20190409

Participated in the first Performing the Fringe -event or un-conference in Stockholm last weekend. The research project is organized by curators Inga Lace & Jussi Koitela and the process will continue till 2020. The project feels very similar to the Alkovi Gallery Russian-focus program and activities I’m participating in (which is convenient). We walked and talked for two days around the Hökarängen district. Our group was introduced to the area by researcher Moa Tunström and other activist/artists. We visited Kulturhuset Cyklopen, local allotment gardens which were introduced to us by Janna Holmstedt, an old (still active) graffitiwall which was introduced to us by Lina Eriksson and a horse stable where we met Svarten (horse). Activities were centered around Konsthall C, which managing director Erik Annerborn hosted us warmly. The group participating in Performing the Fringe consists of artists from the Baltic-Nordic region. I had the pleasure to meet Andrej Polukord (he also is the director of Galerie Uberall, we coined the term Easternational in a chat), Asbjørn Skou (we talked about kettlebells!), Flo Kasearu (who gave a great presentation of her house museum), Jon Benjamin Tallerås (we talked about carpentry. Tallerås shared his view that urban structures which are designed to guide our movements work because they have a “semiotic quality to them”. We could easily bypass a fence but it is intended to be read read as like a language. The fence speaks to us and says: “Don’t move from here.”) and Valentina Karga (whom I know from her work in Maunula). The group will head to Pori during the summer and my next engagement with the project will be in Vilnius.

Will Brexit break up the UK? (2019) An Other Europe Podcast. A very tight analysis of the ideological backgrounds of Brexit. Offers many useful concepts such as “structural emotion” which explains the process when politicians work to justify their feelings using rational arguments.

20190323

Visited Performance and Feminism seminar at TeaK. I went particularly for Marina Valle Noronhas and Kim Modigs Performing professionalism: Why do we travel for art and what does it do to us? talk but stayed for Lim Paik Yins movie and Minna Harris presentation about time. The three presentations formed a loose arch, which dealt with ecology and challenges caused by development. The Performing professionalism… was a performance. The stylish duo played a prerecorded sound piece while sitting confidently in front of the crowd. I interpreted the presentation as an attempt to problematize the image of the contemporary creative (art) professional, whose relevance is measured by the amount their international flights and prestige appetites, which attempt to transcendent the limits of bourgeoisie taste (and end up being mega-bourgeoisie).

Yins movie IN[formal] INTERchange (2018) offered a good contrast to the critique. She had conducted interviews (video-voip) with various amateur(?) practitioners of performance art in the Southeast Asian region. The performers talked candidly about their relationship to performance art while engaging in various joined performances (or performance exercises) with each other and the Yin. The film was appealing because it used low-key/accessible esthetics and utilized consumer services (such as Skype) for artistic research. It reminded me that there are global alternatives and strategies that work against the performance of professionalism.

Made a short teaching gig to Hyvinkää for middle to high-school aged kids who take art classes at Willa Arttu. I continued with the “Poststructuralism for Kids” program. We talked about strikes and how the act of “striking” halts movement (which offers a good time to contemplate what to do next) and practiced halting trough contact improvisation. After this we played with doors. We explored what doors are (the kids had some really smart ideas: gates to new dimension etc.) and then we experimented with different ways of opening a doors and discussed about the experience. Used this door opening tutorial (1979) as reference. I’ll do a full write up after the last gig.

Also dabbled with electronics during the week. Scavenged smd components from a failed project and used them to make a voltage regulator for a headlight (9v-to-5v) and a assembled solder smoke removal fan.

I’m making electronics to energize my grant application process. I’ve prepared 16 pages for a five year plan. Five years is not enough. The application consists of an array of loosely linked projects and ideas, some of which are framed as development motifs for work that will be executed around 2038. I’m currently most excited about the idea to organize Smithing in Public Spaces forging workshops. I’ve written the texts so that Jesse can use them in his personal grant applications too. If everything goes as planned we’d host public forging workshops in open city spaces, during which participants would learn how to mend and make metal things. The workshops will also serve as a vessel for collecting stories partisipants tell of metal objects they hold dear.

Catching up on Critical Making. Design and the Construction of Publics (2009) Carl DiSalvo.

[…] the notion that publics are “constructed” is perhaps most salient to contemporary design because it prompts a consideration of the means by which publics are assembled; begging the question: “How does, or might, design contribute to the construction of publics?” [John Dewey]

[…] inquiry into design and the construction of publics begins with a more thorough understanding of the Deweyan public. The assertion that publics are not a priori existing masses is central to the notion of the construction of publics. The public is not something that has been and always will be. It is neither universal nor an abstraction. […] for Dewey, the public is an entity brought into being through issues for the purpose of contending with these issues in their current state and in anticipation of the future consequences of these issues.

As designers and educators, [Anthony] Dunne and [Fiona] Raby are well known for their development of “Critical Design,” which they regard as an alternative to mainstream design in that the goal is the use of design to expose and explore the conditions and trajectories of contemporary design rather than the utilitarian problem-solving or surface-styling that has historically characterized design (particularly industrial design).

