a 1982 New York Times movie section, critic Vincent Canby poured yet more scorn on John Carpenter’s ‘Thing’ remake: The Thing is a foolish, depressing, overproduced movie that mixes horror with science fiction to make something that is fun as neither one thing or the other… There may be a metaphor in all this, but I doubt it… The Thing… is too phony looking to be disgusting. It qualifies only as instant junk. [31] Chiming with his critic peers, Canby expresses his desire that the monster show its nature – be monstrum – only in respect of some ‘norm’; [32] some ‘interpretive framework’, [33] that the narrative will eventually uncover. By setting up ‘junk’ as a kitschy opposite to this supposedly palatable logic, Canby unwittingly generates a point from which to disrupt the very notion of the interpretive framework itself. The Thing is more than a metaphor. Canby’s appeal to ‘instant junk’ can be read as the monstrum, the revealing of that which constitutes the norm. The monster stands in for difference, for other, and in so doing normalises the subject position from which the difference is opposed: the canon. In the case of The Thing that canon is first and foremost the human male, standing astride the idea of a world-for-us. The ‘us’ is itself monopolised, as if all non-male ontogenetic permutations were cast out into the abject abyss of alien weirdness. In reclaiming ‘junk’ as a ‘register of the unrepresentable’ [34] a Thingly discourse may share many of the tenets of queer theory. As Rosi Braidotti makes clear, referring to the work of Camilla Griggers: ‘Queer’ is no longer the noun that marks an identity they taught us to despise, but it has become a verb that destabilizes any claim to identity, even and especially to a sex-specific identity. [35] The queer, the weird, the kitsch, are among the most powerful of orders because they are inherently un-representable and in flux. The rigid delineations of language and cultural heteronormativity are further joined in the figure of The Thing by a non-anthropic imaginary that exposes a whole range of human norms and sets into play a seemingly infinite variety of non-human modes of being and embodiment. Rosi Braidotti refers to the work of Georges Canguilhem in her further turn outwards towards the weird, ‘normality is, after all, the zero-degree of monstrosity,’ [36] signalling a post-human discourse as one which, by definition, must continually question – perhaps even threaten – the male, self-same, canonised, subject position: We need to learn to think of the anomalous, the monstrously different not as a sign of pejoration but as the unfolding of virtual possibilities that point to positive alternatives for us all… the human is now displaced in the direction of a glittering range of post-human variables. [37] In her book on The Death of The Posthuman (2014), Claire Colebrook looks to the otherwise, the un-representable, to destabilise the proposition of a world being for anyone. She begins by considering the proposed naming of the current geological era ‘The Anthropocene,’ [38] a term that designates a theoretical as well as scientific impasse for human beings and civilisation, in which human activity and technological development have begun to become indistinguishable, and/or exceed processes implicit within what is considered to be the ‘natural’ world. As if registering the inevitable extinction of humans isn’t enough, The Anthropocene, by being named in honour of humans, makes monsters of those times – past and present – which do not contain humans. Its naming therefore becomes a mechanism allowing the imagination of ‘a viewing or reading in the absence of viewers or readers, and we do this through images in the present that extinguish the dominance of the present.’ [39] The world ‘without bodies’ that is imaged in this move, Colebrook argues, is written upon by the current state of impending extinction. Humans are then able to look upon the future world-without-us in a state of nostalgia coloured by their inevitable absence. Here the tenets of the horror genre indicated by Eugene Thacker are realised as a feature of a present condition. The world-in-itself has already been subsumed by The Thingly horror that is the human species. For even the coming world-without-us, a planet made barren and utterly replaced by The Thingly junk of human civilisation, will have written within its geological record a mark of human activity that goes back well before the human species had considered itself as a Thing ‘in’ any world at all. In an analysis of the etymology of the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark also turns to theory as a necessary condition of the age of extinction: All of the interesting and useful movements in the humanities since the late twentieth century have critiqued and dissented from the theologies of the human. The Anthropocene, by contrast, calls for thinking something that is not even defeat. [40] The Anthropocene, like ‘queer’ or ‘weird’, should be made into a verb, and relinquished as a noun. Once weirded in this way it becomes a productive proposition, Wark goes on, quoting Donna Haraway, ‘another figure, a thousand names of something else.’ [41] In the 2014 lecture quoted by Wark, Haraway called for other such worldings through the horrific figure of capitalism, through arachnids spinning their silk from the waste matter of the underworld, or from the terrible nightmares evoked in the fiction of the misogynist, racist mid 20th century author H.P. Lovecraft: The activation of the chthonic powers that is within our grasp to collect up the trash of the anthropocene, and the exterminism of the capitalocene, to something that might possibly have a chance of ongoing. [42] That weird, ongoing epoch is the Chthulucene, a monstrum ‘defined by the frightening weirdness of being impossibly bound up with other organisms,’ [43] of what Haraway calls, ‘multi-species muddles.’  [44] The horror of ‘the nameless thing’ is here finally brought to bear in Haraway’s Capitalocene and Chthulucene epochs. Haraway’s call for ‘a thousand names of something else’ is Thingly in its push towards the endlessly bifurcated naming, and theoretical subsuming. The anthro-normalisation casts out infinitely more possibilities than it brings into play. Although Donna Haraway makes it clear that her Chthulucene is not directly derivative of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, her intentional mis-naming and slippery non-identification exemplifies the kind of amorphous thinking and practice she is arguing for. Haraway’s Chthulucene counters Lovecraft’s Cthulhu with an array of chthonic, non-male, tentacular, rhizomatic, and web spinning figures that attest to the monstrum still exposed by Lovecraft’s three quarters of a century old work. The continued – renewed – fascination with Lovecraft’s weird ‘others’ thus has the capacity to expose a dread of these times. As writer Alan Moore has attested: [I]t is possible to perceive Howard Lovecraft as an almost unbearably sensitive barometer of American dread. Far from outlandish eccentricities, the fears that generated Lovecraft’s stories and opinions were precisely those of the white, middle-class, heterosexual, Protestant-descended males who were most threatened by the shifting power relationships and values of the modern world… Coded in an alphabet of monsters, Lovecraft’s writings offer a potential key to understanding our current dilemma, although crucial to this is that they are understood in the full context of the place and times from which they blossomed. [45] The dominant humanistic imagination may no longer posit white cis-males as the figure that ‘must’ endure, but other uncontested figures remain in the space apparently excavated of Lovecraft’s affinities. To abandon what Claire Colebrook calls ‘the fantasy of one’s endurance,’ may be to concede that the post-human is founded on ‘the contingent, fragile, insecure, and ephemeral.’ [46] But, as Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely suggest, it is dangerous to consider this a ‘new’ refined status for the beings that remain, since ‘this sounds not like the imagination of living beyond Man, but rather like a meticulous description of the lives of the majority of the world under the condition of advanced capitalism right now.’ [47] As Claire Colebrook warns, post-humanism often relinquishes its excluded others – women, the colonised, nonhuman animals, or ‘life itself’ [48] – by merely subtracting the previously dominant paradigm of white heteropatriarchy, whilst failing to confront the monster the that particular figure was indicative of: Humanism posits an elevated or exceptional ‘man’ to grant sense to existence, then when ‘man’ is negated or removed what is left is the human all too human tendency to see the world as one giant anthropomorphic self-organizing living body… When man is destroyed to yield a posthuman world it is the same world minus humans, a world of meaning, sociality and readability yet without any sense of the disjunction, gap or limits of the human. [49] As in Haraway and Wark’s call for not just ‘naming, but of doing, of making new kinds of labor for a new kind of nature,’ [50] contemporary criticism and theory must be allowed to take on the form of the monsters it pursues, moulding and transforming critical inquiries into composite, hybrid figures that never settle in one form lest they become stable, rigid, and normalised. In fact, this metaphor itself is conditioned too readily by the notion of a mastery ‘Man’ can wield. Rather, our inquiries must be encouraged ‘to monster’ separately, to blur and mutate beyond the human capacity to comprehend them, like the infinite variety of organisms Haraway insists the future opens into. The very image of a post-humanism must avoid normalising the monster, rendering it through analysis an expression of the world-for-us. For Eugene Thacker this is the power of the sci-fi-horror genre, to take ‘aim at the presuppositions of philosophical inquiry – that the world is always the world-for-us – and [make] of those blind spots its central concern, expressing them not in abstract concepts but in a whole bestiary of impossible life forms – mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck.’ [51] Reflecting on the work of Noël Carroll, [52] Rosi Braidotti argues that if science fiction horror ‘is based on the disturbance of cultural norms, it is then ideally placed to represent states of crisis and change and to express the widespread anxiety of our times. As such this genre is as unstoppable as the transformations it mirrors.’ [53]  

