William Kherbek

High-volume, high-velocity + high-variety readings for William Kherbek’s Ultralife: a product launch

15 March 2017

William Kherbek is launching his novel, Ultralife, at Berlin’s Broken Dimanche Press on March 15.

The speculative-fiction-but-uncomfortably-close-to-real-life satire is published by Arcadia Missa and comes with a blurb that cites a definition of Big Data:

“Big data (n) is high-volume, high-velocity and/ or high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing that enable enhanced insight, decision making, and process automation.”

The event will include readings from Kherbek himself, Elvia Wilk, Polly Trope, and Jesse Darling, as well as Sarah M. Harrison, who published All The Things with the London-based gallery and press last year. There will also be a screening of Kherbek’s video-poem collection ‘Retrodiction’ by artist Harm van den Dorpel and Paloma Rodríguez-Carrington of left gallery.

Books bought or pre-ordered on the night will include a “complimentary, bespoke haiku.”

See the FB event page for details.**

William Kherbek, Ultralife (2017), pub. Arcadia Missa Publishing, London.
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Techno Feudalism and The Tragedy of the Commons @ RES, Nov 29

28 November 2016

Doggerland is presenting Techno Feudalism and The Tragedy of the Commons at London’s Res on November 29.

Held by curator Emma Gradin and lecturer/social movement organiser  Dr. Sofa Gradin (and other guests), the evening will host an open discussion with artist and writer William Kherbek who will be discussing “some of the limitations this generation faces being so deeply entrenched within a neoliberal and precarious situation’ and other ideas included in his essay ”Techno Feudalism…'”, which was first published in Issue 1 of Doggerland Journal (2016).

Kherbek has previously published ‘Ecology of Secrets’ (2013) and forthcoming ‘UltraLife’ via Arcadia Missa

Doggerland focuses on artist-led activity throughout the UK to conduct collaborative research.

See the Doggerland website for details.**


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An evening of readings and encounters @ HORSEANDPONY, Jun 29

28 June 2016

Berlin’s HORSEANDPONY will host an evening of readings and encounters on June 29.

In and amongst the work and solo show by Nick Jeffrey, Dream Divider curated by Carolina Ongaro of Jupiter Woods, several artists will read and be present for a chat in an informal event that rounds up the final week of Jeffrey’s exhibition.

Speaking will be writers and artists William KherbekBitsy KnoxWieland Rambke, Matilda Tjäder and Alex Turgeon.

Dream Divider, which captures Jeffrey’s practice by emphasising his observations of gaps and blank spaces as they are filled in, and his tendency towards filters, touches and additions seems like a fitting place to experience readings inside.

See the FB event page for more details.**

William Kherbek, 'Ecology of Secrets' (2013). Courtesy the artist and Arcadia Missa, London
William Kherbek, ‘Ecology of Secrets’ (2013). Courtesy the artist and Arcadia Missa, London.


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General Fine Arts Issue 1, Vol. 2 reviewed

6 April 2016

Value is malleable. Almost nothing has it intrinsically, which makes it an irresistible subject for artists who constantly feel at the mercy of vast and insidious structures of economy: recipes for sleepless nights. Understanding the neoliberal debt economy in relation to the creative industries seems as though it’s an attainable goal, and the desire to do so means that niche publications such as Fulcrum’s Real Estates: Life Without Debt become best sellers. If enough theorists can lay out the reasons that you’ll never be able to afford your own home in a stylishly minimal, yet expensively tasteful book, maybe everything will be okay?

By contrast the release of the first issue of Volume 2 of quarterly e-journal General Fine Arts, published by Version House, is part of an obsession with the competing forces of work and labour in relation to its title-theme ‘Values’ in art. In his editorial for the online publication, editor Tom Clark notes that the contributors address the inadequacies in systems that they repeatedly come up against. Though the compilation has no ‘specific alternative’ to the questions it raises around ‘the value in crisis’, we’re presented with a collection of writing, audio and illustration that thinks diversely around autonomy and commodity, ethics and debt, labour and work, with all the messy facets of self-esteem, privilege, and self-censorship alongside.

Anna Zett, 'Text to Speech', Martin Kohout, 'Dear Muell'. Courtesy General Fine Arts, London.
Anna Zett, ‘Text to Speech’, Martin Kohout, ‘Dear Muell’. Courtesy General Fine Arts, London.

