Of any website from my recent browsing, none has made me think more critically about the technology I daily use (and its material and legal components) than the July and August on-line artist residencies of Marenka Krasomil’s x-temporary.org. The website’s design supports an ethos of critical and playful engagement with the residency material, each of which spans a month. No keyboard shortcuts will do (at least none that I am familiar with) for navigating this site. Your click is needed: to enter the site, chase and click a moving symbol; to navigate the site’s internal web pages, unstack a pile of open windows containing the information of the “press” page; to scroll left/right, up/down, use a pair of navigation bars which stand in addition to those built into your web browser. “X-temporary.org is an online residency for artists and others* to propose ideas, develop a concept, open up a process, have fun and more#” (https://x-temporary.org/index.html).
The current technological and industrial layers of our world have come under playful yet astute scrutiny this summer during the consecutive residencies of Javier Lloret and Michaela Lakova both alumni of Rotterdam’s Piet Zwart Institute and also frequent collaborators. Lloret’s July-August residency work, entitled Prosperity as you’ve never seen (2018) dissected the source-material for the video offered to Kim Jong Un at the June Singapore summit, displayed on an iPad held by the current US president. Lakova’s August-September work— Article 17 Right to erasure (2018) —samples language from the eponymous section of recently modified European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to form a looped film of poetry. The “x” of “x-temporary.org” has respectively changed during these times to “prosperity” and “article 17.”
Lloret works across artistic mediums with metamorphoses of visibility and invisibility (Website of J. Lloret, “Bio”). Lakova carves a space for examining human rights and moments of decision making within systems of erasure and destruction, both nuclear and digital (Website of M. Lakova, “About”). In their online residencies at x-temporary, both artists make visible their research material and we get a chance to play along.
As I opened the x-temporary site on my phone one day in July, what was supposed to be a one-second clip of aerial video off the coast of Miami—sky, water, high rises, speedboat—lasted for five seconds, then froze for two seconds, then abruptly jumped to the beginning of the video and froze again, then resumed with the intended one-second pulses.
“Clip number 57 out of 147, one-second duration, titled ‘Basketball Arena. Description: video footage of an indoor floodlit basketball arena full of spectators. Everything is made in 3D; Author: Haizon; Price (HD Version): 87 euros; Possible source of the stock footage clip: pond five.” This text, placed above a cropped and one-second looped video displays the results of one of Lloret’s findings from daily research into the stock video sources that form the video of the video shown by the US National Security Council for the summit in Singapore on June 12th. The stadium over-head lights twinkle, white sections merge with the text of the stock footage. “Pond five” appears in yellow, and functions as a hyperlink to the pond5 stock footage sale page (as does the text at the beginning of this sentence). You are invited to see the video clip’s “original” source, yet what is for sale has no official location (pond5’s sale page lists the location of the video as “N/A”).
This is one slice of a patchworked flipbook of stock video, peppered with newsreel images, and voice-overs and patched into a joint future of national fabric of prosperous dictatorships, an advertisement for which, as stated in the film “only a few are called upon to make a difference” (P. Bradshaw, “The Bromance of the Century,” The Guardian, June 12, 2018). The alternative (at 2 min 8 sec) appears to be total nuclear destruction, as the image on the screen dissolves from flames into white light. I asked Lloret to describe his method for extracting and researching the video imagery for Prosperity:
Javier Lloret: [This] was quite straightforward. I deconstructed the propaganda video into each individual image and video clip. I filtered out all imagery that clearly depicts either of the two countries involved. I then selected the video clips that, in my opinion, portray a vision of prosperity from a techno-optimistic western perspective. I then searched for the source of these clips in online stock footage markets and published my findings.
Each day of the x-temporary residency, Lloret selected a one-second clip a day to research for its source (in conversation with the artist, August 2018). This is indeed prosperity as we’ve never seen. Yet Lloret’s research is a concrete way of dealing with its absurdity and moving past the scale of nuclear ultimatums to examine the image of a future that appears entirely tech-mediated: greenhouse-farming, laboratory work, concrete infrastructure and skyscrapers sprouting like weeds.
All of this finds other rhythms through the ripples of freezing and loading errors of my computer and phone screens as I follow the residency. In thinking about these blips, I remembered Legacy Russell’s “Glitch Feminism” manifesto and work into what these blips can be (moments of shock into realizing that the screen is not the full site of reality) and how they can be harnessed (realization of this separation is the first step to acting outside of the grand algorithms that we are weaving ourselves into out of convenience) to think more critically and radically (L. Russell, “Digital Dualism And The Glitch Feminism Manifesto,” Cyborgology, December 10, 2012). Russell choses to call these blips “glitches” and the mode of acting manifests as “Glitch Feminism.” Glitch Feminism recognizes “that an error in a social system that has already been disturbed by economic, racial, social, sexual, and cultural stratification and the imperialist wrecking-ball of globalization—processes that continue to enact violence on all bodies—may not, in fact, be an error at all, but rather a much-needed erratum. This glitch is a correction to the ‘machine’, and, in turn, a positive departure” (L. Russel, “Digital Dualism”).
