At the bar, I wait to be served for quite some time. I am passed over continually, but I’m not sure if I just haven’t been present enough. But the ‘Sirs’ and ‘Madams’ addressed at those served ahead of me make me think that I have become invisible by address. They cannot serve me, because they cannot address me.

Later, I am alone waiting for my friend who has gone to the loo in the interval. I am alone but for a middle-aged man similarly waiting. We have both been given a beer without the means to open it. I see him look around in desperation. As I pop the top of mine with a handy keyring opener I see him glance across and away. He can’t see me, because he can’t address me. I offer to open his beer, he’s grateful yet mumbles in an embarrassed way. He cannot address me, so he cannot thank me.

I cannot be named out loud, I cannot be addressed. Like a devil I am unnameable.

Categories: Art in a Technocracy

Created: 13th December 2018

The body in the space

Watching people tentatively walk through the augmented space with their AR goggles on, I can see a body-awareness that cripples the instinctual movements of the body. The assumption seems to be that these people lack technical familiarity, but what they are actually experiencing is not technological but physical, a shame and self-consciousness of the body that limits movement. I think of typing my phone number or email into a stranger’s phone, how my movements become exaggerated and clumsy, even though I am completely familiar with a touchscreen. It is the attention that disrupts me, the focus on my movements by myself and another. These VR and AR newbies are in a public space, and highly conscious of the eyes watching them. But they are also aware of their own monitoring of their body. Suddenly, the device asks them to concentrate in new ways on their hands, head, arms, legs. They are childlike in their understanding and must become present. Becoming present involves the familiarisation of actions and objects to the point of indifference, acceptance through automation. If we are going to help people into an AR or VR world, they will need to move through this process of defamiliarisation of the body and its actions.


And what will this new learning do for the body?

What happens if we decide to place someone with one leg into a virtual body with two? What have we done here?

When I go into the virtual world, will I take my penis with me?

The use of VR to help autistic children. Are we customising the world for individuals? Are we removing them from our world?

I can always bring you into the world by appealing to your reactive base nature; “Catch!”

Categories: Art in a Technocracy

Created: 11th December 2018
Edited: 13th December 2018

Enabling gender performance with clothing – The fashion cyborg

I have memories (some visual, some vague experiential) of the first times for lipstick, heels, skirts, bras, stockings, false eyelashes. Each time I remember the feeling of exhilarating awareness of a particular part of the body, and the way it changed how that body related to me, how I had to learn to use it anew, and getting to know it anew was a desire and a love. The additions demanded a new way of using the body, some change posture and movement, some manner and expression, some just a focus on that area. Hips were a surprise to me. I am slender and had not thought about my hips till then. The skirt seemed to completely rebalance my midriff, making it seem to swing and sway. I felt like someone was holding me firmly around my waist, and my legs supported this gyroscopic movement as I paraded back and forth.

In the mirror-show, these new areas of the body dominate and drive the show, and combining two or more new pieces (skirt and wig, nails and lips) is not advisable, each must be savoured alone. Each of these moments of discovery are firsts, and diminish with repetition. They form your continual process of transformation. Because this is not a transformation from one being to another being, this is the transformation of the unaware body to the aware body. This is the continuation of the childhood as it extends into the dildonic world. This is the process that will continue into the virtual world. This is the performance.


The narrative lived


We become the product of narrative because we are being presented with a believable narrative of self to work by. Without it, we’re screwed.

Categories: Art in a Technocracy

Created: 11th December 2018

Digitisation is a political act (rough)

Getting into a discussion about how to avoid the lazy polarities of language when thinking about technology:

“Digital/Analogue” no no no

“Virtual/Real” Bleurgh

“Synthetic/Organic” :s

All of these binaries are useless for any practical and truthful understanding of technology. Not only do they fail to create a mental model that can help us think about how technology exists as a concept of interaction, they are also polarities that are propagated by people who intend to use them to benefit from our fears. If technology is understood as a force outside of our perceived body, then it can be feared as invasive to that body. With fear comes mitigation in the form of forced representation, a helpful soul in the form of a company or individual practiced in the art of speaking to that technology. A form of extortion or a protection racket.

