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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.

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Visited Aruna D’Souza’s talk Writing in the Reparative Mode (video link) at the 8th floor. The event was organized by the The New School. She offered a road-map on how she developed from an academician into an art-writer and art critic. D’Souza became disillusioned by the academia after witnessing numerous race related scandals which the organizations failed to respond to. After leaving university, she felt that Facebook helped her to develop as a writer. Posting on her wall felt like brainstorming and gave her the opportunity to pose questions instead of re-affirming what is already known (I really dislike her emphasis on Facebook and Instagram as “real venues for art writing”, because the technology is based on exclusion).

She invited the audience to think about “reparative criticism” which is an attempt to compensate for the injustices which effect the decedents of the enslaved. In the beginning she started to “write as a student”, which means she wants to understand an artwork on the artworks own terms (I’m weirdly reminded by the self-reflectionism of minimal art). Her writing is “drawing attention” to works which teach her how to be “an ethical and political citizen of this fraud moment in history” (D’Souza acknowledges this as signal-boosting). She is also constantly learning to talk about her own failures. “Our culture is weakened by peoples inability to apologize”. She refers to her writing concerning a Jimmie Durham exhibition, in which she downplayed the critique stirred up by Durham’s claims of Native Ancestry (More on the topic by Sheila Regan). After she re-freshened her opinion on Durham (after learning about the topic trough the debate), her act was seen of as opportunism (changing sides) instead of rethinking and apologizing.

In D’Souzas view art writing is primarily made for the white gaze. Art writing excludes the subjectivity of the artist (and the critic). When writing for the black-gaze, she is more sensitive when talking about race and politics. There are benefits too: Some key concepts such as “the existence of structural violence, “the consent of white fragility” and “the weaponized use of white tears” do not need explaining. She invites writers to “punch up” in their critiques and not to be afraid “name names” of people who are responsible for oppressive acts. She wants to name people so that we will not talk “around the problems of institutional racism” (I find this troubling. Naming people feels like vain punishment and I find it hard to imagine how it will help in changing structures). This process has made her friends, peers and audiences feel uneasy.

She wants to center on the voice of the protesters, instead on the “voice of analysis”. This approach has helped her to understand “the protest as a site” which gives some artists (who are excluded by institutions) the only opportunity to engage with the art world. Her starting point is that freedom of speech is not a universal value but a relationship. In her own words she is “not writing good art history” but “writing good something-else”. She points out that all art criticism is “advocacy” and the majority of contemporary art criticism is “advocacy of the supremacy of white male artists”. D’Souza is currently working on a book which is called “Against Empathy”. A critique of the individual affect, at the center of political transformation (in a manner which de-centers collective action). Her argument that “There is no aesthetic understanding, unless there is structural understanding” feels heroic but coming from a new-materialistic, Marxist point of view it feels old.

Our proposal (with Ilari) to have the publication on land- and environmental art conservation co-published by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York and the Fine Art Academy of Helsinki was excepted and the book will be out this spring! I’ve been busy editing my text for it. Currently re-reading Entropy Made Visible (1973) and Entropy And The New Monuments (1966) by Robert Smithson. Revisited Dia: Beacon to make photocopies of Moira Roth’s interview of the artist found in Eugenie Tsai’s book Robert Smithson (2004). Feeling like a ghetto scholar (I’m literally stealing knowledge to make ends meet).

I got into the interview phase for the Doctoral Studies Programme in Artistic Research in Performing Arts at the Theater Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki. I felt that I couldn’t reply adequately to the questions: Why I want to conduct my research in the framework of the Theater Academy and what its my relationship to performance studies. I mumbled something about, public craft fairs being transparent process of the production of commodity value. I wanted to say that I see performance a material deposit of located behavior, squeezed into acts by the design and affordances which places offer.

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Visited Lau Nau: Wild/Captive at Blank Forms last weekend. Modular synth beats from multiple directions, blended with field recordings from the woods and organ-toned melodies. Many of the nature-sound-trips I’ve heard in the city (Bánh Mì Verlag/Control gigs) have been based on field recording too. They have underlined the differences of technological and natural soundscapes, moving from nature-like-sound towards machine-like-sounds (the narrative contrasts them and makes technological sounds feel disrupting). In Naukkarises’ piece the organ-toned melodies (from an accordion?) blended into nature sounds seamlessly. It was a tad romantic, but welcome. It felt hopeful.

Visited Storm King Art Center last Monday with the ISCP-crew. There were also people from other residents such as Eye Beam at the trip but unfortunately we didn’t have time to mingle (it was so cold outside). The endless display of gigantic rusty metal sculptures was depressing but there were some pretty vistas, fresh air and decent artworks on display too.

Mary Mattingly’s Along the Lines of Displacement: A Tropical Food Forest (2018) is a series of tropical trees planted to the cold New York terrain. The palm trees were intentionally displaced, as an absurd and uplifting response to global warming. They are destined to die during the winter, which makes the piece into a memento mori plant-life arrangement. Being non-native to New York I didn’t understand that the trees were unsuited to the climate (palm trees in New York pass my radar).

There was  a really nice video Wolf Nation (2018) by Alan Michelson on display inside the exhibition center. Michelson had found a remarkable stretch of footage from a disregarded wildlife film, which showed a pack of wolves observing their territory on top of a small hill for 10 minutes. They choreographed different kinds of collective arrangements, reacting to other inhabitants of the site and moved in an out the frame periodically. The wildlife film was found footage and Michelson had connected it with a soundtrack. The work referred to the New York Lenape people (Wolf Tribe).

Visited Remy Jungerman’s Based In exhibition at robert henry contemporary on Friday. I had no prior knowledge of his work and decoding its visual language took a while. Luckily Jungerman gave visitors short introduction to the works. As I understood the pieces were tools for identifying blind-spots that modern art and modernistic thinking has in relation to spirituality and otherness. The sculptures in the gallery felt like miniature models of modern cities or container ships. Each had a few iron-nails hammered into it. At first I thought that this was reference to the absence of materiality (in modern design) but the nails were possibly referring to religious practices in which nails are hammered into figurative sculptures as a sacrifice.

Participated in a Lorre-Mill uTone build workshop at Control yesterday. The uTone “uses CMOS logic, a resistor ladder, and a few other simple pieces to create audio forms. The scale inherent in this instrument is the undertone series, giving divisions of the main clock frequency”. Here is more about the design. We build our uTone units in four hours, hooked them together for a jam and chatted briefly about the topography of the circuit. I learned how to read resistor values from color codes a little better. Unfortunately the workshop was too short, we didn’t learn more about Will Schorre’s views on design and sounds (here is an interesting post on his website on prototyping). I would have also liked to learn more what the uTone is capable of. It has two inputs. I’m in the process of adding an 3,5mm TS Jack -> Banana Jack port/adapter to the device to integrate it with other gear.

We drafted a proposal with Ilari to have a publication on land- and environmental art conservation (Working title: Notes on Land and Environmental Art Conservation – Critical Approaches to Denes, Holt and Smithson) co-published by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New Yorks and the Fine Art Academy of Helsinki.

Synths and eurorack modules we proposed through the Oodi-modular initiative are currently being acquired by the library staff! We are on our way to a people’s-public-modular of Helsinki.