10 Minutes of Doubt

Do you believe everything you said today? How can you trust what you feel? What is it about today’s truth that makes it so difficult to believe?

The journalistic affectation for pre-fixing all manner of phenomena with the term ‘post-’ has become commonplace over the last few decades. Post-capitalism, post-growth, post-normal, post-internet, post-work and post-truth are all concepts crystalizing around a pervasive sense of uncertainty, instability and social unrest. While I have the honour of guest editing the Furtherfield website for the next few months, I am hoping to bring together a number of writers, artists and thinkers who will, in various ways, explore two of the ‘post-s’ I find most urgent and compelling: post-truth and post-work.

Post-truth

Consolidated by Brexit and the US presidential campaign, and designated as word of the year 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary, ‘post-truth’ is now a term deeply engrained in the social and political imaginary. Since ‘post’ can signify the internalization of phenomena (the internet is inside us all), one might even say we are post-post-truth, living with it as a general condition of our reality. The post-truth condition privileges narrative over facts, appealing to people’s beliefs, ideologies, prejudices and assumptions, rather than presenting them with ‘evidence’. This is, of course, nothing new – facts have never been anything without subjective processes of interpretation, contextualization, manipulation and propaganda. As Simon Jenkins points out, ‘Of all golden-age fallacies, none is dafter than that there was a time when politicians purveyed unvarnished truth’ – lies are, he suggests, the ‘raw material’ of political narrative.

Trump saying Hilary Clinton was amazing while the crowd chant 'lock her up'

Social media holds the potential to both exacerbate and alleviate the chaos of post-truth reality. On the one hand the echo-chambers created by partisan social media feeds limit and blinker us; on the other, social media is a weapon being deployed by armies of citizen journalists and organizations committed to fact-checking and exposing political lies and obfuscation. To feel uncomfortable about the confusion and psychological strain arising from the post-truth condition is surely a reasonable human response. As Professor Dan Kahan suggests:

‘we should be anxious that in a certain kind of environment, where facts become invested with significance that turns them almost into badges of membership in and loyalty to groups, that we’re not going to be making sense of the information in a way that we can trust. We’re going to be unconsciously fitting what we see to the stake we have in maintaining our standing in the group, and I don’t think that’s what anyone wants to do with their reason’

What Kahan points to here is, I think, an opportunity to reflect carefully on the stake we have in maintaining our sense of identity and belonging through the ‘facts’ we choose to believe. Despite the discomfort we may feel, might there be a way to take advantage of this cultural moment? Perhaps recognizing our own doubts about credibility can become a fruitful catalyst for adjusting our sense of responsibility to engage with a range of news sources, listen to opposing points of view, and critically evaluate the information we are presented with. In fact, Kahan prescribes 10 minutes of doubt every morning to deal with the anxiety that arises from a feeling that you can’t trust your own feelings.

Post-work

Can we have a good life without work, or is work part of what it means to live a decent life? What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

One of the most significant societal shifts taking place due to the advancement of technology is the transformation of what it means to work, and to be a worker. The nine to five is dead (or soon will be), and work is being radically transformed as a new global workforce comes online, technological innovations advance at super high speed, and new business models emerge. Automation is now a firm feature of mainstream discourse, and depictions of robots replacing jobs are everywhere in the global media imaginary.

The Bank of England’s chief economist recently projected that 15 million UK jobs will be lost to automation in the next 2 decades, which is equivalent to approximately 80 million US jobs. 47% of white collar jobs are predicted to be lost to automation by 2035, according to a 2016 report by Citi GPS and the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. It is not just routine tasks that will be replaced – asset management, analytics, patient care, law, construction and financial trading can all be done (and is being done) by robots. Mining giant Rio Tinto already uses 45 240-ton driverless trucks to move iron ore in two Australian mines, saying it is cheaper and safer than using human drivers.

