music: Nate Maingard, Zim Ngqawana
vocals: Nate Maingard, Aryan Kaganof
appropriation: Aryan Kaganof
music: Nate Maingard, Zim Ngqawana
music: Nate Maingard, Zim Ngqawana
vocals: Nate Maingard, Aryan Kaganof
appropriation: Aryan Kaganof
Details of performances and workshops at www.edgeofwrong.com.
coming of age during the plague
of reagan and bush
watching capitalism gun down democracy
it had this funny effect on me
i am cancer
i am HIV
and i’m down at the blue jesus
blue cross hospital
just lookin’ up from my pillow
and the mighty multinationals
have monopolized the oxygen
so it’s as easy as breathing
for us all to participate
yes they’re buying and selling
off shares of air
and you know it’s all around you
but it’s hard to point and say “there”
so you just sit on your hands
and quietly contemplate
your next bold move
the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
what a waste of thumbs that are opposable
to make machines that are disposable
and sell them to seagulls flying in circles
around one big right wing
yes, the left wing was broken long ago
by the slingshot of cointelpro
and now it’s so hard to have faith in
especially your next bold move
or the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
you want to track each trickle
back to its source
and then scream up the faucet
’til your face is hoarse
cuz you’re surrounded by a world’s worth
of things you just can’t excuse
but you’ve got the hard cough of a chain smoker
and you’re at the arctic circle playing strip poker
and it’s getting colder and colder
everytime you lose
so go ahead
make your next bold move
what’s the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
i’m never really here
never really not here
this is the in-between
where we un-appear
in the web of day to day
it’s the back alleyway
that sucks us in
mind that gap, gal, you say,
it’s no zero-sum game.
it’s a dirty crack habit
but i’m not paying, pal!
i’m chasing that rabbit
i’m hunting that quark
i’m ripping, unzipping
tumbling through the dark
i’m pulled, i’m polluted
the vertigo’s heady
the jostling vacuum
blaring and unsteady
warrens of voids
have i seen this already?
uh-huh, it’s not pretty
these blown-up dead pixels
no taste, so not witty
they stink like nothing
i’m always here, not-here
it’s off with me ’ead
when bored, i bore deeper
through holes yet unread
i need more; drop a fresh tab
hop a window
and i tiptoe
past the daemon
with a keygen
while it snores
unlock the door
another tube flickr-ing
there’s no revelation
there’s no revolution
and too many shares
i spin rumpelstiltskins’
straw dogs into gold
using worm-riddled troll jam
i scavenge ‘twixt threads
i needle this grey gunk
i snip it to shreds
i bump and i juggle
grind bones badly bred
i flip and i giggle
i slough off my shame
i slurp it up, spew it out
flooding the drain
logged in or logged out
i have no real name
if I do it is M.U.D.
and i’m out of my death
and where is my body?
my own flesh and blood
it sleeps with the ‘fiches
not holding its breath
see, it doesn’t do digital
it keeps crashing
so it’s chained to the terminal
wired to the grid
with a stay of execution
logged on or logged off
the haunted dimension
buzzes in my marrow
drowns out my dreams
howls me back
out of bed
out of the car
out of the street
from the supermarket
from the sunset
in a stupor
on my phone
into my inbox
unto my outbox
onto the blog
*welcome to [UR(hel)L]*
you can’t turn off a never-present stranger.
Holly Herndon / Akihiko Taniguchi – Artist / Video Director Statements
Holly Herndon: “So much of Chorus was constructed by spying on my own online habits. It felt fitting to invite Akihiko, who I had been spying on online for a long time before my approach, to contribute the visual treatment of the piece.”
Akihiko Taniguchi: “I was interested in exploring the textures of daily necessities and the embodiment / physicality of the computer and Internet. One of the most striking contemporary images is that of the desktop capture, which is seen commonly on YouTube as part of software tutorials. I like the shots of desktops that are poorly organized and ‘lived-in’.
