[-empyre-] "Hactivating" and the Screw-Up

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Wed Dec 9 18:15:13 EST 2009

When my son was very little, about 2 years old, there was a discount  
department store called Venture..
He later told me that the song by Steppenwolf was not " head out on  
the highway/ looking for adventure... ''

but 'looking for a Venture'

....poor little guy strapped in the back seat of the van in one of  
those child carriers trying to see whether the next concrete
shopping mall plaza might have a Venture...

Mesaprise-- misapprehension-- something we totally want to resist in  
design and consumption or in the design of consumption or the  
consumption of design (the bad seed!  the nightmare project !) ::  how  
things don't work.....

The mistake is the beginning of the mutation.   "In the still cave of  
the witch poesy... "

Caroline Bergvall:

Pervaded with that Ceaseless Motion 12:53 2006

Caroline: "Shelley's "Mont Blanc" poem read with sound by Mario Diaz  
de León. Note on the title: For some inexplicable reason, on the day  
of the recording I found myself without a copy of Shelley’s "Mont  
Blanc". I quickly downloaded one from some online Shelley site. Only  
much later and far too late did we discover that two lines were  
missing. Line 32: “Thou art pervaded with that ceaseless motion”. This  
was partially reintegrated to the poem by becoming the title of our  
collaborative reading. Line 65: “Blue as the overhanging heaven, that  
spread”. This beautiful line is still spreading."  http://www.carolinebergvall.com/


On Dec 8, 2009, at 10:37 PM, Kevin Hamilton wrote:

> Thanks Renate, for inviting Christina and I to take the mic, and
> thanks to Patty and company for the past week's prods to action and
> thought.
> Within the "Hacktivating Design" thread, Christina and I thought to
> introduce the example of mis-use through humor and mistake, the
> performed, non-ironic screw-up as a wedge into the impenetrable
> sensorium of contemporary consumption and art/design education.
> [from the British television show/performance act The Mighty Boosh]
> Naboo: This is black magic. This is hardcore. Don't mess with the
> occult.
> Vince Noir: I thought it was good for you.
> Naboo: What?
> Vince Noir: Well, you know, good for your digestive system.
> Naboo: That's Yakult!
> Vince Noir: Oh, yeah...
> Modernism loves failure - especially when it's on purpose. When
> properly reflexive, it's like letting the line go slack on the
> boundary of normative thought and action, only to snap it back into
> place to show you knew what was right all along.
> 187.1 Hey, Wayne, I've got a new gold brain.
> But sometimes the screw-up can't resolve itself, rationality can't
> right itself again. Lately I've been popping over to revisit Kenneth
> Goldsmith's piece "Head Citations." It's better in book form than
> online, but you can find it here:
> http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/goldsmith/works/head_citations.html
> Scanning this list of mis-heard pop lyrics, the shape of failure is
> wonderfully unclear, and banal in a way that is tied to the limits of
> sensation, rather than to some definition of "the everyday." Some I
> get right away, others I can't. And significantly, Google can't help
> with the decoding.
> 192. Well since she put me down I've got owls puking in my bed.
> You can stop reading here if you're just looking for a start to this
> new sub thread. Or, you may read further to hear an embarrassing
> account of my own interventionist screw-up.
> .....
> Ten years ago, as I was finishing out my graduate degree, my
> colleagues and I were all busying ourselves creating
> "interventions." (The daily bread of our program was the material
> later to emerge in Mass MOCA's influential exhibition.) My thesis
> project, which today causes me to cringe even in working form, failed
> miserably in a way worth telling.
> I had been working on a series of public performances in which I
> generated amplified sound through walking in modified shoes, and then
> tried to walk in sync with strangers, so as to lend _their_ feet the
> sounds of _my_ special shoes. For my penultimate Quixotic/Certeau-ian
> attempt, I identified the busiest crosswalk on campus, and grabbed the
> very notable sound signature of the space : a two-note audible
> crosswalk signal for the visually impaired, which at the time was
> somewhat unique and very distinctive for the space. (You can hear a
> sample of this here: http://www.wilcoxsales.com/images/cuckoo.wav)
> I disarmed the city's signal for a day and replaced it with my own - a
> perfect imitation which would only sound when I walked: left foot for
> the high note, right foot for the low note.
> This (in theory) turned me into a piece of city infrastructure, where
> my walking was necessary for the safe navigation of a busy street. I
> also had control of the beat, and could alter it as I attempted to
> walk in sync with others. (Meanwhile, the project wholly neglected the
> subject of sighted and non-sighted experience of the city. Cringe.
> Interventionist hubris in full effect.)
> Halfway or more through my performance, the sensors went bad and the
> system started firing at random - meaning that THE SOUND WOULD START
> send people walking into traffic.
> I had to rapidly unplug the system to at least make it safe. And then
> I saw a vision-impaired person approach the crossing. So I whipped out
> a little digital sampler and hooked it up to the system, and used my
> fingers, instead of my legs, to fire the signal at the correct pace to
> indicate safe crossing.
> I had hacked up a big mess. Getting the normal system to start again
> would take intervention from the city. I called in the report/request,
> but they wouldn't be there for hours. So I remained there at  the
> crosswalk, firing my little sampler with my fingers to keep the sonic
> space exactly as usual, safe for all. I did that for probably 5 hours
> or more until the city came - longer than the actual project. So in
> the end, my most successful intervention was to insert myself almost
> invisibly into an urban structure, only to recreate that structure.
> Accidental self-camouflage.
> There's nothing about this project worth emulating, but the farther I
> get from the piece the more provoked I am by the role of the screw-up,
> the way my prideful desire to "activate" a space fell apart, only to
> be replaced by an obligatory, laughable and irrational activity.
> - Kevin

Christina McPhee

mobile 805 878 0301
skype: naxsmash
facebook: Christina McPhee

contact:  c/o info at silverman-gallery.com

http://silverman-gallery.com, San Francisco
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