Erica Scourti

The EVP Sessions #1, Sep 22 – 23

20 September 2016
The EVP Sessions #1 is debuting this weekend at Liverpool’s Bluecoat on September 22 and London’s Shoreditch Town Hall on September 23.
A hybrid of art, music, literature, theatre and performance, the shows feature spoken word performance artist Sue Tompkins, a rare performance from artist Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom, multidisciplinary artist Katrina Palmer, and artist and poet Antosh Wojcik. There’s a new experimental set recasting “techno music as a spiritual metaphysics” by Aisha Devi, a new sound work by Kepla featuring

featuring text from music-theorist DeForrest Brown Jr media/performance artist Erica Scourti and songstress/DJ Perera Elsewhere among a long lineup of others.
Coined by Latvian writer Konstantin Raudive, EVP stands for ‘Electronic Voice Phenomenon’ and the experiments in this arena of “discovering the voices of the dead in electronic noise” became the framework for the interactive overlap between voice and technology in these new series of events.

See the EVP website for details.**

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High Arousal @ Union Pacific, Aug 29 – 31

29 August 2016

The High Arousal: Choreographs and Works performance and event programme is on at London’s Union Pacific, opening August 29  and running to the 31.

Programmed by curator Jonathan P. Watts, the three-day event will feature works by Erica ScourtiAdam Linder, Mike Saunders, Andrew Hardwidge, Mary Hurrell and Paul Maheke, as well as a live ambient music set by ARD.

Multi-media artist Scourti will explore automated and fragmentary pieces of advice in her project ‘As long as whatever you are not true’. Linder, who comes from a dance background and works in choregoraphy, will perform ‘Perched but not provided for’ and Maheke, who also recently exhibited I Lost Track of the Swarm solo at SLG, will perform ‘Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer *deep within*’ which will explore “Authentic Movement.”

Digital and analog instruments will be used in a live  ambient drone performance by Brighton-based Techno duo ARD who is Jack Elgar and Ed Chivers.

Visit the Union Pacific website for details.**

Paul Maheke, I Lost Track of the Swarm (2016). Exhibition view. Photo by Andy Keate. Courtesy SLG, London.
Paul Maheke, I Lost Track of the Swarm (2016). Exhibition view. Photo by Andy Keate. Courtesy SLG, London.

 

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Block Universe, May 30 – Jun 5

30 May 2016

Block Universe performance festival returns this year across several London venues, opening May 30 and running June 5.

Commissioning several new works encompassing dance, presentations, intimate conversations, cake eating and music, and inviting other pieces to be re-performed during the week, the organisers of Block Universe have offered the title, The Future Perfect for the festival’s holding theme.

The Future Perfect is about the experience of ‘relationality’ in a mediated society, and will look at body enhancement, immortality, ageing, preservation and the representation of the self in acts and via motifs found in shared experiences, as well as in modes of anonymity.

Our recommendations are ‘Let Them Eat Cake //// May One Without Hunger Lift the First Knife‘ a collaborative work by London-based artists Jesse DarlingRaju Rage, who have worked previously and respectively as a pastry chef and big-batch caterer, according to the mysterious press release, and “will present the indigestible truth as a gift economy”. Also to look out for is performance, ‘Personal Proxies’ by Athens-London based Erica Scourti.

niv Acosta will be performing ‘DISCOTROPIC | Alien Talk Show‘ for the first time in the UK at David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) and will be in conversation with Block Universe’s director, Louise O’Kelly whose curatorial research is based in performance and transcultural memory.

See the Block Universe website for more details and locations.**

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Banner Repeater fundraiser party @ L’Entrepot, Dec 4

4 December 2015

Banner Repeater is hosting a fundraising lottery prize-pulling party at London’s L’Entrepot on December 4.

The lottery has been runs online here and here and at the train platform itself until December 4 and is being used to help fund some of the art space’s costs, including rent and running costs, new artworks, publications and commissions, on-going reading groups, and development of the Digital Archive of Artists’ Publishing: BookBlast.

