Opened in 2009 by Ami Clarke, the artist-led space is a non-profit experimental project space with an ethos of how these spaces “play an essential role inthe vitality and economy of the art world, offering alternative opportunities for emerging and established artists alike, to produce work that might struggle to appear elsewhere.”
The fundraiser will support Banner Repeater’s upcoming year in the commission of new work, publishing and performance, as well as talks and discussions.
London-based curator Anne Duffau introduces us to her platform A- – -Z as well as StudioRCA Riverlight. Working on the programme for this coming year, the series will be looking at the notion of the ‘other’, bodies and public spaces, cybernetic/women and technology, exploring the possible changes to questioning and rethinking our future as well as our past.
Or be divided,
By those who see you as prey.
Or be destroyed.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower, 1993
I have been running an exploratory curatorial platform named A- – -Z for the past five years. One of the main aims is to push boundaries in what an exhibition could be, as well as what curating means – (I sometimes prefer the word cultural producer). Playing on language and words, A- – -Z is a morphic entity, it infiltrates unusual spheres, a bit like a virus. Flexible in its format, it offers a platform for practitioners to trigger experiments – looking at what’s happening in art, speculative design, music, ecology and more.
This first event set the tone for an interest in sci-fi and fiction in order to address current issues. A- – -Z disseminates works through printed matter to create alternative distribution streams, using formats such as postcards, B—Beyond with Jon Rafman or a calendar Days of the Nones with 12 artists including Emma Hart, Markus Water, Alix Marie, Tai Shani and Doggerland, or a newspaper with the fashion designer Dinu Bodiciu and Kabukimono.
For the past year, A- – -Z has been based in Nine Elms in a space called StudioRCA Riverlight, at the bottom of apartment towers close to Vauxhall. Exhibitions, discussions, and performances including DJ-ing, large-format video projections and dance have been taking place throughout. From May 2016 to September 2017, A- – -Z presented the Dusk Exhibition Series with Ifekoya, Daniel Shanken, Rehana Zaman, Chooc Ly Tan, Heather McCalden, Imran Perretta, Johann Arens, Karolina Lebek and Susannah Stark. The invited artists showed newly commissioned videos and installations for a month each, to be experienced from outside the gallery space – fully visible only during the dark hours, and shown for the first time in London. A performance and/or talk introduced the project and focused on themes including transgender, sci-fi and the post-human.
Another series I’m working on is an ongoing curatorial collaboration with the artist Tai Shani called Dark Water. So far we made two large-scale events at CGP Gallery/Dilston Grove named ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Dark Water: The Dead of Night’ – these were designed to present evenings of performances and screenings around Sci-Fi, gender, the contemporary gothic and extending our ongoing research into the notions of amorphous body through technology and inner space.
A- – -Z has made a special selection for AQNB of what it’s been currently listening to and interested in – a mood board of the instant / picks of the present:
Victoria Sin is doing something unique and they explain their aims so poetically and clearly that this video should be played on public transports and in pubs: “The labour of femininity isn’t only the performance, it’s perseverance in the face of our ascribed and inscribed precarity. It’s the struggle to be respected and have our agencies recognized. When I decide to take up space it is often seen as rude to those who are used to be making myself small.”
This talk with Angela Davis and Judith Butler on inequality moderated by Ramona Naddaff is very current and urgent – it also shows how much work is to be done in terms of including people with impairments and disabilities to public events.
“What would be the most efficient and effortless way of facilitating art online?” is a question Cosmos Carl – Platform Parasite asked themselves before their website began in 2014. In a chat over email, artists and co-founders Frederique Pisuisse and Saemundur Thor Helgason explain the motivation behind their interest in “reclaiming (commercial) online platforms.” Through an accumulation of hyperlinks, visitors are re-directed to artists projects that are “parasitically hosted” on the internet elsewhere.
AQNB spoke with the Cosmos Carl founders about disrupting regular traffic and the potential for hijacking certain platforms in a way that is both ‘lazy & efficient.’ Describing their project as “spreading like a slow virus,” Pissuise and Helgason discuss parasitizing the commercial web and the simultaneous protest and acceptance of the global stage.
** How did the project come about?
Cosmos Carl: We were watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage at the time, and we got inspired by the way that Sagan would swiftly take his audience to different parts of the cosmos; in a capsule traveling effortlessly through time and space. At the time, online platforms were mainly used as noticeboards pointing toward art offline. The artist website, together with video hosting platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, were monopolies when it came to displaying art online. Free commercial platforms were popping up like corn in a pot of melting butter, and we saw a potential for hijacking these platforms that were not intended for displaying art. We were excited about the idea of artists incorporating the inherent logic of online platforms not intentionally designed for displaying art.
