[-empyre-] [–empyre–] Refiguring the Future, Week 2: In/Visibility feature

Anneli Anne Goeller agoeller at saic.edu
Fri Mar 15 12:22:56 AEDT 2019

Hello empyre, I am honored to be contributing this week, to be in
conversation with Ezra Benus and Yidan Zeng, and I would like to thank Lola
Martinez and Sarah Watson for inviting me. I was a panelist during the
Refiguring the Future conference in a session titled Visible networks:
Community Building in the Digital Arena. I am an artist who uses 3D
simulation and artificial intelligence to speculate that the creation of
algorithmic selves expands the concept of personhood.

The Internet is a network of networks. It connects us in ways that are
impossible in corporeal life. My research revolves around the ways in which
web community has been built over time. Right now, most of our Internet
time is spent on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter where our community
building is under surveillance by white supremacist, cisgender,
heteronormative, ableist corporations. If we look back to past examples of
web community building as a media archaeologist would, we can see how there
used to be more possibilities for customization, or at least spaces that
were less moderated.

In Second Life®, which is still being used but by a remarkably lower amount
of users than at its peak in the early 2000s, a woman who’s avatar goes by
the name of Gentle Heron <https://virtualability.org/board-of-directors/>
founded a community named Virtual Ability
<https://virtualability.org/about-us/>. Members across disability
communities in this group are able to create avatars in order to go beyond
the ableist world. They are still active today and yearly they host
the International
Disability Rights Affirmation Conference
<https://virtualability.org/idrac-2018/> within Second Life® on Virtual
Ability Island.

I have experienced this phenomenon first hand as someone who has PTSD from
sexual assault. Rather than inside the framework of a network like Second
Life®, or social media, I have experienced a sense of freedom though the
use of 3D software itself. In an ongoing project I have been able to
transport my consciousness into a virtual avatar named @DigitalQueer
<https://www.instagram.com/digitalqueer/>. The mesh is created through 3D
scanning the physical properties of my body, and the artificial
intelligence is created through machine learning software where I am able
to feed my avatar my trauma narrative as a mode of dissociation.

Spending the majority of our time using apps that are owned by Facebook,
inhibits accessibility. With no way to customize the format of our Internet
experiences, there are less ways to change sites for our needs. As a 12
year old using MySpace, I was able to learn HTML and CSS in order to
customize and have complete control over my web experience and the form of
myself that I shared with others. That type of customization just doesn’t
exist in the same way. How can we expect to build new futures if our
Internet is literally being created and programmed by white cis men? Where
black trans women, indigenous trans women and trans women of color are
being removed from platforms such as Instagram completely with no warning
or explanation? Where posts that challenge, or even point out, white
supremacy and cisgender heteronormativity are removed over and over again,
always citing the “community guidelines”. This is why alternative platforms
are so important. We need alternative futures before it is too late.

The future is user generated platforms. Platforms where “community
guidelines” are not just consensus censorship. Platforms made by and for
trans people, queer people, black people, indigenous people, people of
color and people with disabilities in order to develop connections and a
sense of community based on their/our own needs.

Anneli Goeller (they/them)
MFA Candidate in Film, Video, New Media, Animation
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
agoeller at saic.edu
@digitalqueer <https://www.instagram.com/digitalqueer/>

On Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 7:41 AM Yidan Zeng <yidan.zeng at eyebeam.org> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Many thanks to Lola and Sarah for inviting me to contribute as a guest
> this week, alongside Ezra and Anneli, who both are doing such amazing work!
> As mentioned in my bio, my entry into the world of digital accessibility
> happened during the Lincoln Center Accessibility Fellowship, where I was
> heavily involved in website auditing, captioning, and audio description.
> However, I wish I was aware of this world earlier, and as a Computer
> Science major, I am astounded looking back at how absent these
> conversations and skills were in my own education.
> But in recalling conversations around access I’ve been a part of the past
> two years, especially in spaces where disabled bodies are absent, they
> often fall into the mentality of conformance, of meeting the “standard
> criteria.” Obviously, budget, time, and labor are limited resources, in
> addition to a lack of knowledge and awareness of specific manifestations of
> disability. But on the other hand, even when accessibility standards have
> been met, is the experience itself comparable? Within the context of *Refiguring
> the Future*, how can we operate beyond objective, rigid accessibility
> standards to instead a collective reimagining of the experience of
> accessibility?
> Last year, I had the pleasure of catching Alice Sheppard
> <https://alicesheppard.com/>’s piece, DESCENT
> <https://alicesheppard.com/disabilitydanceworks/kinetic-light/>, a
> powerful duet presented on an architectural ramp by dancers in wheelchairs.
> The amazement of seeing disabled dancers fly on stage aside, I was
> absolutely blown away by the interactive and poetic nature of the audio
> description for what was happening visually. Traditionally, audio
> description is narrated in a neutral (often monotone) voice, providing
> “objective” descriptions of visual elements in film for those who are
> low-vision or blind. However, Alice Sheppard, along with Georgina Kleege
> <https://english.berkeley.edu/profiles/45>, an English and Disability
> Studies professor at UC Berkeley, recognize audio description as another
> type of text, as a space of creative potentiality. During check in,
> audiences were all encouraged to download an app to be used during the
> performance, to which various channels of sounds, poetic text, and
> descriptions of the dancers’ movements were blended into an individualized
> soundtrack depending on where one’s finger is placed on the app’s screen.
> I’ll leave you with a few words by Alice Sheppard herself:
> ”Disability is more than the deficit of diagnosis. It is an aesthetic, a
> series of intersecting cultures, and a creative force."
> On Mon, Mar 11, 2019 at 11:31 AM Lola Martinez <lola.martinez at eyebeam.org>
> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Following last week’s reflections on the exhibition as an ecosystem, we
>> continue onto week 2 with conversation on Refiguring the Future’s
>> engagement with accessibility.
>> Sciences and technologies have continually reinforced existing
>> conceptions of access. As dictated by mega-corporations, whose platforms
>> render accessibility features invisible, the scope between accessibility
>> and experience is limited. In light of this, blind, chronically ill,
>> D/deaf, and disability communities have expanded notions of accessibility
>> by utilizing emerging technologies and digital medias to provide resources
>> and representations. Yet what does it mean to build community within these
>> platforms? How can we collectively examine the impulses within new media
>> that impact accessibility, and in turn experience? Our intentions is to
>> create a space for speculative dialogues where artists, educators, and
>> technologists can provide new insights into discourses which are
>> reinforcing apparent and unapparent disability.
>> I’m honored to be joined by Ezra Benus, Anneli Goeller, and Yidan Zeng.
>> Each one of them played an active role within the exhibition and
>> conference, be it through advising, organizing, or participating, and have
>> generously provided their expertise and knowledge as we continue to learn
>> and work through notions of access and disability.
>> Ezra Benus studied at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem, the
>> University of Amsterdam, and graduated with a degree in Studio Art (honors)
>> and Jewish Studies at CUNY Hunter College. Benus was an Erich Fromm Fellow
>> at Paideia Institute in Stockholm, and is currently the Access and Adult
>> Learning Fellow at the Brooklyn Museum. He has spoken publicly about his
>> art practice and disability arts activism at venues such as CUE Art
>> Foundation, York College, and Princeton University. He has exhibited and
>> performed nationally and internationally at a number of venues, including
>> Jerusalem, Stockholm, New York, Dayton, and Calgary.
>> Anneli Goeller is an artist who uses 3D simulation and artificial
>> intelligence to speculate that the creation of algorithmic selves expands
>> the concept of personhood. They have been exhibited internationally at
>> institutions such as the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center in New York,
>> Peripheral Forms in Portland, Lithium Gallery in Chicago as well as the
>> Palazzo dei Cartelloni in Florence. In virtual space their work has been
>> featured in The Wrong - New Digital Art Biennale and The Universal Sea.
>> They are currently a MFA candidate in Film, Video, New Media, Animation at
>> the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
>> Yidan Zeng (曽一丹) is an intimacy investigator currently
>> wandering/wondering through New York. She uses fabric, movement, and touch
>> to explore multi-sensual forms for connection. She's been a Digital
>> Accessibility Fellow with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (2017), a
>> Create Change Fellow with The Laundromat Project (2018), a visiting glass
>> artist at The University of Hawai'i in Mānoa (2018), and a recipient of the
>> Queens Arts Intervention Grant (2019). She’s also half of a performance
>> duo, Os&En, and has performed in Miami, Providence, and on and off the
>> streets of NYC. Yidan received her BA and BFA from the Brown-RISD Dual
>> Degree Program in Computer Science and Glass.
>> --
>> Lola Martinez | they/them
>> Eyebeam/REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow
>> Visit Refiguring the Future: Exhibition Feb 8 - Mar 31
>> 199 Cook Street
>> Suite 104
>> Brooklyn, NY, 11206
>> M. +1 305 586 4728
>> www.eyebeam.org
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> Yidan Zeng | she/her
> Production and Administrative Assistant
> for *Refiguring the Future*
> *Visit the Refiguring the Future exhibition Feb 8 - Mar 31
> <http://eyebeam.org/rtf>*
> 199 Cook Street
> <https://www.google.com/maps?q=199+Cook+Street,+Suite+104,+Brooklyn,+NY,+11206>
> Suite 104
> <https://www.google.com/maps?q=199+Cook+Street,+Suite+104,+Brooklyn,+NY,+11206>
> Brooklyn, NY, 11206
> <https://www.google.com/maps?q=199+Cook+Street,+Suite+104,+Brooklyn,+NY,+11206>
> T. +1 347 378 9163
> www.eyebeam.org
> <http://www.eyebeam.org/>      <https://twitter.com/eyebeamnyc>
> <https://www.instagram.com/eyebeamnyc/>
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Anneli Goeller (they/them)
MFA Candidate in Film, Video, New Media, Animation
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
agoeller at saic.edu
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