This, in turn, leads to control over development. Companies clear the agenda of individuals and small groups to develop the products they deem worthy; of value to them). Private technological ownership, as with all forms of ownership, is about failure and education within direct means. The end user finds their own use through trial and error, often at the frustration of the developed user, who seeks to benefit financially, but also may want to just develop new ideas (i.e. the progressive: the progress of wealth and/or the progress of technology). It becomes important that the end user – the low unit of disfunctionality constituting a celebrated idea of existence; idiots like your or me – is discouraged from defining the technology from their own sensations of desire or need. This process of mystification started a long time ago and has crippled dialogue for most people.

Analyse the flaws in living under a bridge, storing chickens in your car, or using your desktop as a soup warmer. There are flaws, but their relationship with litigation is overweighted within them. More relevantly here, is why technology should exist as a polar opposite to the lived experience. What currently happens in virtual reality happens in reality. More specifically, the misnamed virtual experience, renegotiates reality using the same stimulus and receptors as reality. This is not mind-blowing in any way, and follows any theory of epistemology, but it is amazing how much of this we forget within contemporary cultural experiences. As technologies increase their association with the physicality of existence, we will need a better language to understand the experience, one that doesn’t rely on prefixes and suffixes. It will be the language we have already, our temporal and spiritual navigation of knowledge.

Digitisation is a political act

When we digitise something, it is tempting to think of it as a process of taking an object from one realm into another. We could basically say that we took a set of agreed parameters from that object (colour, size, weight, texture) and translated them into data a system can use to create a function. But the key part of that process is the agreement. This is the political decisions made that dictate the form and context of those parameters. They are fed from the developer of the function, and all parts of the process are within one flow of language.

Categories: Art in a Technocracy

Created: 11th December 2018

An Abstract Regarding Self-censorship and Victimhood in Art Practice

[Presented at the Decolonising Art Practice: Self-Censorship and Criticality key event at Chelsea College of Arts, 15th May 2017]

Self-censorship, or rather, criticality of your own linguistic behaviours, is not just a confidence killer inherited from my mother. It can operate as a means of critiquing the powers that speak through you (including my mother). Resistance to your internal instinctual logic is essential. We are tools of others, and the languages we inherit are not inherited in an entirely ego-survivalist manner. These languages are often not intended to benefit an evolution of knowledge but line the pockets of others. The means of externally manipulating our internal voices are perpetually consolidated by those who seek power. Think of the many ownership of language issues: Resistance to access to literacy by the church or state, translators of the bible burnt as heretics, native languages suppressed or overwritten, rising fees for education and the automation of Internet comment moderation.

Language defines our individuality. It genders our clothing and mannerisms, puts a value on our position in society, feeds us information on what is funny, clever, worth buying, how to eat, behave in public, behave in private, how to emotionally or sexually relate to others and even creates the categories that these are judged by. When we accept that this powerful human technology exerts a massive force on our behaviour we must ask ourselves how we can, sometimes, resist it.

Resistance is an important part of protest in collective thought. We are constantly bombarded in our day-to-day academic life by opportunities to discuss or enact resistance with others. These political acts vary in their intention or effectivity, and any criticism of these group behaviours must be dealt with case by case and at another time. But what remains important is the relationship you are able to deform with your internal voices, the ways in which you can mess with the monologue to act freely. Free expression is not as simple as a lack of inhibition and does not materialise at the removal of self-censorship. Self-censorship is an important tool of the individual and must be targeted with insight to allow a voice of dysmorphic difference to occur. In other words, we must always resist the urge to be free, as freedom is the progeny of the few and is always offered to us tethered and at a price.

The status of abused individuality is a method of resistance. This is different to the empowerment of the individual, where the marginalised cultivate alternate currencies. Alternate currencies are still methods of value, and will serve to enforce the competition of hierarchical power, the one you can’t win. By calling out our status of victimhood without a progressive solution, we can create lumps of resistance of ourselves that cannot be manipulated for gain.

Within your art practice, it is important to censor the self through criticality, to hinder the working process and prevent the easing of the journey for external languages of power. You will work slower, and you will produce less, but at least nothing you do will make any sense.


The Economist, Language and technology: Voicing concerns, 16th July 2012

Categories: Art in a Technocracy | Notes | Self-Censorship as Personality (May 2017) | Written

Created: 16th May 2017
Edited: 11th December 2018

The Birds Flock [2008]

The Birds Flock 2008 (.pdf)

The Birds Flock

Categories: Art in a Technocracy | Written

Created: 15th July 2014
Edited: 1st August 2016

Problems in Technocratic Art

[From commodity, technology and the white cube – 2009]

“The decision makers attempt to manage these clouds of sociality according to input/output matrices, following a logic which implies that their elements are commensurable and that the whole is determinable. They allocate our lives for the growth of power. In matters of social justice and of scientific truth alike, the legitimation of that power is based on its optimising the system’s performance-efficiency. The application of this criterion to all of our games necessarily entails a certain level of terror, whether soft or hard: be operational (that is, commensurable) or disappear.”