At the same time as these developments are evolving at break neck speed, we are living in an increasingly unequal world, where the gap between the rich and poor is getting bigger. According to a recent Oxfam report, 62 identifiable individuals own same wealth as poorest 50% of the world’s population – that’s 3.6 billion people. And 1% of the world’s population own more than the rest of us combined. Capital grows faster than labour, so if you’re already rich, your money earns more than your labour ever could, which reinforces existing wealth inequality. Furthermore, extreme inequality involves people thinking greedily about finite resources, and not seeing personal greed as having wider consequences. If people see that the 1% own more than the rest, there’s danger their response is to play same game and look to join that 1% (or 5%/10%)

Not everyone is equally equipped to deal with the changes ahead, but since artists, designers and critical thinkers are amongst the best-resourced to do so, I see it as our responsibility to consider how we can help others deal with what lies ahead. As with confronting post-truth reality, acknowledging a post-work future can be seen as an opportunity to forge a better path forward for ourselves and others. We might take a cue from what we know about post-truth, and try to create narratives (backed up by collectively verified facts) that persuade the world to proceed towards an equitable world of work where solidarity and cooperation can thrive.

10 minutes of doubt

The articles gathered over the next two months as part of my guest editorship of Furtherfield might be understood as moments of corrective doubt. They are an opportunity to speculate about issues of truth and labour, and to proceed as artists should – by imagining alternative realities and evolving conceptual, aesthetic and practical ways to inhabit them. You can expect revelations about the labour conditions of those who work for contemporary artists from Ronald Flanagan, reflections on robots in the workplace from Katharine Dwyer, and an interview about the repopulation of Monopoly with cryptocurrencies from Francesca Baglietto. Filippo Lorenzin will consider Dada as a response to the post-truth condition, Carleigh Morgan will consider what makes good curatorial practice in this contemporary moment, reorienting current discussions away from free speech absolutism vs censorship to questions of judgement and responsibility. Alex McLean will use the metaphor of weaving to consider the role of craft in a post-work society. How might coding be understood as a form of textile liberated from its militaristic origins?

Happy doubting to all.


Time & Motion at FACT: Punchcard Protocol and Creative Capital in our “Modern Times”

The new exhibition “Time & Motion” at FACT in Liverpool, UK, takes the pulse of punchcard protocol and creative capital in our own “Modern Times”.

The exhibition Time & Motion: Redefining Working Life at FACT Liverpool is a collaboration between FACT and the Creative Exchange at the Royal College of Art – an initiative which looks at how arts and humanities researchers can work with industry to effect digital innovation. Rachel Falconer reviews the exhibition in the context of the paradoxical dynamics of cognitive capital and the changing landscape of the labour market.

Now self-employed,
Concerned (but powerless),
An empowered and informed member of society
(Pragmatism not idealism),
Will not cry in public,
Less chance of illness,
Tires that grip in the wet
(Shot of baby strapped in back seat),
A good memory,
Still cries at a good film,
Still kisses with saliva,
No longer empty and frantic like a cat tied to a stick,
That’s driven into frozen winter shit
(The ability to laugh at weakness),
Calm,
Fitter,
Healthier and more productive
A pig in a cage on antibiotics.

Fitter Happier, Radiohead.

The frantic quest for the elusive Shangri-La of work/life balance is a neurotic luxury afforded only to the always-on, hyper-connected generation of precariously unstable home office workers[1] in our hypercapitalist society. The working rhythms of this emergent class of “precariat” [2] are far removed from the forensically prescribed scientific management resulting from the time and motion studies associated with Taylorism at the beginning of the last century. This shift in working patterns generated by the digital revolution is the primary focus of the exhibition Time and Motion, Redefining Working Life currently at FACT, Liverpool. From an archival, filmic view of the automated, (Western) industrial factory labourer to contemporary portraits of the global information worker’s state of perpetual imbalance and non-stop, hyper-connectedness [3] the participating artists expose the – often contradictory – ecologies of labour, consumption, and the conditions in which they operate. The exhibition also marks the collaboration between FACT and Creative Exchange at the Royal College of Art – an initiative which looks at how arts and humanities researchers can work with industry to effect digital innovation and confront contemporary modes of production.

Time & Motion: Refedining Working Life, FACT, 2013.

Taking the archival stimulus of time and motion measurement as its title and industrial work patterns as a starting point, the exhibition Time & Motion is the latest in a series of exhibitions and symposia addressing immaterial labour and new working patterns in the age of globalisation and creative capital.[4] Rather than following the well-trodden path of casting the figure of the artist as digital labourer, or attempting to portray an expansive, post-colonial view of nomadic, labouring diasporas, Time and Motion reflects a more subversive and fragmented approach to the politics of work, rest and play in the global information economy.