The lottery tickets (priced at £5 each, while a membership of £30 comes with 7 free tickets) bring a chance to win various prints, publications and items from the Banner Repeater portfolio, including works by Hannah Sawtell, Jesse Darling, and Erica Scourti.

See the Banner Repeater website for details. **

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Jaakko Pallasvuo @ The Royal Standard, Jul 17

15 July 2015

As part of the On Coping: A Reading for Liverpool project at Auto Italia, artist Jaakko Pallasvuo will be leading a clay workshop entitled ‘Hobby Point’ at Liverpool’s The Royal Standard on July 17 from 2:30 to 5:30pm.

The project comes as part residency, part research, and part public programme, bringing in international artists to form “emotional alliances and collective strategies” to counter the compromising social and economic pressures of the modern art world and create a shared space for exchange and support.

Pallasvuo will be hosting a workshop teaching participants to handle clay while viewing a video, accompanied by a discussion about art, about hobbies, and about “what’s fun, what’s unprofessional and what’s worth doing”. Joining him to participate in the project are a handful of other artists, including Erica Scourti and Marleen Boschen.

See the project page for details. **

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HOAX #5 launch party @ studio1.1, Mar 30

30 March 2015

Artist-led project HOAX is launching its fifth issue at London’s studio 1.1 on March 30.

The artist-run bi-annual journal combines art and text, online and off, and their latest launch brings an hour of reading and performances by six writers and artists, as well as a showing of artwork. The contributors to their fifth issue include Sophie JungErica Scourti, and Isabel Adomakoh-Young, as well as Alice Ladenburg, poet Lydia Hounat, and artist AnnaMaria Kardos.

See the FB event page for details. **

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 3.18.47 PM

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transmediale 2015 reviewed

13 February 2015

“We have lost the game of the internet,” warns Peter Sunde. Recently released from jail, the former Pirate Bay founder speaks alongside other participants and organizers at the transmediale 2015,  commencement address. The opening presentation, as the next few days demonstrate, fittingly contextualises the idea between the opposing speeches of the BitTorrent spokesperson and Jennifer Lyn Morone. In contrast to Sunde’s warning to abdicate from digital media, as he has done, Morone briefly and somewhat nervously explains her project of incorporating her identity and data as a form of resistance. The year’s theme is ‘Capture All.’ It focuses on current trends and methods of data accumulation, centering around, yet not limited to, this process as it relates to internet activity and monitoring.

On opening night the main group exhibition, titled Capture All and located in the exhibition hall of Haus der Kulturen der Welt, is crawling with visitors. Partitioned with black barriers forming geometric shapes around each work, it seems akin to a manufactured beehive. I flip through the books made for the ‘Networked Optimization’ (2013) piece by Silvio Lorusso and Sebastian Schmieg. The works function as optimised versions of self-help bestsellers and feature only their most highlighted lines, as derived from Amazon’s former feature of seeing the activity of e-book users. I explain the basics of the work to another viewer confused by the lack of context. They ask me if I had created them. We stand around the replicated version of the Amazon patent for product display, the positioning and lights of which intend to streamline the digitising process, removing the need for post-production. In this simplified, doubled version of something which itself is aiming for simplification and replication, it is tempting to lie. ‘Trust is the highest form of human motivation’, can be read on a page of one of the books, surrounded by an otherwise blank space. I resist.

Silvio Lorusso, Sebastian Schmieg + Amazon Kindle Users, 'Networked Optimization' (2013). Courtesy the artists.
Silvio Lorusso, Sebastian Schmieg + Amazon Kindle Users, ‘Networked Optimization’ (2013). Courtesy the artists.

