Last year at Platform Centre in Winnipeg, during a slyly theatrical lecture-performance by emerging media artist Colby Richardson, the tall and affable filmmaker quoted fellow Winnipeg artist Mike Maryniuk: “I work with the latest technology to hit the local thrift stores.” This sentiment is an ethos that echoes through Richardson’s interdisciplinary practice, which habitually resurrects media detritus by placing it into bold new arrangements, in order to revel in the afterlife of obsolete equipment. As significant a role as these technologies have played in Richardson’s practice, I took his framing of Maryniuk’s quote to imply that his was not an aesthetics of nostalgia, but rather of access and experimentation.
In her 1976 essay “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,”Rosalind Krauss attempts to pinpoint the singular essence of video-based artwork, speculating on the possibility of the claim that the “medium of video is narcissism”. (1) For Krauss, the linchpin of this perspective was the (now taken for granted) instantaneity of video, which produces perpetual feedback that captures the subject in a closed circuit of “self-encapsulation”. (2) There is an implied intimacy in this simultaneity—while Krauss perhaps over-essentialized the quality of video, she shrewdly identified the implicit correlation between video and the psyche.
How can we create the conditions for intimacy, solidarity, and nourishment while we’re apart? How can we break bread and share knowledge over a virtual table? Meals for a Movement, an online project organized by Koffler.Digital, shows us how answers to these questions might take shape. Transcending the typical online exhibition through an intimate audio format, the project’s three sound pieces invite the viewer to share invaluable space with BIPOC women artists and activists. Launched in February 2019, its works have only gained relevance since. When I first began writing about Meals for a Movement in March 2020, social distancing orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic made the project’s online format feel suited to the current moment. Then a global uprising against systemic racism and police brutality began its resurgence, and Meals for a Movement’s lessons in metabolizing resistance became more resonant than I could have anticipated.
In the early 2000’s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency under the United States Department of Defense working on social forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI), began to develop machine-learning agents that could cognitively engage with each other, their environment, and essentially ‘learn’ from their experiences in a simulation. During one simulation, two learning agents named Adam and Eve were programmed to know some things (how to eat), but not much else (what to eat). They were given an apple tree and were happy to eat the apples, but also made attempts to eat the entire tree. Another learning agent, Stan, was introduced and wanted to be affable, but eventually became the loner of the group. Given the natural development of the simulation—and a few bugs in the system—Adam and Eve began to associate Stan with food and one day took a bite out of him. Stan disappeared and thus became one of the first victims of virtual cannibalism. (1) Read More
When I am alone, my phone screen is the first and last thing I interact with over the course of a day. I would prefer to be someone who reads themselves to rest, rather than making my stilted way towards unconsciousness in my phone’s dim light, but this pattern has run largely uninterrupted for years. Letting the phone absorb my attention is seductively comforting; it works as a numbing agent allowing me to effortlessly leave my physical environment, all shrouded in an intangible promise of productivity. In exchange, it blurs my free time into a flatlined haze. I use it in this capacity constantly, despite feeling I know better, and the efforts I make to reject the exhausting pace it promotes. It is a pace I feel my body has unconsciously come to match.Read More