The live event accompanied the Content Prole: A journey into the depths of the online gig economy broadcast series — produced by AQNB in collaboration with Matthew O’Shannessy — and included a conversation between these artists and writers about their own experiences with the often harsh realities of trying to sustain a practice as a working creative.
The new work includes “spoken and musical elements that looks at the abstracting tendencies of contemporary high finance” and is the final commission of 2017. Exploring an imaginary where “money no longer bears any relation to the production of useful goods or services,” the work also includes a doom metal cover of ABBA’s Money Money Money by London-based band Henge.
Every year, somewhere around the world, Angelo Plessas asks an artist a question. Usually filmed, sometimes audio recorded, he holds a phone up to their face and delves, deep and incisive, into an observation about their character, and it’s eerily, surprisingly, appropriate.
Once, on the shores of the Dead Sea, Angelo asked me what I had against the internet. Paranoid, insecure and pretty depressed at the time, I’d taken to disguising my identity online behind pen names and insisting no one take my photo during the 10 days on a West Bank resort bordering Jordan, Israel and Palestine. I had consciously disconnected from the internet, ironically, at The Eternal Internet Brotherhood (since adding a binary ‘Sisterhood’). It was the 2014 edition of a nomadic residency, where a number of invited and ‘internet-aware’ artists, technologists, writers and ‘other’ congregate for a time in a space with spiritual and mythical qualities.
The next time Angelo would ask me a question, it would be in the neoclassical fake ruins of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel three years later. It was a month before documenta 14, the institutional event that was funding this smaller, colder, iteration of a self-started project that has included meetings by different people, from different walks of life in a part of Greece, Mexico, Italy, Sri Lanka. This time there would be a storm brewing while my slightly sassy answer on camera was interrupted by soft rain, a crack of thunder and Angelo’s Pomeranian, Lupo, barking. He’d asked something about what I thought of the concept of ‘free time.’ I never have enough of it and I’d been spending most of it at Lebensbogen Commune in my room working. Angelo is a leader and a community-builder, and with being a leader and a community-builder there’s a certain level of detached observation necessary to see how people can work with, or, as the case may be, against each other.
Pirate utopias of the past and data heavens of the future
“Anafi was inhabited by pirates in medieval times because it was an island with open seas to the east and the west, and it was on the edge of the Cyclades. There is a huge rock/cliff, which is standing as a portal on the edge of the island, appearing from the archipelago like a new discovered country, it’s tip covered by clouds.”
New modes of experience: computing naked outdoors.
A post shared by atractivo que no bello (@aqnb) on
Las Pozas, Mexico, 2013 Video game library meets peer-to-peer / friend-to-friend
“Las Pozas is the surrealist garden of Sir Edward James, a British socialite and wannabe artist. The garden is probably his only masterpiece, in the 40s he was inviting his surrealist friends to hang out in the lush inland jungle. The journey is long and dangerous.”
New modes of experience: Projecting night time movies on the jungle bushes.
Dead Sea, Palestine, 2014
Electrically charged particles versus electrical theology.
“The Dead Sea is the most eerie place I have ever been; super energizing particles of salt floating in the air in the least elevated part of the world. No birds, no fish, just some weird animal echo from the Masada rocks. Your vision disappears into the shades of brown and blue.”
New modes of experience: Swimming at night while knowing it’s surveilled by the Israeli or Jordanian army.
Castello Malaspina, Fosdinovo, Italy 2015
Ghosts or avatars; holograms or pixels?
“It’s no wonder Dante Alighieri spent his exile here but also Bianca is the welcoming ghost; feeling worried and restless but amazing hosts and magic food make you forget the unfriendly WiFi, thick stone walls and the basement dungeon. No nightmares and unexpected sound sleep.”
The end of the world is an accepted fact in here.
New modes of experience: Sonar bells and singing loud as the most essential way of communicating.