Returning on a quieter day, the black walled exhibition is barely populated and the impression is more ominous. Screens project out onto darkness, austere and quixotic objects are illuminated with a quality of sacredness. Zach Blas‘ ‘Face Cages’ (2013-2015) rest on two pedestals with their prisoners looking out from video screens behind them. Art is Open Source’s ‘Stakhanov’ is positioned under flags bearing religious symbols. This so-called ‘BigData God’ prints predictions that pile in an unread ribbon of paper on the floor. In the back of the space, Timo Arnall’s hefty documentation ‘Internet Machine’ (2014) quietly pans along the cloaked and impenetrable physicality of the internet. An overall “the-future-is-now” affect of the exhibition itself is felt alongside the actual works – something that transmediale projects in general.

The entire festival has a surreal quality to it, bordering on the (science-)fictional. Continuously, the lectures and panels consider the means in which life has been taken up into the cloud. In some cases, this is brought up in the deterioration between private/public or leisure/labour spheres, as happening within social media. At other times, this can be seen through visualizations of the quantities of data collected from all internet activity. The result is a distorted sense of what exactly composites reality. Of course a lot of this information is at least vaguely familiar, but entering this web of consistent verbal reinforcement gives it an abstract tangibility as it cuts away at the physical world.

At the keynote lecture called ‘Work’ in HKW’s Auditorium, sociologist Judy Wajcman lists off current buzzwords for the dependence on and transformation due to digital media. “‘Business & distraction,’ ‘digital addiction,’ ‘digital detox,’ ‘mindfulness,’ ‘timeless time,’ ‘demise of clock time,’ etc.” I find myself writing. A slight comedy presents itself as Wajcman turns to the idea of cohabitation and co-development. These structures and mechanisms are not developing ahead of us, but rather they are shaped by our own desires for them, she suggests. But then as ‘Networked Optimization’ implies and one of its creators, Sebastian Schmieg, later clarifies at a panel, the clearing up of time and technological augmentation questions what exactly is intended with the time that we want freed up and the improvements we wish to see in ourselves and our machines. This paring-down seems to almost be a willed-for drive for disappearance.

Oriana Persico + Salvatori Iaconesi (Art is Open Source), 'Stakhanov'. Captured All exhibition view. Courtesy transmediale.
Oriana Persico + Salvatori Iaconesi (Art is Open Source), ‘Stakhanov’ @ Captured All. Exhibition view. Courtesy transmediale.

This aspect of counter-reality reaches its peaks in the artist talk panels, held in HKW’s Konference Raum 1. Though art’s relation to reality is usually one of some degree of distance and, therein, reflection, the practices of certain artists present cross this separation into more standardised disciplines, such as chemistry or economics, only to step out of them again.

“Do you ever wish you were invisible?” asks Heather Dewey-Hagborg in the video accompanying her piece ‘Invisible’ (2014). In answer to that question and the possibility of electronic data collection turning to the biological, she has created two chemical products. One erases 95 per cent of DNA traces from any surface that may contain them, and the other obfuscates the remaining five per cent. The practicality of using these products to actually remove all traces immediately seems unfeasible, bringing to mind an obsessive-compulsive ritual of self-obfuscation. Nonetheless, they are functional items and can chemically succeed in this intention. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lyn Morone’s response to undermined individual rights and a complete lack of privacy is to turn her person into a corporation. With ‘Jennifer Lyn MoroneTM Inc.’ (2014), she privatizes and places all her personal attributes on the market. What exactly this means in legal terms for any of her data collected by third parties remains unclear. Similarly, she herself seems unsure of the concrete implications of potential transactions. Nonetheless, in the advertising video accompanying the piece/business venture, the gestures of the ill-fitting business suit she wears and the green screen in front of which she stands point to the theatricality of corporate identities. Perhaps the irony of the entire project – gain through defeat – suggests that while Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde’s claim, ‘the internet game is lost,’ stands true, another game can be played.