References [1] John Carpenter, The Thing, Film, Sci-Fi Horror (Universal Pictures, 1982). [2]  Kelly Hurley, The Gothic Body: Sexuality, Materialism, and Degeneration at the Fin de Siècle (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 3. [3]  B. Creed, ‘Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection.’ Screen 27, no. 1 (1 January 1986): 44–71. [4]  Rosi Braidotti, Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming (Wiley, 2002), 192–94. [5]  Ian Conrich and David Woods, eds., The Cinema Of John Carpenter: The Technique Of Terror (Wallflower Press, 2004), 81. [6]  Julia Kristeva, quoted in Jackie Stacey, Teratologies: A Cultural Study of Cancer (Routledge, 2013), 89. [7]  The character McReady becomes MacReady in Carpenter’s 1982 retelling of the story. [8]  Campbell, Who Goes There?, 107. [9]  Noël Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, Or, Paradoxes of the Heart (New York: Routledge, 1990). [10] Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, New Ed (Harvard University Press, 2001), 299. [11] Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 195. [12] Kelly Hurley, ‘Reading like an Alien: Posthuman Identity in Ridley Scott’s Aliens and David Cronenberg’s Rabid,’ in Posthuman Bodies, ed. Judith M. Halberstam and Ira Livingston (Bloomington: John Wiley & Sons, 1996), 219. [13] This distinction was plucked, out of context, from Adrian MacKenzie, Transductions: Bodies and Machines at Speed (A&C Black, 2006), 17. MacKenzie is not talking about The Thing, but this distinction is, nonetheless, very useful in bridging the divide between stable being and endless becoming. [14] Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman (Semiotext (e) New York, 1983), 146. [15] Eugene Thacker, ‘Nekros; Or, The Poetics Of Biopolitics,’ Incognitum Hactenus 3, no. Living On: Zombies (2012): 35. [16] Ibid., 29. [17] Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 195. [18] Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman (University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 71. [19] Nato Thompson et al., eds., The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life (North Adams, Mass. : Cambridge, Mass: MASS MoCA ; Distributed by the MIT Press, 2004), 151. [20] John Carpenter, BBC Web exclusive: Bringing The Thing to life, Invasion, Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction, 14 November 2014. [21] Thacker, ‘Nekros; Or, The Poetics Of Biopolitics,’ 35. [22] Ian Conrich and David Woods, eds., The Cinema Of John Carpenter: The Technique Of Terror (Wallflower Press, 2004), 96. [23] Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie, 2016, 13. [24] Eugene Thacker, After Life (University of Chicago Press, 2010), 23. [25] Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (Indiana University Press, 1984), 321. [26] Ibid., 317. [27] Ibid., 166. [28] This sentence is a paraphrased, altered version of a similar line from Eugene Thacker, ‘Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror,’ Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development IV: 38. [29] Claire Colebrook, Sex After Life: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 2 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 14. [30] Eugene Thacker, ‘The Sight of a Mangled Corpse—An Interview with’, Scapegoat Journal, no. 05: Excess (2013): 380. [31] Vincent Canby, ‘“The Thing” Is Phony and No Fun,’ The New York Times, 25 June 1982, sec. Movies. [32] Derrida, ‘Passages: From Traumatism to Promise,’ 385–86. [33] Thacker, ‘The Sight of a Mangled Corpse—An Interview with,’ 380. [34] Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 180. [35] Ibid. [36] Ibid., 174. [37] Rosi Braidotti, ‘Teratologies’, in Deleuze and Feminist Theory, ed. Claire Colebrook and Ian Buchanan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), 172. [38] A term coined in the 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer and widely popularized in the 2000s by atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen. The Anthropocene is, according to Jan Zalasiewicz et al., ‘a distinctive phase of Earth’s evolution that satisfies geologist’s criteria for its recognition as a distinctive statigraphic unit.’ – Jan Zalasiewicz et al., ‘Are We Now Living in the Anthropocene,’ GSA Today 18, no. 2 (2008): 6. [39] Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 28. [40] McKenzie Wark, ‘Anthropocene Futures’, 23 February 2015. [41] Ibid. [42] Donna Haraway, ‘Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble’ (University of California at Santa Cruz, 5 September 2014). [43] Leif Haven, ‘We’ve All Always Been Lichens: Donna Haraway, the Cthulhucene, and the Capitalocene,’ ENTROPY, 22 September 2014. [44] Donna Haraway, ‘SF: Sympoiesis, String Figures, Multispecies Muddles’ (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, 24 March 2014). [45] H. P Lovecraft, The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, ed. Leslie S Klinger (Liveright, 2014), xiii. [46] Claire Colebrook, Sex After Life: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 2 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 22. [47] Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D Seely, The Spirit of Revolution: Beyond the Dead Ends of Man (Polity press, 2016), 5. [48] Ibid., 3–4. [49] Claire Colebrook, Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Vol. 1 (Open Humanities Press, 2014), 163–64. [50] Wark, ‘Anthropocene Futures.’ [51] Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet, 9. [52]   Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror, Or, Paradoxes of the Heart. [53]   Braidotti, Metamorphoses, 185 (my emphasis).

