wynne greenwood @ new museum

from the exhibition text for “kelly”:

“Real teenager stuff that remains a central part of my being in the world and in particular my relationship with authority/institution… the whole project could be seen as a study in obligation, desire, separateness and relationship. What holds us together?”

“Starting to think more about the “public” body. The body at the party, the party body, the gendered body. What’s private? When is making the private public a political act, an empowering act, and when is it something else?”

“Being invited into this big institution, I wanted to bring my friends, community, history, influences.”

“Beginning to become aware of isolation as a complex thing—politically, culturally, emotionally. I was tired.”

“how do we give each other the space to dream? how do we make an alternative accessible without selling out? how do we expand without colonizing?”

“I want to talk about how queer sex is this really rad example of agreeing on a reality, like making up a reality and agreeing on it, that it exists, and so then it does. What does that mean in a bigger way, for the possibilities of defining a culture?”

“Becoming part of the/an institution, or at least supported by one. Compromise, ownership, truth and care.”

tracy + the plastics for prez

A video posted by @ken_jagan on

ethnography: white people in coffee shops

i have been puzzling for years now over white people in coffee shops. why do i like coffee shops so much? why won’t i just make coffee at home? why does it feel social even though i usually go by myself and don’t talk to other people who are there by themselves? what am performing when i’m there, drinking my coffee alone, working on my laptop in silence?

this may seem trivial, but i think the questions get at important intersections of race, class, conspicuous consumption, and gentrification.

my last “strategy” of performing different difficult tasks didn’t leave behind a trace, an object. for this strategy, i want an object. it’s been helpful to dig fairly deeply into trevor paglen’s work because, even though he doesn’t stick to a specific medium, he always leaves behind an object as a record of his investigation—a book, a projection (or the files to display the projection), a satellite prototype.

i could collect things from the spaces:

  • cups or photos of cups
  • photos or sketches of people on their laptops
  • menus
  • recordings of the overhead music

or compile reviews from review websites.

or interview long-time residents of neighborhoods where coffee shops have recently appeared.

or interview people who frequent coffee shops and work in them.

or a google map with new (< 5 years old) coffee shops starred.

UPDATE: i just found out about this project, which maps coffee shops and median rents in san francisco neighborhoods—inspired by the anti-eviction mapping project.

UPDATE: @socalitybarbie. i love this project, but i’m interested in something that goes deeper/does more than just critique. the critique is the easy part.

what 2 wear 2 an interview
what 2 wear 2 an interview

responses to systems/ethnography/infrastructure readings

Donella Meadows, “Leverage Points” Places to Intervene in a System”

“What is needed is much slower growth, much different kinds of growth, and in some cases no growth or negative growth.”

“The systems analysts I know have come up with no quick or easy formulas for finding leverage points. When we study a system, we usually learn where leverage points are.”

nassim taleb has written brilliant things that i only vaguely remember about this, i think when he writes about heuristics.

“People care deeply about parameters and fight fierce battles over them. But they RARELY CHANGE BEHAVIOR. If the system is chronically stagnant, parameter changes rarely kick-start it. If it’s wildly variable, they don’t usually stabilize it. If it’s growing out of control, they don’t brake it.”

Hal Foster, “The artist as ethnographer?” 

foster lays out walter benjamin’s critique of the author-as-producer, what foster is calling a “productivist” model. this model defines art as a thing made by a singular genius auteur-type. built in are bourgeois ideas of who/what an audience is, the concept of taste, etc., which are inherently anti-proletariat even though, theoretically/ideologically, these makers may be proletariat sympathizers. benjamin says it is not sufficient to be a sympathizer; in fact, it is not an actual position at all. these artists reinforce the capitalist structure they claim to critique.

from there, foster argues that left artists today do something similar. they put otherness on a pedestal, always removed from themselves, so that the artist’s role becomes one of anthropologist. the logic that justifies the artist’s removed, anthropological position is a primitivist fantasy, where the artist imagines that the other has access to a kind of creativity that the white bourgeoisie does not.

foster’s interested in the structural, as opposed to the individual, effects of this positionality. he contests its logic by arguing that globalization has erased any clear insider/outsider distinction (which i’d argue is arguable). he’s worried that the “projection of politics as other and outside may detract from a politics of here and now.”

theory, theory, theory. ethnography becomes an appropriate mode of artistic intervention, which often takes the shape of site-specific work that comments on a particular space, increasingly to fucked up ends as these sites are mined by other institutional departments (fundraising, outreach, PR) and developed or used to grease the wheels of development (as in: gentrification).

the gems are in this paragraph, where foster discusses how the institution

“imports critique for the purpose of inoculation… displaces work it otherwise advances… the show becomes the spectacle where cultural capital collects.”


“…the application of these methods has illuminated much. But it has also obliterated much in the field of the other, and in its very name. This is the opposite of a critique of ethnographic authority…”

Adam Rothstein, “How to See Infrastructure: A Guide for Seven Billion Primates”

“We know that capital fantasizes about the annihilation of space and time as its moves goods from space to space, but I want to experience the long, slow journey that is responsible for moving ninety percent of the world’s trade.”

