[-empyre-] Final Week of May? What is Dystopia, Really?

alejandro t. acierto aacierto at gmail.com
Mon Jun 1 14:05:32 AEST 2020

Thanks for these follow up posts, y'all.

First, to address Byron's questions, the idea of chrononormativity is
actually outlined initially in Elizabeth Freeman's book Time Binds: Queer
Temporalities, Queer Histories <https://www.dukeupress.edu/time-binds>, a
term that refers to "the use of time to organize individual human bodies
toward maximum productivity." In her book, she traces ways that
institutional, systematic, and societal forces embed "hidden rhythms" as
"forms of temporal experience that seem natural to those whom they
privilege" that give way to the assemblage of *chronobiopolitics.* As a
process that "extends beyond individual anatomies to encompass the
management of entire populations," chronobiopolitics illuminates the ways
normative institutions tie bodies to narratives of movement and change. For
example, we might consider the institution of marriage as a prerequisite
for childrearing, given the normalized heterosexual standards for these
events within our lifetime. As each of these moments historically happen in
sequence (we are socially and economically punished if we have children
before marriage), we begin to see Freeman's argument take shape as it
affects nonnormative bodies, or particularly queer bodies who - at the time
of her writing - were still not able to legally marry in the US, let alone
navigate alternatives to raising children in the event that partners (or
single people) could not produce their own offspring. This is of course one
of many circumstances that Freeman outlines initially in her introduction
allow for the idea of chronobiopolitics to take hold. (It's also important
to note that she recognizes these timelines as particularly concerning to
the state's economic interests, whereby non-childrearing people are
considered unable to fully contribute to the state's economic productivity.
As she states, "in the eyes of the state, this sequence of
socioeconomically "productive" moments is what it means to have a life at

Building on this argument outlined in Freeman's writing, coupled with the
brilliant and generous work of Sara Ahmed from her book *Queer
Phenomenology <https://www.dukeupress.edu/queer-phenomenology>*, Mark
Rifkin adds to the assemblage of chronobiopolitics with a specifically
Indigenous perspective. For Rifkin, not only is it important to understand
the constructs of normative time as affiliated with a "straightness of
time" (or the idea that western time's linear tendency forward is a
*straight* progression towards endless capitalist notions of productivity),
but he makes space for Indigenous being-in-time that does not always
affiliate with linear concepts outlined in western temporal thought. It is
important to understand that not all ideas of temporality function in a
linear fashion, particularly as many Indigenous people consider other forms
of temporal spatiality, such as circular time, concurrent time, or other
conceptualizations of time altogether. For him,  Indigeneity and
Native-ness continue to be tied to settler colonial notions of history,
particularly as several local and national institutions/museums/cultural
sites present Indigenity as inherently past, or existing at a certain place
in time. While it is naive to think that Indigenous culture no longer
exists (let alone adapts to and is entangled with contemporary life), he
raises the point that chrononormativity is an inherently settler colonial
construct that shapes western notions of temporality.

Drawing on Ahmed's writing
that figures marginality as part of the "background", where "some things
are relegated to the background in order* to sustain* a certain direction",
Rifkin makes the point that "the background indicates what is held constant
in order to perceive movement, including the passage of time." As he
outlines in his introduction, Indigenous people have continually been
relegated to the background as the settler colonial state has consistently
absorbed, forgotten, and destroyed Indigenous claims to sovereignty and
land. He continues, "If the coherence of the settler state and its
presumptive absorption of Native peoples serve as the implicit structuring
frame through which to approach and understand temporality on lands claimed
by the United States, both the sharedness and the direction of unfolding
events will be experienced as consonant with that geopolitical imaginary."
In other words, as western temporal thought continues to push forward,
there can be no space or way that other considerations of temporality could

For me and my curatorial interests, these texts offer a recognition of the
ways power is expressed through biopolitical entanglements that Bergson's
philosophy does not. Highlighting the ways difference and non-normativity
shapes these temporal considerations, I was drawn to feature work that
could speak to other kinds of time that were not tied to settler colonial
frameworks. As such, much of this show featured work by queer, trans, and
nonbinary folx as well as people who were occasionally, simultaneously

To connect to other portions of this thread that expand on curation as a
pedagogical tool, this project was also a way for me to share works with my
students that were inherently intersectional and multimodal. While my
students conducted studio visits with each of the artists to
prepare exhibition texts about the works in the show, they were immediately
placed in a situation where they had the opportunity to talk to artists
about process, ideation, and creation. Through these conversations and
close engagement with the work that would be on display, they were then
made to consider how the larger frames of the curatorial direction helped
inform the work in the show. Not only did we work through the Rifkin text
that largely shaped my curatorial vision, we built on past readings and
other ideas that students felt could contribute to the conversation.