Erica Scourti’s ‘Body Scan’ (2014) delves more personally into Big Data and the reorganization of the body. The artist shows the results of an intimate exchange mediated through data-recognition software, moving from pictures of skin to Google-esque collections of similar images narrated by a robotic voice. A similar restructuring of data can be seen in Jonas Lund’s piece ‘FIFY’ (2015). Made specifically for transmediale, the present-through-absence work is based on an algorithm that interprets the descriptions of prior transmediale exhibitions. With a borrowed phone, a visitor can walk to numbers painted on the floor, dial, and be told of the potential work that could be there, as according to past patterns. Lund’s practice is generally algorithm based. He has created an extensive network of contemporary artworks, artists, curators, and galleries, which he then runs through a programmed system. This leads to the production of future pieces deemed by this system to have probable success. As Scourti shows the reduction of the body and the emotional individual to an expanse of electronic patterns and data potentially valuable for advertisement, so Lund breaks the market economy of art into a predictable method, turning it also into a game, but one that can be won.

In a final artist talk in K1, the relations between art and labour, and labour and time is brought up. It features Sam Meech, Elli Harrison, and Oliver Walker from the FACT-curated Time and Motion, a transmediale guest exhibition. Walker discusses his piece ‘One Euro’, which shows screens documenting various forms of labour. Each video lasts the time it would take for its labourer to earn a euro. The other two artists examine the division of their own time. Meech’s knit tapestry, ‘Punchcard Economy’ (2013), reads ‘8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest.’ The slogan is taken from Robert Owen’s 8 Hour Day movement, while the tapestry’s pattern incorporates Meech’s own irregular and freelance labour schedule. In ‘Timelines’ (2006), Harrison displays four days from a carefully recorded month, during which she had tracked each activity based on its duration.

Erica Scourti, 'Body Scan' (2015). Courtesy the artist.
Erica Scourti, ‘Body Scan’ (2015). Courtesy the artist.

In contrast with these personal works, Walker’s ‘One Euro’ and the ‘75 Watt’ (2013) piece by Tuur Van Balen and Revital Cohen (not present at this particular talk) bring into question the relations between labour, the body, time, and control in broader contexts. ‘75 Watt’ specifically documents assembly-line workers in China creating an object with no function other than to choreograph the workers’ movements. These are documentations of or interventions in the facets of oppression and formation in labour. It’s curious how these labours and their political or ethical implications are transformed when they are carried over into the artist’s work, especially one made for a potential market value.

Whose labour is it at this point? And what does it entail for someone to interrupt another’s work process to document, only to then return with the documentation back to the gallery, unscathed? These queries flowed with the others gleaned from the five days of Transmediale as I tread up and down the stairs of HKW’s elaborate architecture. I’m mentally trying to organise the excess of information gathered, and figure out what could be done with it beyond storage and categorisation. **

Transmediale 2015 was on at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, running January 20 to February 1, 2015.

Header image: Photo by Katharina Träg. Courtesy Transmediale.

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Erica Scourti, Snow Crash + dissolving into data

27 July 2014

“I had registered and dissolved. Into code. Into data”, writes J. A. Harrington, acting as conduit to the thoughts of artist Erica Scourti in a ghost-written memoir. The Outage: Her Story (as constructed by Him) is the culmination of mostly public, sometimes private data collected from the internet and surrendered to a stranger to give it subjectivity.

As part of London project space Banner Repeater’s Snow Crash program, run throughout June and July and taking its title from the 1992 science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson of the same name, the exhibition reflects the overwhelming idea of Big Data through a space brimming with information. “Everyone’s producing an image of themselves for an algorithmic gaze, intentionally or not”, says Scourti during the Unidentified Fictionary Objects artist talk launching The Outage, as one considers the grid-like shelving of the Snow Crash exhibition, presenting printed images and words, with its own internal logic.

Erica Scourti + J.A. Harrington @ Banner Repeater. Courtesy the gallery.
Erica Scourti + J.A. Harrington @ Banner Repeater.