Sam Meech’s Punchcard Economy is at once a homage to the textile industry and a recognition of the contemporary precariat. With more than a symbolic nod to northern England’s textile heritage, Punchcard Economy consists of a machine-knitted reinterpretation of the Robert Owen’s 8-8-8 ideal work/life balance.[5] The piece was produced on a domestic knitting machine using a combination of digital imaging tools and traditional punchcard systems. During a residency at FACT last year, Meech collected punchcards from visitors detailing their working hours. This data was then translated into a knitting pattern which was used to generate the final work – a banner depicting the contemporary working day. Any hours worked outside the eight-hour day appear as a glitch within the fabric. This banner – historically a symbol of the working class and trade unions – also denotes the fragmentation and blurring of national class structures in the era of globalisation.

The move towards a flexible, open labour market has not eroded the class system completely, but a more fragmented global class struggle has emerged. The “working class”, “workers”, “proletariat” are terms that have been embedded in our (Western) culture for centuries, and used as badges of honour by some, and terms of derision by others. By incorporating a large cross-section of working society under one banner, Meech has literally – in stitching different socio-economic groups together into the very fabric of the working day – rendered the once potent archaic class signifiers as little more than evocative labels.[6]

75 Watt, Cohen Balen and Alexander Whitley, 2013 

“75 Watt” by artist Cohen Van Balen and choreographer Alexander Whitley also riffs on the trope of the long fought for 8 hour working day. Deriving its title from a quote from Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers: “A labourer over the course of an 8-hour day can sustain an average output of about 75 watts”, the film is a subversive ballet of the complex and often skewed relationships between production, consumption and distribution in the post-industrial age. The film features a group of Chinese labourers working an assembly line, (playing on the stereotypical “Made in China” trope). The object they produce, however, has no logical use. The purpose of the exercise is simply to choreograph the combined movements performed by the labourers in the manufacturing process. The work examines the nature of mass-manufacturing on differnt levels; from the geo-political context of hyper-fragmented labour to the bio-political condition of the human body on the assembly line. Echoing the Taylorist ideal, here we see engineering logic taken to its conceptual extreme; through the scientific management of every single movement we witness the passage of factory labourer to a man-machine.

By shifting the purpose of the labourer’s actions from the efficient production of objects to the performance of choreographed acts, mechanical movement is reinterpreted into dance. The artists ask: “What is the value of this artefact that only exists to support the performance of its own creation? And as the product dictates the movement, does it become the subject, rendering the worker the object”?

This operatic construction line also points towards the ultimate failure of scientific management. Taylorism was always dictated by the needs of capitalist exploitation, but in its pure form it proved to be inefficient in drawing on workers’ talent and potential. In time the bourgeoisie recognised the inadequacies in Taylorism, and Taylorist methodology was mostly withdrawn by the 1930s. However, this was not the end of time and motion measurement. More recent management theories include Theory X and Theory Y introduced by Douglas McGregor in the 1960s.[7] Contemporary Taylorism takes the form of the Lean practices introduced into major departments of the British civil service (including HMRC, DWP, MOJ, and MOD). Workers incorporate “efficiency savings” as an integral part of their job, and work priorities are monitored by the soft panoptic gaze of non-hierarchical “collaborative practice”. Here,workers time their work processes, identify forms of waste, and propose changes in work practices. This “bottom-up” approach goes hand in hand with the new language of management – as managers morph into “leaders”. As efficiency savings are made from workers’ suggestions, the “leaders” try to enforce impossible targets, and decide whose post is next to be eliminated – hence the creation of the precariat. As part of the precariousness of employment, workers not only worry about losing their jobs, but also have to propose measures which, in the name of efficiency, might put them out of work. Added to this the increasing automation of work and the burgeoning AI scene, where does human cognition stand in all of this?

Banana Multiplier, Inari Wishiki, 2013.

Inari Wishiki’s set of ludicrious alternative employment models (such as Banana Multiplier), are in reminiscent of the subversive, performative models of the Fluxus movement. Inari’s online work Recruit Agency for People Who Don’t Want To Work dramatizes this staging of an alternative labour market. The website includes documentation of a series of performances by the artist exploring the premise that with the proliferation and development of technology, we as humans have lost our place in the world of work, and yet still need to appear to be “useful” in order to earn a living.