Sun, 26 Feb 2017 04:43:01 -0800
<![CDATA[Transmediale 2017 (events)]]>

I just came back from two jam packed weeks at Transmediale festival, 2017. Morehshin Allahyari and I were involved in a wealth of events, mostly in relation to our #Additivism project. Including: On the Far Side of the Marchlands: an exhibition at Schering Stiftung gallery, featuring work by Catherine Disney, Keeley Haftner, Brittany Ransom, Morehshin and myself.

Photos from the event are gathered here.

The 3D Additivist Cookbook european launch: held at Transmediale on Saturday 4th Feb.

Audio of the event is available here.

Singularities: a panel and discussion conceived and introduced by Morehshin and myself. Featuring Luiza Prado & Pedro Oliveira (A parede), Rasheedah Phillips, and Dorothy R. Santos.

Audio of the entire panel is available here. The introduction to the panel – written by Morehshin and myself – can be found below. Photos from the panel are here.

Alien Matter exhibition: curated by Inke Arns as part of Transmediale 2017. Featuring The 3D Additivist Cookbook and works by Joey Holder, Dov Ganchrow, and Kuang-Yi Ku.

Photos from the exhibition can be found here.


Singularities Panel delivered at Transmediale, Sunday 5th February 2017 Introduction by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke   Morehshin: In 1979, the Iranian Islamic revolution resulted in the overthrowing of the Pahlavi deen-as-ty and led to the establishment of an Islamic republic. Many different organizations, parties and guerrilla groups were involved in the Iranian Revolution. Some groups were created after the fall of Pahlavi and still survive in Iran; others helped overthrow the Shah but no longer exist. Much of Iranian society was hopeful about the coming revolution. Secular and leftist politicians participated in the movement to gain power in the aftermath, believing that Khomeini would support their voice and allow multiple positions and parties to be active and involved in the shaping of the post-revolution Iran. Like my mother – a Marxist at the time – would always say: The Iranian revolution brought sudden change, death, violence in unforeseen ways. It was a point, a very fast point of collapse and rise. The revolution spun out of control and the country was taken over by Islamists so fast that people weren’t able to react to it; to slow it; or even to understand it. The future was now in the hands of a single party with a single vision that would change the lives of generations of Iranians, including myself, in the years that followed. We were forced and expected to live in one singular reality. A mono authoritarian singularity. In physics, a singularity is a point in space and time of such incredible density that the very nature of reality is brought into question. Associated with elusive black holes and the alien particles that bubble out of the quantum foam at their event horizon, the term ‘singularity’ has also been co-opted by cultural theorists and techno-utopianists to describe moments of profound social, political, ontological or material transformation. The coming-into-being of new worlds that redefine their own origins. For mathematicians and physicists, singularities are often considered as ‘bad behaviour’ in the numbers and calculations. Infinite points may signal weird behaviours existing ‘in’ the physical world: things outside or beyond our ability to comprehend. Or perhaps, more interestingly, a singularity may expose the need for an entirely new physics. Some anomalies can only be made sense of by drafting a radically new model of the physical world to include them. For this panel we consider ‘bad behaviours’ in social, technological and ontological singularities. Moments of profound change triggered by a combination of technological shifts, cultural mutations, or unforeseen political dramas and events. Like the physicists who comprehend singularities in the physical world, we do not know whether the singularities our panelists highlight today tell us something profound about the world itself, or force us to question the model we have of the world or worlds. Daniel: As well as technological or socio-political singularities, this panel will question the ever narcissistic singularities of ‘I’, ‘here’ and ‘now’ – confounding the principles of human universality upon which these suppositions are based. We propose ‘singularities’ as eccentric and elusive figures in need of collective attention. It is no coincidence that ‘Singularity’ is often used as a term to indicate human finitude. Self-same subjects existing at particular points in time, embedded within particular contexts, told through a singular history or single potential future. The metaphor of the transformative Singularity signals not one reality ‘to come’, nor even two realities – one moved from and one towards – but of many, all dependant on who the subject of the singularity is and how much autonomy they are ascribed. The ‘Technological’ Singularity is a myth of the ‘transhumanists’, a group of mainly Western, commonly white, male enthusiasts, who ascribe to the collective belief that technology will help them to become ‘more than human’… ‘possessed of drastically augmented intellects, memories, and physical powers.’ As technological change accelerates, according to prominent Transhumanist Ray Kurzweil, so it pulls us upwards in its wake. Kurzweil argues that as the curve of change reaches an infinite gradient reality itself will be brought into question: like a Black Hole in space-time subjects travelling toward this spike will find it impossible to turn around, to escape its pull. A transformed post-human reality awaits us on the other side of the Technological Singularity. A reality Kurzweil and his ilk believe ‘we’ will inevitably pass into in the coming decades. In a 2007 paper entitled ‘Droppin’ Science Fiction’, Darryl A. Smith explores the metaphor of the singularity through Afro-American and Afrofuturist science fiction. He notes that the metaphor of runaway change positions those subject to it in the place of Sisyphus, the figure of Greek myth condemned to push a stone up a hill forever. For Sisyphus to progress he has to fight gravity as it conspires with the stone to pull him back to the bottom of the slope. The singularity in much science fiction from black and afro-american authors focusses on this potential fall, rather than the ascent:

“Here, in the geometrics of spacetime, the Spike lies not at the highest point on an infinite curve but at the lowest… Far from being the shift into a posthumanity, the Negative Spike is understood… as an infinite collapsing and, thus, negation of reality. Escape from such a region thus requires an opposing infinite movement.”

The image of a collective ‘push’ of the stone of progress up the slope necessarily posits a universal human subject, resisting the pull of gravity back down the slope. A universal human subject who passes victorious to the other side of the event horizon. But as history has shown us, technological, social and political singularities – arriving with little warning – often split the world into those inside and those outside their event horizons. Singularities like the 1979 Iranian revolution left many more on the outside of the Negative Spike, than the inside. Singularities such as the Industrial Revolution, which is retrospectively told in the West as a tale of imperial and technological triumph, rather than as a story of those who were violently abducted from their homelands, and made to toil and die in fields of cotton and sugarcane. The acceleration toward and away from that singularity brought about a Negative Spike so dense, that many millions of people alive today still find their identities subject to its social and ontological mass. In their recent definition of The Anthropocene, the International Commission on Stratigraphy named the Golden Spike after World War II as the official signal of the human-centric geological epoch. A series of converging events marked in the geological record around the same time: the detonation of the first nuclear warhead; the proliferation of synthetic plastic from crude oil constituents; and the introduction of large scale, industrialised farming practices, noted by the appearance of trillions of discarded chicken bones in the geological record. Will the early 21st century be remembered for the 9/11 terrorist event? The introduction of the iPhone, and Twitter? Or for the presidency of Donald J Trump? Or will each of these extraordinary events be considered as part of a single, larger shift in global power and techno-mediated autonomy? If ‘we’ are to rebuild ourselves through stronger unities, and collective actions in the wake of recent political upheavals, will ‘we’ also forego the need to recognise the different subjectivities and distinct realities that bubble out of each singularity’s wake? As the iPhone event sent shockwaves through the socio-technical cultures of the West, so the rare earth minerals required to power those iPhones were pushed skywards in value, forcing more bodies into pits in the ground to mine them. As we gather at Transmediale to consider ai, infrastructural, data, robotic, or cyborgian revolutions, what truly remains ‘elusive’ is a definition of ‘the human’ that does justice to the complex array of subjectivities destined to be impacted – and even crafted anew – by each of these advances. In his recent text on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster Jean-Luc Nancy proposes instilling “the condition of an ever-renewed present” into the urgent design and creation of new, mobile futures. In this proposition Nancy recognises that each singularity is equal to all others in its finitude; an equivalence he defines as “the essence of community.” To contend with the idea of singularities – plural – of ruptures as such, we must share together that which will forever remain unimaginable alone. Morehshin: This appeal to a plurality of singularities is easily mistaken for the kinds of large scale collective action we have seen in recent years around the world. From the Arab Springs, and Occupy Movement through to the recent Women’s March, which took place not 24 hours after the inauguration of Donald Trump. These events in particular spoke of a universal drive, a collective of people’s united against a single cause. Much has been written about the ‘human microphone’ technique utilized by Occupy protesters to amplify the voice of a speaker when megaphones and loud speakers were banned or unavailable. We wonder whether rather than speak as a single voice we should seek to emphasise the different singularities enabled by different voices, different minds; distinct votes and protestations. We wonder whether black and brown protestors gathered in similar numbers, with similar appeals to their collective unity and identity would have been portrayed very differently by the media. Whether the radical white women and population that united for the march would also show up to the next black lives matter or Muslim ban protests. These are not just some academic questions but an actual personal concern… what is collectivism and for who does the collective function? When we talk about futures and worlds and singularities, whose realities are we talking about? Who is going to go to Mars with Elon Musk? And who will be left? As we put this