Michaela Lakova’s residency uses a webpage and audio to create an online audio poem with the language from Article 17 “Right to Erasure” of the European Union’s GDPR. This article is linked to regulation on the right of rectification and erasure (Article 65) and the Right to be forgotten (Article 66; European Commission, “2018 Reform of EU Data Protection Rules”). The following interview with Lakova has been edited for length.
Lilah Leopold: Going into the x-temporary residency, what are your initial thoughts about the format and platform?
Michaela Lakova: I find the … format interesting to work with especially in the context of this work which is a continuation of a project called Allow Me To Forget (work-in-progress)—an online survey based on the Right to be Forgotten [article of the GDPR, begun in 2016 during an artist residency in Madrid].
I decided to revisit this project and to transform it [into] a visual poem which uses the latest legislation of Article 17 … [of the GDPR] … accepted by the European court in May. However, I found this text rather difficult to understand, from a user’s perspective, and it imposes certain regulations without giving clear answers / or ways to deal with it. With this textual work [currently on x-temporary], I am proposing different ways to read this legislation and to show how accessible / or !not it is to a general audience.
As I make repeated visits to Lakova’s current work on x-temporary, I have been thinking about techniques of obscuring information within something as massive and distributed as the internet. In doing so, I recall Lloret’s 2017 thesis work which compares military and artistic strategies for examining the border between invisibility and visibility (Military deception in an art context). Lakova’s work affords visitors to x-temporary a chance to break through some of these strategies and play with digesting the language of the Right to Erasure. Both artists also address nuclear power, which could sit uneasily (but perhaps productively) beside discussions of data and information for its resistance to deletion despite its capacity for mass-destruction.
LL: Could I ask how you situate your work with nuclear power and memory in your larger body of work these days?
ML: My interest in nuclear power came from the residency I did in April-May (2018) in Slavutych (small town located only 50 km from the Chernobyl nuclear station). … My larger body of works deal with memory (digital and human). What might be the bridge between these two is still to figure out. However, I have an upcoming show in mid-September at an artist-run space in Sofia called Æther.
My upcoming project deals with the absurdity of the Bulgarian government to reopen the possibility to build second nuclear power plant in Belene (a highly seismic zone; the project has been proven unnecessarily and unsustainable in the long term). I, as a visual artist, find these problematics important to address and I want to tackle them departing with my findings and knowledge from Chernobyl.
Both Lloret and Lakova introduce collaborate decision-making process into interaction with the system of data collection and storage, inviting a chance for us to dwell in glitches in the systems, and question the stakes inherent in the electrical objects we have come to so heavily rely upon.
Michaela Lakova’s residency on x-temporary.org runs through September 9th, 2018.
Lilah Leopold is an artist whose current projects include working on her bicycle, becoming the second Dr. Leopold in her family, and sending messages in a bottle across the Atlantic.
European Commission, “2018 Reform of EU Data Protection Rules,”
Bradshaw, Peter, (2018) “‘The Bromance of the Century’: Trump’s Bizzare Trailer For His Summit With Kim,” The Guardian, 12 June, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jun/12/trump-bizarre-trailer-for-the-summit-with-kim-singapore-bromance.
Lakova, Michaela, website of, http://mlakova.org/. And interview by e-mail correspondence. The selections that appear in the text above are from 8 August 2018.
Lloret, Javier, website of: http://javierlloret.info/. And interview by e-mail correspondence. The selections that appear in the text above are from 7 August 2018.
Russell, Legacy (2012) “Digital Dualism And The Glitch Feminism Manifesto,” Cyborgology, 10 December,
https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/12/10/digital-dualism-and-the-glitch-feminism-manifesto/. Russell’s first book in print on Glitch Feminism is forthcoming with Verso. I first encountered Glitch Feminism through the PhD work of Madisson Whitman in Anthropology at Purdue University, as shared in the paper titled “Subscript outside of bounds”: Queering Tumblr glitches” at the 2017 Graduate Student Socio-Technical Studies (STS) Workshop at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (US), which I co-organized with fellows and faculty associated with the Learning to See Systems research group: http://seeingsystems.illinois.edu/2017-workshop-interdisciplinary-encounters/.
x-temporary.org, https://x-temporary.org/index.html. Initiated by Marenka Krasomil; technology advisor & chief technology officer: Tiago Pérez Cavalcanti; code by Philipp Waack; in collaboration with Miriam La Rosa and Curating the Contemporary; graphic advice by Lucia Graf.