[-empyre-] queer is everywhere

Margaret Rhee mrhee at berkeley.edu
Thu Jun 7 09:00:57 EST 2012

Hello, Micha, Zach, and Amanda,

So many great questions, topics and such little time. I love the sets of
questions and concerns that have been raised all.  I'm glad for the
possibility to work though here.

I'll be traveling soon and will write again later in response, but wanted
to write back quickly now because its exciting to see so much on the
virtual landscape. I am at my brother in law's house in the countryside
where they own a very large retreat center up a mountain. Yesterday, a
local woman asked me to hike with her and I couldn't resist to take a
break from the computer. Walking up the mountain passing by Korean farms,
rich greenery, and all the beautiful dirt. There is internet at the
retreat center though, like so many places in Korea. Dirt is so queer, no?
 Ami Puri does some very interesting work with dirt:

Re: Jian Chen. I love Jian's work! Im so glad that you raised Jian's
curation and to hear you were at Ohio with Jian. I heard Jian speak in DC
we were on a queer Asian American performance roundtable together and I
loved hearing Jian's work  NOISE looks amazing! So glad your work with the
Transborder Immigrant Tool was included! I wish I were there and happy abt
the exciting developments at MIX.

I'd love to take up some of the points you all raised and since we're
talking about emergent theories and art practices maybe Micha's and
Richardo Dominguez Transborder Immigrant Tool with EDT and bang lab would
be a great beginning to rethink queering new media art, or as Zach wrote,
“what does it mean to do new media work queerly?”

Two thoughts, I'm thinking about the interventions of queer new media art
on design.  As you've written Micha, Zach produces such finely crafted
objects with QT and I think troubles and reimagines design much like the
Transborder Immigrant Tool does as well. I feel QT and the Transborder
Immigrant Tool are examples of design and development for good. I've
written about this in my response to HASTAC V "Falling in love with the
gears" where I was interested in engaging with the idea of falling in love
pedagogically as Seymour Papert has written about and with digital
collectives like HASTAC as Zach mentioned our mutual involvement. I
responded to your vital points Micha on HASTAC V in my post, especially
concerns of the digital divide and access. Cathy Davidson had responded to
your post to bring up that people of color should not only be recipients
but also participate in developing technological tools. I've included an
excerpt and the link below if folks may be interested.

But I think doing new media queerly, as Zach wrote, is the creative
potential to address various social issues and/or human questions through
design, theory, art that troubles all these forms. ie not only about LGBTQ
issues as noted in the introduction to this forum. I think doing new media
queerly is taking up the potential of considering (and creating) how
technology and design is not only for profit whether it is academic
capital, financial etc. but a relationship to justice and provocations of
all kinds.

Claire Bishop's essay in Living as Form sounds very interesting and you
raise really pressing questions on the marginalization of New Media Art
generally within contemporary art world and the experiences of queer new
media artists that are troubling the fringes in really exciting,
provocative, and brilliant ways. Performance is a great genre to place
into conversation especially because performance has been so marginalized
within contemporary art, and yet performance is some of the most powerful
and human forms of art. I cannot help but wonder how much the location of
marginal lends itself to some of the most provocative and transformative
kinds of art/ and experiences for the participant, as you mentioned Shu
Lea's very amazing UKI viral pieces too.

When I was working as a theatre critic in Los Angeles prior to graduate
school, my favorite time was being at Highways Performance Space on a
Friday evening. I only wish I was at Highways in the early 90's.  Have you
read Meiling Cheng's work on the LA Performance scene? She's awesome and
also at USC http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520235151

And Micha, I love your word "anti-formal" very much. More soon.



“I fell in love with the gears.” Falling in Love with HASTAC: Reflections


On Race, and the Future of Design

I want to end this blog post (which ended up more fragmented than I had
hoped. But I feel fragments are just okay) with a return to the discussion
Alexis Lothian and Micha Cardenas astutely pointed out, on the issue of
race & equity at HASTAC V.  And some insights drawn from a conversation I
had with former HASTAC scholar and now professor Bridget Daxter on engaged
+ digital scholarship.

While I was not at Jim Leach’s talk, I too agree with Micha and Alexis’
critiques on what can be problematic in thinking about the “civilizing
project” of the “digital humanities.”  I look forward to watching the
entirety of Leah’s speech. However, I feel Micha brings up point relevant
not only to Leach’s talk but the state of digital humanities and new media
as a whole. As Micha writes in her blog, in her blog and Ill quote her

“Later in the day I felt very differently about the keynote speech by Jim
Leach of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which I was deeply
troubled by. A primary claim of Leach's talk was that the digital
humanities must take up a "civilizing project". I missed some of the talk,
but I found this claim to be unacceptable. The talk revealed to me what
deep splits exist in our field, to see a keynote speech that was so
egregious to my own values. Certainly, if there is a need of a civilizing
mission, there are people who are uncivilized in Leach's view. I was
troubled by his reference to "our" conflict with "the Arab World", which
seemed to act as the Other in need of civilizing. This formulation made a
troubling conflation between "us" and the United States, a claim which I
already have trouble accepting.