There are connections to be made here, each one specific to a contextual intersection –physical, ideological, personal –as one discerns a Cartesian reference in Ami Clarke‘s ‘Impossible Structures “the eye that remains of the me that was I” (Error-Correction: an introduction to future diagrams: take 3)’ Android app, becoming barely decipherable through the cloudy ebb of its looping computer melody, only to re-emerge elsewhere. “A Cartesian system of abstract ground: space as a whole” repeats a quote from Clarke’s Error-correction –take 3 –a script. It’s a shiny print zine lying on a shelf with her UN-PUBLISH (2.01), a meta-fiction taken from the IM conversations of bradass87, ie. Chelsea (aka Bradley) Manning, first released by Wired in 2011 a year after her arrest.

Published in parallel with the exhibition, the countless covers of Scourti’s book come in a display stand in one corner, featuring a self-portrait that is filtered, reformatted and endlessly reproduced from a photo on an iPhone. Above it hang reams of printed research information –email correspondence, Facebook comments and data research profiles. Too much to process. “The more information there is, the more any sense of narrative dissolves into itself”, says Harrington during Unidentified Fictionary Objects, pointing to how banal the unfiltered individual, raw data, really is.

There’s a list of NSA trigger words on the wall behind The Outage, ranging from ‘eavesdropping’, ‘debugging’ and ‘interception’ to ‘porno, ‘artichoke’ and ‘badger’. On one of the shelves sits a Russian-to-English translation of V. F. Odoevsky’s 4338 AD 19th century prose by Yuri Pattison, the strikethroughs and comments left behind by its translator illustrating the problem of what’s lost in the conversion. In an imagined future where its protagonist Hippolytus Tsungiev considers the “huge bundles of material” left behind by the now extinct ‘Germans’ suggesting “some sort of caste or class”, it occurs to him that “a lot must depend on the work of your curators of antiquities”.

The same applies to The Outage when its first-person persona asks, “how were you supposed to enjoy looking for personal meaning in the souvenirs of that class of people who manipulated history to your exclusion?” It’s probably that same class that threatened to discharge a gender dysphoric Manning from the US military for “occupational problem and adjustment disorder”. Jesse Darling’s EMDR (eye movement desentization and reprocessing) video comes as a deeply troubling reaction to the trauma of sexual oppression and intrusion in a “self-administered” therapy session for the treatment of its after-effects. “Now try to imagine yourself as a whole”, goes the potential pun of its ‘healing’ visual script before ending on the violence of, “now allow this to wrench you apart”.

“It became difficult to disentangle the emotion of feeling psychotic from its consumer experience”, states The Outage, in recognising that “the domain of private, interior human communication had already been absorbed by nano targeted advertising. To project who your search engine thinks you are”. The generalised question of Snow Crash then becomes, ‘who are we and what do we actually know, if anything? As Odoevsky’s Tsungiev character grieves the disappearance of paper-written records as the accelerated disintegration of historical documentation, this next stage of communicative (d)evolution into the mass ‘digitisation’ of our archival memory on to soon-to-be-obsolete hardware makes this issue only more urgent. The ideas of 4338 AD not only sit in parallel to but is literally facing Pattison’s ‘In colocation, time displacement’ (2014) film piece, featuring footage taken from inside Sweden’s Pionen datacentre, host to Wikileaks, using legacy lenses incompatible with the HD camera being used.

Near to 4338 AD, Clarke’s UN-PUBLISH (2.01) –‘Is it built around a formula? the air gap has been penetrated’ is the first of a series named after the concept of ‘un-publishing’ as understood by Julian Assange, where online data is easily manipulated, “in that it is exceptionally easy to delete”. It’s an idea that has implications for the future but also, particularly for the present. When considering the disturbing legislation over the recent “right to be forgotten” ruling, the question is, a right for whom? bradass87 had little control over the dissemination of, not only her private records (a control that the State insists on), but even her own self-representation:

“i wouldn’t mind going to
prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the
possibility of having
pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as boy”

Snow Crash (2014) @ Banner Repeater. Courtesy the gallery.
Snow Crash (2014) @ Banner Repeater.