In addition to making a web-based work as part of the class, students also
gained a more in depth understanding of the nuances and minutia of
organizing a digital exhibition, what it meant to make something on a
time-cruch, and how to deal with all of the logisitics of a medium-sized
exhibition of largely international artists produced for IRL and URL
experience. In addition to preparing the texts and files for exhibition, as
well as preparing their own web-based works that would be included in a
parallel exhibition, I gave students access to the overall budget numbers,
timelines, and cc'd them on all correspondence to the artists so they could
gain an appreciation for the work that goes into producing an exhibition.
Because the exhibition was funded in part by a fellowship grant I received,
I was grateful to be able to pay all of the artists a nominal fee and cover
shipping costs for the transport of works to be shown IRL. All these
budgets, timelines, and general descriptions were outlined in a shareable
doc that students were able to access - including all of the deductions
international artists had to take from their fees due to tax regulations or
delays in shipping and days of correspondence and follow up. Because this
document was shared with the class, students could pick up on work that had
been left hanging, such as wrangling artists to get the work in, sharing
ideas of placement for the IRL exhibition, or dealing with file conversions
that our media players were suited for. All of this was scheduled, tracked,
and maintained, and developed by my incredible students that gave them
ownership of an international exhibition of works by 17 artists.

in peace, alejandro

alejandro t. acierto
Mellon Assistant Professor of Digital Art and New Media
Vanderbilt University


On Thu, May 28, 2020 at 10:36 AM Byron Rich <brich at allegheny.edu> wrote:

> Thanks for the thoughtful responses, everyone. I’m really interested in
> some of these curatorial projects. Can we dig into *Handmade by Robots*
> and *Unsettling Time* a bit more?
> In the statement for *Unsettling Time, *you state that the exhibition“*…*foregrounds
> Indigenous, queer, and postcolonial ideas around time. With work that draws
> on the archives of networked society, these pieces offer new theoretical
> formations, assemblages, and conceptualizations of time and temporality. In
> an effort to decolonize time, this project sets out to destabilize the
> chrononormative straightness of time, to allow it to exist outside of the
> singular constructs of linearity and progress. As such, these works revise
> how we might think of other times, of the durations and extensions that
> push time into space, and of the multiple compressions of accumulated times
> that enable us the capacity to offer singular objects and memories.”
> I literally CTRL+V that, so please forgive the highlighting. Anyway, I’m
> really hoping you can help unpack some of this and dive into the
> "chrononormative”. I’ve never heard this term, and am really interested in
> the ways in which western concepts of time are and can be marginalizing.
> Can you elaborate on the marginalizing effects more specifically? I guess I
> have not given nearly enough thought beyond Bergsonian concepts of
> simultaneity to time, and time as a scientific instrument. I think it would
> be fantastic to have some insights into chrononormativity.
> Regarding *Handmade by Robots*, I’d really appreciate some thoughts on
> the use of curation as a pedagogical tool. I’ve struggled to meaningfully
> integrate any kind of cohesive curatorial practice into my teaching, and am
> finding that it is only going to be more necessary given the effects of
> COVID on higher-ed. It seems as though we will be required as art
> educators, to work with non-traditional technologies of display more
> meaningfully as we mediate both the classroom and the gallery via the
> screen.
> --
> *Byron Rich*
> Assistant Professor of Art
> Director of Art, Science & Innovation
> Global Citizen Scholar Faculty Director
> Affiliated Faculty - Integrative Informatics
> *Allegheny College*
> Doane Hall of Art, A204
> Meadville, PA
> (o) 814.332.3381
> www.byronrich.com
> Allegheny Lab for Innovation & Creativity
> www.sites.allegheny.edu/alic/
> Co-chair of Exhibitions & Events - New Media Caucus
> www.newmediacaucus.org
> Reference letters require three weeks of lead time.
> *From: *alejandro t. acierto <aacierto at gmail.com>
> *Sent: *Wednesday, May 27, 2020 7:57 PM
> *To: *Ali Seradge <aseradge at gmail.com>
> *Cc: *Byron Rich <brich at allegheny.edu>; empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au> <empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au>
> *Subject: *Re: [-empyre-] Final Week of May? What is Dystopia, Really?
> Hey hey y'all,
> Thanks for including me in these conversations Byron and for the lovely
> introduction. I'm excited to take part in these discussions and will also
> share a little bit more about some work that I've been engaged in that seem
> relevant to this thread.
> In addition to collaborating with KT on *CQDE: a feminist manifestx of
> code-ing*, I've been making work that considers how we make space for
> others made vulnerable while highlighting the structures of power that
> shape corporeal and spatial restrictions. While recent projects have been
> focused on how these structures exist online, past projects have been
> invested in the construction of archives at large and had not yet
> considered the internet as archive or even as material. That aside, my most
> recent installation *How to take up space when you’ve only been given the
> margin
> <http://alejandroacierto.com/how-to-take-up-space-when-youve-only-been-given-the-margin> *is
> a work that questions the viability of hashtag activism in an era of
> networked culture that centers trans Latinx activist and icon Sylvia Rivera
> in her 1973 speech "Y'all better quiet down now!". Consisting of a software
> work displaying a video fragment on a small 3.5in monitor in close
> proximity to a neon sculpture, it's a project that relies on the Twitter to
> advance frames within the video.
> In another project I completed last year*, *I sourced YouTube videos made
> by cigar aficionados, hobbyists, and amateur experts that offered their
> viewership tutorials on how to compare real and "fake" Cuban cigars in
> preparation for a work as part of Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons's curatorial
> project *Ríos intermitentes. *In an attempt to foreground the conditions
> and prevalence of counterfeit and grey economies, I shared the work* Puro
> <https://vimeo.com/331812470> *that begins with an explanation of
> identifying the ultimate, most authentic Cuban cigar.
> As a curator, I worked on a project with my students called *Unsettling
> Time <http://alejandroacierto.com/unsettling-time> *which looked at ideas
> outlined in Mark Rifkin's book Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty
> and Indigenous Self-Determination
> <https://www.dukeupress.edu/beyond-settler-time>to consider queer and
> Indigenous perspectives given the Internet's destabilization of time
> altogether. With work drawn on various archives made possible by image
> networks, the projects shown provided new theoretical formations,
> assemblages, and conceptualizations of time and temporality and thus
> *made* *space for* bodies, perspectives, and ideas historically made
> vulnerable.
> In any event, I look forward to how these discussions unfold and am
> excited about having the space and time to do so.
> more soon!
> in peace, alejandro
> alejandro t. acierto
> he/him/his
> Mellon Assistant Professor of Digital Art and New Media
> Vanderbilt University
> www.alejandroacierto.com
> On Wed, May 27, 2020 at 7:48 AM Ali Seradge <aseradge at gmail.com> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> thank you for the intro Byron and having us join the thread!
> As KT mentioned, they and I run Langer Over Dickie
> <http://langeroverdickie.com>.  We started this artist run space in our
> home about a year ago. We made the choice to keep all the original trim and
> domestic finishes to remind visitors that they are in a home. Our thoughts
> were that we could present something other than a constructed white space,
> literally and figuratively. We also strived to have demographic parity
> between our yearly roster of artists and the population of Chicago.
> We are in the process of switching our scheduled shows into a digital
> format while maintaining our course to present challenging work in an
> accessible way.
> All these choices were made with the intent of making the gallery, the
> art, artists, and community more accessible to a population that often
> feels intimated and excluded by the “Art” world.
> As for my personal work, I am a painter. <http://aliseradge.com>  About
> 85% of the time, my activity involves colorful mud and fuzzy sticks. The
> other 15% involves digital making. Two conundrums that occupy my mind in
> regards to digital making are “How is context created when viewing art
> digitally?” and “Does that same context change if the art is originally
> made for a digital space or not?”
> To sponsor such questions, I recently curated a show titled “Handmade by
> Robots” <https://www.thevisualist.org/2019/11/handmade-by-robots/> at
> Northeastern Illinois University. The call was for artists who used digital
> technology in their art making process. The result was a show of compelling
> work made with a wide variety of processes from sowing machine punch cards
> to VR user based performances.
> I look forward to upcoming discussions :-)
> cheers,
> Ali
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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