[-empyre-] Introducing Lynne DeSilva-Johnson!
lynne at theoperatingsystem.org
Tue May 30 07:51:02 AEST 2017
Hi All! So glad to be here.
Such great questions! I wasn't verbose at ALL in answering them....
To begin, Lynne, I wonder if you can speak to the importance of dialogue in
your editorial process? I was struck by the interview you had with Alex and
other authors you work with, why did you decide to include dialogues, and
how do you approach the publishing process differently? I, and many others,
are all very moved by The OS and this description:
"THIS is not a fixed entity. It is an ongoing experiment in resilient
creative practice which necessarily morphs as its conditions and
HA! No surprise that Margaret should cut right to the heart of the thing!
I’ll do my best to not go on for pages and pages just answering these intro
A critical thing to know about what I’ve tried to build with The Operating
System <http://theoperatingsystem.org> is that it is always meta-aware of
its role as a cultural mediator, not only at present but in the future.
Which perhaps sounds utterly pompous, but it isn’t meant as that: what I
mean is that I’m very concerned about the archive, and ontological practice
as it concerns creative practice and practitioners. So a lot of the
decisions that I make are informed by a desire to simultaneously disrupt /
inform / intentionally participate in this storytelling.
When I think about the hagiography of creative practitioners (and this also
applies to “geniuses” -- i.e/, hero-storylines across disciplines, not only
in the arts) I do so through the lens of someone who grew up idolizing what
I now realize are largely fictitious personas -- and who was hurt by that
as much as I was inspired by it, because I didn’t feel it was accessible to
me as a person of meagre financial means...who was told by a
post-depression immigrant family that creative practice was some
combination of irresponsible and selfish as a life-choice. And, while I was
rigorous and talented in my artistic studies, and had some good “ideas” I
felt I lacked the type of “vision” or “inspiration” that would make such a
risky, irresponsible decision a good idea...something I’ve now spent two
decades re-wiring my brain around.
The hindsighted mythology with which we talk about creative practice both
culturally and (even more problematically) in learning environments is one
which puts inspiration/the muse / as well as finished product/output on a
pedestal -- and is also one of reductive, dangerous erasure for subject and
While I do think that this is getting better as educators become more
sensitive to intersectional concerns, and while contextual, historical
information as well as personal history might now be di rigeur inclusions
for any curator worth their salt, this doesn’t carry over yet to how we as
a society talk or think about creative work. We “value” it, but in a way
that puts it in a box to be marvelled over. The notion that poetry like
bread is for everyone
favorite quote from Salvadoran Roque Dalton) is a critical one -- and I do
mean for everyone, not only in its appreciation but also its making.
So many in the arts world tread this fine line where on the surface there
is vocal social justice warriorhood but just below is the fear that if
everyone is encouraged, legitimized as valid, has open access and the tools
to make work, publish work, teach, etc., that somehow their own legitimacy
or value will be lost. And so I think there’s a certain amount of smoke and
mirrors that a lot of people participate in in terms of maintaining a
certain allure or mystery around creativity, genius, and practice. So
there’s still a lot of gatekeeping that goes on in arts organizations, and
publishing, even amongst those who would seem to be ardently against these
things (and may “be,” intellectually.)
And, well -- I just think that’s totally bunk. The important thing for me
is that there be open conversation about the fear that folks have around
that (fear of losing legitimacy) -- and to recognize its root causes. Here,
in the United States, I would say that it’s rooted in a bioprecarious
state. But I’m geting away from myself.
The point is: especially as I look at our production as existing within a
spectrum of ontological storytelling, holding space for how the work we
present is received and contextualized, I feel that I play the role of
curator, and akin to presentation in visual art spaces and cultural
institutions, so too within pages I feel I would be remiss to not somewhat
frame the cultural output we have chosen to enter the archive with some
anchoring information about time, place, social tenor, and personal
practice on the part of the author.
>From day 1, dialogue has been CRITICAL in our editorial process, as is
self-awareness -- both as organization and as artist. In every book we
produce, we encourage the inclusion / production of substantive
back-matter… as much as the author is willing to engage in. At the very
least, this takes the form of the Q&A you see here with Alex, but it can be
quite extensive -- especially in cases like Amanda Ngoho Reavey’s poetic
<https://squareup.com/store/the-operating-system/item/marilyn>, or JP
collection of poems focused on her relationship with her mother, Ruth King,
a prominent early African-American fashion model.
So we encourage it in and around the books themselves, we encourage our
collaborators and contributors to engage in it, and we extend that
engagement and visibility onto our online platform. In fact, the online
platform has long been a site of this encouragement, with series like “FIELD
seeking to open up process from a wide range of practitioners and
facilitate archiving of ephemeral presentations.
