Featured image: 144 Hours in Kiev: Instagram montage, all images courtesy of Lev Manovich
Lev Manovich’s upcoming keynote, along with the entire Art of the Networked Practice online symposium, March 31 – April 2, 2015, will be free, open and accessible via web-conference from anywhere in the world. Visit the Website to register. The symposium is in collaboration with Furtherfield.
While big data has infiltrated our everyday lives, Lev Manovich and his collaborators have explored the data of everyday life as a window on social transformation. We discuss his latest work: The Exceptional and the Everyday: 144 Hours in Kiev, a portrait of political upheaval in the Ukraine constructed from thousands of Instagram photos taken over a six day period during the revolution in February of 2014. The project evolves from Manovich’s recent manifestations, Phototrails (2013) and SelfieCity (2014), metamorphosing social media into data landscapes.
Randall Packer: How do you view social media as illuminating a broader understanding of crisis in times of political upheaval?
Lev Manovich: When the media covers exceptional events such as social upheavals, revolutions, and protests, typically they just show you a few professionally shot photographs that focus on this moment of protest at particular points in the city. So we were wondering if examining Instagram photos that were shared in the central part of Kiev would give us a different picture. Not necessarily an objective picture because Instagram has its own biases and it’s definitely not a transparent window into reality, but would give us, let’s say, a more democratic picture. So we’ve downloaded over 20,000 photos shared by 6,000 people, and using visualization we created a number of different views of reality with patterns contained in the data. And we were particularly interested to see how the images of the everyday exist side by side with images of extraordinary events: how images of demonstrations, confrontation with government forces, fire, smoke, and barricades exist next to selfies, parties, or empty streets.
RP: Is it possible to think of what you are doing as taking an activist position in terms of revealing truths about a political situation?
LM: We have to be careful because obviously what you are seeing in 144 Hours in Kiev is a relatively small part of the population. Because the people who do use Instagram create tags mostly in English, they are, maybe, pro-Western people. But it allows us to get a sense of, not necessarily of a truth, not necessarily of what’s real, but let’s say a different kind of picture, a different place of reality then what the journalists would get. Because journalists may go, talk to a few people, and then come up with a report. But here you have “quotes,” so to speak, of thousands of people.
RP: Do you also see the collections of visualizations from user-generated images as an aesthetic realization?
LM: Perhaps one thing we can highlight is the idea of expressive visualization. As an artist I am also interested in the question of how can I present the world through the data. So let’s say a hundred years ago I would be taking photographs of a city. Now I can represent the city through 2 million Instagram photos. Thinking about landscape paintings in Impressionism, Fauvism, or even Cubism, how could I represent nature today through the contributions of millions of people? So I think of myself as an artist who is painting with data.
RP: But I’ve noticed that there is a focus in your writing on scientific methodology, you don’t talk very much about the renderings from an artistic perspective.
LM: It’s very clear that we’re taking ideas and techniques that have been used by modern artists. The difference is that we are pulling out data and writing open source tools. We’re taking in this case social media, works that were not created by us, and then putting them through different kinds of combinations. If you think about modernist collage of the city from the 1910s or 1920s, using pieces of newspaper and other existing media, what we’re doing exists in the same tradition.
RP: In many ways, the works can be fully appreciated as collage or composites, which I imagine goes against what you are trying to say through data analysis.
LM: No, it doesn’t go against what we are doing. It’s a matter of speaking to different parts of society. So you don’t just talk to designers or artists or like-minded people, you also talk to scientists. But ultimately what drives me is that I can I create something expressive, something unique, that isn’t just simply a data visualization, but creates an image that finds visual forms, that finds the right metaphors, which allows me to talk about modern society as consistent with its millions of data points. To me I think it’s a successful metaphor for how to speak about society today, when you think about all the traces you leave on social networks. I am trying to find the static visual forms to represent our new sense of society from seemingly random acts of individual people.
RP: Talk about the idea of “collective stories,” which are revealed in the composite of hundreds of thousands Instagram photos, each of which is a story in and of itself.
LM: We bring all these narratives together and try to make a kind of composite “film.” The connection to documentary, such as filmmakers like Dziga Vertov, for me is very clear. When Dziga Vertov, for example, was making his films in Kiev, he would have several cameramen in different parts of the Soviet Union shooting everyday, and they would send it to him and he would put it all together. So my “films” are made up of downloaded visuals, in which you can then make multiple “films” out of.
RP: Is it possible that the individual stories, the individual voice of expression, might get lost in this broad swath of data mining and cultural analytics?
LM: People are documenting what they think is interesting and important in their lives. But because there are very particular behaviors, what you get is a kind of pattern. I would say that patterns are not the same thing as a story. I don’t think of it as traditional narrative art, but rather a pattern of certain repeating behaviors.
RP: How do you position the work you are doing in the context of the current crisis of invasive surveillance and the loss of privacy resulting from big data analysis?
LM: When we started thinking about these ideas in 2005, these issues were not on the table. In the last two or three years they have become central and to be honest they keep me up at night. I consider whether or not it’s OK because there are histories of governments using photographs of protests of honest people. I think the first time it happened seriously was in Prague in 1968 when it was raided by the Soviet Union. You had bystanders taking pictures, and when the pictures were found they were used to arrest people. So we thought a lot about it. When you start to individualize stories, when you start following particular people, then it gets really dangerous.
RP: In this sense its a very political project. What you have done is revealed that in the 21st century of social media it’s difficult to hide anything. What have you learned about contemporary life as seen through the lens of social media?
LM: This is a deep question. I’m basically trying to say that as opposed to a journalist who thinks about the “data” as a kind of truth, that it’s a way to find out what happened, what I’m thinking about is its own reality. It’s not a question of truth, it’s a question of making interesting connections.
RP: That’s the difference between an artist and a journalist or even a scientist. You’re absorbing and you’re finding the connections but you’re not trying to say: this is it.