Ironically, in the act of taking this conversation and embedding it in the finality of print form, Clarke herself has appropriated authority over Manning’s image, however sympathetically, in the same way that Scourti had delivered hers into Harrington’s. But, as Scourti herself says in conversation, “I never imagined that what I was putting across was some kind of authentic coherent self, mainly because I don’t believe that exists. I see that as more a historically contingent construction”. Thus the illusion of reality, truth, freedom.

“Intentionality, he argues, is a biological phenomenon”, writes Tyler Coburn in Robots Building Robots, a travelogue of sorts written alongside improvised performances in a Taiwanese science park and dangling from a chain in a corner of Snow Crash. It’s a quote from philosopher John Searle illustrating the core distinction between human and machine at the same time as the simulated voice of Anna Barnham‘s Penetrating Squid audio disrupts it. A randomly generated sequence of text tells “like you intention is one hot machine” its weight coming through the interpretation and not the motive behind what’s been complicated by computer processes.

Coburn’s “infantilism of machinic dependence” echoes Scourti/Harrington’s exposure and anxiety of online dependence in The Outage: “I’ve been taken so far against my will for so long that I’ve forgotten how to do it on my own.” All this, in the turmoil of too much information; a vortex of “pure language which no longer mean[s] or expresse[s] anything.**

Exhibition photos, top-right.

Erica Scourti’s The Outage, ghost-written by J. A. Harrington, was published by Banner Repeater during its Snow Crash exhibition, running May 2 to July 20, 2014.

All images courtesy Banner Repeater.

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SNOW CRASH. @ Banner Repeater, May 2 – Jun 29

28 April 2014

Group exhibition SNOW CRASH is on at London’s Banner Repeater, opening May 2 and running to June 29.

Inspired by the 1992 science-fiction novel by Neal Stephenson of the same name and featuring Erica Scourti, Jesse Darling, Yuri Pattison, Tyler Coburn, Anna Barham, and Ami Clarke, the exhibition uses the text’s concerns with the “the erosion of subjectivity and what amounts to free will” via information technology as a jumping off point for exploring a contemporary culture ruled by big data, surveillance and marketing.

Including installation, video, performance and text-based work, the artists explore the “de-centred human subject through their production” across colocation services, data-mining, EMDR and more.

Read an interview with Yuri Pattison and visit the Facebook event page for details. **

Note: the exhibition period was extended to July 20.

Header image: Lucy Beech, ‘Always On’, (2013).

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Present Fictions @ DRAF, Mar 28-29

26 March 2014

A two-day programme of events, Present Fictions, is on at London’s David Roberts Art Foundation, running March 28 to 29.

Including screenings, performance lectures and discussions, the focus is on exploring the relationship of technology and information with visual culture, poetry, science fiction and narrative structures.

Events worth checking out include a screening of works by Hannah Black, Hannah Perry and Richard Sides on the afternoon of Friday, March 28, as well as a talk, ‘From Production to Consumption’.

On Saturday, there’ll be readings and distributed texts at Ami Clarke of Banner Repeater‘s ‘Unidentified Fictionary Objects’, including performances by Erica Scourti and Jesse Darling. There’s poetry reading by Sam Riviere, a rendition of Keren Cytter‘s ‘Poker Face’ (2009) with Andrew Kerton and performance lecture by Rózsa Farkas, ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’, based around a text written by Farkas and the idea of “anger as a media and medium in art” that also inspired THE ANGRY SHOW.

Films by Michael E. Smith –who’s showing with the Geographies of Contamination group exhibition on display in the gallery in parallel –will be screening from midday to 6pm both days. There’s also a performance and investigation into sincerity versus authenticity with ‘I Know That Fantasies are Full of Lies (Take IV)’, so best just see it all.