panel together, in the last weeks, our Manifesto’s apocalyptic vision of a world accelerated to breaking point by technological progress began to seem strangely comforting compared to the delirious political landscape we saw emerging before us. Whether you believe political mele-ee-ze, media delirium, or the inevitable implosion of the neo-liberal project is to blame for the rise of figures like Farage, Trump or – in the Philippines – the outspoken President Rodrigo Duterte, the promises these figures make of an absolute shift in the conditions of power, appear grand precisely because they choose to demonize the discrete differences of minority groups, or attempt to overturn truths that might fragment and disturb their all-encompassing narratives. Daniel: The appeal to inclusivity – in virtue of a shared political identity – often instates those of ‘normal’ body, race, sex, or genome as exclusive harbingers of the-change-which-should – or so we are told, will – come. A process that theorist Rosi Braidotti refers to as a ‘dialectics of otherness’ which subtly disguises difference, in celebration of a collective voice of will or governance. Morehshin: Last week on January 27, as part of a plan to keep out “Islamic terrorists” outside of the United States Trump signed an order, that suspended entry for citizens of seven countries for 90 days. This includes Iran, the country I am a citizen of. I have lived in the U.S. for 9 years and hold a green-card which was included in Trump’s ban and now is being reviewed case by case for each person who enters the U.S.. When the news came out, I was already in Berlin for Transmediale and wasn’t sure whether I had a home to go back to. Although the chaos of Trump’s announcement has now settled, and my own status as a resident of America appears a bit more clear for now, the ripples of emotion and uncertainty from last week have coloured my experience at this festival. As I have sat through panels and talks in the last 3 days, and as I stand here introducing this panel about elusive events, potential futures and the in betweenness of all profound technological singularities… the realities that feel most significant to me are yet to take place in the lives of so many Middle-Easterners and Muslims affected by Trump’s ban. How does one imagine/re-imagine/figure/re-figure the future when there are still so many ‘presents’ existing in conflict? I grew up in Iran for 23 years, where science fiction didn’t really exist as a genre in popular culture. I always think we were discouraged to imagine the future other than how it was ‘imagined’ for us. Science-fiction as a genre flourishes in the West… But I still struggle with the kinds of futures we seem most comfortable imagining. THANKS   We now want to hand over to our fantastic panelists, to highlight their voices, and build harmonies and dissonances with our own. We are extremely honoured to introduce them: Dorothy Santos is a Filipina-American writer, editor, curator, and educator. She has written and spoken on a wide variety of subjects, including art, activism, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. She is managing editor of Hyphen Magazine, and a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts fellow, where she is researching the concept of citizenship. Her talk today is entitled Machines and Materiality: Speculations of Future Biology and the Human Body. Luiza Prado and Pedro Oliveira are Brazilian design researchers, who very recently wrapped up their PhDs at the University of the Arts Berlin. Under the ‘A Parede’ alias, the duo researches new design methodologies, processes, and pedagogies for an onto-epistemological decolonization of the field. In their joint talk and performance, Luiza and Pedro will explore the tensions around hyperdense gravitational pulls and acts of resistance. With particular focus on the so-called “non-lethal” bombs – teargas and stun grenades – manufactured in Brazil, and exported and deployed all around the world. Rasheedah Phillips is creative director of Afrofuturist Affair: a community formed to celebrate, strengthen, and promote Afrofuturistic and Sci-Fi concepts and culture. In her work with ‘Black Quantum Futurism’, Rasheedah derives facets, tenets, and qualities from quantum physics, futurist traditions, and Black/African cultural traditions to celebrate the ability of African-descended people to see “into,” choose, or create the impending future. In her talk today, Rasheedah will explore the history of linear time constructs, notions of the future, and alternative theories of temporal-spatial consciousness.      

Thu, 09 Feb 2017 08:50:26 -0800
<![CDATA[Glitch art: Meet the artist who knitted Stuxnet into a scarf | Ars Technica UK]]>

Glitch art resonates with the increasingly complex love-hate relationship humans have with technology. Errors, and by extension the changes, that can occur within software source code and data can provide a fertile foundation for the imagination.