By the contributions of design, will publics inherit problematic qualities of being “engineered” or “commodities”? Such concerns are legitimate and substantial. The subject of design ethics should go hand-in-hand with the construction of publics, and have a significant place in future discourse.

20190314

Visited Permanent Temporariness book launch at Publics on Tuesday. Artists-architects Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti offered an introduction to the work they do at and in relation to Palestinian refugee camps. They provided a great overview of the contemporary Palestinian condition and offered some hints on their approaches to art making. In their presentation, they separated the work they engage in at camps from the art they present in museums (and biennales etc.). I got the impression that their work is rooted on a double-reading: They are using art for activism and activism for art.

Sometimes calling a their work “art” grants them the possibility to access places that are restricted from political operators and sometimes people living in camps, use their work for non-art activities like education and meetings (See Concrete Tent, 2015). It felt like they celebrated refugee camps as incubators for agile and non-normative agency. I appreciated the spin – This approach acknowledges skills which refugees manifest. Instead of approaching refugees as victims they can seen as some sort of re-organization specialists. It felt like Hilal and Petti were trying to craft an alliance between contemporary precariat workers and refugees: Both parties are pushed into motion by the same global capitalistic conditions. This part of their talk remained me of an encounter at the Finnish refugee policy protest camp in 2017.

They have an interesting archive of course descriptions on decolonizing.ps site Decolonizing Architecture: Sites of Knowledge production.

Architecture is too important to leave to the Architects. (Giancarlo De Carlo)

20190118

Visited the Oodi Central Library Public Art opening and saw works by Jenna Sutela, Tuomas A. Laitinen and Samir Bhowmik. The works were curated by Shannon Mattern and Jussi Parikka. The process was managed by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York (Ilari Laamanen) and named Library’s Other Intelligences. Mattern and Parikka gave an well thought introduction to the curatorial process. They framed the library as an avant-garde public institution of knowledge distribution and gave a media-orientated introductions to the institutions history. The artists presented works which referred to artificial intelligences.

Sutela and Laitinen had very practical approaches to AIs and their artworks utilized machine learning and music generation algorithms. Bhowmik’s approach felt more advanced. His “Memory Machines” tour, performed together with the 00100 Ensemble, offered an analysis of the library as a culture-memory-factory.

Sutela explained that her piece is a fragment of an ongoing art-research process, in which she is investigating (among other things) the development of languages and exploring links between bacterial livelihoods and human-intelligences. She presented a unique artist-book titled “nimiia ïzinibimi” which was written using characters produced by a computer program. The book was available for the public to read and possibly for lend too which is very interesting (all public art should be distributed this way!). The characters for the writing were drawn by a machine, which based it’s designs on the movements of a branch of bacteria called Bacilli subtilis. The texts referred to a French medium Hélène Smith, who supposed had received messages from the planet Mars in the 1800s.

The concepts behind “nimiia ïzinibimi” are intriguing and the idea of using an artificial intelligence to fuse together the movements of bacteria (as seen on the plane of a petri-dish) and alphabet characters, for the purpose of presenting the uttering of a long-gone psychic-medium is inspiring! The characters looked like asemic writing.

Unfortunately the way the process was displayed at the library didn’t do justice to the complexity of the work. Visitors entering the library are introduced to it trough a short video, projected on the lobby wall. The video offered some hints to the thinking (texts were only in English, which felt rude). The projection was overcasted by a array of other media-displays and projections in the same space, which the library uses to announce it’s programming etc. Also using a binded-unique-artist-book to show the bacterial writings, felt offbeat in the Oodi context. Oodi as a the new central library, with its maker-space, emphasis on co-learning and event programming is not about books at all.

Tuomas A. Laitinen presented a “Swarm Chorus”, an ambient sound composition and a series of abstract videos, projected on a see-trough space divider. At the opening, three singers wandered the main lobby wearing beekeeper protective gear. They sang long vowels to wireless microphones and Laitinen effected their tones from his workstation. They also projected sounds using an ultrasonic speaker but I didn’t understand why. The work reminded me of surrealistic art. Both artworks felt like documentations or aestheticization of artificial intelligence driven processes but didn’t offer an engagement with the AIs themselves.

Bhowmik’s work fitted Mattern’s and Parikkas definitions of the library best. He organized a tour into the hidden territories of the library-culture-memory-factory. His work facilitated inquiries to the ecological sustainability of cultural institutions and the role automated systems play in knowledge production. Some parts of his approach felt very familiar from his dissertation: “Deep time of the Museum – The materiality of Media Infrastructures” from 2016 (mentioned earlier). During the tour we were introduced to automatic book sorting machines, temperature regulation systems, the backstage of movie projection halls, different service areas and the interior-and-exterior ceilings of the building.

Bhowmik paused the tour at key locations, were he made short introductions to the technologies present at the location or the 00100 Ensemble performed gestures and dances, which were illustrated and furthered Bhowmik reading of the site. The hands of the performers were painted blue, perhaps as a hint of the labor of the invisible hands which keep the library systems running. The actors visualized the cybernetic nature of library workers. As workers the tasks which constitute their work, are so fragmented and intertwined with mechanized automation processes, that their existence is reduced to a node of the institution-intelligence.