The birth of mechanised art technique, starting with photography and film and continuing through the array of digital media, coincides (cohesively) with a shift in social and political understandings of knowledge. And the position of art toward technology needs to be recognised clearly. Factors of commodity, communication, celebritism and culture surrounding art are developments of technique that do not constitute art in themselves. Photography did not usurp painting at the turn of the century it redefined its roll as an aesthetic medium and instigated changes within art and its reception. The rapid development of technology is a path that has run relatively distant to the gallery space. By some this is seen as a reluctance on behalf of the gallery to engage with such technologies, yet if we look at theory developed from Benjamin into the latter part of the twentieth-century we may see justification for its absence. Technology shares a common goal with capitalism in its emphasis on performance and function. The pervasiveness of (and desire for) technology is testament to its exalted status in society. However, in art the language of success cannot be easily aligned with function. In fact, it can be strongly argued as anathema to aesthetic language:

“Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important…”

Shklovsky highlights defamiliarisation as a constant in art technique. The object must be detached from its reality and then returned in order for us to perceive its aesthetic. But how do we defamiliarise the functional? This very question becomes the form of technocratic art. Digital artists deal with this question by attempting to challenge the functionality of technology, a common theme being the by-products of the invention and deterioration of technology. Glitch Art, the use of retrograde technologies (Polaroid, VHS, analogue synthesisers), the corruption and manipulation of commercial code through hacking, the mimicry of traditional techniques by digital means; all share a common desire to defamiliarise. Yet outside of the rhetoric of the gallery space these works are sublimated by the commodity system and will always be subsumed by the value of their origin in technological development (one man’s functionless device is another’s innovation). This fate of technology is ascribed by its filiations with industrialisation and the growth of capitalism. It is a misconception that art must align itself with the path of technological progression, “Artists, after all, are no more obliged to consider the effects of technology today any more than they were bound to directly consider the effects of industrialisation in the nineteenth century”. Yet though art needs no confirmation of its autonomy and liberation from responsibility to technological progress, it is important, within this progress, to acknowledge a change in the perception and use of such technology and its artfulness. A like-for-like comparison cannot be made between the trains, turbines and machine-guns of Futurism and the networks, displays and databases of the cybernetic age. As Jameson relates, this transition is a move from “machines of production” to “machines of reproduction”. The structures of modern technology are displaced from the world of aesthetic production and able to deal only with simulacra. Whereas the defamiliarised objects of Futurism could garnish ideas of speed, power and production, the simulacra of contemporary machines are all reified to a system of value. This is by no means a condemnation of digital production as an invalid and inert tool of capitalism. Yet its current usage cannot claim a freedom from its industrialist birth. If no evidence can be found of a non-functional discourse at play, the languages and uses of technology can only serve multinational capitalism. By requiring a ‘media literacy’, Internet art exposes itself as a product of the structural hegemony of commodified knowledge. At the present time it can only defend itself from charges of exclusivity by a suggestion of supposed democracy within its network: the World Wide Web. In reality this very network is, in fact, the hegemonic structure itself. Subversion (or alienation) within this mainframe remains exclusive to the socio-political practice of hackers and entrepreneurs, an area where art is powerless to exert aesthetic discourse in any other manner than as critique. The doorway out of theory and into technique effectively closes behind art leaving it isolated as product or comment. This would leave us an art of the digital age that has leapt from its ancestry (photography, film) to a present status of functionality unenriched by the discourse of avant-gardism and uninformed by the conflicts fought around the territory of the White Cube. The untarnished functionalism of technocratic art unmasks it of any apparent aestheticism. Its root as the communicational tool, constructed by a society that seeks to assign value homogeneously, allies it with a late-capitalist system that requires art as acquisition leaving it replete of internal purpose or mediation. As an art form, digital art in its current two dimensional and/or web based format (as distinct from digital art existing in a sculptural, projected plain within the gallery) can only be theorised postmodernistically and holistically as part of contemporary political and informational structures.

Categories: Art in a Technocracy

Created: 15th July 2014

Housework is Labour. Discuss. [2014]

“No I refuse to say that housework is labour.”