See recent install photos from THE ANGRY SHOW and the DRAF website for details. **

Header image: Still from Richard Sides, ‘He tried to be a nice guy, but it just didn’t work out’ (2012). Courtesy the artist and Carlos/Ishikawa.

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‘GIFs and Glitter’ @ The Royal Standard, Dec 6

3 December 2013

Liverpool’s The Royal Standard will be launching the Different Domain group exhibition with an opening party, GIFs AND GLITTER, on December 6.

The event will feature work and performance from artists Molly Soda, Jesse Darling and Erica Scourti, a full wall of GIFs and a second installment of Glitch Karaoke, as well as an audio-visual presentation from Deep Hedonia, plus DJs.

See the Royal Standard website for details. **

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The ‘object’ in Net art explored

8 August 2013

With so many artists working with the web, the status of the object in art has become increasingly pertinent. To some, the very idea of a digital object is inconceivable, to others, an aspect of materiality implicit in the wider sustenance of a network counts. But for some, the idea of data that can be transformed from mp3s to wav files, and still take on a unique status as an item, is forming. Not only in terms of a commodity such as a track, image or video owned by Vevo, but an almost ‘immaterial material’ shared and customised by hundreds in a complex system of exchange between authors and contexts.

At Banner Repeater’s recent Appropriation Beyond the Object exhibition, there’s a screensaver built by artist Scott Mason that flashes bright-green text on a black background. At points phrases like “odds”, “leftwing” and “control the” are highlighted in red. In-between, there are stories about love, chewing gum and karaoke. Elsewhere “Valley” and “geeks” is crossed out. One constant, however, is a sense of unending flux. Every few seconds a different part of the image flickers, as a chunk of text is removed and replaced. No part stays settled and the narrative is almost impossible to follow, as parts re-appear from a never-ending story.

The Moment between Creativity and Commodification, is in fact Scott Mason, Harry Burke, Annie Davey, John Hill, Pedro Neves Marques, Sally O’Reilly and Frances Scott’s work, in what is essentially a collectively written piece that takes the form of a live media file displayed on a monitor in an exhibition space. To many, the answer to the question, “where is the object?” would be simple, i.e. “it’s the screen”. And let’s not be too conceptual here yet. They’re not at all wrong.

Even in post-internet art, a theory that argues we’ve gone beyond ‘cyberspace’ and ‘real space’ as opposites, into a place where both are one and the same, there’s an acceptance of physical screens as a pose to the content displayed on them. But what about the online object itself? Does it exist? And if so what can it tell us about not only physical objects but the fundamental ways in which something becomes more than a ghostly terabyte lost in the machine?

In the most radical hypothesis, every single electron that makes up the endless stream of data across the web forming into pixels of letters you read, are objects. As in a much-cited BBC News report, every time you enter a Google search, 0.2g of carbon dioxide is produced; a physical connection, as well as an environmental one that simply can’t be ignored. It’s a reality that brings the very reasons for digitally produced arts existence, as one of the cheapest materials available on the market, into question.

For now, however, let’s focus on a hypothetical cyberspace, in which objects are created through an interaction between user and software. Are mp3s, WMVs and Jpegs objects, and, if so, why? It seems obvious that a song, starting at 0:00 seconds and stopping at 3:35, is produced as one item that can be uploaded, downloaded and shared as a single, tangible entity. But it wasn’t always so. Tracks were found as part of other objects like CDs, cassettes and vinyl records; laser cut, written or pressed into what became an object. The Net then, has made it possible to atomise content into what can more tangibly be seen as singular objects. A digital video file, by this logic, is also one item in a folder to be uploaded or downloaded, even at the length of an entire Hollywood Blockbuster.

Video artist Erica Scourti’s work, in which audio is pressed onto visuals from spliced clips of found footage on YouTube, gives a better understanding of this type of object in art. Key words in her work are typed into search engines such as “woman” and “nature”, while yielding stock footage files that can be ripped and edited into new entities; further disseminating into others work. “In ‘Citizen Choice’ made earlier in 2010, I used stock video paired with audio taken from positive affirmation podcasts” Scourti explains, “this is a clearly appropriative work, directly ripping off the original images and audio files”.