Our general working ethic was summarized by our ever-changing Facebook slogan ‘lazy & efficient’. We started by commissioning artists to produce a work based upon our framework, but more recently artists approach us with ideas of works that already incorporate this logic. Since our first launch in October 2014, featuring a work by the Icelandic artist Styrmir Örn Guðmundsson, we have released a new link every other Friday.
** Do you have a curatorial aim ? Are you trying to collate anything in particular, or archive ?
CC: We do not really consider what we do curating. We simply invite artists and curators whom we think are able to respond interestingly to, and produce a work based on, the framework of Cosmos Carl. That is, the work being hosted on an existing platform with its regular traffic and community. We like to think of the accumulation of links on our website as forming a cross-section of artworks parasitically hosted on various platforms. If we think of the diversity of platforms and points of view online, it seems irrelevant to limit the project to a curated programme or interest. Visitors of the platforms that are not redirected through the Cosmos Carl website, stumble upon the works; not necessarily viewing it as art. The work ‘DIY Future-Proof Water-sports’ by artist Joseph Ridgeon, for example, is hosted on the amateur porn site Xtube.com. The work consists of a series of instructional videos, on how to bypass a new anti-normative porn law, that forbids golden showers, visible whip-marks and menstrual blood in porn. Before the link to the work was published on Cosmos Carl, the videos were already viewed over 1,600 times by regular Xtube visitors.
Concerning the archive: Over time we have found that the choice of platform predetermines the lifespan of the link. Links that are hosted on commercial platforms usually stay online longer than artists’ websites (sloppy artists don’t pay). Works on Google Drive, for example, will just sit there ‘forever,’ whilst privately hosted hyperlinks eventually fossilize. So far, we have simply archived the works through the Internet Archive (WayBack Machine). The archive of Cosmos Carl has the potential to become a monumental collection of links to artworks produced and displayed online. But the question remains: ‘isn’t the fleeting nature of the internet inherent to this particular archive?’
** You describe your project as “reclaim[ing] (commercial) online platforms,” which feels political, in a way. What are your thoughts on passivity online?
CC: We are especially interested in the public domain of the web. Every nook and cranny of the internet is privately-owned and state controlled. Therefore, there is no such thing as public online space. Cosmos Carl utilizes the web’s privately-owned infrastructures as carriers for artworks on public display. Critique of privately-owned art is inherent to the ideology of early net art. Cosmos Carl artworks are not necessarily political, but by utilizing platforms for the display of art, the contributions disrupt the platforms’ usual traffic. In that way, the works potentially protest global platforms like Google and Facebook, even though they simultaneously accept their terms and conditions.
** Your project reminds me of Platform Capitalism by Nick Srnicek where he stresses the need for an online public space. Do you see Cosmos Carl as a way of thinking toward facilitating such a space?
CC: Absolutely! We share his concerns with the lack of an online public space. Although, technically not a platform, Cosmos Carl emerged as a non-commercial and non-profit online space for redirecting visitors to art. The website does not harvest or sell data about the visitors, but leeches on to commercial platforms that are busy with this. However, these platforms do not have access to our collection of links. As a result, they have no access to the valuable data of individual users and they cannot group and profile our visitors. Our visitors are redirected traffic and do not necessarily behave like regular users of the platforms. Their data is therefore obscured and useless.
** With each of you being artists, is this project a performative work in some way?
CC: The context of the viewing of a Cosmos Carl work, is the everlasting, neurotic dance on computers and phones of switching between tabs, apps and websites. Through the act of hyperlinking, the performative aspect is embedded in the experience of the visitor.
** Will Cosmos Carl stay as it is, or are there plans for it to move in other directions?
CC: We have recently updated our website; incorporating the about-text of the projects on our website instead of hosting it on Facebook. This was quite a change, as we no longer only host links which is part of our conceptual framework. We realised that not including additional information about the contributions would be a loss of opportunity, because not everyone is a citizen of Facebook. We aim to expand the programme and invite curators to programme a series of exhibitions based on the framework of Cosmos Carl. Next to that, we are looking into ways of connecting to larger networks of publishing. At the moment we have a niche public, but we plan to expand our online reach; within art and non-art circles. A network’s size determines its usability and power. Cosmos Carl is spreading like a slow virus. It is a subtle project and we believe that it is a useful testing ground for the potential of networks parasitizing the commercial web.**
Chooc Ly Tan is presenting a new video installation ‘Disobey to the Dance of Time’ at London’s StudioRCA Riverlight, opening September 14 and running to November 1.