Referencing one of my earlier pieces “study of real-time 3D Internet”, I considered how it corresponds to the personal environment outside of the screen and how particular it is to my identity and my friend’s identities. I asked several friends to photograph their desktop environments and then rendered these images with custom 3D software, shooting video by moving throughout this virtual space. This video is a collection of records of life of friends and their Internet environments.”
Herndon: “I love the idea of depicting the mundane and quotidian in high definition, and how evocative and individual each of these spaces are. Thinking about intimacy and the laptop is familiar territory for me. I’ve also been thinking a lot about privacy, particularly in light of the ongoing revelations regarding the NSA, which add a more sinister sub-narrative to Akihiko’s piece.
The most crucial conversations happening in technology at the moment focus squarely on our work space, our email, our iSight and our smart phone, and how much we can honestly claim those spaces to be ours at all in an era of indiscriminate and imperceptible surveillance.”
In this audio-visual talk recorded at Ableton’s Loop summit for music makers in 2016, Holly Herndon describes the role process plays in her creative vision. Drawing on her experience as a recording artist, her studies at Mills College and Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Holly discusses the conceptual frameworks surrounding her process-based composition methods. Using audio and video examples from her recent work she reflects on how government surveillance, internet age aesthetics and collaborations with Mat Dryhurst, Metahaven and others inform her mission to capture the ‘sound of now’.
And here’s an interesting interview from 2015.
Way ahead of his time… Tiny Tim on climate change.
THURSDAY 25 MAY: 18H00 – 20H00
CLICK HERE FOR PREVIEW
Knew where they went–
They went to God’s Right Hand–
That Hand is amputated now
And God cannot be found–
The abdication of Belief
Makes the Behavior small–
Better an ignis fatuus–
Than no illume at all–
Poem 1551 by Emily Dickinson (1882)
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Ignis Fatuus – a debut solo exhibition by painter and installation artist Ruby Swinney. Swinney’s work explores what it means to live in a vanishing natural world that is growing progressively darker and unfamiliar. Through the blurring of both South African and imaginary landscapes her work evokes a sense of loss of faith in what it means to be human in a time of intolerance, mistrust, violence and environmental uncertainty. Drawing on this uncertainty Swinney creates surreal tableaux in which she revels in the strange and unpredictable moods of the natural world and its ability to both alter and transcend human experience.
Manifold is an audiovisual artwork made for the 2017 Edge of Wrong festival.
Lidar scans/concept: Jason Stapleton
Audio: Justin Allart
Editing: Lucy Hazard
It’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird
I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love
and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me
I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck
I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison
I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side
I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos
snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow
I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much
I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts
moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
I like it
I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue
the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return
19 April 1962
(Thank you to Lesego Rampolokeng for showing me this poem I didn’t know I loved.❤)
‘“If we want a world with less suffering and more flourishing, it would be useful to perceive complexity and complicity as the constitutive situation of our lives, rather than as things we should avoid,” she writes. We can’t help that we’ve inherited these problems—a warming Earth, institutional racism, increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria—nor can we help sometimes perpetuating them. Better to stop pretending at purity, own up to our imperfections, and try to create a morality that works with them.’
In the, in the countryside, under the stream
Suck the, suck the marrow out of her bones
Inject, inject, inject me with chemotherapies
Suck the, suck the money out of her face
We are, we are all Americans now
Africa, Iceland, Europe and Brazil
China, Thailand, India and Great Britain
Australia, Borneo and Nigeria
We are, we are all Americans now
Suck the, suck the oil out of her face
Burn her, burn her hair, boil her skin
We are, we are all Americans now
2016, haven’t you taken enough from us for one year now?
Here is a clip of this brilliant composer and experimental sound artist speaking about the difference between hearing and listening last year:
“In hearing, the ears take in all the sound waves and particles and deliver them to the audio cortex where the listening takes place. We cannot turn off our ears–the ears are always taking in sound information–but we can turn off our listening. I feel that listening is the basis of creativity and culture. How you’re listening, is how you develop a culture, and how a community of people listens, is what creates their culture.”