That facilitation also guides our editorial process on the catalog level --
manifesting in a desire to seek out, encourage, and document hybrid work
that often falls between the cracks of easily publishable or marketable
work (but that represents some of the most brilliant, avant garde practice
of our time), seeking out and making possible the translation and
publication of silenced and/ or out of print voices via our Glossarium
<http://www.theoperatingsystem.org/unsilenced-texts/> series, and
facilitating full performance volumes to like There Might Be Others
or A Gun Show
And as far as not being a fixed entity is concerned: woof! I, we, are SO
imperfect (and yet so biologically / chemically / magnetically fascinating
/ intelligent). It’s not doing us any good to put up fronts the way we do.
We exhaust ourselves, we set up false expectations, we encourage others to
feel less capable. I’d prefer to start at humble, from the outset make it
crystal clear we intend to evolve and know we must, and encourage others to
feel akin in our shared struggle, to come aboard and work together.
Somehow, I missed the lesson on how free market competition is going to
help us, probably somewhere around the time it clearly began fucking the
environment and everyone on it over. So I’m legit here to share everything
I learn along the way. Better you learn from my mistakes than make them
again, save your money and your time, and so on. We’ll all be better
resourced -- in physical ways and in trust, so sorely needed.
I love how alive The OS feels, and how you begin with THIS. It reminds me
that The OS is alive. And this has resonance to a recent conversation I had
with really amazing artist Margaretha Haughwout and my class on
art/activism last week. I first "met" Margaretha on empyre as participants
in Kyle McKinley's social practice forum too, and Margaretha's work has
also been a constant inspiration, and she described collaboration with
humans and (non) humans as well in her work:
I'm feeling some resonance here, and I am moved to think about the (non)
human, but also human and living elements of The OS, and both of your
collaborative practice. Could you share more about The OS, and the
intersections of organic, technological, and poetic in your work as an
artist and editor?
Oh man do I have ALL THE FEELS for what Margaretha does with *guerrilla
grafters*! And, absolutely, is there resonance here. You are absolutely
right to intuit that there is intention around human / nonhuman / living
systems work with the OS, and I don’t often speak to it that directly, but
I’m happy to.
I sometimes mention in interviews that my roundabout academic path took me
through anthropology and fine art (manifesting in social practice art /
installations, this in about 1999-2002), then to a masters in urban design
(manifesting in intermediary books / installations as well), then back to a
PhD in cultural anthropology with a focus on space and place (which I sort
of went rogue on after finishing 5 years of coursework) -- the reason I
mention this though is because I’m doing all of these things via The OS.
And because it’s all art and activism -- a personal practice manifest as an
organization. Social practice art as public social experiment. And,
absolutely, always, as performance. And: this performance / art / activist
experiment is very specifically *now -- * in so far that the way it engages
with public culture as both virtual and print media is tailored to this
time, and will continue to evolve as those platforms do.
The way the books are designed and operate, the work I choose is always in
conversation with the fact that we're making, producing, and documenting
work NOW. Which means also that even though I seek to carry on the
tradition of print, I also seek to learn from systems of organization, from
nonlinear formatting and information architecture, in creating print
documents for *this* time which correspond to and or informed by the new
ways we see and learn and read and experience, acknowledging and even
welcoming those challenges, and understanding that many people are coming
out of school not reading or reading differently, or doing so while texting
or taking in other media. Working across media is necessary. Evolving the
page is necessary, exciting. And -- we are in the first time in history
where far more of our documentation is *born digital* -- something that
greatly impacts my concern and thinking around the archive and the impact
of creating manifold documents to potentially carry story into the future.
The OS is absolutely grounded in methodology from my anthropological
training -- research methods in participant observation, the value of field
notes, and rigorous documentation and facilitation are all things years of
engagement in these texts gave me highly valuable takeaways from.
However, I found social science as a professional discipline deeply
troubling, especially given the current state of the academy, and I’m glad
I’m not held to its strictures. I had chosen the field because much of what
I read mirrored the kinds of questions I thought everyone desperately
needed to engage in, and as such I found the reflexive work of Pierre
Bourdieu viscerally necessary, the work of Mick Taussig deeply inspiring,
the work of Bateson and other systems thinkers heuristically life changing,
and it’s where I found Chris Marker, and so many other people asking vital,
difficult questions about the world and the self and how to talk about /
represent it responsibly. Also: there are also so many courageous
anthropologists helping to facilitate indigenous people’s movements all
over the world -- how to use these tools for social and cultural good has
taught me so much.
I may not be physically grafting ecologies, and I may no longer be
presenting 70,000 person satellite city plans to the planning office in
Hanoi (hello, life circa 2005) but I will never stop caring about our lived
places, thinking and writing about how what we build and create manifests
in our bodies and how the relationship of space and place shifts us
individually, as a culture, and as a planet in infinitely meaningful ways
-- both good and bad. And I will never stop planning and theorizing systems
change, and how that can play out in physical environments. But I found
the field exhausting and too often wildly misogynist -- and not necessarily
where I would make the most change. I’ve taught in architecture schools in
myriad settings, which I find extremely gratifying, and hope to continue to
affect architecture education on a curricular level -- something that would
have greater impact than I could have ever had independently as a designer.