The London-based, French-born artist and DJ’s video work features an Akira Phase music visualizer moving to a 148 bpm-trance track, Terbium Energy Catalyst by Goch, “a 3D representation of Africa hovering in space-time, and the artist dancing to a hidden track coming from deep space”.
The installation —that carries on Tan’s practice which seeks to understand and subvert the logic of the world through its systems and tools in an effort to realise alternative realities— opens with an evening of performance at Battersea Barge next to Studio RCA. Live acts include Alexis Milne, back to back DJ set by Tan’s Spacer Woman project and Evan Ifekoya, who also features as part of the Dusk programme with ‘Okun Song‘ in May, along with Rehana Zaman, Daniel Shanken and Benjamin Orlow.
The archive of video art collector and curator, Kathy Rae Huffman will be coming to London’s Res. this summer, opening June 28 and running by appointment through to August 6.
Selected from the Goldsmiths University Kathy Rae Huffman Media Library and installed in the Reading Room at Res. will be books, videos, documentation of shows and her work at Long Beach Museum of Art set up by Huffman in the 70s, and collections of artists names that make up, for example, ‘Face Settings’ an all-female mailing list of media specialists.
DIY Culture 2015 kicks off this week with a screening and talk titled Zines, Comics and Alternatives and taking place at London’s Rich Mix on May 24.
This year’s themes include women & technology, video art & science, DIY experiments, hacking and coding, biology and theoretical physics, and the democraticising of lab science. Chaired by Helena Wee (the co-curator of DIY Cultures), the event will bring in a handful of speakers, including London Biohackspace, a UK community biolab based around open-source principles and community access.
Other speakers include Blackgirltech discussing teaching computer coding to ethnic minority women, multi-disciplinary artist Chooc Ly Tan screening her art and science videos, and Breaking the Frame / Gail Chester on Ludditism and Gender and Technology.
Curated by Hana Janečková, I turn the images of my voice in my head is a monthly critical programme of recent feminist moving image practices (selected exhibition photos, top right), hosted by Czech-run online contemporary art platform Artyčok.tv and established by the Academy of Visual Arts, Prague. The series follows a resurgence in interest in Feminism and offers a space to showcase work by artists with diverse perspectives on the subject. Allowing for what Janečková herself describes as a “sharing of feminist strategies across cultural contexts”, the artists and their output already exhibited on the site follow ideas around “technology, language, labour and identity”. They include the likes of Julia Tcharfas and Chooc Ly Tan‘s Wild Nature, along with the latter’s application to the possibilities within the chaos of ‘Oubilism’ in her ‘New Materials in the Reading of the World‘ (2011) work, as well as Jennifer Chan and Cadence Kinsey‘sNext Time Baby, I’ll be #Bulletproof (2015).
Running since November last year, the I turn the images of my voice in my head programme presents its fifth online exhibition, called Gentle Triggers and featuring work by London-based artist and S.A.L.T. editor Jala Wahid and artist Nicole Morris. Their practices examine the body through moving image and its materiality behind a screen that’s described as “an unconscious fetishist object”, and “a space for imaginary tactile encounters”. Hence, Wahid’s ‘Let Me Touch You, Make You Feel Really Nice’ (2013) presents long-nailed fingers brushing a horse-saddles mane and prods the viscous brown goo of makeup and facial sponges, as an ASMR-sounding voiceover whispers, “…always fingering your hair as if it’s delicate”. Morris’ ‘Soft Power’, meanwhile, presents its protagonist’s view through the red and blue lenses of disposable 3D glasses to an IRL London as well as its Google Maps equivalent.”Women are constantly confronted with their ability to produce affect and are well versed in using it pragmatically”, writes Rebecca Carson in an accompanying text to a presentation that questions “the role of affective labour within capitalism”.
Other works shown in the I turn the images of my voice in my head series include Jenna Bliss‘sLetters to ‘Dad the Analyst’, ‘Grandma’ and ‘Osama Bin Laden’, and Rehana Zaman‘s multi-channel video – a fictional soap opera examining the worker within globalisation – ‘Some Women, Other Women and all the Bittermen’ (2014). These are exhibitions showcased for a month, along with texts commissioned as online ‘artefacts’, that are freely accessible via the Artyčok online archive, alongside video extracts and images, which Janečková describes as follows:
“While the body has been central to feminist critique, in these works narrative, voice and language are seen as its extension. In the presented works Jenna Bliss, Chooc Ly Tan, Rehana Zaman and Jennifer Chan employ strategies of technological mediation, language play and re-narrativisation , actively seeking to unfold and re-imagine the dynamics of patriarchy, allowing for new perspectives and positions of critique.” **