Rock of Sigirya, Sri Lanka, 2016
Orgonic transmuter and elephant electroshocks
“We stayed at Back of Beyond, a tree house compound in the most dense Sri Lankan Jungle. The Airbnb pages says no check-in after 6pm, as wild elephants roam the compound’s nearby lagoons, breaking the electrical pillars and cables. Elephants and rain make electricity a scarcity.”
New modes of experience: Fireflies navigating us to our treehouses at night.
Dörnbeg Commune, Essen, Germany, 2017 Transgender occultism and Noospheric realness
“This is the first time an edition has taken place in a temperature below 18℃. It’s late April and still cold. The first day coincides with Walpurgis night. In and around the commune is full of women who look more like witches performing a ritual that reminds of us something like Germanic pagan revival, very feministic.”**
The first Episode aired on May 2 and will be played once a month for the next 7 months. With excerpts from the book’s “account of loss and being alone in a self-started journey through the US, Europe and the Middle East” read out by Kretowicz and interspersed with what sound producer Kimmo Modig describes as “paranoid pop [and] vertigo soundscapes,” the project is part of forthcoming novel and live audio book Somewhere I’ve Never Been co-published by Berlin’s TLTRPreß and London’s Pool.
The event draws on a forthcoming podcast, audio book and radio show — also produced with Modig and accompanying the Somewhere I’ve Never Been book — to begin broadcasting on NTS Radio in late April. The multi-platform narrative, co-published by Berlin’s TLTRPreß and London’s Pool, expands on the text, which consists a cohesive selection of non-fiction essays exploring international soundscapes as an expression of heavily mediated, networked mobile environments.
The event is produced alongside The Yard’s Dan Hampson, as well as artists Sey and Levi of the Curl label and collective.
AQNB is presenting a workshop on online communication for art professionals at Helsinki’s Frame on May 24.
The event is hosted by the Helsinki-based nonprofit artists’ association AV-arkki and advocate for Finnish contemporary art Frame Finland. AQNB editor Steph Kretowicz (aka Jean Kay) and Video in Common (AQNB’s production company arm) director Caroline Heron will hold a workshop aimed at art professionals “to encourage creative, varied and effective ways of using the internet in different art contexts,” as well as introducing their own practices within the field.
The free event will be tailored to the audience taking part, and an email to coordinator Maikki Lavikkala at firstname.lastname@example.org by April 23 is a requirement.
See the Frame website for more instructions and details of the event.**
Somesuch Stories, founded by London production company Somesuch in 2014 as a digital platform featuring essays and short stories by contemporary writers, came out with its first print issue Somesuch Stories Vol. I in 2015. Edited by journalist Suze Olbrich, the collection brought together works published on the Somesuch Stories website that spanned topics from culture and nature to sex and society, including pieces by Amy Liptrot, Ben Myers and Philippa Snow, among others.
After the success of the first print collection, Somesuch Stories decided to become a biannual project, with the second issue set to launch on January 26 with an RSVP party at London’s The Shed. In light of recent political upheavals, the new issue has commissioned 10 writers to respond to the theme of ‘identity,’ and the ways this concept — according to Olbrich — is collectively and individually “formed, related to, claimed and assigned.”
Meandering through mental and physical landscapes, each story explores a a sense of self as defined by past and present futures, seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. Distant memories form structures of longing and returning, from Luke Turner‘s musings on “a memorial to a lost sense of belonging” in ‘Stoodley Pike’ to the less romantic recollections of gender and sex in Ka Bradley‘s ‘The Wall.’
Switching up time-frames and moving from one party gathering to the next, Dean Kissick‘s ‘Young Moon’ is both intimate and distant in its colloquial language. A similar tone of irresolution makes for unstable wanderings in aqnb editor Steph Kretowicz‘s ‘Home is where the fear is/ Same shit, different city.’ A photograph of a pro-Trump shopfront taken from through a window is sandwiched between the autobiographical text that is set within a “post-Brexit hangover of precarity and fear.” A multinational writer moves the reader from one social encounter to the next, each feeding back into the loop of anxiety associated with the idea of ‘home.’