Leach went on to propose a new digital class which would take up this
civilizing mission, based on choice and access. This was, to me, a
troubling conflation that smoothed over the fact that many don't have a
choice to join the digital class because they lack access and often access
is determined by social structures of inequality including gender, race,
ability, sexuality, immigration status. Here is where I find myself firmly
in the post-humanities with Donna Haraway and Judith Halberstam and many
other theorists working to address the limitations of the liberal humanist
subject and the way that it forecloses discussion of its own limitations,
of who gets to be a rational subject and who is deemed irrational and
uncivilized, often on the basis of the social structures I listed above.”

As Micha points out, recognizing structural issues and the digital divide
which illuminate many people do not have “choice to join the digital class
because they lack access.” As Micha and Alexis’ provide, it is also
important to have more voices and perspectives from those not only who are
of color, but that politically can foster and add to the pressing issues
of the digital humanities, and bridge these digital divides, divides which
corresponds to systematic issues of the rising rates of incarceration as
Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg cite in The Future of Learning
Institutions in a Digital Age.

As Cathy Davidson responded to Micha’s post:

“I so agree that we must do a far better job (and I think it has to begin
very early) at not only writing about race but making sure that people of
color are not the recipients of tools and technologies that they do not
participate in thinking through, developing.  You go to a developer
meet-up and it is mostly white and mostly male.  This is a major issue
that all of us need to be committed to changing, on every level from tools
and training to theory and archives.”

Like Cathy, I agree that it’s not only access but that people are color
are also developers of technology and tools. I thank Cathy for bringing up
this vital point, because I also agree the issue is not only access or
simply more people of color, but having more people of color to work on
technology on many levels such as design, and development.

Cathy’s comments on developers, reminded me of the design work that Micha
and Ricardo Dominguez  and other new media artists created at the
Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab (Bits, Atoms,
Neurons, and Genes.) at UCSD: the Transborder Immigrant Tool.  The
Transborder Immigrant Tool reimagines design but taking on the pressing
issue of migration, safety, and human rights.

How can we use technology not to further surveil and build the border
industrial complex but to help aid migrants to safety?

The Transborder Immigrant Tool is one example of design and development
for good.

Below Ricardo answered questions on the Transborder Immigrant Tool in an 
interview with Vice Magazine

What is the device, exactly?

RD: We looked at the Motorola i455 cell phone, which is under $30,
available even cheaper on eBay, and includes a free GPS applet. We were
able to crack it and create a simple compasslike navigation system. We
were also able to add other information, like where to find water left by
the Border Angels, where to find Quaker help centers that will wrap your
feet, how far you are from the highway--things to make the application
really benefit individuals who are crossing the border.

The Transborder Immigrant Tool has poetry too. Poetry for survival:

<iframe width="560" height="315"
src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/2H14zq-bR_w" frameborder="0"


In my experience, it is true that political projects like the transborder
immigrant tool wiihin DH or New Media Studies, may be unjustifiably
considered too political.  Indeed critiques of the b.a.n.g. lab’s
political work was under attack by U.C. and elsewhere. You may remember
the possible de-tenuring of Ricardo because of his political activism, in
which many of the HASTAC community signed virtual petitions to support

Instead of technology for profit, we’re thinking of design, of dh
scholarship, of new media art that can address the pressing social issues
of our time.  The transborder immigrant tool, urges us to reimagine the
possibilities of technology. I hope for computers to not only sense to
world, but to change our world.