Recruit Agency For People Who Don’t Want To Work is a set of systems which allow people to engage in the act of commerce while abandoning “all the meaningless rituals of having to be useful in order to earn money”. In INARI TRADING CARD, the artist documents the way in which “essential” workers function as a social infrastructure. He observes that “money was naturally following those workers according to their essential motions, unlike that of workers who seek after money”. These set of performances are an ironic counterpoint to the hyper-efficiency promoted by neo-Taylorism, and point towards the informal norms that are in tension with the industrial time norms still permeating social analysis, legislation and policymaking in the globalization era.

In his text “The Value of Time Spent” in the accompanying catalogue to the exhibition, Mike Stubbs supports this strategy of “design for disassembly” and novel values of exchange. Stubbs maintains that these alternative ecologies of exchange are necessary in order to allow us to question how we spend our time, and for us to lay bare the new patterns of professional fulfilment and social relations inherent to our hyper-mediated society.

Recruit Agency For People Who Don’t Want To Work, Inari Wishiki, 2013. FACT install shot (RF).

The classic distinction between the workplace and the home was forged in the industrial age, and when today’s labour market regulations, labour law and social security systems were constructed, the norm was a fixed workplace. This model has now fragmented and crumbled and the term social factory, popularized by Tiziana Terranova and others, is applied to describe this shift “from a society where production takes place predominantly in the closed site of the factory to one where it is the whole of society that it is turned into a factory – a productive site”.[8] The production is one of value, where the collective efforts of intelligence and creativity are networked, controlled and exploited. Labour takes place everywhere, and the discipline or control over labour is universally exercised. But policies are still based on a presumption that it makes sense to draw sharp distinctions between the workplace and home – and between workplace and public space. In a tertiary market society, this model is obsolete, leaving the information worker increasingly pressurized and isolated.

New Product, Harun Faroki, 2012. FACT Install shot (RF).

One of the recurring themes in Time & Motion is this hybrid and compromised locus and infrastructure of the work place. Harun Faroki’s moving image work A New Product presents an insider’s view of the paradoxical construction of so called “fluid” working environments. He describes his new film as: “Scenes from meetings within a company which advises corporations how to design their offices — and the work done there. The film shows that words are not just tools, they have become an object of speculation.” In this work, he stages the brainstorming sessions of a business consultancy specialising in the design of workspaces, offices and new concepts for mobile work hubs. The resulting seductive imagery of the ideal workspace is an exercise in brand development pastiche rendered as pseudo video game.

New Product, Harun Faroki, 2012. FACT Install shot (RF).

Time & Motion also stages a co-working space, developed by the RCA CX team, which weaves together venue, audience, workspace and digital space – presenting the entrance space of the gallery space into a live research ‘lab’. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the research, interaction and interventions, and workshops, salon discussions, and hacking and making sessions are woven into the experimental fabric of the exhibition.

The ‘CX Co-Working Space’ features three design interventions. The first, Hybrid Lives, features video work by Karen Ingham and an interactive installation responding to data traffic, dressed with ‘co-working furniture’. Where Do You Go To? is a wall-mounted moving freize showing the output from an app, co-designed with a group from the BBC, with the mission to connect remote workers through exchanging, Snap-chat-like (pre-hack) images of desks and workspaces. According to Ben Dalton, one of the main developers, this sharing of ‘desk context’ helps form a synergy of ‘headspace’ between remote workers.

Where Do You Go To?CX Project Partners: Ben Dalton- RCA, Bridget Hardy – Integrans Consulting, Ltd, Claire McAndrew – The Bartlett, UCL, 2013.

Taking its cue from Frances Cairncross’s 1995 “The Death of Distance”, where the compelling vision that, over time, the communications revolution would release us from geographic locations, the project illustrates how digital space has redefined our working lives. However, for all its good intentions, this gesture towards remote solidarity seems to be muddying the new principles and rhythms of work with Taylorist and later Fordist ideals of panoptic surveillance and somehow stands in direct opposition to the emancipatory rhetoric of convergence culture.