Stock footage from atomic bomb testing on 16 July 1945, and other public domain clips.
Sympoiesis, not autopoiesis, threads the string figure game played by Terran critters. Always many-stranded, SF is spun from science fact, speculative fabulation, science fiction, and, in French, soin de ficelles (care of/for the threads). The sciences of the mid-20th-century “new evolutionary synthesis” shaped approaches to human-induced mass extinctions and reworldings later named the Anthropocene. Rooted in units and relations, especially competitive relations, these sciences have a hard time with three key biological domains: embryology and development, symbiosis and collaborative entanglements, and the vast worlds of microbes. Approaches tuned to “multi-species becoming with” better sustain us in staying with the trouble on Terra. An emerging “new new synthesis” in trans-disciplinary biologies and arts proposes string figures tying together human and nonhuman ecologies, evolution, development, history, technology, and more. Corals, microbes, robotic and fleshly geese, artists, and scientists are the dramatis personae in this talk’s SF game.
For Donna Haraway, we are already assimilated.
“The monster opens the curtains of Victor Frankenstein’s bed. Schwarzenegger tears back the skin of his forearm to display a gleaming skeleton of chrome and steel. Tetsuo’s skin bubbles as wire and cable burst to the surface. These science fiction fevered dreams stem from our deepest concerns about science, technology, and society. With advances in medicine, robotics, and AI, they’re moving inexorably closer to reality. When technology works on the body, our horror always mingles with intense fascination. But exactly how does technology do this work? And how far has it penetrated the membrane of our skin?”
Go HERE to read the rest of this article about Donna Haraway from way back in 1997.
This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.
In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.
This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.
The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.
No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.
But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.
(Thanks Debbie for this.)
From Aimless Love, Penguin Random House, 2014.
This is a research paper I wrote in 2014 for “The Public Life of the Image”, an MPhil course offered through the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town.
“[T]he striking mine workers at Marikana have become spectacularised. It is a stark reminder that the mine worker, a modern subject of capitalism, in these parts of the world is also the product of a colonial encounter.”
— Suren Pillay (2014)
“We need to understand how photography works within everyday life in advanced industrial societies: the problem is one of materialist cultural history rather than art history.”
— Allan Sekula (2003)
I pick up the odd wood and metal contraption. This is a stereoscope, I am told. It feels old, in the sense that there is a certain worn patina about it, and a non-utilitarian elegance to the turned wood and decoration, though not as if it were an expensive piece – just as if it came from an era where there was time for embellishment. It feels cheaply put together, mass-produced and flimsy as opposed to delicate, the engraving detail of the tinny sheet metal rather rough, the fit of the one piece as it glides through the other somewhat rickety in my hands.
I reach for the pile of faded stereographs; flipping through them slowly. There are 24, picked up in an antique shop in an arcade off Cape Town’s Long Street together with the viewing device. A stereograph is composed of two photographs of the same subject taken from slightly different angles. When placed in the stereoscope’s wire holder, and viewed through the eyeholes, an illusion of perspective and depth is achieved as the two images appear to combine through a trick of parallax.
Susan Sontag remarks that “[p]hotographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy”2. And Allan Sekula calls the photograph an “incomplete utterance, a message that depends on some external matrix of conditions and presuppositions for its readability. That is, the meaning of any photographic message is necessarily context determined”3. In what follows, while unable to offer definitive conclusions, I will look more closely at 2 out of these 24 pictures and, through a contextual discussion, attempt to unpack a few aspects of the complex relationships of photography with its subjects and also with public circulation.
Each thick, oblong card with its rounded, scuffed edges discoloured by age has two seemingly identical images on it, side by side, and is embossed with the name of what I guess must have been the photographer or printing studio’s name in gold down the margin: “RAYMOND NEILSON, BOX 145, JOHANNESBURG”. The images depict miners underground. Some are very faded, to the extent that the figures in them appear featureless and ghostly. There is virtually no annotation on most of the photos. On just a few of them, spidery white handwriting on the photo itself, as if scratched into the negative before it was printed, announces the name of the machinery or activity in the picture and the name of the mine: “Crown Mines”.