By breaking down the disclosure of mass surveillance programmes by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as a matter of encryption/decryption, John Hill’s ‘Value’ delves into the dichotomies of public/private within the arts and the relationship between different players in the network. Following this with a mockup of a Snowden fanzine by Karisa Senavitis and Kevin O’Neill of Will Work for Good, the craftily re-purposed GCHQ-branded paper is a bright spot in terms of curation. Only Josefine Wikström really brings up the idea of privilege in the art world –a subject so toxic and nefarious that it fuels endless rumours. It seems like an issue smoothed over by others, where in fact it complicates their otherwise delicate points about the trading of one’s own worth in an unfair labour market. Marina Vishmidt’s ‘Anti-Work, Anti-Art’ asks what the unseen side of production means in the labour-politics of the arts, thinking around the inadequacies of working conditions for people in the industry. Her feminist analysis contours the chasm in-between the conditions of production and sale, and she urges for a radical solution that goes further than the Wages for Housework campaign by Silvia Federici. This also seems to be the subtext behind Beatrice Loft Schulz’s ‘Routine 4’, which addresses the oikos –housework –that makes artistic work possible. The problems around structuring your day like the ultra-successful artist she references are particularly jarring to any precarious worker, turning her meticulous performative tone into critique itself.

Even though many contributors offer opinions and experiences around exchange value, the ideas around what does not just stop at the notion of stable ownership falter against the idea that ownership and agency today is constantly in flux. By thinking around the ideas of value and values in the abstract, tensions between waged and unwaged labour, and the effect of affective labour are drawn out in less essayistic ways.

Eleanor Ivory Weber. Courtesy General Fine Arts, London.
Eleanor Ivory Weber. Courtesy General Fine Arts, London.

Poems by Imran Perretta and Kalliope Maria Nagy breathe a sigh in the face of performance and the self, neatly following Vincent Para’s ‘A Transcription to a Center’ –a disturbingly terse portrait of a patient with an unnamed mental health disorder. manuel arturo abreu’s ‘Untitled (Labor)’, a litany of tweet-length epiphanies (read in a slow New Yorker drawl in a recording played at the launch), and Laura Guy’s ‘I want a President/I want a Prime Minister’ (opening line: “I want a dyke for president”) are manifestos, invocations of a desire for change. They address a void at the centre of an imagined Venn diagram of the nonexistent intersectionality of those in power. Lists like Adam Gallagher’s untitled piece work in the digital format —here it’s accompanied by a field recording, a slow in-situ narration of a street. I’m reminded of French experimental writer and Oulipian George Perec’s obsession with exhaustively describing a Parisian apartment block; listing leaves for the reader to draw connections between observed objects, telling more about the world around you than any essay, typified by the quote used at the beginning of his 1978 novel Life: A User’s Manual: “Look with all your eyes, look.”

Another form of writing that is tricky to pull off is the open letter: you risk sounding holier-than-thou (Sinead O’Connor’s misaligned letter to Miley Cyrus, for example) or explaining too much that the ‘recipient’ would already know. But Martin Kohout’s ‘Dear Muell’ gets the balance right with increasingly clumsy prose; a scrawling inexpressibility of rage that goes hand in hand with slight incoherence, and is all too relatable for it.

manuel arturo abreu, 'UNTITLED (LABOR)'. Courtesy General Fine Arts, London.
manuel arturo abreu, ‘UNTITLED (LABOR)’. Courtesy General Fine Arts, London.

The balance is not always measured, though. Although William Kherbek’s ‘Don’t touch your friends’ lights upon methodologies of resistance to those with power by those without it through the metaphor of contagion, the self-reflective tone at the beginning and end doesn’t fully realise the two-sided ‘truism’ that “[C]orporations are people now, but cities have always been people.” Rather than capturing a state of anxiety that leaves you feeling alienated by being an encrypted anonymity we are just left with those on the wrong side of language: “I wasn’t a ‘refugee.’ Nor was I an ‘asylum seeker’, nor a ‘migrant.’ I was, at best, a tourist —or more likely, just another alien in a city of aliens.”

The one stability that the journal posits is that value is always a question, or indeed always in question. Previous issues of GFA seemed like more random collections of texts, and assigning a theme to this issue means that it becomes more politically engaged, more urgent. The bare-bones design of the magazine is a refreshingly simple reading experience to arrest the click-bait flow of publishing on the internet. Whether it is working with or against the rubric that publishing itself is under question, General Fine Arts presents a simple equation; no one is making money from this, and it asks nothing from you but your attention.**

General Fine Arts Volume 2 Issue 1: ‘Value’ was launched at a.m. London on March 5, 2016, and is viewable online.

Header image: General Fine Arts Volume 2 Issue 1: ‘Value’, pub. Version House, London.

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(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS reviewed

26 September 2014

“(ò_óˇ)” marks an appropriate end to the strain of excess that (networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS embodies. Stamped on the empty last page of the anthology published by London’s Arcadia Missa and featuring contributions by 45 artists from around the (digitised) world, it tracks a six-month exhibition programme of the same name and a surplus of extra material. Press releases, installation photos, film stills, essays, artist interviews, prose, poetry, emails; these are scattered across 300+ pages of information that eschews a single-channel stream of content in favour of the more realistic overload of its stated ‘networked’ culture. Snubbing any conventional compulsion towards a straight narrative, the publication opts to map the web of collective thought from a creative cluster bound by book and fibre optics.