Time and Motion focuses primarily on a particular demographic of labourer (generally the global information worker), and paints the picture of a tertiary lifestyle which involves multitasking without control over a narrative of time use, and habitual fractured thinking – where non-stop interactivity (a digital version of Taylorist motion) is crack cocaine for the drones. For this category of workers, the workplace is everyplace – diffuse, unfamiliar, a zone of insecurity. We are left with a “thin democracy” in which people are disengaged from political activity except when jolted into consciousness by a shocking event or celebrity meltdown witnessed virally on Youtube during office hours. As more work and labour takes place outside the pre-determined workplace – in the hybrid environments of cafes, trains and across the domestic landscape – the very idea of a work/life balance seems like an alien ideal to aspire to.In an open tertiary society, the industrial model of time, and the bureaucratic time management of factories and office blocks, breaks down. There is no stable time structure and we are increasingly losing our grip on our own time. Time and Motion at FACT interrogates the impact of this fragmentation on the aesthetic forms of contemporary art, and contemplates how artists might offer a critique of our neo-Taylorist predicament.

References:

[1] Here I specify worker over labourer as a form of popular parlance. Space restriction does not allow for a more in depth analysis of the definition between labourer, worker and praxis, but these differences are played out throughout the exhibition.

[2] “A neologism that combines an adjective “precarious” and a related noun “proletariat”. A class in the making? If not yet a class for itself, in the Marxian sense of the term”. Guy Standing, The Precariat, (Bloomsbury Academic), 2011.

[3]Infamously described in Gilles Lipovetsky’s dytopic vision of hypercapitalist society in which he states that the technocratic normalisation and the loosening of social bonds has simultaneously produced a blurring of public space, work and leisure. Gilles Lipovetsky, “Hypermodern Times”,(Polity Press), 2005.

[4] Eg.: (Untitled) Labour, Tate Britain, March 2012 and Image Employment, MoMA PS1, September 2013.

[5] Factory owner Robert Owen’s credo for a full and healthy life “eight hours labour, eight ours rest, and eight hours recreation” came to symbolize democracy in the work place for the proletariat at the time and for generations to come.

[6] Andre Gorz(1982) wrote of the end of the working class long ago.

[7]Theory X works on the assumption that workers are lazy and will only respond to the carrot and stick binary, whereas theory Y relies purely on self-motivation – workers have to identify with the needs of their employers and bring their own initiatives to the work process – taking the lead in their own exploitation.

[8]Tiziana Terranova, Recomposing the University, MUTE 2004. http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/recomposing-university

Read and learn how to solve a Rubiks Cube with the layer-by-layer method. It can be learned in an hour.


On Art and Disobedience; Or, What Is an Intervention?

“There is no outside anymore.”1 – Olafur Eliasson

On May 16 2007, the Guggenheim issued a press release stating that Felix Gonzalez-Torres would represent the United States at the Venice Biennale2. The Cuban-born artist, whose relationship to his adopted country was critical and complicated, had become a poster child for it. His body of work was edited to exclude explicit homosexual references: “gone are the doubled clocks and almost all the doubled circles, all the pieces with “Loverboy” in the title … and all specific references to Ross”3. The exception to this was a major new work, a doubled marble pool, which was presented not as a “figure of queer coupling”4, but rather described in vague, sublime terms: a “sign of infinity … a beacon of hope”5. This frictionless ideological integration of the artist into the State Department programme was a notable example of cultural co-option, a de-queered oeuvre appropriated for “conservative ends”6. But it also symbolized a sophisticated hegemony in that the artist’s work engendered an ‘interpassivity’, performing a counter or anti-stance for the public and thereby enabling a critical catharsis to unfold in a benign fashion7. While Gonzalez-Torres himself was acutely aware of the potential for his work to be caricatured or co-opted8, this posthumous assimilation is indicative of a cultural terrain which has become increasingly precarious, a kind of critical claustrophobia where free territory is quickly swallowed up and every potential step has already been predicted.

If this is the hazardous space of the outsider, then many contemporary artists can be characterized by their willingness to work from within: employing the logic, language and conventions of their chosen systems in preemptive co-option or collaboration.

Screenshot from the “HyperCurrentLiving” website displaying current stats
Screenshot from the “HyperCurrentLiving” website displaying current stats

In Ryder Ripps “HyperCurrentLiving”, the artist collaborates with Red Bull in a month long ‘performance’ where Ripps generates ideas and consumes the company’s energy drinks, updating these daily totals on a website. A live webcam allows the public to monitor his output: the artist sitting in front of a laptop in a self-designed karate suit emblazoned with both the Ripps and Red Bull graphic identities. The artist exemplifies the artist as cultural worker and in turn, the cultural worker as late capitalism agent par excellence.