LM: I think the main answer is this: we can produce different visualizations out of the same data. Everyone views a different idea. It’s like when Monet paints another cathedral, there is not one painting that is correct. He makes a dozen paintings where every painting represents a different color, different atmospheric conditions, to show that in fact there are only the subjective views. So the goal is perhaps not to give people a new interpretation, but rather to challenge what they may be thinking is the correct one.
The Everyday and the Exceptional: 144 Hours in Kiev is a project of Lev Manovich in collaboration with Dr. Mehrdad Yazdani, Alise Tifentale, and Jay Chow.
Jonas Lund’s “The Fear Of Missing Out” (2013) is a series of gallery art objects made by the artist following the instructions of a piece of software they have written. It has gained attention following a Huffington Post article titled “Controversial New Project Uses Algorithm To Predict Art “.
Art fabricated by an artist following a computer-generated specification is nothing new. Prior to modern 2D and 3D printing techniques, transcribing a computer generated design into paint or metal by hand was the only way to present artworks that pen plotters or CNC mills couldn’t capture. But a Tamagotchi-gamer or Amazon Mechanical Turk-style human servicing of machine agency where a program dictates the conception of an artwork for a human artist to realize also has a history. The principles involved go back even further to the use of games of chance and other automatic techniques in Dada and Surrealism.
What is novel about The Fear Of Missing Out is that the program dictating the artworks is doing so based on a database derived from data about artworks, art galleries, and art sales. This is the aesthetic of “Big Data“, although is not a big dataset by the definition of the term. Its source, and the database, are not publicly available but assuming it functions as specified the description of the program in the Huffington Post article about it is complete enough that we could re-implement it. To do so we would scrape Art Sales Index and/or Artsy and pull out keywords from entries to populate a database keyed on artist, gallery and sales details. Then we would generate text from those details that match a desired set of criteria such as gallery size and desired price of artwork.
What’s interesting about the text described in the Huffington Post article is that it’s imperative and specific: “place the seven minute fifty second video loop in the coconut soap”. How did the instruction get generated? Descriptions of artworks in artworld data sites describe their appearance and occasionally their construction, not how to assemble them. If it’s a grammatical transformation of scraped description text that fits the description of the project, but if it’s hand assembled that’s not just a database that has been “scraped into existence”. How did the length of time get generated? If there’s a module to generate durations that doesn’t fit the description of the project, but if it’s a reference to an existing 7.50 video it does.
The pleasant surprises in the output that the artist says they would not have thought of but find inspiring are explained by Edward de Bono-style creativity theory. And contemporary art oeuvres tend to be materially random enough that the randomness of the works produced looks like moments in such an oeuvre. Where the production differs both from corporate big data approaches and contemporary artist-as-brand approaches is that production is not outsourced. Lund makes the art that they use data to specify.
Later, the Huffington Post article mentions the difficulty of targeting specific artists. A Hirst artwork specification generator would be easy enough to create for artworks that resemble his existing oeuvre. Text generators powered by markov chains were used as a tool for parodying Usenet trolls, and their strength lies in the predictability of the obsessed. Likewise postmodern buzzword generators and paper title generators parody the idees fixes of humanities culture.
The output of such systems resembles the examples that they are derived from. Pivoting to a new stage in an artist’s career is something that would require a different approach. It’s possible to move, logically, to conceptual opposites using Douglas Hofstadter’s approaches. In the case of Hirst, cheap and common everyday materials (office equipment) become expensive and exclusive ones (diamonds) and the animal remains become human ones.
This principle reaches its cliometric zenith in Colin Martindale’s book “The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change”. It’s tempting to dismiss the idea that artistic change occurs in regular cycles as the aesthetic equivalent of Kondratieff Waves as Krondatieff Waves are dismissed by mainstream economics. But proponents of both theories claim empirical backing for their observations.
In contrast to The Fear Of Missing Out’s private database and the proprietary APIs of art market sites there is a move towards Free (as in freedom) or Open Data for art institutions. The Europeana project to release metadata for European cultural collections as linked open data has successfully released data from over 2000 institutions across the EU. The Getty Foundation has put British institutions that jealously guard their nebulously copyrighted photographs of old art to shame by releasing almost 5000 images freely. And most recently the Tate gallery in the UK has released its collection metadata under the free (as in freedom) CC0 license.
Shardcore’s “Machine Imagined Artworks” (2013) uses the Tate collection metadata to make descriptions of possible artworks. Compared to the data-driven approach of The Fear Of Missing Out, Machine Imagined Artworks is a more traditional generative program using unconstrained randomness to choose its materials from within the constrained conceptual space of the Tate data’s material and subjects ontologies.
Randomness is ubiquitous but often frowned upon in generative art circles. It gives good results but lacks intention or direction. Finding more complex choice methods is often a matter of rapidly diminishing returns, though. And Machine Imagined Artworks makes the status of each generated piece as a set of co-ordinates in conceptual space explicit by numbering it as one of the 88,577,208,667,721,179,117,706,090,119,168 possible artworks that can be generated from the Tate data.
Machine Imagined Artworks describes the formal, intentional and critical schema of an artwork. This reflects the demands placed on contemporary art and artists to fit the ideology both of the artworld and of academia as captured in the structure of the Tate’s metadata. It makes a complete description of an artwork under such a view. The extent to which such a description seems incomplete is the extent to which it is critical of that view.
We could use the output of Machine Imagined Artworks to choose 3D models from Thingiverse to mash-up. Automating this would remove human artists from the creative process, allowing the machines to take their jobs as well. The creepy fetishization of art objects as quasi-subjects rather than human communication falls apart here. There is no there there in such a project, no agency for the producer or the artwork to have. It’s the uncanny of the new aesthetic.
Software that directs or displaces an artist operationalises (if we must) their skills or (more realistically) replaces their labour, making them partially or wholly redundant. Dealing in this software while maintaining a position as an artist represents this crisis but does not embody it as the artist is still employed as an artist. Even when the robots take artists jobs, art critics will still have work to do, unless software can replace them as well.