(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.
(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.

Sometimes it feels like there’s too much. Presenting a complexity of ideas that crash and collide with, as much as they support and strengthen each other, (networked) performs its introductory challenge to “ideology’s racket on words” in anticipating, even encouraging a total collapse of any distinction between content and form. This is, after all, a print publication littered with hyperlinks –a Soundcloud for Megan Rooney’s ‘Feeling European’ (2013), a YouTube embed for Holly White’s ‘I’m on my bike because I’m looking for you’ (2013) –that a cursor can’t click on; orginally coloured video screenshots are framed and reprinted on paper in grayscale.

“This is the end of Publishing and books are dead and boring”, announces global trade book publisher Boyd (‘B’)’s daughter Alysa (‘A’), in Bunny Rogers and Jasper Spicero’s ‘Random House’. All grown up and confronting her dad-as-Old Establishment, ‘A’ illustrates the potential for a shift in power through a text that is almost but not quite a script, in a publication that is almost, but not quite, a book.

“# – scenes where there is an alternative” says the symbol legend of ‘Random House’ as ‘A’ contradicts herself in “#The End of Small Sanctuary” sub-heading: “What you’ve got to understand is you’ve got to open your eyes to my values, I think it’s unbelievable that you’re actually listening to us”. It’s a similar sense of bewilderment that Rózsa Farkas and Harry Burke share in a conversation –also called ‘The End of Small Sanctuary’ –that actively confuses any notion of individual authorship, while revealing the irony of an internet where “interactivity doesn’t empower the user, but instead traps them in plot”.

(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.
(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.

It’s a trap of windowless metal walls and marble as ‘B’ is harangued by an attorney (‘AT’) who insists on a “more effective response to change” in a new world order where “objects are fossils from the pre-history of the attention economy”, according to Maja Cule. Because while Eleanor Ivory Weber maintains “a clean corporate office is the image of unquestionable success” in ‘A Story for Corporate Cleaners’, William Kherbek’s nameless banker in ‘The Counterparties’ bares witness to failure as he watches his “chair with its coffee stains and miserable back wheel” being carried off with a dissolving financial sector.

“The future as realistically capitalist is no longer so convincing”, announces Farkas in an extract from ‘Immanence After Networks’ for Post Media Lab, as Amalia Ulman observes the gradual disintegration of the “technical middle class” in an interview with Cadence Kinsey. Guillermo Ruiz de Loizaga instead opts to embroider “never forget class struggle” in a pillow in his poem for the ETHIRA® gallery show and iPhone app commission. It’s a symbolic gesture as inconsequential as what Ulman calls the “obvious class war” of a “rye bread with seeds” urban middle.


So go the “possible rap lyrics” of Stephen Michael McDowell’s ‘poetry ebook titled ‘tao lin’’ contribution to the Random House exhibition’s publishing-house.me online initiative. It explores the “relation between narrative and affect” as Gabby Bess’s intimate one-sided exchange asks of the art hanging in the Gagosian, “why not put our poems there?”

(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.
(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.

Why not indeed, as the effectiveness of the word as both utilitarian and artistic communicative force used in oppression as well as disruption folds back on itself as Burke and Farkas at once point out its importance in the enforcement of ideology as “non-negotiable”, while “language, when used well, can always evade its own meaning.” Because when Dora Budor says the virtuosic artist can creatively adapt to multiple situations”, she’s suggesting that although we do “operate within, not against” (according to Elvia Wilk) a dominant online culture, it’s in hacking her father’s Comment is Free account that Huw Lemmey’s schoolgirl protagonist in ‘#nodads’ seeks to slowly destroy him –from the inside. Sure, “dad had an opinion” but in the case of Lemmey’s novella excerpt, it doesn’t count as much as the “wave of powerful butt-focussed instant sex release” that turns the mob against the London authorities in anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal revolution.

.rtfs, spreadsheets, and spam; Facebook, Twitter and iMingle; Macbooks, PCs and iPhones. These are all formats, tools and devices, elements of Jill Magid’s “mechanical weapon” to be used against an entire generation raised within an unjust organisational structure. Except that these are the artists, the queer interlocutors who’ve come to understand these constructions better than the people who constructed them. It’s here that (networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS finds hope, in refusing authority, hijacking power and using it for their own illicit ends. “(I’m an optimist, gross)”. **

(networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, edited and published by Arcadia Missa, was launched alongside the In the Future We Will All Be Modern mini-exhibition, running September 26 to 30, 2014.

Header image: (networked) EVERY WHISPER IS A CRASH ON MY EARS, ed. Arcadia Missa. Courtesy the gallery.


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