A one-man advertising agency, Ripps engages in the type of ‘blue sky thinking’ prevalent across the communication sector, producing dematerialized commodities which are distributed virally via his Twitter feed. One concept (“a single serving site that tells you if you are being exploited at your internship”) cascades quickly after another (“an app that tells you if your gif is derivative or not”)9. Binge energy-drinking fuels this surge of productivity, shrugging off exhaustion and nutrition as inconvenient bodily constraints which drag down the bottom line.

On the face of it, this co-branding exercise between the artist and Red Bull, who spend 30-40% of their earnings on marketing10, seems like a productive synergy, a perfect collaboration. But Ryder is simply too much: by living out the brand (and wider contemporary) ideals to such an extent, an unspoken malaise is also laid bare. Aspirational traits lose their gleam: “connection” slides into technological incarceration, “busy” blurs into workaholic. While Ripps online persona remains vigilant through the night, his tweets static and steady, his disintegrating, hopped-up body quietly problematizes the ideal of the supercharged creative. By literally incarnating brand values, Ripps offers himself up as a sacrifice on the altar of hyper capitalism – a body incessantly creating and indefinitely deferring collapsing.

 Barack Obama's speech in Germany in front of Berlin's Siegessäule. July 24th 20
Barack Obama’s speech in Germany in front of Berlin’s Siegessäule. July 24th 2008

Julius von Bismarck operates within the logic of a different system: media and image production. People’s “great trust in their photographic reproductions of reality”11 motivated the development of the Image Fulgurator, an optically triggered projector which beams an image the instant it detects a camera flash. Essentially the device “lies in wait”12 for a member of the press to take a photo, infecting their snapshot with a text or image motif at the same moment it’s taken. If media is the “continuation of politics by other means”13, then the gun-like Fulgurator is part of the “new weaponry of information and communication technologies”14.

In one of von Bismarck’s best known works, he attended a speech by Barack Obama, projecting a white cross onto the podium and highlighting the “cult of personality” centred around the presidential candidate. Unlike post-editing techniques such as Photoshop, von Bismarck’s interventions insert themselves into the physical fabric of situations where power is performed and aura is staged: “NO” hovering above the Pope, an “O2” logo momentarily pinned on Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit or a Magritte dove overlaying Mao Zedong’s portrait in Tiananmen Square.

The artist follows PR logic to it’s inevitable conclusion, where the immediate public becomes merely a prop in a mediated reality staged primarily for the press: sight lines and backdrops defined for a camera’s CCD chip. By operating within this temporary media space where the eye is largely superfluous, von Bismarck’s sub-second intervention is able to avoid detection while simultaneously rupturing an otherwise contiguous reality.

In many respects the so-called democratisation of news media has served the established providers – citizen journalists supplementing bare-bones media units and eyewitness smartphone footage winning back viewers for clicks and advertising revenue. Von Bismarck’s media interventions, however, take this phenomenon at face value, his images asserting their equal rights with any others. Decoupled from the copyright assertions of major media networks and distributed via Google spiders or social interactions, this “errant idea”15 becomes itinerant, taking its place alongside other “legitimate” imagery in search results and image banks.

Screenshot from Ed Fornieles’ “Dorm Daze”

Screenshot from Ed Fornieles’ “Dorm Daze”

Ed Fornieles’ “Dorm Daze” project stages its intervention in the social media sphere. The London-based artist invited his friends to participate in a 3 month “semi-scripted”16 performance on a self-contained network on Facebook. The participants scalped profiles from real American college students and enacted a series of fictional narratives centred around this formative period: a girl cheating on her first crush, a fraternity hazing gone wrong, the suicide of a good friend. The increased sophistication of social networks coupled with fluency in internet tools and tropes allowed the participants to employ a range of methodologies to advance the narrative: maps to establish location, comments on an upcoming event, live chats for personal encounters, or friends tagged in photos.

Like von Bismarck, Fornieles harnesses the goal of a system, extrapolating it to an extreme.
Here the identity tweaking carried out by every Facebook member – snapshots retouched and likes carefully distributed – is transformed into wholesale identity construction, preening becoming performance.