There is a web site of markov chain-generated texts in the style of the Art & Language collective’s critical writing at http://artandlanguage.co.uk/, presumably as a parody of their distinctive verbal style. Art & Language’s painting “Gustave Courbet’s ‘Burial at Ornans’ Expressing…” (1981) illustrates some of the problems that arbitrary assemblage of material and conceptual materials cause and the limitations both of artistic intent and critical knowledge. The markov chain-written texts in their style suffer from the weakness of such approaches. Meaning and syntax evaporate as you read past the first few words. The critic still has a job.
Or do they? Algorithmic criticism also has a history that goes back several decades, to Gips and Stiny’s book “Algorithmic Aesthetics” (1978). It is currently a hot topic in the Digital Humanities, for example with Stephen Ramsay’s book “Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism” (2011). The achievements covered by each book are modest, but demonstrate the possibility of algorithmic critique. The problem with algorithmic critique is that it may not share our aesthetics, as the ST5 antenna shows.
Shardcore’s “Cut Up Magazine” (2012) is a generative critic that uses a similar strategy to “The Fear Of Missing Out”. It assembles reviews from snippets of a database of existing reviews using scraped human generated data about the band such as their name, genre, and most popular songs. Generating the language of critique in this way is subtly critical of its status and effect for both its producers and consumers. The language of critique is predictable, and the authority granted to critics by their audience accords a certain status to that language. Taken from and returned to fanzines, Cut Up Magazine makes the relationship between the truth of critique, its form, and its status visible to critique.
We can use The Fear Of Missing Out-style big data approaches to create critique that has a stronger semantic relationship to its subject matter. First we scrape an art review blog to populate a database of text and images. Next we train an image classifier (a piece of software that tells you whether, for example, an image contains a Soviet tank or a cancer cell or not) and a text search engine on this database. Then we use sentiment analysis software (the kind of system that tells airlines whether tweets about them are broadly positive or negative) to generate a score of one to five stars for each review and store this in the database.
We can now use this database to find the artworks that are most similar in appearance and description to those that have already been reviewed. This allows us to generate a critical comment about them and assign them a score. Given publishing fashion we can then make a list of the results. The machines can take the critic’s job as well, as I have previously argued.
What pieces like The Fear Of Missing Out and Machine Imagined Artworks make visible is an aspect of How Things Are Done Now and how this affects everyone, regardless of the nature of their work. This is “big data being used to guide the organization”. To regard such projects simply as parody or as play acting is to take a literary approach to art. But art doesn’t need to resolve such ontological questions in order to function, and may provide stronger affordances to thought if it doesn’t. What’s interesting is both how much such an approach misses and how much it does capture. As ever, art both reveals and symbolically resolves the aporia of (in this case the Californian) ideology.
Featured image: Ein Identity-Workshop mit dem britischen Künstler Heath Bunting. Vertiefung Mediale Künste, Sihlquai 131, 8005 Zürich. Dienstag,
Whether Bunting is climbing trees, skateboarding, canoeing or working with technology he approaches it all with the same critical attention. He hacks around systems, physical or digital. Right from when he built his first computer at the age of 14, his life has been an experimental research project. His practice consists of a dry sense of humour and an edgy, minimal-raw aesthetic, mixed with a hyper-awareness of his own artistic persona and agency in the world, whilst engaging with complex political systems, institutions and social contexts.
Even though the subjects he explores are likely to be the most topical or important issues of the day, it always includes playfulness and an element of the prankster in his work. His work regularly highlights issues around infringements on privacy or restriction of individual freedom, as well as contexts concerning the mutation of identity; our values and corporate ownership of our cultural/national ‘ID’s’, as well as our DNA and investigations into Bio-technologies. In an age where we are submersed in frameworks and protocols, designed by a neo-liberal elite for a generic consumer class, Bunting’s work is well placed as observation and practical research into the ‘depths’ of legal and illegal territories in our contemporary, networked cultures.
North Herts Gazette Series Thursday, November 13, 1980.
“our identity is constructed as human beings that can possess one or more natural persons and control one or more artificial persons. The higher up in the class system the better the access to status variety.”(Bunting)
The Status Project, is a study of the construction of our ‘official identities’ and creates what Bunting describes as “…an expert system for identity mutation”. His research explores how information supplied by the public in their interaction with organisations and institutions is logged. The project draws on his direct encounters with specific database collection processes and the information he was obliged to supply in his life as a public citizen in order to access specific services; this includes data collected from the Internet and information found on governmental databases. This data is then used to map and illustrate how we behave, relate, choose things, travel and move around in social spaces. The project surveys individuals on a local, national and international level producing maps of “influence and personal portraits for both comprehension and social mobility”.
The use of data in contemporary life has made individuals an accessible resource to commercial and political interests. We are a rich source of data-mining material. Data-mining is a process that potentially commodifies our interactions. It’s historical roots lie with the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and 20th Century statistical analysis. These two methods of formulating data have grown ever closer together backed by corporations and government initiated military funding. Social networks such as platforms like Facebook and Internet networked institutions such as Google, and the US military are all obsessed with our behaviours online. A good example of this, is NSA’s recent rebirth in turning most of its surveillance apparatus to spy on the US and its citizens. They have built a super computer tracing through billions of people’s emails, phone calls, online activities, but also in other countries outside of the US. The UK government is currently going through the political process of trying to implement similar spying protocols and systems to watch what UK citizens are up to also.
“Google suffers from data obesity and is indifferent to calls for careful preservation. It would be naive to demand cultural awareness. The prime objective of this cynical enterprise is to monitor user behaviour in order to sell traffic data and profiles to interested third parties.”  (Lovink)
Bunting is a Hacktivist Artist, acting (playing) out the role of a spy collecting and observing data content. Hacktivist Artists work with technology to explore how to develop their critical and imaginative practice in ways that exist beyond the frameworks of art establishment and its traditions. The established art arena is gradually catching up with this kind of artwork, although one could be forgiven for thinking that many of the art critics and galleries out there are still caught in the 20th Century.
