Meditation Remediation

Share

A Ship in the Woods, Escondido, CA January 2019

In this interactive photo project I ask participants to take a selfie such that the details of their face fill most of the frame. The rules are simple: Make sure the lighting is not too dramatic; try not to pose, grin, smirk, or make other facial gestures. The purpose of the photograph is to document your face before you have meditated. After a 10-minute guided meditation, I ask participants to make a second selfie of their faces. We consider the making of the self portrait as an act of archiving how we look before and after meditation.

This is an ongoing project. It started for the “Grey Matter” exhibit at A Ship in the Woods in Escondido, California in January 2019.

A Decade of Working with the Working Crowd

Share
Shamik Ghosh’s son, Soham, in the Mechanical Olympics, 2008-18.

I am pleased to be included in a special issue of the Journal of Media-N, “Humans are Underrated: Art and Labor after Amazon” edited by Johanna Gosse. My contribution, “A Decade of Working with the Working Crowd” narrates ten years of working creatively with digital laborers on Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk (Mturk) website.

Abstract

In this contribution to the Media-N special issue, “Humans Are Underrated: Art & Labor in the Amazon Economy,” I narrate creative projects that disrupt or interfere with the Mechanical Turk platform. My place as an artist and employer in the elastic workforce since 2008 has given me a close and nuanced view of life online in the virtual workplace. The jobs I have created on the platform ask workers to perform athletic events, create videos, meditate, and talk back to Jeff Bezos. The materials I collect from the workers are integrated into art works that amplify the visibility of the workers and their unique voices. This article shows how those “underrated” humans in the Amazon economy are creative, thoughtful, and intelligent.

Syntonic Refuge

Share

Syntonic Refuge, LabSynthE, Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019

In February I presented LabSynthE as an open space for collaboration along with a detailed case study of our 2019 project, Syntonic Refuge at CAA’s annual convention. I wrote this piece for the Flesh&Circuit panel, chaired by Conor McGarrigle and El Putnam in Chicago. Conor and El are working on a special issue of The Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, so it may be revised for publication in 2020-21.

An Audio Quilt of One Thousand Names

Share

An Audio Quilt of 1000 Names

LabSynthE, a laboratory for the study of synthetic and electronic poetry in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas, presents An Audio Quilt of One Thousand Names again this year for HIV/AIDS Day on November 29, 2018.

For the HIV/AIDS Week of 2017 and HIV/AIDS Day 2018, LabSynthE focused on the traditional action of reading the names, but shifted the nature of the interaction. What is usually public, loud, and witnessed became an intimate and poetic participatory installation. Participants are invited to read and record names on and in 100  recordable cards—each containing a list of 10 names and an opportunity for participants to add additional names—which were then displayed in the ATEC Lobby.

This project is the focus of an article currently in press by burrough and Ferreira for Trace: A Journal of Writing, Media, and Ecology.

An Audio Quilt of 1000 Names Close Up

An Archive of Unnamed Women

Share

Participants sign the Archive of Unnamed Women guestbook

Sabrina Starnaman and I just launched our newest project, An Archive of Unnamed Women, which we present as a workshop at conferences, in classrooms, and with libraries/archives.

This fall we brought our Unnamed Women project to the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas as part of Digital Frontiers. We also workshopped with attendees of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers in Denver. We are looking forward to additional workshops in 2019 and to growing our archive. This first iteration is based on the New York Public Library’s Digital Collection.

Here is the workshop proposal, in case anyone out there is interested in having us deliver a workshop or hosting us to work with your collection:

We are feminists whose work engages the historical treatment of women in media arts and technology through a media art project that engages a broad cross-section of community members to ask critical questions about the way that women have been cast into the shadows of digital archive collections. This recovery and remix workshop brings photographs of unidentified women from the 1830s to the 1950s into critical discussion about how and why these images have gotten shifted to the background of the archive through algorithms, archival practices, and gendered power relations writ large. The goal of this project is to bring the community into the liberation of these women from digital obscurity, as well as starting a dialogue with the holders of such archives to transform the status of women in the archive from its recesses to the forefront.

An Archive of Unnamed Women includes a browser-based digital archive of photos of unnamed women found in the collections of the New York Public Library, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and a physical archive of named participants. Visitors who search our archive of unnamed women are presented with their photographs and, upon clicking for more information, a juxtaposed description drawn from a parallel collection of women’s writing about women. Joined in the database, the resulting imagined narratives relocate the women on the screen as subjects of literary examination. Our re-presented archive is a speculative feminist recovery and remix project for workshop attendees and internet users.

At the start of our workshop we present a handmade quilt holding a digital screen at its centerpiece. As guests sign into our vintage guest book, their hand-written names appear in the center of our quilt. The quilt becomes an archive of named participants.