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 06:23:29 -0800
<![CDATA[there's a huge noise in the middle of this: the ha[ng]ppenings of Karaoke]]>

[for In Media Res:] Kyougn Kmi and Daniel Rourke [collectively known as GLTI.CH Karaoke ] facilitate happenings where participants are invited to sing karaoke duets with one another. Breaking from tradition, participants are paired with partners halfway across the world, singing together over the Internet. “Using free versions of Skype, YouTube and collaborative web software, we orchestrated duets between people who had never met each other, who didn’t speak the same language, bypassing thousands of geographic miles with glitchy, highly compressed data and a little bit of patience.” [ GLTI.CH Karaoke, from their website ] At these ha[ng]ppenings Kmi and Rourke go to great lengths to avoid glitches + delays + drops [having been present at a few I can attest to this] while trusting in the network’s unreliable signal to not render their name [GLTI.CH] innapropriate. src footage [in order of appearance]: @birmingham: @manchester: @amsterdam: @chicago: @camden: Nick BrizTags: glitch,, karaoke, art, performance, happening, chicago, amsterdam, birmingham, manchster, camden, daniel rourke, kyougn, kmi, noise, error, music, communication, transmission and network

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 08:24:20 -0700
<![CDATA[Tate Series: Digital Thresholds: from Information to Agency (public event)]]>

I will deliver this 4-week public series at The Tate Modern throughout July 2016. Sign up! Thanks to Viktoria Ivanova for working with me to achieve this.

Data is the lifeblood of today’s economic and social systems. Drones, satellites and CCTV cameras capture digital images covertly, while smartphones we carry feed data packets into the cloud, fought over by corporations and governments. How are we to make sense of all this information? Who is to police and distribute it? And what kind of new uses can art put it to? This four-week series led by writer/artist Daniel Rourke will explore the politics and potential of big data through the lens of contemporary art and the social sciences. Participants will assess the impact the digital revolution has had on notions of value attached to the invisible, the territorial and the tangible. We will look at artists and art activists who tackle the conditions of resolution, algorithmic governance, digital colonialism and world-making in their work, with a focus on key news events yet to unfold in 2016. Session 1 Hito Steyerl: Poor Image Politics In this first session we will examine the politics of image and data resolution, with special attention to the work of artist Hito Steyerl represented in the Tate Collection. How do poor images influence the significance and value of the events they depict? What can online cultures that fetishise poor quality teach us about the economics and autonomy of information? Is being a low resolution event in a field of high resolutions an empowering proposition? Session 2 Morehshin Allahyari: Decolonising the Digital Archive 3D scanning and printing technologies are becoming common tools for archaeologists, archivists and historians. We will examine the work of art activists who question these technologies, connecting the dots from terroristic networks, through the price of crude oil, to artefacts being digitally colonised by Western institutions. Artist Morehshin Allahyari will join us via skype to talk about Material Speculation: ISIS – a series of artifacts destroyed by ISIS in 2015, which Allahyari then ‘recreated’ using digital tools and techniques. Session 3 Mishka Henner: Big Data and World Making In this session we will explore the work of artists who channel surveillance and big data into the poetic re-making of worlds. We will compare and contrast nefarious ‘deep web’ marketplaces with ‘real world’ auction houses selling artworks to a global elite. Artist Mishka Henner will join us via skype to talk about artistic appropriation, subversion and the importance of provocation. Session 4 Forensic Architecture: Blurring the Borders between Forensics, Law and Art The Forensic Architecture project uses analytical methods for reconstructing scenes of war and violence inscribed within spatial artefacts and environments. In this session we will look at their work to read and mobilise ‘ambient’ information gathered from satellites, mobile phones and CCTV/news footage. How are technical thresholds implicated in acts of war, terrorism and atrocity, and how can they be mobilised for resist and deter systemic violence?

Tue, 17 May 2016 07:23:50 -0700
<![CDATA[This is what happens when you divide by zero on a mechanical calculator]]>

From early on in math class, you’re taught that you cannot divide a number by zero. On paper, it doesn’t work out. Do it electronically, and you’ll get an error message.

Try do divide by zero with a mechanical calculator and, well, that’s where things get interesting.

YouTuber MultiGlizda recorded the chaos that happens within a Facit ESA-01 mechanical calculator when it’s asked to divide a number by zero. With the case off, viewers are able to see the fascinating inner workings of these old machines in operation, and also demonstrate the dicey nature of the number zero and its division.

YouTube channel numberphile explains that division is based on subtraction; that is, if you want to divide a number by a second number, you just subtract second number from the first number over and over again. So, 20 divided by 5 would be 20 minus 5, which equals 15, minus 5 which equals 10, minus 5 which equals 5, minus 5 which equals 0. Since it took four subtractions to get to zero, the answer is 4.