Two other artists also working on people’s data are Julian Oliver and Danja Vasiliev. They have collaborated on exploring alternative identities as the mysterious group, Men in Grey. They detect online users vulnerabilities by tapping into and intervening into wireless network traffic – observing, tracing and copying user online activities. It is then redisplayed either online on their web site for others to view, or transfered onto a visual screen on the side of a briefcase as an intervention in cybercafes, for all to view. Although, no one actually knows other than themselves if the data is really hacked and then redisplayed on these briefcases, as proposed in their video featuring one of their interventions. One thing is for sure – they have touched upon issues concerning our fears about personal data being seen by other people who we’d prefer were not viewiing it.
The Status Project also taps into questions concerning technology, hierarchy and power. We are entwined in a complex game where the sacrifice of our information is part of the deal of being connected with others across digital networks. This opens up the issue of our ‘human’ status being aligned ‘to and as’ objects, of measurement. Through travel ports, our vehicles, passports, ID cards, library cards, mobile phones, alongside information about our health. We have mutated into networked (information carrying) beings. Bunting’s own position on this matter is that “Technology is becoming more advanced and the administration of this technology is becoming more sophisticated and soon, every car in the street will be considered and treated as persons, with human rights. This is not a conspiracy to enslave human beings, it is a result of having to develop usable administration systems for complex relationships. Slaves were not liberated because their owners felt sorry for them, slaves were given more rights as a way to manage them more productively in a more technologically advanced society.”
In the UK, in 2006 a research document called ‘A Report on the Surveillance Society For the Information Commissioner’ was published. Produced by a group of academics called the Surveillance Studies Network. This report was presented to the 28th International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners’ Conference in London, hosted by the Information Commissioner’s Office. The publication begins by saying “Conventionally, to speak of surveillance society is to invoke something sinister, smacking of dictators and totalitarianism […] the surveillance society is better thought of as the outcome of modern organizational practices, businesses, government and the military than as a covert conspiracy. Surveillance may be viewed as progress towards efficient administration, in Max Weber’s view, a benefit for the development of Western capitalism and the modern nation-state.”
We are not only under surveillance by entities we do not trust, we are also tracing each other online. Recently, in a show called ‘Being Social' at Furtherfield’s new gallery, artist Liz Sterry showed her installation piece, ‘Kay’s Blog’. Sterry had “collated not only one form of online social engagements but all she could find about a Canadian blogger called Kay. Using everything from photographs to things Kay has mentioned in videos, blogs and posts on social networks, Sterry has recreated Kay’s bedroom in the gallery.” (Scott)
“”There were times when I felt quite creepy,” says Liz, 28, as she shows me lists of Kay’s Facebook friends and a Google Streetview of her apartment block while a playlist of her favourite songs plays in the background.”
Yet, as this ever-creeping surveillance culture grows and attaches its all seeing eyes onto us all. Whether we are referring to domestic interactions, organizational or deliberate, this is not the main issue. Neo-liberalism has developed so much now, we are all part of the Netopticon. English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late Eighteenth Century designed the Panopticon. It allowed officers in institutions, particularly in prisons, to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates without them knowing whether or not they are being watched. In the end it was not built, but the French philosopher Michel Foucault in his publication Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, in 1975 said that we are not only monitored in prisons, but in all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories. This process has evolved through history to resemble Bentham’s Panopticon. The up-dated version of Panopticon, can now be thought of as the Netopticon – where individuals are complicit in feeding their own forms of collective co-surveillance, as well as being traced by corporations, governments and spammers.
“What your data body says about you is more real than what you say about yourself. The data body is the body by which you are judged in society, and the body which dictates your status in the world. What we are witnessing at this point in time is the triumph of representation over being. The electronic file has conquered self-aware consciousness.”  (Critical Art Ensemble)
So far, for the project he has created a functioning, sketch database of the UK system with over 10,000 entries – made over 50 maps of sub-sections of the system to aid sense of place and potential for social mobility. Bunting says he is also researching how to convert his identity generating software into a bot recognised under UK law as a person “covered by the human rights act i.e. right to life and liberty; freedom of expression; peaceful enjoyment of property. I am very close to achieving this.”
This bring us to another part of the project what I call ‘Identity Kits’, and Bunting calls ‘Synthetic off-the-shelf (OTS) British natural person’. These kits consist of various items, personal business cards, library cards, a national railcard, t-mobile top-up card, national lottery card and much more. They take a few months to compile each of them because they are actual items that everybody uses in their everyday lives, involving evidence of identity. There is also a charge for the package of 500.00 GBP, which is cheap for a new identity.
Bunting stresses that these UK identities are lawful and that there is no need for any official consulting or permission from an authority to use or make them. Through this he intends to illustrate a precise codification of class in the UK system. Currently, he defines three classes of identitiy: human being, person and corporate. What class of individual you are places you into categories of evaluation, this process allows others to judge your status, worth and value, within a hierarchy, which is clearly represented in the status maps.
This work touches on issues around our everyday status as a critique, but also as an investigative hack, and plays around with the quagmire of inequality currently in the UK. Inequality is built, constructed into the fabric our societies as an accepted default, through tradition, social or mechanistic, holding in place societal divisions. If there was a status project made in other countries reflecting their own status, worth and value of citizens there would be clear links defining where the connections and divisions lie, between each culture. In fact, another project worth mentioning here is ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’.  The authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have done their own ‘extensive’, detailed research in highlighting through many different graphs, mapping out inequality around ther globe.
“We know there is something wrong, and this book goes a long way towards explaining what and why.”  (Hanley)
Bunting’s work expresses a discipline conscious of agency, autonomy and enactments for self and collective empowerment. Hacking different routes around what at first is seen as too big to deal with, lessens its power and awe. Like Burbank in the ‘The Truman Show’, what we have been told is not real. Bunting knows this instinctively, and is on a quest to upturn each stone to see what lies beneath. But at the same time these facilities created to crack the social, and data orientated codes, are shared. He then leaves the paths he has discovered wide open for others pass through, as we all struggle to survive the ever creeping strangle-hold, of the Netopticon.
This article was written for and will be published as part of Heath Bunting’s presentation in Athens ‘Workshop How to Build a New Legal Identity’, May 5th 2012.