With The Operating System, I’ve continued my life-experiement of
auto-evolution, which I’ve been sideways writing a book on for about a
decade. I believe deeply that we can rewire ourselves, that we can hack
into our programming -- including the diminishing, crippling impact of
epigenetic and lifetime trauma on the body (which I’m currently battling)
-- and that we will do this strategically through system design. On a daily
basis, the hacks that will enable the larger scale rewriting and rewiring
include intentional, attentional work with language / communication,
physical actions and reactions, meditation / mindfulness / brain training,
gender and body modification, and a continued awareness of / engagement in
My ability to do what I do with The OS should frankly not be possible,
defies logic, and I know it reads as impossible to a lot of people -- or,
they perceive me as hiding resources (no such luck) or having some sort of
super-human power (I don’t, in fact I’m deeply chronically ill) -- and I
know that a lot of what I’m proposing requires leaps of faith and a sort of
evolutionary availability that is hard to access right now. So: modelling.
I’d like to move what we’re doing with The OS into more direct action but I
also have learned along the way, (back to the hagiography of art / archive)
that freedom for creative practice is one of the most revolutionary tools
at our disposal as humans. And I see as my role a facilitation of creative
freedom and possibility, a radical opening, that intersects with social
justice, ecology, and our continued race toward cyborg-intelligence. I am
the system and the system is me, you know? Sort of like in the night kitchen
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Night_Kitchen>, but with lithium ion
The Operating System
“In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and
change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one
obsolete.”- R. Buckminster Fuller
On Mon, May 29, 2017 at 1:51 PM, Margaret J Rhee <mrhee at uoregon.edu> wrote:
> Many thanks again to Keith, Sun Yung, Jenny, and Saba for the rich threads
> generated by the conversation this week!
> To add to the Machine Dreams, I'm very happy to e-introduce Lynne
> DeSilva-Johnson, who is a dynamic and inspiring artist, activist,
> professor, and publisher. Lynne is also the founder and editor of The
> Operating System, which will be releasing my full length poetry collection
> of robot love poems this Fall. We are thrilled she can join us for the last
> few days of the dialogue, and look forward to hearing more about The OS,
> and her alchemist work as an artist and editor.
> I actually first met Lynne through a digital into to The OS by dear mutual
> friend poet and activist Ching-In Chen, and Machine Dreams contributor Alex
> Crowley, who is also my editor at Publisher's Weekly, and has a wondrous
> poetry chapbook published by The Operating System titled Improper Maps.
> Alex's drone poems are in the Machine Dreams Zine (pg 20)
> You can read more about Alex's collection with The OS in a fantastic
> dialogue with Lynne here: http://www.theoperatingsystem.
> Lynne is also the co-editor of this recent anthology of resistance poetry:
> and you can read a Wave Composition interview with Lynne here:
> To begin, Lynne, I wonder if you can speak to the importance of dialogue
> in your editorial process? I was struck by the interview you had with Alex
> and other authors you work with, why did you decide to include dialogues,
> and how do you approach the publishing process differently? I, and many
> others, are all very moved by The OS and this description:
> "THIS is not a fixed entity. It is an ongoing experiment in resilient
> creative practice which necessarily morphs as its conditions and
> collaborators change."
> I love how alive The OS feels, and how you begin with THIS. It reminds me
> that The OS is alive. And this has resonance to a recent conversation I had
> with really amazing artist Margaretha Haughwout and my class on
> art/activism last week. I first "met" Margaretha on empyre as participants
> in Kyle McKinley's social practice forum too, and Margaretha's work has
> also been a constant inspiration, and she described collaboration with
> humans and (non) humans as well in her work:
> I'm feeling some resonance here, and I am moved to think about the (non)
> human, but also human and living elements of The OS, and both of your
> collaborative practice. Could you share more about The OS, and the
> intersections of organic, technological, and poetic in your work as an
> artist and editor?
> Lynne's bio is below:
> Lynne DeSilva-Johnson is a queer interdisciplinary creator, curator,
> educator, and facilitator working in performance, exhibition, and
> publication in conversation with new media. Now a visiting assistant
> professor at Pratt, Lynne was previously an adjunct at CUNY, and teaching
> artist for over a decade. She is the founder and Managing Editor of The
> Operating System, as well as Libraries Editor at Boog City. Lynne is the
> author of GROUND, blood atlas, and Overview Effect, co-author of A GUN SHOW
> with Adam Sliwinsk/Sō Percussion, and co-editor of the anthologies RESIST
> MUCH, OBEY LITTLE: Inaugural Poems for the Resistance, and In Corpore Sano:
> Creative Practice and the Challenged Body. Recent or forthcoming
> publication credits include Drunken Boat/Anomaly, The Brooklyn Poets
> Anthology, Gorgon Poetics, Supplement, Live Mag!, and a Panthalassa
> Pamphlet from Tea & Tattered Pages Press. She performs often, resists
> always, and lives in Brooklyn NY.
> Margaret Rhee, Ph.D.
> Visiting Assistant Professor
> Women's and Gender Studies
> University of Oregon
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the empyre