It’s a bit of a convoluted way of explaining division, but it helps us understand the video below. You see, when you divide 20 by 0, you’ll end up subtracting 0 from 20 an infinite amount of times. And in the case of the Facit ESA-01 mechanical calculator, what winds up happening is the machine attempts to complete the infinite number of operations it believes is necessary to complete the division.

Tue, 03 May 2016 12:41:47 -0700
<![CDATA[»Wir haben die Möglichkeit, Dinge auferstehen zu lassen«Warum...]]>

»Wir haben die Möglichkeit, Dinge auferstehen zu lassen« Warum tut es vielen Menschen fast körperlich weh zu sehen, wie Terroristen auf Statuen mit dem Vorschlaghammer einhauen? Weil diese Kunstwerke die Geschichte und Kultur von 3000 Jahren Zivilisation repräsentieren.

Mon, 11 Apr 2016 05:52:03 -0700
<![CDATA[“The wilderness in the machine”: Glitch and the poetics of error | CHRISTINA GRAMMATIKOPOULOU « Interartive | Contemporary Art + Thought]]>

Grand Wizard Theodore Scratching Bodies and machines are defined by function: as long as they operate correctly, they remain imperceptible; they become a part of the process of perception, as the extension of the action that engages the Self with the world.

Thu, 03 Dec 2015 14:39:15 -0800
<![CDATA[To Survive, We Must Go Extinct - Apocalyptic Terrorism and Transhumanism - h+ Mediah+ Media]]>

I believe that the present century is the most precarious in which humanity has ever lived. On the one hand, certain emerging technologies are placing an ever-greater amount of power in the hands of smaller groups, and even single individuals, at the extreme.

Sat, 21 Nov 2015 06:16:46 -0800
<![CDATA[Video Essay: The Cinematic Control Room 1971-2015]]>

A video essay about control rooms in film and television since the 1970s. Computers, screen interfaces, and the rooms they are in are connected to the political context of a particular era. Always-on control room technologies result in a security and political crisis that is permanent, so potential threats in popular screen narratives come from sources that are imagined to be permanent, such as 'terrorism' and 'cyberattack'.

Thu, 18 Jun 2015 02:50:04 -0700
<![CDATA[Vaporwave: A Brief History]]>

A brief look at the history of Vaporwave. - Music (In order of appearance): Diskette Romances - Fentanyl Flowers Kenny G - Songbird Chuck Person - A1 James Ferraro - Palm Trees, Wi-Fi and Dream Sushi Macintosh Plus - リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー B L U E - \ Visual \ // Entropy // Internet Club - BY DESIGN ░▒▓【ALL CAPS AND αւτ kεÿ CΘᕸEᔕ™】░▒▓ - DAE le 90's Kid 骨架的 - life Blank Banshee - Ammonia Clouds Infinity Frequencies - Lotus Bloom Eco Virtual - Cumulus Fractus Hong Kong Express - Your drink, sir 鸡尾酒酒吧 식료품groceries - Aisle 3 (Summits, Clouds, and Greener Grass) GOLDEN LIVING ROOM - DREAMS Vaperror - Surf Saint Pepsi - Cherry Pepsi - マクロスMACROSS 82-99 - 水野 亜美AMY Yung Bae - Bae City Rollaz (w/ИΔΤVИ) Disconscious - Endless Escalation 猫 シ Corp. - B5 - Second Floor 死夢VANITY - nightlife §E▲ ▓F D▓G§ - ASCENDING THE DARKEST FUTURE - 無題 2814 - 恢复

Wed, 10 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking - Issue 24: Error - Nautilus]]>

Julian Jaynes was living out of a couple of suitcases in a Princeton dorm in the early 1970s. He must have been an odd sight there among the undergraduates, some of whom knew him as a lecturer who taught psychology, holding forth in a deep baritone voice.

Sun, 31 May 2015 05:38:43 -0700
<![CDATA[The Caveman’s Home Was Not a Cave - Issue 24: Error - Nautilus]]>

It was the 18th-century scientist Carolus Linnaeus that laid the foundations for modern biological taxonomy. It was also Linnaeus who argued for the existence of Homo troglodytes, a primitive people said to inhabit the caves of an Indonesian archipelago.

Tue, 26 May 2015 05:08:19 -0700
<![CDATA[Our Neanderthal Complex - Issue 24: Error - Nautilus]]>

In August 1856, limestone quarry workers blasting out the entrance to the Feldhofer grotto in the Neander Valley of west-central Germany found a set of skeletal remains.

Sat, 16 May 2015 09:45:29 -0700