During the workshop, Heath Bunting will introduce us to techniques and strategies on how to form new identities. The distribution of the workshop How to Build a New Legal Identity across Europe aims at exploring the characteristics of identity in each country.
Artist’s Talk: May 4, 2012 @ 19.00
Workshop How to Build a New Legal Identity: May 5, 2012 @ 12.00
Frown Tails, 6 Paramythias str, Keramikos, Athens
Organised by: Katerina Gkoutziouli and Frown Tails
DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez! is a new video work (2012) by Everything is Terrible!, a self-described “found footage chop shoppe”. DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez! is an active catalog which describes, invents and destroys concepts as it arranges video footage into flows of multiple cuts that map the use of dogs in cinema and television. The structure of this review takes hints from the work it overlays. We dispensed with “original” writing and didactic detailing of what we as critics experienced. Instead, we unraveled multiple threads left hanging after watching DoggieWoggiez! PoochieWoochiez! We neglected to offer an appraisal of the worth of the work, and add to the number of words already in the world. Instead, we traced the flows passing through the video and developed a program of citations that provide a map of exit and entrance points-a map, as any map, that is as much about those making as about the territory described-which we hope will provide openings for a reader who has not yet watched the work, and provide expanded intersections for those who already have.
“This is the scenario: You are terminally ill, all medical treatments acceptable to you have been exhausted, and the suffering in its different forms is unbearable. Because the illness is serious, you recognize that your life is drawing to a close. Euthanasia comes to mind as a way of release.” 1
“Success consists of simply getting up one more time than you fall.” 2
“From whatever angle you approach it, the present offers no way out. This is not the least of its virtues. From those who seek hope above all, it tears away every firm ground. Those who claim to have solutions are contradicted almost immediately. Everyone agrees that things can only get worse. ” 3
“A positive anything is better than a negative nothing.” 4
“I think it’s because dog movies and dog footage tends to be the dumbest. It’s like the lowest common denominator amongst everything we’ve found, the most mediocre footage imaginable. I think that was a big motivator, and we just like dogs. It’s a nicer way to deliver horrible things about humanity. Instead of watching people be racist, which makes you feel terrible, you get to watch dogs be racist, and you’re like, ‘That’s a little better.'” 5
“Americans spent $50.96 billion on their pets in 2011. That’s an all-time high, and for the first time in history more than $50 billion has gone to dogs, cats, canaries, guppies and the like, the American Pet Products Association reports. Food and vet costs accounted for about 65 percent of the spending. But it was a service category one that includes grooming, boarding, pet hotels, pet-sitting and day care that grew more than any other, surging 7.9 percent from $3.51 billion in 2010 to $3.79 billion in 2011.” 6
“So we have a corpse on our backs, but we won’t be able to rid ourselves of it just like that. Nothing is to be expected from the end of civilization, from its clinical death. In and of itself, it can only be of interest to historians. It’s a fact, and it must be translated into a decision. Facts can be conjured away, but decision is political. To decide on the death of civilization, then to work out how it will happen: only decision will rid us of the corpse.” 7
2:39 . Black and white footage of a clothed dog sleeping in hay.
2:41 . Saint Bernard laying on the floor trying to drink champagne out of a bottle.
2:42 . Black and white footage of a dog holding a bottle labeled “Hard Cider” in his mouth and drinking.
2:43 . Dog with bandana sitting at table licking the foam from a beer.
A hand pouring beer into a dish filled with dog food.
2:44 . A club. Multiple young women filling the face of a puppet dog full of liquor bottles.
2:45 . A dog wearing a jersey with the number one peeing on a referee’s ankle.
2:47 . A dog lifting its leg on a pants suit leg.
A bulldog in a spiked collar peeing on a floor mat that says “I [heart] Acting.”
2:48 . A dog peeing on a metal catwalk, shot from below.
2:49 . Jack Nicholson holds a small dog up and away from his chest as the dog pees.
A man lying on a floor is shot below and through a dogs legs, the dog’s urine stream is hitting him in the face.
2:51 . A similar shot, reversed. Another man, wearing a fur hat, is buried to his neck in sand and ice. A dog urinates into his mouth.
2:51 . The same bulldog in spiked collar lifts his leg to pee. A small rocket comes out of from beneath him.
2:52 . A similar shot from the other side, a different dog is urinating flames.
“I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.” 8
“Trash collection is the business of public sanitation; its recycling, the very height of capitalist alchemy, turns everything into grist for commodification’s mill. But it is also a strategy of aesthetic sublimation that, according to Thomas Crow, is internal to modernism (he has analyzed the cyclical aspect of this in terms of the incorporation of the ‘low’ by the ‘high’)” 9
“Classification in the widest sense is, along with astronomy, probably one of the oldest scientific pursuits undertaken by man. In the most general terms classification is the process of giving names to a collection of objects which are thought to be similar to each other in some respect. The ability to sort similar things into categories is obviously a primitive one, since it would seem to be a prerequisite of the development of language, which consists of words which help us to recognize and discuss the diSerent types of events, objects and people we encounter; each noun in a language is a label used to describe a class of things which have striking features in common. Thus for example, we name animals as cats, dogs, or horses and such a name collects individuals into groups.” 10
“I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is.” 11
“What is it that moves over the body of a society? It is always flows, and a person is always a cutting off [coupure] of a flow. A person is always a point of departure for the production of a flow, a point of destination for the reception of a flow, a flow of any kind; or, better yet, an interception of many flows.” 12
“I am for the art of things lost or thrown away, coming home from school.” 13
“Cluster analysis, also called data segmentation, has a variety of goals. All relate to grouping or segmenting a collection of objects into subsets or “clusters,” such that those within each cluster are more closely related to one another than objects assigned to different clusters. An object can be described by a set of measurements, or by its relation to other objects.” 14
“And now, we have to start from scratch with this movie and go through thousands of VHS tapes and find those three minutes and put them in a pile until we have enough to make an hour-long movie. And yeah, it made it harder because we just fucking hate those movies.” 15
“Central to all of the goals of cluster analysis is the notion of the degree of similarity (or dissimilarity) between the individual objects being clustered. A clustering method attempts to group the objects based on the definition of similarity supplied to it.” 16
“[Claes Oldenburg] quickly saw that it didn’t take anything to make a Ray Gun: any right angle would suffice, even blunted, even barely perceptible. The Ray Gun is the ‘universal angle’: ‘Examples: Legs, Sevens, Pistols, Arms, Phalli-simple Ray Guns. Double Ray Guns: Cross, Airplanes. Absurd Ray Guns: Ice Cream Sodas. Complex Ray Guns: Chairs, Beds. Mondrian didn’t need to reduce everything to the right angle: everything is already a right angle. During the time of The Store, Oldenburg made huge numbers of Ray Guns (in plaster, in papier mache, in all kinds of materials in fact), but he soon saw that he didn’t even need to make them: the world is full of Ray Guns. All one has to do is stoop to gather them from the sidewalks (the Ray Gun is an essentially urban piece of trash: Oldenburg produced their anagram as Nug Yar:New York). Even better: he didn’t even need to collect them himself; he could ask his friends to bring them to him (he limited himself to accepting or refusing the find’s addition into the corpus, according to purely subjective criteria). Finally, there are all the Ray Guns one can’t move- splotches on the ground, holes in the wall, torn posters-but which one could photograph. The “inventory”is potentially infinite. And what should be done with this invasive tide? Put it in the museum.” 17
“I am for the art out of a doggy’s mouth, falling five stories from the roof.” 18
2:54 . A dog and man lay side-by-side. The dog’s legs are up and its belly is exposed to the camera. Voiceover: “Being a thief isn’t bad enough, you have to be a lush too.”