Participation is the currency of social networks, modeled by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself, who had no qualms about setting most of his content to open and “didn’t see a need to limit visibility of pics with my friends, family”17. But while Fornieles downplays any subverting potential in the project, stating that it brought “committed users”18, these aren’t the users that the Facebook management, its new investors, or its advertisers are looking for. Fornieles has jettisoned the last shred of “authenticity” from the social media sphere, producing a group of profiles who can’t be monetized or monitored because of the simple fact that they don’t exist. Neither bots nor bodies, these ghost profiles LOLing their way through Facebook mock a billion dollar infrastructure, mining every connectivity tool in a purposeless play with a null result.

While this self contained durational performance was merely a speculative fiction, the feedback loop it initiates in the participant’s everyday existence is more persistent. Fornieles elaborates that the skills learnt “during this hypothetical three month exodus would be reapplied in conventional reality”19. For a generation brought up with avatars and profile pics, this practiced performativity sets the stage for a more permanent and personal “enhanced narrative”20, engendering an intervention IRL (in real life) which further blurs the “real/fictional binary”21.

On the face of it, Ripps, von Bismarck and Fornieles belong to an era of artists that may “no longer dream of an outside”22, their work utilizing the logic of branding and media to stage interventions that appear more collaborative than combative, preemptively disarming attempts at appropriation. But the lock-step engendered by this emulation inevitably fails. Accelerated by technology, betrayed by a body or liberated by the lack of one, this faltering may not disrupt the march of the inevitable so much as expose its inherent untenability.

 

________________
[1] Salz, Jerry. “Restoration Drama”. http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/features/jsaltz/saltz5-26-05.asp
[2] Felix Gonzalez-Torres to Represent the US at the 52nd Venice Biennale. http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/press-room/releases/press-release-archive/2007/566-may-16-felix-gonzalez-torres-to-represent-the-united-states-at-the-52nd-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale
[3] Rounthwaite, Adair. Split Witness: Metaphorical Extensions of Life in the Art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres” Representations, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp 35-56.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Felix Gonzalez-Torres to Represent the US at the 52nd Venice Biennale. http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/press-room/releases/press-release-archive/2007/566-may-16-felix-gonzalez-torres-to-represent-the-united-states-at-the-52nd-international-art-exhibition-of-the-venice-biennale
[6] Rounthwaite, Adair. Split Witness: Metaphorical Extensions of Life in the Art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres” Representations, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp 35-56.
[7] Fisher, Mark. “Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?”. Winchester, UK: Zero Books.
[8] “Felix Gonzalez-Torres warned us against the insidious encroachment of the right. He understood that their seductive strategies were an effective counterpoint to the easy-to-target, outdated signs of revolution.” Spector, Nancy. “Inside Outrage”. Frieze Magazine. http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/inside_outrage/
[9] Ryder Ripps Twitter Feed. https://twitter.com/ryder_ripps
[10] Red Bull’s $675 Million Formula 1 Spending Spree Helps Brand Top Ferrari. Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-03/red-bull-s-675-million-formula-1-spending-spree-helps-brand-top-ferrari.html
[11] Fulgurator-action webpage. http://www.juliusvonbismarck.com/bank/index.php?/projects/fulgurator-action/
[12] Sorrel, Charlie. “The Brains Behind the Image Fulgurator. http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2008/06/exclusive-inter/
[13] John Armitage. The Kosovo War Took Place In Orbital Space: Paul Virilio in Conversation. In: Ctheory. October 18, 2000. Accessed: May 5, 2010
[14] Ibid.
[15] Steyerl, Hito. “In Defense of the Poor Image”, http://www.e-flux.com/journal/in-defense-of-the-poor-image/
[16] Rhizome Artist Profile: Ed Fornieles. http://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/apr/2/artist-profile-ed-fornieles/
[17] Facebook’s Zuckerberg Becomes Poster Child for New Privacy Settings. http://www.wired.com/business/2009/12/zuckerberg-facebook-privacy/
[18] Rhizome Artist Profile: Ed Fornieles. http://rhizome.org/editorial/2012/apr/2/artist-profile-ed-fornieles/
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Holmes, Brian. “Extradisciplinary Investigations. Towards a New Critique of Institutions”. http://eipcp.net/transversal/0106/holmes/en