“Less Othering. More humanity. There’s also a dark humour to a lot of what we publish,” says Olbrich, who discusses with us the aim behind the project, and the way identity is built upon a “multiplicity of colluding factors” that are continual shifting.
** I enjoy the length of the stories. There’s a nice way all the disparate narratives are compiled into one book essentially. What draws you to short ‘stories’ over other forms of writing and poetry?
Suze Olbrich: Yes, the intention was for each piece to compound certain ideas from the previous, weaving it tighter and tighter, however it can be hard to judge whether that will come across strongly so it’s nice to hear that it does, thank you. Anyway, it’s fairly straightforward in that short stories provide much scope for creativity and experimentation — a great testing ground for characters and concepts. They are also deep enough to take a reader to another place for a while, and should it work, to leave a lasting impression. With essays, it’s the interrogation thing. They are an excellent form for exploring ideas around culture and society, while tethering pieces into ongoing discussions around topical themes. We also publish a lot of what would fall under creative non-fiction, hybrids, and I think that’s important as very little of what we do is reporting, and so getting stringent about categories seems nigh on false. Life and its interpretations, even on a personal level, doesn’t function that way, subjectivity shapes everything.
** What made you want to go from online publishing to the printed physical book?
SO: With issue 1 it was to mark a year of existing online. It felt like a natural evolution and everyone involved loves print. We also realised a lot of those fantastic early pieces wouldn’t have had all that many eyes on them, and wanted to celebrate and draw attention to the project. Ongoing, it lends itself supremely well to the form, and the idea of publishing a whole series of them that can sit on shelves, for decades even perhaps, appealed hugely.
** How do the published books differ from the online content (do they become more curatorial)?
SO: I’ve been commissioning online pieces in thematic series for the past year-and-a-half, the current one is desire, so it’s not vastly different in that basic sense. However, also thinking about it as an object, and obviously commissioning and designing it as one, with stories and essays that will sit next to each other IRL and form a dynamic, cohesive journey that (hopefully) will be absorbing and enlightening. Yes, there is more of a curatorial element in an experiential sense.
** The theme ‘identity’ feels both broad and specific. Is there an aim to capture some sort of trend and shared conversation or are you trying to create something more multi-directional in that sense?
SO: It has to be multidirectional, and shared, as, I mean, it’s essential to everything, and it will never stop evolving whether on an individual level or within any sort of grouping of humans. But it was also greatly informed by the time during which the brief for the issue was devised, the fortnight following the referendum with attendant disarray here and ever more concerning developments in the lead up to the US election, as well as the ongoing refugee crisis and its causes and repercussions. There was a lot of uncertainty unleashed by that result, as well as vitriol, racism, xenophobia and bigotry; so much labelling, Othering and disparaging categorisation. And there was no way round that, it bled into every conversation, every piece of media, and we had the opportunity to publish considered, creative responses to it, to try do undo some ill-feeling even in the tiniest way.
So, for example, we have an essay looking at broader geopolitical and societal factors such as widespread economic insecurity that are shaping young people’s mindsets, and might lead them to pay heed to nationalist rhetoric, by Oscar Rickett, and then a short story by Abiola Oni set in a dystopian near-future that focuses on how a lack of documentation curtails a life, which is hugely resonant. Yet, the issue is not solely focused on that quagmire. A lot of what we publish looks at notions around contemporary culture, and the issue also explores identity constructs pertaining to celebrity figures, both the idolisation of hip hop stars in Dean [Kissick]’s script, and systemic sexual abuse and misogyny in Hollywood in Philippa [Snows]’s essay about Mia Farrow. In addition, we take a sideways look at whether it’s possible to maintain a coherent sense of self while living a transient, freelance, always-online life.**