2:56 . A golden retriever puppy faces the camera with a drunken expression. The dogs lips move as he says “That’s the weirdestest grape juice ever.” He laughs.
3:02 . A dog jumps off a large desert rock onto another rock. He yells “Hasta la vista, kitty.” A mountain lion is shown launching into the air.
3:05 . Maniacal laughter is played over footage of a tree frog sitting on the top of a dog’s head.
3:06 . A Weimaraner sleeps under a blanket. Voiceover: “Do dogs dream? She dreams she’s a dear”
A ripple dissolve into the same dog with her head stuck through a tapestry of deer so that it appears that there is a deer with a dog head.
“Are there Oedipal animals with which one can ‘play Oedipus,’ play family, my little dog, my little cat, and then other animals by contrast draw us into an irresistible becoming? Or another hypothesis : Can the same animal taken up by two opposing functions and movements, depending on the case?” 19
“Writing about the dog who befriended him and his fellow-inmates in a concentration camp, and whom they named Bobby, Levinas says that this dog was ‘the last Kantian in Nazi Germany,’ because his joyful greetings reminded the prisoners of their human dignity. Yet, when questioned closely about the ethical status of nonhuman animals, Levinas is reluctant to ascribe to animals that ‘ethical face’ which he elsewhere has called (as Martin calls Sylvia’s face) ‘an epiphany.’ By contrast, says Levinas, the animal face is merely ‘biological,’ incapable of demanding the ethical response. Levinas denies that the dog can have a face in the ethical sense: ‘the phenomenon of the face is not in its purest form in the dog,’ he writes. ‘I cannot say at what moment you have the right to be called ‘face.’ The human face is completely different and only afterwards do we discover the face of the animal.’ In an article subtitled ‘Levinas Faces the Animal,’ Peter Steeves, with gentle irony, stages another face-to-face encounter between Levinas and Bobby, asking the philosopher: ‘What could Bobby be missing? Is his snout too pointy to constitute a face? Is his nose too wet? Do his ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro? How can this not be a face?'” 20
“We’ve always had a thing with how people treat little people at Everything Is Terrible!, like it’s really weird and creepy. Anybody who’s like a second-class being, when they’re used in videos, it comes across very creepy and gross. I think it’s the same thing with humans and dogs. They’re weirdly sexualized, they’re weirdly turned into little kids at the same time.” 21
“…individuated animals, family pets, sentimental, Oedipal animals each with its own petty history, ‘my’ cat, ‘my’ dog. These animals invite us to regress, draw us into a narcissistic contemplation, and they are the only kind of animal psychoanalysis understands, the better to discover a daddy, a mommy, a little brother behind them (when psychoanalysis talks about animals, animals learn to laugh): anyone who likes cats or dogs is a fool.” 22
“I think that’s a big reason why people use dogs the way they do, because I think we kind of hate ourselves so we dress up dogs like ourselves to mock ourselves. So you dress a dog up like a drunk human, and then you laugh at how ridiculous it is, but I think it’s therapeutic. We’re letting off steam about how much we hate ourselves.” 23
3:13 . A close-up of a shaggy dog who speaks. “It’s not a dream”.
3:16 . A large dog outside a car tells a small dog inside a car, “Bitches ain’t got no business being inside your head” The voice is or is similar to Samuel Jackson’s.
3:17 . A bloodhound with an ice pack on its head also has cartoon dream bubbles floating around it. The woman inside the bubbles says, brightly “Wake up!”
Another dog, turning his head to the camera, says “Who are those jokers?”
Return to the bloodhound, the floating woman says “It’s me, Jan.”
3:20 . A dog dressed as a pauper is grabbed from above and dragged to the side.
A dog wearing a bandana says “Great danes! This is terrible. But what can I do…”
This trails into a golden retriever saying “…I’m a dog.”