— Charmaine Chua

“In effect, I am arguing for the continued importance of maritime space in order to counter the exaggerated importance attached to that largely metaphysical construct, “cyberspace,” and the corollary myth of “instantaneous” contact between distance spaces.”

— Allan Sekula, Fish Story

Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all seems not just mythically about the god trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into ordinary practice. And like the god trick, this eye fucks the world to make techno-monsters.

— Donna Haraway, “God’s Eye View”

finally, rothstein:

“We do not need a snatching away of the shroud, a techno-monster captured and paraded on stage. Not like an animal or person harnessed to a profit-generating machine. Not a big board of big data, constantly tweaked by a wizard’s wand. But a description of what the shroud is doing, and why it is there. To discover who it is hiding, why, and how they came to be there.”

i’ve been thinking a lot about this issue in both pcomp and icm. in icm, even the software interface (which feels like the real, the “under the hood”, because it requires us to speak the computer’s language rather than ours) still occludes the mechanics we’re studying in pcomp. and the perfect mechanical parts we study in pcomp never reference their production, the mines they came out of, the hands that collected the raw materials that compose them.

a poem


(in increasing order of effectiveness)

12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.

from donella meadows institute

procedure: do an awkward/difficult thing

hypothesis #1: in contexts where norms mandate how we behave, procedural art framing can provide us with an alternative social script that empowers us to do things that would otherwise feel awkward or be socially inappropriate.

norm: women are supposed to have long hair. men are supposed to have short hair. procedure:

  1. if you identify as a woman, cut off your hair.
  2. if you identify as a man, grow out your hair until it reaches your shoulders. you may wear it in a low ponytail, but not a man-bun.

norm: projects that involve trips to the hardware store are for experts and i am unqualified/incapable of teaching myself what i need to know to build or restore something. procedure:

  1. find a rusty object in the craigslist free section.
  2. contact the owner and arrange to pick it up.
  3. pick it up.
  4. buy rust remover at the hardware store.
  5. remove the rust.

norm: the police are doing what’s best for my safety and i should not intervene or pay attention to who or how they arrest. procedure:

  1. film police when they’re making an arrest.
  2. invite your friends to the site of the arrest.
  3. tell your friends to film too.

norm: prisons protect us from criminals and are a net good for society. procedure:

  1. evaluate the labor conditions inside prisons.
  2. consider the race and socioeconomic status of people inside prisons.
  3. add up all the money inmates make for the work they do.
  4. compare this amount to the amount they would make for the same work outside of prison.
  5. add up all the money they spend on phone calls and commissary.
  6. evaluate the environmental and psychological impact of prisons on the places where they are, the people who staff them, the people who design and construct them, and the people who live in them.

hypothesis #2: procedural art can highlight the difficulty of some procedures and promote empathy.


  1. leave your family.
  2. move to a country where you don’t speak the dominant language.
  3. find housing.
  4. find work.

where would these instructions live?

  • on stickers on the subway (like this or this)
  • projected on the sides of buildings (which buildings? how big?)

response to john cage’s “water walk”

john cage’s “water walk” does two things:

  1. it pushes at our ideas of what counts as music. the audience is forced to ask: what’s the difference between an instrument and a bathtub? why can’t a bathtub be an instrument? what kinds of sounds count as music? why can’t bathtub sounds be music? toasters and bathtubs are particularly powerful in raising these questions. the piece would feel different if, for example, he’d played a guitar with a violin bow; performing this piece with more appropriate noisemakers would make a different point—maybe that we could be a little more creative with our existing instruments. but calling toasters and bathtubs “musical instruments” is radical in that it gets to the root of how we bound our categories.
  2. the piece also says something about the process of making music. it says that rhythm is whatever timing happens in the interaction between instruments; it is not a pre-determined length of time between beats. it is bottom-up instead of top-down. it is open-ended instead of defined from the start, since every performance of “water walk” is different depending on the context. the piece is site-specific. it shares traits with jazz, but it’s not jazz.

i love that cage worked on this problem of categories with objects and also with words. he wrote poems called “mesostics” which incorporated formal constraints and randomly selected words.

“In taking the next step in my work, the exploration of non-intention, I don’t solve the puzzle that the mesostic string presents. Instead I write or find a source text which is then used as an oracle. I ask it what word shall I use for this letter and what one for the next, etc. this frees me from memory, taste, likes and dislikes… ”

in another interview, he says:

“Reading Finnegans Wake I notice that though Joyce’s subjects, verbs, and objects are unconventional, their relationships are the ordinary ones. With the exception of the Ten Thunderclaps and rumblings here and there, Finnegans Wake employs syntax. Syntax gives it a rigidity from which classical Chinese and Japanese were free. A poem by Basho, for instance, floats in space . . . . Only the imagination of the reader limits the number of the poem’s possible meanings.”

at the same time, i have concerns about the reception of his ideas outside Art World. his work makes me wonder whether it’s possible to make big conceptual points like he does while also engaging in and with public discourse.

from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/565061084468320925/
from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/565061084468320925/