Scourti sees video mpegs as a material to work with. They are an “existing language provided by the stock as the starting point for [my] re-performances”. These are ‘collaborations’ as such, engaging with existing clichés and representations of life – “especially women in nature”, she comments, “which are socially encoded and not purely my own”. Afterwards the works become freely available on YouTube, well-tagged and distributed, once again becoming stock, ready to be appropriated.

In contrast, however, ‘Women Nature Alone’ (2011) attempts to re-use the visual and textual language of stock footage. It shows the infrastructure, which allows it to be easily circulated, such as the banks of stock images stored at the The Getty, and the meta-data (titles, keywords and captions) which enable their movement. It’s a new way of working that reflects a new value for images based on velocity, swarm, circulation and wide distribution, rather than scarcity; a phenomenon, brought on by networked technology, raising questions about the value of artworks. “Is the most widely seen artwork the most valuable, and does this depend on its ability to be easily understood?” asks Scourti. “And what happens when artworks as images are circulated with no indication of their original context or meaning?”

It’s an acceptance of the immaterial nature of the web, a utopian free-for-all in many ways and one that writer Harry Burke, in the context of his contribution to Mason’s work ‘Creativity and Commodification describes as “liberating… in the sense of sending a short bit of text off and then seeing what different forms and directions it got morphed into”. But Burke disagrees that he had no control: “injecting 300 words into it seems like quite an insertion of narrative or more like memory or desire perhaps”.

Others however, in a system of exchange, relinquish all authorship, and allow for metadata only as a trail with which to track back, if that. Wikipedia, a hypertext document that relays a user from one source to another, in a web of data with no foreseeable end, acts as an open source site that can at any time be extended, copied or edited by thousands of users. It’s use of CreativeCommons media and voluntary staff gives it a free-form structure with a vast array of information and little sense of ownership.

When it comes to raw text, this system of exchange within Wikipedia is utopian. Based on an alternative economy, in which the only monetary costs are technical and administrative, the sentences are nothing more than data produced collaboratively. An authorless material to be worked with refined and improved, as with Scourti’s stock footage. Both only become objects when boundaries are placed. It could direct commoditisation, such as the case when publisher Zendot proposed to print hundreds of Wikipedia articles into volumes. It could be a simple claim to authorship, as is the case with Scourti and Burke’s work. The technical architecture that hosts data, or frames of reference around data, give others a sense of ownership over a meme they might not have even created.

Ela Scourti_wheelbarrow

It’s at the point when someone makes a claim to a digital service or piece of data, it seems, that it becomes a digital object, in much the same way that offline, no one would argue that a collage was a form of theft unless someone had ownership over the manipulated imagery. The moment, then, that someone claims data is their intellectual property, placing boundaries around that data, is when a text, image, video or CAD file becomes an object.

No longer will they be found on open source sites such as Wikipedia, unless they are provided at the discretion of an individual. Artist-led DIS Magazine also has its own stock library of images, meant to disturb the stereotypes found in mainstream sites, such as Getty Images, but you have to pay to use or modify the content. It is subject to availability. Furthermore, to be archived or displayed, the owned data is reliant on physicality, be it the materials that run the power, or the objects on which they are displayed.

At first, this might seem inconsequential but you only have to consider the worthlessness of physical currency in post-war hyperinflation, stacked in wheelbarrows and nothing more than a piece of paper embossed with logos and illustrations, to consider how easily an object can simply become a fuel, ready to be chucked into the fire. Bitcoins are the new currency, and their worth as objects is similarly reliant on a collective consciousness that deems them to be of worth. Text, like an artwork, can mean absolutely nothing if it does not resonate with an audience. If no one makes a claim to it or places value in it, it may as well not exist at all. **

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