“What difference does it make if someone is terminal? We are all terminal.” 24
layla commented: 4-21-2008 9:01 PM “In 2007 Guillermo Vargas Habacuc a so called artist took an abandoned dog from the streets tied him to a very short rope to a wall in an art gallery and left a kettle of food on the other side of the room beyond his reach and left him there to slowly die of hunger and thirst. The socalled artist of such cruelty and the visitors of the gallery of art watched the agony of this animal. The dog finally died of famine surely after a painful absurd and incomprehensible torture. The prestigious Centralamerican Biennial of Art decided that this horrible act committed by this guy was art and Guillermo Vargas Habacuc has been invited to repeat his cruel actions in said Biennial in 2008. i seen this post on facebook and a few pictures of the poor innocent dog starving to death it broke my heart and i had to see if peta was aware of this sick man who thinks this i some great at creation.” 25
olivia commented: 5-10-2008 5:35 PM “i hate you. you should be put in the poor dog’s possision. you can’t imagine how many people hate you. almost more than a million. just so you know thats not art. the dog died because of you. you should go to prison because of this. you broke peoples’ hearts. i am really upset at you i could write all day long if i have to because you just waisted a life i wish i could waiste youres!!!!!! do you wish all the animals should die? you just made my day so so so horrible. im going to tell everyone what you just did. just so you know i’m cring. i hate hate hate hate you. you should be ashamed of your self. so listen to this just because you think your all that doesn’t mean that you can kill an other animal. i have 7 animals and you are not going to touch them! that dog did nothing to you. if heshe did doesn’t mean you should kill him! please don’t touch any other animal!!!!!! you suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.s i hate youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu” 26
Renate commented: 5-5-2008 1:34 PM “Here’s a thought let’s tie up Guillermo Vargas at one of his own exhibits and starve him to death!” 27
Rainie M commented: 4-28-2008 2:59 PM “Oh Gods! How can anyone be so bloody heartless? Dead or dying animals are NOT art…things like this only come from sick minds. Is the human race devolving so much that we have come down to this as entertainment? If you want Art go to a Museum . Geez this is just sick…” 28
Tucker commented: 4-26-2008 10:43 AM “THIS IS DOWN RIGHT UNCALLED FOR DIGUSTINGCRUEL AND THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE LOCKED UP AND CHARGED BIG TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM CRYING SO HARD RIGHT NOW IT IS UNBELIEVABLE WHAT $IN PEOPLE DO TO ANIMALS AND THIS ALL NEEDS TO STOP NOW AND BIG TIME CHARGES AND JAIL TIME NEED TO BE STRONGER AND LONGER IN ALL STATES AND AROUND THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SAVE THE ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” 29
Angie commented: 4-24-2008 12:55 PM “I am so sickend by this whole so called art.. I am a artist myself. ! And i think someone need to tie this guy up and not feed him any food and have people watch him starve . Then he will realize how it feels. He gives a bad name to other artist out there!” 30
yf commented: 4-22-2008 2:32 PM “you know he really shoudl have starved himself and then do a ‘selfportrait’.. much more apt.. silly stupid man.. so pointless.. so banal.. people KNOW what skeletal skin and bones animals look like .. we have seen them.. we know what skeletal starved humans look like too infact.. we dont’ need a dumb dimwit 12 brained idiot to INTENIONALLY starve a dog in ORDER to produce his pointless ‘artwork’.. what a dumb stupid peabrained twit !” 31
Kristin Gleeson commented: 4-22-2008 1:29 AM “Yeah I’ve seen something like this before but what was it? Oh yeah the HOLOCAUST. Thousands of people collected subdued and starved to death. Was that an artistic masterpiece? If you call this art you’d have to call Hitler an artist I mean after all he was trying to make a culturally altering statement as well. It’s not art it’s sadistic immoral and completely disgusting. This poor creature did not deserve this and neither does any other animal on the planet.” 32
“Do not imitate a dog, but make your organism enter into composition with something else in such a way that the particles emitted from the aggregate thus composed will be a canine as a function of the relation of movement and rest, or of molecular proximity, into which they enter.” 33
“Its efficiency is striking. There is nothing extra, superfluous or obscure about Mr. Kulik’s performance. For all intents and purposes, he is a dog: he can be scary and unpredictable and territorial. After all, he’s in his prime, about 5 dog years old; visitors who wish to enter his cage may do so one at a time and must put on the quilted overalls and arm-guards that hang near the chained and barred door to his cage.” 34
“The choice of the term ‘pack’ for this older and more limited kind of crowd is intended to remind us that it owes its origin among men to the example of animals, the pack of animals hunting together. Wolves, which man knew well and from whom many of the dogs he uses derive, had impressed him very early. Their occurrence as mythical animals among so many peoples, the conception of the were-wolf, the stories of men who, disguised as wolves, assailed and dismembered other men, the legend of children brought up as wolvesall these things and many others prove how close the wolf was to man.” 35
“Saying it would be too confusing, a judge has denied the petition of a so-called ‘furry’ to legally change his name to Boomer the Dog. Forty-four-year-old Green Tree resident Gary Guy Mathews says he filed for the name change in June because he’s a fan of a short-lived 1980s NBC television series called “Here’s Boomer,” which featured a dog that rescued people.” 36
Where’s Waldo, #1.5 – Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:31 PM EDT “This boy ain’t wired right. I’ve heard of men wanting to be a women and women wanting to be men but this is a new one on me. Mom and Dad must have raised the poor kid in a kennel instead of a crib. Wonder what his favorite pup food was? Of course maybe he’s smarter than any of us thinks……or maybe not.” 37
dave-735909, Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:21 AM EDT “Why can’t we just respect people’s constitutional right to be crazy?” 38
Susi-Oh, Thu Aug 12, 2010 12:10 PM EDT “My sentiments exactly but how far do you want to take this? Should we just let him bark back when you ask him a question? Can you introduce a guy like that with a straight face? He’s big for a dog and might scare little children. Actually, even without the name change he looks a bit scary.” 39
Janet A., #15 – Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:59 AM EDT “If this idiot was truly a dog, we’d put him to sleep for being insane. Just a thought.” 40
wchall1949, #2 – Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:15 AM EDT “OMG – the really frightening thing here is that this guy is allowed to marry & reproduce!!! Truly scary!! What a moron!!!” 41
Sues-343312, #2.1 – Thu Aug 12, 2010 11:22 AM EDT “Well he is 44 yrs old has managed to not procreate up to now. Let’s just hope he meets up with a spayed female” 42
3:26 . A close-up of a crying child, with a dissolve of snow over his face. He says “Daddy…”
Close up of an adult man, he says “I don’t have a daddy.”