Blurring the lines between art and archive, this project furthers discourse about the digital archive as an authority of knowledge curation.

Workshop Outline:

  1. We share what we learned by combing through one hundred eighteen thousand photographs in the NYPL Digital Collection, one at a time.
  2. Sign-in. We perform the ritual of a social gathering, replete with a guestbook to account for our presence, before describing unnamed or unidentified women in our database.
  3. Participants use the database, with more than four hundred images and the same amount of quotes from literary works written by women between 1837 and 1937. Searching our archive is a poignant and playful activity for the searcher and onlookers, alike. The quotes are juxtaposed on the unnamed women in our collection at random. Participants create a 5 by 7 inch art print as a take-away using our portable ink jet printer and archival paper. We create a second print for our physical archives.
  4. Book-bind. We create an artist book that includes each print made to reinterpret the workshop as part of a growing archive of participant-made art with a physical book that reflects the critical exploration that occurred.

Proposed duration:

We have completed this workshop in 90 minutes with fourteen participants—it was tight. Ideally we would have 2 hours or more, especially if the enrollment is greater than 15 people.

Technical and space requirements:

Technical: We require internet access and a place to plug in our portable printer.

Space: We require desk space for a laptop and a portable printer, as well as desk or table space for binding a small (5 by 7 inch) book with an awl and waxed thread. Each participant should have a seat. The quilt that we bring can be hung on a wall easily (plastic hooks on Command strips).

Key words:

Digital Archive

Feminist Remix

Photography

Internet Art

American Women’s Writing (1830s-1930s)

Book-making

A Digital Korl Woman recently published in Transformations

Share

digital korl woman fabrication

A Digital Korl Woman: Students and Workers Recover the Spirit of Life in the Iron Mills from the Digital Factory to the Classroom

“A Digital Korl Woman” was the first project I created with Sabrina Starnaman and students in her “Studies in Women’s Literature: Rebels and Reformers” spring 2016 classroom. We piloted this project, which set the conceptual ground for our exhibition that traveled through 2017-18, “The Laboring Self,” and its complementary workshop, “Return to Sender.” The article is included in Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, Vol. 2, no. 2, 2017, pp. 121-141. It’s also available on JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/trajincschped.27.2.0121

“‘The Laboring Self’ Critiques Digital Gigs” in Seven Days Vermont

Share

over and over
Rachel Elizabeth Jones wrote a terrific review of The Laboring Self at Christine Price Gallery for Seven Days Vermont. Jones is succinct about the role of aesthetics in this project, “Predominantly a conglomeration of cardboard and string, the exhibition doesn’t look like much. Behind the works, however, is a powerful mission: to make visible the labor of ‘hired hands’ in the digital space, and to detail that labor’s impact on the bodies and minds of those who perform it.” However, she concludes, “Combining digital savvy and low-fi craft, ‘The Laboring Self’ argues against the internet as an inherently liberating force. It counters that vision by highlighting how bodies and capital are caught in a complex, sometimes overwhelming, web — whether or not we can see it.”

“THE QUEST TO RECREATE THE OLYMPICS WITH MECHANICAL TURK”

Share

mechanical olympics badminton
Shamik Ghosh’s son plays badminton in the Mechanical Olympics.

Miranda Katz reviewed my ongoing project, The Mechanical Olympics, in Wired this past February. My interview with her reminded me of critique sessions at VCFA. For her essay, she contacted several of the Mechanical Turk workers who have “played” the Mechanical Olympics during the past ten years. One said, “Participating in the Olympics gives me something to do, you know, something active, something where I can use my imagination and just have fun with it,” … “That’s something you don’t see too often on Mechanical Turk.” Read her complete article on Wired.

“Professors Collaboration on Plight of ‘Invisible’ Workers” by Stephen Fontenot

Share

burrough (left) and Starnaman

Stephen Fontenot wrote this generous article about my collaboration with Dr. Sabrina Starnaman on our project, The Laboring Self for The UT Dallas Magazine, “Professors Collaboration on Plight of ‘Invisible’ Workers.”

Here are some of my favorite parts:

“We meet an amazing cross-section of people at the DMA, and talk about their jobs,” Starnaman said. “And whenever we’ve brought up this project with UTD students, we learn many of them work via the sharing economy. You’ll witness this moment of connection — sometimes, it’s not until you see how your work interacts with the world that you really understand what you’ve made.”

As part of the exhibit, there are cardboard worker hands that visitors can write on to tell their stories.

“We ask the community, ‘How does work affect your body?’ People respond in Sharpie, some people even embroider, and that gets added to the exhibit,” Burrough said.