A walk or a tour is a great format for a performance, because in motion groups begin to make sense of themselves as an organization. Our group stretched into a think belt and which followed Bhowmik, like a fermented milk strain. People took their time to experience the site and thanks to Bhowmik presentation, we could witness how the library-culture-facture performed with us. We learned how the different building sensors read us and how the building changed its processes, according to the data it collected from us. We formed a temporary co-agency with the site. In some moments the actions of the 00100 Ensemble obscured the buildings own performances.

A fun coincidence took place in the temperature regulation room. A member of the 00100 Ensemble was reading a book at the corner of the room. Our group walked around the temperature regulation machine. I saw a worker adjusting the machine and printing a label using a Dymo Label-Priter. The label showed an abstract series of numbers and letters, which possibly refer to the service manual or are intended to be read by a scanner. The text and the act of writing a code, on the machine, with a machine felt like a small miracle. It felt very odd being cornered by an actor (faking reading), a worker writing code and a machine which was interpreting the temperature of the library and making adjustments to the heat regulators. Culture production, information production and heat production (or energy consumption) got intertwined in one view.

Bhowmik focus on the heat regulators felt very engaging thanks Dr Jiat-Hwee Chang presentation on the matter in the Imagining infrastructures podcast (2017), which looks at how the cooling systems of Singapore are linked to the cities colonial history. During the colonial era, building designs was westernized and traditional construction materials/technologies were abandoned. The local designs were well equipped in dealing with the heat but the interior temperatures of the westernized building had to be regulated using mechanical devices, which are depended on imported fossil-energy sources. Chang presented this is a prime show-case of the destructive nature of colonial thinking. It the case of Oodi the view to this process was reversed, as the primary function of the temperature regulation is to keep the space habitable by humans and to protect the books (by setting the humidity).

The last part of the tour was visit to the library ceiling, were we stood in the cold snow for a while. When we returned from the ceiling back inside, I had a flashback from the temperature regulation room. While returning inside, I imagined how our heat signatures would be identified by the temperature regulating machine-intelligence. The heat we had lost from our bodies was identified by the intelligence and it would make adjustment to the temperature of the building to compensate for the change. The walk made me capable to read my body as a mere composition of information (or heat), which needs infrastructure to sustain itself… Much like a book. Feeling cold as a part of an artwork was an interesting aesthetic experience (entropy?).

In a chat with the Oodi maker space staff (whom I befriended trough the Oodi Modular working group), I got a nice introduction to the new services the library is offering to it’s guests. I was told that libraries in Finland have been very influential in the establishment of the contemporary information society. Libraries provided the first public internet terminals, the first public access printers and copy-machines. From the staffs view, the 3d-printers, meeting rooms, media studios and soldering stations (which the second floor of the library is committed to) are a natural extension of this process. The staff made a joke: “Next year we’ll have DNA sequence CRISPR printers and the first the Peoples Artificial Intelligence”. I’m exited to see what kind of art will be developed by guests of the library.

201190111

Alkovi gallery (Miina Hujala & Arttu Merimaa) is organizing a research-art-process which will take place partially in Vyborg and deal with ruins, tourism & knowledge. I’ll meet with the group of artist invited to join the process next week (our first meeting was in Vyborg last spring). Hujala send us a text to contemplate, in which she poses various questions on what art can enable and how it differs from other modes of thought. This got me thinking about moods.

Art can establish a mood

  • Mood is knowledge that lasts for a moment
  • A mood is the best aid for exploring the potential of a site, idea or event
  • Moods swing and maintaining a mood is a challenge, as a mood is not action
  • Mood might be the essence (or performativity) of solidarity
  • Processes which try to deliver a mood are scary
  • Art is more like a mood then mood is art

What is the minimal effort for setting a mood?

  • A mood requires a comfortable setting (no hunger)
  • Moods require that they are identified (possibly known in advance)
  • Too much talking spoils the mood
  • Setting a mood requires preparation and self-confidence (trust)
  • Only stopping an action makes changes in moods noticeable
  • Moods catch on trough subtle hints

What can moods do?

  • Change the appearance of things and events
  • Provide access to new horizons
  • Things make more sense in a good mood
  • A set of different moods is required to establish a baseline for good judgement
  • Shared moods require mutual consent (no tricks)
  • Mood can be picked up and possibly stored in art

Is there archeology for moods?

I’ve been trying to frame moods as public art recently… Trans-Horse (as an example) is as an artwork, best understood as a mood because that’s how it effected it’s audiences and what it is leaving behind (there is no monument). I started to think about this after reading a review by Maaria Ylikangas Hevosen avulla tutkitaan tilaa ja aikaa (2014). In the text she accounts her experience of the artwork and explains that even if she didn’t see the work, she got to know what it is like to move in the landscape with a horse. This happened by learning about what we were doing (trough twitter, radio broadcasts, articles) and combining this with with her personal experiences with horses (and other critical texts). I’ll use her case as an example were an artwork set a mood (and that was all the artwork did).