A girl wears a party hat. Lying on her bed, she talks to her brother, also wearing a party hat. She says “I just miss him so much…”
Cut to a different girl in pigtails addressing a bloodhound wearing a king’s crown and fur cape. She says “I miss him too.”
3:30 . Close-up of a crying boy. “I miss him, mom.”
Angry-looking farmer standing under a tree. He says “Your mother passed on.”
3:32 . A woman lays on a bed with a girl. “…to join the angels.”
A man looks up to the sky and gestures upwards “She’s in heaven.”
A woman with a party hat “watching over you right now.”
3:37 . A boy addresses a dog. “My dad used to do that.”
A boy and his mother talk as she drives. The boy says “He wants a dad.”
A woman sits next to a boy outside with a rocky hill behind them. He is looking through binoculars. She says “You remind me a lot of your dad sitting there.”
“When they’re your best friend it turns into this weird, gross, furry pile where you can’t tell where the lines are between human and dog, master and slave, and sex, and it’s just ugh.” 43
“Bestiality lowered a man to the level of a beast, but it also left something human in the animal.” 44
“A man has appeared before Limerick District Court charged with ordering his Alsatian dog to have sex with a 43-year-old mother of four, who died from an adverse allergic reaction to the intercourse.” 45
“Addressing the consent issue, Daniels writes, ‘[T]he truth is that animals, particularly domesticated ones, don’t consent to most of the things that happen to them.’ Animal sexual autonomy is regularly violated for human financial gain through procedures such as AI. Such procedures are probably more disturbing physically and psychologically than an act of zoophilia would be, yet the issue of consent on the part of the animal is never raised in the discussion of such procedures. Should the day Bentham speaks of arrive when animal rights are recognized by society and the law, an argument which speaks only to the zoophile’s right to fair exercise of his property rights in the animals he owns may prove an insufficient legal justification for acts of zoophilia.” 46
“In 1812 in a similar case in strongly Federalist Seneca County, New York,William Moulton, a fifty-eight-year-old veteran of the Revolutionary War and a prominent Democratic-Republican, was accused of buggering a bitch, which then delivered a litter of puppies that ‘had large heads, no hair on them nor tails, and on the side of their head they had small ears.'” 47
“I am for the majestic art of dog-turds, rising like cathedral.” 48
“The right of sovereignty was the right to take life or let live. And then this new right is established: the right to make live and to let die.” 49
“Though a single gull had already struck Melanie on the forehead the day before, the choice of the children’s party for this first fully choreographed attack suggests the extent to which the birds take aim at the social structures of meaning that observances like the birthday party serve to secure and enact: take aim, that is, not only at children and the sacralization of childhood, but also at the very organization of meaning around structures of subjectivity that celebrate, along with the day of one’s birth, the ideology of reproductive necessity.” 50
“Death is outside the power relationship. Death is beyond the reach of power, and power has a grip on it only in general, overall or statistical terms…death now becomes, in contrast, the moment when the individual escapes all power, falls back on himself and retreats, so to speak, into his own privacy. Power no longer recognizes death. Power literally ignores death.” 51
“Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s professional role.” 52
“Even worse their comments continue to make no distinction between hierarchical and non-hierarchical organizations and institutions — simply rejecting all organization — which is tantamount, if you think about it for a minute, to proposing a future that lacks workplaces, religious centers, families, any kind of assemblies, and so on — a future in which lone individuals or small groups fend for themselves (a vision seemingly not too far from what they propose).” 53
‘It is critical that the medical profession redoubles its efforts to ensure that dying patients are provided optimal treatment for their pain and other discomfort. The use of more aggressive comfort care measures, including greater reliance on hospice care, can alleviate the physical and emotional suffering that dying patients experience. Evaluation and treatment by a health professional with expertise in the psychiatric aspects of terminal illness can often alleviate the suffering that leads a patient to desire assisted suicide.” 54
“Their vision of a commune offers very little guarantee of its own basic existence. There are no proposed methods for deciding what will be produced or consumed nor how much of each or its distribution in a socially responsible way.” 55
“The euthanasia of animals has been acknowledged by most animal protection organizations, including [The Humane Society of the United States], as an appropriate and humane means of ending the suffering of an animal in physical distress. It is also used widely to end the lives of animals who have severe behavioral problems, including aggression, and cannot be adopted into an appropriate new home because they pose a threat to the health and safety of people or other animals.” 56
“Once we know where it is we want to go, we can then act with the urgency needed to organize and build institutions and movements able to win change and create the necessary foundations for a future society.” 57
“Those who demand another society should better start to realize that there is none left. And maybe they would then stop being wannabe-managers.” 58
“This is the dog’s real trick, the height of animal acting. Not surprisingly, the imitated action is one of violence and must have been somewhat complicated; because all pet dogs, and dog performers most of all, must be nonviolent and cooperative, the animal actor here must go against its ‘nature’ in order to successfully set up the final tableau. That animals can be domesticatedmade to forego violence in order to serve peopleis the triumph of human culture over nature. That they can then be trained to appear violentto attack humansis the ironic confirmation of this subjection.” 59
“Should you battle on, take the pain, endure the indignity, and await the inevitable end, which may be days, weeks or months away? Or should you take control of the situation and resort to some form of euthanasia, which in its modern-language definition has come to mean ‘help with a good death’?” 60
“At the final stage of this evolution, we see the first socialist mayor of Paris putting the finishing touches on urban pacification with a new police protocol for a poor neighborhood, announced with the following carefully chosen words: ‘We’re building a civilized space here.’ There’s nothing more to say, everything has to be destroyed.” 61
3:43 A montage of eerily smiling children’s’ faces. Audio is the word “dad” played over and over as it overlaps and becomes “dog”. The words dad and dog are repeated in a loop. The video becomes a distorted montage of psychedelic faces of children and dogs. Eventually the words dad and dog becomes god.
4:03 The montage audio and video end abruptly.
A small dog says “I know something we can do.”
A shot of a Bernese, who says “Poop” then winks.
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