August 9, 2017

In Conversation

by Nora Khan

In Conversation asks artists, programmers, scholars, and critics to engage in casual discussion around compelling themes. The format is an experiment I launched last March, very much inspired by critic Mike Pepi’s CBIC discussion model. It is a gentle attempt to rework and loosen up the standard art-talk panel format, in which participants usually plug their work, leaving about ten minutes for open discussion. By asking participants to work through new ideas that might be just outside their practice, I hope to foster interesting dialogue between practitioners in a range of fields, whether curation, art activism, or hard tech.  

While in residence at Eyebeam, working out of Industry City has been magical, at times surreal, and the space has been ideal for big events. That said, these next two months, I would like to take our work at Eyebeam to partner venues around the city. Through August and September, these intimate conversations will be held in a community garden in Sunset Park, at Babycastles, and other gallery spaces, until alumni can begin to host events within the new Eyebeam home.

What’s next? Following on our day-long event Trust and Believe, held this last April that focused on narrative design, we are turning to discuss the wider context of algorithmic media, including artist’s use of bots and other automated bot-like systems. This Saturday, August 12th, at Babycastles, from 6 to 8 p.m., please join us for In Conversation: Paul Soulellis and Allison Parrish. Provocations will unfold around procedural writing and narrative, the poetic potential of programming languages, and the relationship between digital publishing and bots.

Babycastles is located in Manhattan at 145 W 14th St, between 6th and 7th Avenues. They are a 501c3 non-profit with a mission to champion diversity in independent videogames. This event is open to all ages, with a suggested $3 donation at the door to help sustain this free event space for artists in NYC.

Paul Soulellis is a graphic designer, artist, and curator working in NYC and Providence. He is the founder of Library of the Printed Web, an archive of web-to-print artists’ publications that was acquired by MoMA Library in 2017. He publishes Printed Web, is a contributing editor at Rhizome, and teaches at Rhode Island School of Design.

Allison Parrish is a computer programmer, poet and game designer whose teaching and practice address the unusual phenomena that blossom when language and computers meet. She has recently given talks on computer-generated poetry at the Electronic Literature Organization conference, !!Con, Alt-AI, SXSW Interactive and Eyeo. From 2014 to 2016, Allison was the Digital Creative Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University, and has recently been a research resident at DBRS Innovation Labs, a Processing Foundation fellow, and a visiting artist at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at CMU.  

A central focus of this discussion will be copies of Printed Web #5: Bot Anthologia, edited by Soulellis. Pre-prints were on display as part of Trust and Believe alongside a ‘Bot Anthologia Exhibition,’ a selection of bots curated by Sam Hart, my co-curator and publisher, and Soulellis. Printed Web #5 launches officially at Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair next month, where copies will be for sale. This official issue will incorporate a talk by Paul, “Notes on Feeds,” delivered at Interrupt 4: A Digital Language Conference, held at Brown University this past spring.

In Conversation will build on my research at Eyebeam and act to extend some of the conversations soon to be published through Avant.org over the next months (the subject of another blog post, to come).

The themes I’m choosing loosely play off this year’s residency theme of Power, with a focus on art institutions and their fraught relationship to technology and finance. The series soft launched back in March with a session between Michael Connor, Rhizome’s Artistic Director, and Kenric McDowell, Senior UX Engineer at Google Research’s Artists and Machine Intelligence Group, and myself.

The first evening was very dense, themed broadly around Silicon Valley’s pre-history of  radical utopianism. Our two guests were asked to reflect on the potential for technology to cultivate radicalism, aesthetic or otherwise. The conversation began with an abstract and a series of provocations, which were detailed in the event group. Documentation of this evening, and future conversations, will be hosted on a site dedicated to talk archives.

Future themes will include: simulations as they shape perception and relating, and offer novel ethical frameworks; the architecture of co-working spaces and incubators as  organizational patterns for creative labor; cultural appropriation, as discussed in a rousing Artforum roundtable recently with Eyebeam alum- Salome Asega, Homi Bhabha, Michelle Kuo, and Jacolby Satterwhite; artwashing, or the use of art institutions to democratize or distract from human rights abuses (Zaha Hadid, galleries traipsing in Baku, the Guggenheim’s labor ‘issues’), and finally, the model minority myth as it unfolds in the art world.

The In Conversation format is roughly an hour and a half, with space for a lot of follow-up questions from the crowd. Come through, and stay tuned for future events as we take Eyebeam on the city roads!