> Here's more about NOISE that Jian Chen curated:
> http://mixnyc.org/24/programs-Noise.php
> On Monday, June 4, 2012, micha cárdenas wrote:
>> thanks for such a beaufitul first post margaret! and thanks for joining
>> shu lea! i also have tried to teach BRANDON and am looking forward to
>> being restored and fully functioning!
>> margaret, your post raises so many wonderful and interesting points,
>> i just want to respond to a few. i love the phrase transmasculine
>> and am so thrilled for you to bring up the intersections of diaspora
>> queerness right away! i myself have been thinking through the
>> significance
>> for me of my upbringing in miami among a constant mixture of latin
>> and carribean cultures and how i can understand how that may influence
>> own approach to poetics and art making, as my practice is certainly
>> on lots of layers of mixing, mixing genders, sexes, realities, races,
mixing as a means of breaking down simple unified notions of identity. as a
>> mixed race transgender person, i am constantly navigating and
>> multiple and at times simultaneous forms of passing, passing as white,
passing as latina, passing as female, not passing as female. i'm really
interested in how women of color feminism provided a language for these
kinds of intersections, like gloria anzaldua and audre lorde, but also in
>> how new work by people like Fatima El-Tayeb is developing new language
>> second and third generation immigrants with ideas like translocal and
>> i recently was on a panel at ohio state university with Jian Chen and
>> talked about his brilliant curation project NOISE which was at MIX NYC
>> year and included a video i made with the electronic disturbance
>> MIX NYC also has a new series of trans videos coming up about queer
>> narratives that included an amazing video about palestine.
>> https://vimeo.com/41764353
>> but the point you mentioned that BRANDON was the first new media
>> commissioned by the Guggenheim raises a lot of what i've been thinking
about with regards to queer new media over the weekend, as well as your
point about my Autonets project. I read Claire Bishop's essay in Living as
>> Form this weekend where she talked about the divide between social
>> art and art more focused on the freedom of the individual artist to
experiment. I'm very interested in how queer new media may be a
>> that is "unfashionable" in so many ways. Looking at the list of artists
>> the LA Biennial I'm surprised that it seems to not include any
>> performance
>> art. Has anyone seen it yet? Am I wrong? This makes me think of the
>> conervativeness of so much of the art world regarding questions of
>> form and material.
>> It seems like queer new media may be something that doesn't have a
>> in much of the artworld because it may be perceived as participating in
outdated notions of identity politics and also because as new media it may
>> be unsellable or be anti-formal. Zach's work is interesting in this
>> because he produces such finely crafted objects, which seems rare for
>> new media which is often immaterial or more messy. I'm interested in
>> artists who are queer and sucessful in the contemporary art world like
>> Steiner and Wu Tsang (both of whose work i like a lot) are both not new
media artists. Yet much new media seems to not overlap with questions of
>> gender and sexuality (thinking here of people like cory arcangel). I'm
also hugely inspired by Shu Lea's work. I love the performative aspect
>> of her recent UKI viral pieces and I hope to see one of them soon! I
>> know that Shu Lea has had a constant struggle to present work that is
>> sexually explicit. I love how she continues to push those boundaries
>> bring together so many brilliant ideas into pieces like UKI and IKU
>> I have taught in almost every class I've taught).
>> On Monday, June 4, 2012, Margaret Rhee wrote:
>>> Hi Shu Lea!
>>> Thank you so much for writing and hope you are having safe and
>>> travels! For you, I wanted to include a photograph of the tulips and
>>> paddies from the guest house I am staying at, in the countryside of
>>> :) It is wonderful to reconnect here, and really generative and
>>> to have your presence, and Zach and Micha's dialogue on queer media
>>> and theory! I think its going to be a very inspiring month and look
forward to the conversations.
>>> I hoped to teach BRANDON in the Queer Theory Activist Practices course
>>> co-taught last Fall with Juana Maria Rodriguez at Berkeley. We had a
>>> day segment on Queer New Media Art and Theory but since it was under
restoration I was disappointed the students were not able to
>>> the artwork more fully. When I first began studying new media art with
>>> Goldberg, I was blessed to learn about feminist and queer new media
artworks as well, and BRANDON meant so much to me. It also helped me
rethink not only new media art, but Brandon Teena's case and it was a
meaningful way to honor Brandon's life. BRANDON also meant so much that
>>> it
>>> was the first new media artwork commissioned by the Guggenheim and I
>>> that, and loved reading about BRANDON in Mark Tribe's New Media Art.
Looking back, I think it was really formative inspiring my interests in
>>> New Media art and continuing with classes when starting my graduate
>>> Hoping BRANDON will be available soon?  It is absolutely
>>> I
>>> was disappointed the students were not able to engage the work online,
>>> glad they still were able to read about BRANDON and learn. For the
>>> we engaged with Micha and Zach's work and the It Gets Better youtube
videos as well. The students were really excited about all the
>>> new media art work and since they are truly the twitter generation, it
>>> really wonderful to see them get so animated, excited, and curious
>>> the field.
>>> Thank you for being here, this is so very wonderful.
>>> Queer forever and everywhere,
>>> Margaret
>>> > hi, in transit... (literally)
>>> > love to follow Micha and Zach's curating dialogue on queer media art
and theory.
>>> > thanks, Margaret, for bring up BRANDON, which in fact is  currently
'under restoration'
>>> > initiated by Guggenheim collection.
>>> > queer everywhere queer forever....
>>> > be reading you all
>>> > sl
>>> > _______________________________________________
>>> > empyre forum
>>> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> --
>> micha cárdenas
>> PhD Student, Media Arts and Practice, University of Southern California
Provost Fellow, University of Southern California
>> New Directions Scholar, USC Center for Feminist Research
>> MFA, Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego
>> Author, The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities,
>> blog: http://transreal.org
> --
> micha cárdenas
> PhD Student, Media Arts and Practice, University of Southern California
Provost Fellow, University of Southern California
> New Directions Scholar, USC Center for Feminist Research
> MFA, Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego
> Author, The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities,
> blog: http://transreal.org
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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