Lee’s Come Together, Corp. is a speculative fiction for Los Angeles responding to the overwhelming businesses, billboards, strip malls and freeways of Los Angeles. Mining the database of registered businesses in the city, Lee’s Come Together, Corp. integrates the artist within the fabric of the city’s signage. Initially intended to provide comfort in a city that personally feels so busy and alien, I’ve come to realize this hack only furthers the proliferation of confusion and visual pollution.
I'm looking to hire doppelgangers of myself to attend several events. I am an artist and have a lot going on in my life and I need someone (or several someones) to attend events as me. These may include: attending art openings and "networking," showing up to friends' concerts, or art events so they can feel my support, attending meetings for me, etc. If you feel like making my artwork for me, that would be great too. My doppelganger(s) should look relatively like me. I also need you to update my various social media accounts so people can see what “I” have been up to. Great. Thank you.
The Mechanical Turk was an automaton chess player, a supposed automated chess-playing machine created by Wolfgang von Kempelen that toured throughout Europe in the 18th century until its destruction by fire in 1854. It featured a mechanical human upper body, complete with robot-like head and mechanical arms connected to levers. It played demonstration matches with thousands of players, including Napoleon, Ben Franklin, and European royalty. In the 1820s it was revealed as a hoax. The machine actually concealed a hidden tiny grandmaster inside controlling levers and magnets to move the body and pieces. In 2005 Amazon Mechanical Turk launched, a crowdsourced internet marketplace to hire anonymous internet-connected workers (“Turkers”) to perform “Human Intelligence Tasks” (HIT) difficult for computers but output largely as if they had been performed by machine. Example tasks include entering keywords, responding to surveys, and transcribing audio.
In April 2016 I created a task for a chess game with “pawn to e4” feeding in this single opening chess move and requesting a Turker make the next move in the game, and including themselves in the video. The game progressed as I entered my moves, reducing my input to text and a digital chessboard of the current position, with a different Turker responding to each of my moves with their own chess video. In the response videos, it is possible to see into the abstracted-away black box of the Internet, to see through to the living rooms, offices, bedrooms and libraries of Turkers, to a diverse community of people worldwide. The process does not specifically create substantial equity for the participants (who were generally paid on average 80 cents for their services of making a single chess move, in comparison to most tasks that pay a few cents) but it does work (I hope) to present an intimate view into labor on the internet, and to humanize who is on the other end of the digital transaction.
This project includes a 2nd video, a debug version which includes the numerous “wrong” videos that did not follow the rules of the task. Many of these videos were considered wrong because they did not play the next move in the specified game or did not include the player in the video. The process of rewriting the instructions (over 10 times) helped clarify and lead to clearer video responses, a process akin to the debugging of a computer program, though in this case I was debugging my instructions to people.
The Cinema of Unknown YouTube is a collection of 5 hours of YouTube videos with 10 or fewer plays, many with zero views. YouTube does not present a way to search by unpopularity, so these videos were collected using a hacked searching process looking for a particular extension automatically written into the filename via cellphone or camera.
Although the vast majority of videos uploaded to the service consist of these kinds of personal and homemade films, it is the “viral” videos that command the most attention. The videos of the Cinema Of Unknown YouTube on the other hand have much more modest backgrounds.
They come from people around the world, with varying approaches to their videos, making it difficult to summarize or make a central statement. In many of these videos it is unclear the goal of the video maker and the subject. Many feature a singular person, perhaps mid-act, directly addressing or more commonly distractedly aware of the camera.
Like glancing into another family’s scrapbook, we take a small glimpse at a moment in someone else’s life, or a view of momentary confusion. Kids mug for the camera. Parents talk to their children.
Someone chases a dog. A DJ swings her arms while in the DJ booth. A beekeeper tends her apiary. A dog listens to classical music being played by its owner during a loud thunderstorm. These are moments of sadness, moments of the sublime, chaos, banality, and sometimes total beauty.
As a heavy internet user, I feel both implicit and often explicit pressure to be self-promotional and "on-brand" in the online communities I am a part of. This is a pressure I feel while posting to Twitter, updating my website, in my posts on Tumblr, and even my instagram photos. Likewise, I feel challenged to be able to explain my artwork compellingly when crafting an artist statement. In facing this challenge, I chose to outsource the work. The videos of Testimonial speak volumes about my artwork in ways I never could. And some of it is even true.
Scratch is a beginner, children-friendly programming language, developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. (See scratch.mit.edu) It is notable as a “block-based” language that allows the programmer to snap together bricks of code instead of writing in a text editor. Scratch has a robust website where millions of programs are shared, Creative Commons-licensed. Participants are free to copy, adapt, redistribute and share material and thousands of topic-based “studios” are hosted.
This year I discovered #737, consisting of over a dozen accounts each with a name ending in 737. They take well-built software such as a driving simulator or a Star Wars game, and create minimal, punk, glitchy remixes, infinite loops, and usually an inexplicable pink-and-black checkerboard logo. Discovering this work transformed me to another times and space, most specifically the experience of attending live experimental noise concerts in punk houses and warehouses. The cobbled-together, cut-and-paste aesthetic, harsh sounds, aggressive energy and feeling of a constructed mini-scene connected me to this other time and place.
I began creating my own 737 remixes and contributing to the studio group. I have no idea who the other members are, their ages or backgrounds. I received some stars and posts of my own 737 programs but quickly discovered the studio had disappeared after only a couple months. I downloaded many of the 737 programs prior to this, and present some of them here along with my own 737s.
Featuring work by:
In addition to the gallery exhibition, Spam.cafe also exists as a text-only hypertext HTML site.
It is created in the software TinyChoice, an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. Exhibitions are visual experiences, designed to present artwork in a whitebox environment with space for contemplation. This hypertext version of the exhibition connects to the early 90s experience and promise of the web to present a cyberspace of infinite possibility but ultimately rooted in text that allows readers/participants the freedom to dream worlds in their mind.
As the current technology community presses forward in developing and hyping VR, I am reminded that reading can sometimes take me deeper into sumptuous worlds and experiences.
A mod is an alteration of a video game’s assets, code or behavior. They can be created in almost any videogame, but there is a culture of modding built around first-person shooter games. In addition to my role as an artist I have a decade of experience as a curator, including exhibitions of artist-designed games. All of my exhibitions are planned with top-down sketches and sometimes drafting software. Using the top-down shooting game Hotline Miami: Wrong Number, I used a hidden broken level editor to create a playable digital sketch of the Spam.cafe exhibition space, removing the “enemies” and weapons, but placing in televisions, flatscreen monitors and other tropes of a new media exhibition.
Puzzlescript is a HTML5 simplified tool to build top-down puzzle games, created by game and open-source tool designer Stephen Lavelle. A community of artists and game designers from beginner to advanced have developed around this tool, as it allows entry points for both beginners as well as advanced designers, coders and artists to create new works, and all games developed are easily remixable under-the-hood. Spam.cafe has been built in this framework as another way to think about exhibition and space, within gameworlds, the virtual space, and in a variety of visual and aesthetic vocabularies.