“What do you mean? How can you be so naïve? Housework is gendered work, it becomes an expectation of women that unpaid labour is the norm.”

“But why call it labour? Why bring it into the linguistic game of equivalence?”

“You’re talking rubbish. Statistics show that housework is, on the whole, done by women and is unpaid or paid a nominal amount, slave labour essentially.”

“That’s not my point. You can’t solve the problem by creating a linguistic equality. Labour is a term, a word symbolic of a behaviour. In attempting to solve the problem of exploitation by assimilating housework into the language of labour you kill your argument. It is a far better feminist/queer approach to create positive, complex and contradictory roles to subvert the condition of labour. We can quite easily identify the suppression within housework and try to resolve it by identifying its worth within the labour system, valuing it accordingly; housework as labour. However, all this approach does is bring the behaviour of housekeeping into a capital system, rendering it ripe for abuse by and for its applied value. This is what negative equality means now, this is the phenomena made visible by the advent of data technologies – your stats. These show us, not that arguments can be formed using an improved foundation of statistics, but that any argument can be given a net worth with the help of compilable lexemes, and traded accordingly. To wish for equality through value in housework is to wish for the right to abuse, or perhaps the right to make dirt and cleanliness marketable commodities, perfect for oppression. If we bring down a linguistic framework on all arguments we render them all subject to capital.”

“Why? Words are free.”