I pick up the first card, slot it into the stereoscope, and peer through the device. On the left of the two images, the writing announces: “Ingersoll hammer drill cutting box hole. C215. Crown Mines.”
I slide the holder backwards and forwards along the wooden shaft to focus. I’m seeing two images, nothing remarkable, until suddenly, at a precise point on the axis, the images coalesce into one, three-dimensional. The experience is that of a gestalt switch, the optical illusion uncanny. I blink hard. It’s still there. It feels magical, as if the figures in the photos are stepping right out of the card towards me. Their eyes stare into mine through over a century of time, gleaming white out of dirty, sweaty faces.
Startlingly tangible, here stand two young white men in a mine shaft, scarcely out of their teens, leaning against rock, each with a hand on a hip and a jauntily cocked hat. They are very young… yet very old too, I immediately think: definitely dead now; and perhaps dead soon after the picture was taken, living at risk, killed in a rock fall or in World War One. A pang of indefinable emotion hits. I am amazed at how powerfully this image has flooded my imagination. Even with the difficult viewing process, the effect is astonishing.
I am reminded of Susan Sontag’s contention that all photographs are memento mori: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt”5.
I also notice that the trick of parallax (and concurrently, the evocativeness) works most pronouncedly on the figures in the foreground, probably due to the camera angle and vanishing points of the perspective. Behind the two white youngsters, almost fading into the darkness, is a black man, holding up a drill over all of their heads that seems to penetrate the tunnel of rock in which they are suspended.
He appears to have moved during the shot as his face is blurred. This could also be due to the low light in the shaft. Though he is looking straight at me, I can’t connect with him like I do with the figures in front. He is very much in the background, a presence without substance. The way the photo was set up and taken has placed him in that position, and this viewpoint is indelible, no matter how hard I try to look past it.
There is no writing on this one except for what seems to be a reference number: “C269”. The figure in the foreground is a black man, miming work with a mallet and chisel against the rock face, though clearly standing very still for the shot, as he is perfectly in focus, his sceptical gaze on us, a sharp shadow thrown on the rock behind him. This is no ordinary lamp light: it seems clear that these pictures have been professionally illumined by the photographer, perhaps using magnesium flares, because these shots definitely predate flash photography.
To the man with the chisel’s left stands a white man, face dark with dirt. He is holding a lamp in one hand, and his other grasps a support pile which bisects the shaft and also the photo. Tight-jawed, he stares beyond us, his eyes preoccupied, glazed over. Behind the two men in the foreground, there are more men – parts of two, perhaps three workers can be seen, one a black man crouched down at the rock face behind the man with the chisel.
What strikes me most trenchantly about this picture — the punctum, after Barthes7 — is the man with the chisel’s bare feet. He is at work in an extremely hazardous environment without shoes. Looking at all the photographs, every white worker is wearing boots, but there are several pictures where it is visible that many of the black workers are barefoot.
This is shocking visual evidence of an exploitative industry which does not take its workers’ safety seriously: these men are placed at incredible risk without the provision of adequate protective attire: none have hard protection for their heads, and black workers are without shoes. Men not deemed worthy of protection are, by inference, expendable. From these photos, one surmises that black lives are more dispensable than white.
I am really curious to find out more about these pictures. Perhaps the visual evidence here is echoed in literature? Perhaps they can tell us things the literature does not?
Who were these people posing? There is nothing on the back of the photos. No captions, no dates. Who was the photographer? For what purpose were these pictures being taken? The lack of answers to these most mundane of questions lends the photos an uncanny, almost spectral quality.
A poem by Louise Westerhout, accompanied by Lliezel Ellick (cello) and Rosemary Lombard (autoharp), performed on 28 July 2016 at the Blah Blah Bar’s Open Mouth night.
Next time we’ll make sure we find a venue where rude men at the bar are not entitled to talk through performances…