“They were. Words are now data. Data can only make sense if it’s categorised. Database tables maybe dynamic, but the fields within the table are ordered and dictated by a value system. If I choose to place my argument within that system I must be prepared for that system to decide its value. As we are all aware, the globalisation of our capitalist system did not create positive worth for those it assimilated. By interpreting all it touched by its own value system it could dictate worth based upon its own biased assumptions, and underpaid labour becomes a reality. The value of things is not placed against immediate and regulated communities, but against outlandish claims of correspondence between physically distant systems. There is an argument, like yours, saying that workers should all be brought into line so that everyone’s labour is recognised as having equal value, socialism I guess. But it’s bollocks in practice. Not because the desire is wrong or somehow untenable, but because it makes the assumption that by using the same method of valuation used by the oppression you can re-balance the issue. But how can this be possible? The capital system is given its form as a structure of hierarchical power. You will end up replacing one regime with another ad infinitum. By trying to resolve an inequality you compound it. The word inequality itself works to assimilate all elements into one marketable structure. These acts of assimilation work by creating assumption that the initial object has always been a part of the structure it becomes a part of, that its place within the argument is as subject to the argument and its value is the value dictated by the argument. We see this model most within the Internet, where the assumption that the Internet is a way of stabilising our system of information to create equality is validated. This could not be more wrong. The Internet is a cypher created on the basis of an arbitrary value game. As it grows and appears to assume all elements of political and social behaviour it reinterprets them with an associated value. These ratings are then used for the old game of oppression; oppression by a system. This form of oppression obscures blame and apportions guilt to the user, rendering us powerless against it whilst we are within it. Our actions within the Internet compound its behaviours and make us its enabler. Think of all the websites that have been created with a strong sense of positive purpose. I can’t actually think of any, because all, perhaps unwittingly, are created with a biased code structure that seeks to overcome any competing structure. Here are functional behaviours in their element. By giving priority and power to functional systems we reenforce capitalist doctrine. Function is a great way to defeat people. If I decide that housework is labour I give it value. I turn it from a behaviour – cleanliness and order are part of human behaviour, it stops us coming to harm – I turn it from behaviour to a labour. This may seem a good idea but it can only end in its assignation as a low value task. Meaning that anyone who takes part in it is also of a low value; currently women, migrants and minorities. In recognising its position within the system you have ascribed it a position and value of near worthlessness. You monetise it and reenforce the abuse. And for what? Because you want linguistic equality through linguistic association. Being an academic you must want to confront issues by ascribing everything a coded, literary value in order to expose its inequality and therefore, hopefully, create an algorithm that can solve it. But the world is not set up with such a unified system of recognition, not all things can be named and even those that can cannot be named objectively. Words have power, but the use of them in finite forms only leads to easy manipulation for those with access to their power. Re-appropriation and anti-interpretation are more egalitarian approaches to language. My crass and jumbled comments about the social standing of your education and those you teach was intended as an awareness that to educate through language is to compound a structure that excludes. And my apparent ignorance of the definition of the word ‘anecdotal’ was a poor and drunken attempt to highlight the importance of liquidity in definition. Anecdotal is a perfect word for this as, within its definition, it describes a complex path of behaviour. To me its ambiguity is obvious. You seem to want to enforce the idea that it has no ambiguity. Finite definition is a dictatorship that sits on the core of my argument. By creating finite terms we are back to the corruptible structures we want to avoid. Statistics are also a direct way of supporting and legitimising abusive systems. Statistics are never pure yet the data led system wants us to believe in their authority. But what authority can statistics have when they are so often able to be criticised as anecdotal evidence, limited by scope, interpretation, bias? They are based on the relative position of those that seek to benefit from their use. This is you and although your motivation, to me, is noble, it is misjudged as a method to combat the structure using its own vernacular. I’m patronising you when I point out that Queer theory is often applied using actions of subversion. It’s not subversive to try solving inequality using the very system that generates that inequality, such as the assignation of the linguistic definition labour to behaviours. Gender theory is not predominantly concerned with equality. Progression is rarely achieved by the assumption that new behaviours will be easily assigned to existing values. It is a cynical state of affairs when new behaviours are pre-valuated. This actually happens, the data system controls new behaviour, as well as the prospect of new behaviour, and can bring it into the system of capital at the very point of its conception. This could appear analogous with language, the argument that our realm of experience is essentially linguistic. But even if it is, the role of Queer theory is to undermine this process, offering contrary opinion and exposing weakness. It exposes the opportunities available for subversion within the system itself. With this in mind, being scolded by you for not agreeing to roll over for a statement is galling. Getting someone to confirm your terms of debate only asks them to yield before debate has even begun. This is the abusive nature of language. It never gets us far. Statements such as, ‘All men are equal’ and, ‘Housework is a form of labour’ are only statements, and to subscribe to their peculiar rule system eliminates escape from their perlocutions. That includes the obvious flaws within their constitution – ‘All men?’. The Internet assimilates desire into capital using data. Any behaviour attempted within its environment, no matter how well-intended, becomes directly involved in a valuing and devaluing process. Good-intentions will always be subverted by a marketing tool that has no interest in my definition of my activity, or anyone else’s definition for that matter. It has its own definition system, fluctuating and constantly revaluing using measures and expectations dictated by the desire for power by people I’ve never met. People who do not target me specifically to capitalise on my behaviour, but capitalise on the nature of online behaviours in general, rendering my own intentions meaningless in the environment. Is a statement about inequality worth making if, in its utterance, it benefits parties whose intention is to increase their own status. Perhaps, as a clunky example, a website about equality becomes so popular that the data it produces is able to make some people very rich. Surely that website has failed in its intention? And your declaration that housework is labour is completely antithetical in using the structure of the statement to bring change in its meaning. By asking anyone to acknowledge the sentence you are only asking them to take part in its oppressive game. When all activities are recognised within the capital value system we lose any opportu
nity for counter-debate. Arguments are won and lost by the same agents of an abusive state. By confining statements to finite definition you completely restrict their ability to free themselves through subversion.”

[Published on Pamphlet Magazine]

Categories: Art in a Technocracy | Written

Created: 5th May 2014
Edited: 6th August 2016

Samuel Beckett's Digital Critique


Beckett is a relevant artist for our movement into a data led Society:

  1. His work (more obviously his later work) expresses a literary linguistic exploration, which counterpoints our technical linguistic development.
  2. His latter works throw an expressive light onto the preconditions of the historical phenomena of digital culture, one which is often portrayed dryly.
  3. All his work offers, still, a suitable critique of techno-culture and technocracy, both with and against its tide.
  4. The pivotal position of his personality (ambiguous or not) toward his work, his humanity as a deliberate centralising theme, is translatable to the contemporary relationship of man and his external fictions. His is not the cult-of-personality dynamic that is diffused by social media. Beckett is the canvas, hub, better still his influence on his work is more rhizomatic, he is the genetic structure of his works, regardless of their form, which leads to…
  5. Beckett’s work has a structure akin to the digital language construct: regardless of its shape it covers a reductive bineric sense of rest and movement. However, the humanity of his work fleshes out even the most bleak and brutal parring of commands.

The author Beckett is man with and without his words, subjectified by external meaning and using his last defense against language: the ability to switch off meaning.

Categories: Art in a Technocracy | Notes

Created: 17th April 2013