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I’ve been thinking about the performances of 18 Black Girls/Boys Ages 1-18 Who Have Arrived at the Singularity and are Thus Spiritual Machines by Terence Nance, especially the versions where accompanied by Nelson Bandela.
Here is a description of the performance piece from Nance:
18 Black Girls / Boys is a performance during which I google the phrase “1 year old Black girl” or “1 year old Black boy” ascending in age to the age of 18. I allow Google’s “popular searches” algorithm to predict what comes after the phrase and peruse the results based on what Google thinks I want to search for in a Black girl or a Black boy. The algorithm generates results based on the most popular searches so it can be theorized that the Black girls and boys that the algorithm predicts are the Black girls and boys we are searching for.
This performance will take place at random intervals until there are 97 quadrillion editions. Over the course of several performances the results will change and transform as the Black girls and Black boys we all search for and the circumstances they live in do the same.
When Nance and Bandela perform the piece together, Bandala runs the audio from the videos Nance pulls up through Ableton, a digital audio workstation. Bandela then chops the audio up into samples, puts effects on them, plays with the pitch, loops them and triggers them, and plays with those sound snippets. He works with a midi keyboard too, doing some light synth work. Essentially, he creates a kind of sonic collage that comes from but doesn’t always sync with what Nance is performing visually.
In the Pearlstein Gallery performance, Bandela captures the audio from a white interviewer quizzing a rather bewildered Black child on the capitals of countries around the world. Bandela plays with word phrase “TV show” and “France” spoken by the reporter, pitching them down to a lower tone and triggering them over a simple beat. In not too much time, Nanda moves onto the next piece of media while the sound continues to unfold. Riffing off of the “TV show” sound snippet, Nanda arrives at America’s Got Talent episode where star Heavenly Joy Jerkins wows the judges. The episode also happens to be the source of this GIF.
One of the judges tells Heavenly Joy, “I think Shirley Temple is living somewhere inside of you,” and Bandela links up “somewhere inside” into an ominous loop over a simple beat and synth. Like in this short portion, there’s an in and out of sync relationship among the audio and visuals of the performance. That’s probably part of the point; I like it. It reminds me a bit of King Britt’s performance To Subserve and Unprotect for the way it defamiliarizes found aural media into an evolving soundscape.
It’s the 10 year anniversary of Jillian Mayer’s viral art video I Am Your Grandma. The video is costume, contortion, a bit of horror, and an ear worm of a song that exists in the meme stratosphere on all platforms that have come, gone, and stayed in the last decade. If you look past its viral status, you might understand it as:
I Am Your Grandma is an autobiographical video diary log that Mayer records for her unborn grandchildren. The work challenges notions of mortality, celebrity, and the universal impetus for creation and legacy. By placing the video in a public forum (Youtube) Mayer conducts a phenomenological study of why people ultimately share their personal feelings with anonymous strangers.
The 10-year anniversary piece is called Grandma is Watching It’s only 21 seconds, and it plays with the same kind of web commentary as the first one did a decade ago.
Also from Mayer: EraseyPage.
On the academic side of things:
On the non-academic side of things:
The modern state — with a capital S — does not refer to individual states, but rather to the entire system they form a part of: the political, social, economic and cultural order we live under, including capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism and racial and gender hierarchies, all working together as a single, complex mechanism. We can think of it as a vast operating system for ordering and controlling functions and relations among human society, economy, populations, and the natural world, analogous to a digital operating system like Windows, Unix or MacOS.
I’m starting an essay about theories of change in activist eduction research. It will be a shorter piece; I think I can finish in before July. This week I did a lot of iterative drawing and sketching in different colors about the piece. I’m finding this is a better way to start a new piece than putting linear words on a screen. Here’s a peak into the notebook:
In this process, I’m usually capturing stray thoughts that will need to go somewhere, writing out anchor ideas and quotations, making lots of arrows about relationships, and redoing all of this page after page to refine things. The colors have a loose meaning too.
Mixes I’m playing
Music by Friends
Horray! There’s a new record label in Detroit called Papaya Records. It’s founded by my friend Eastside Jon, and the first two releases came out this week. Both releases are by local stars, Dez Andres and Hazmat Live. Click on the pics to take a listen. Dancing shoes on.
Descendants of Cain by KA. Dark, earthy, sorrowful writing over melodic loops. Most songs don’t even have percussion in the beat. I’ve been playing this album over and over.
Records I’m spinning & sampling
Dubby cover version of Evelyn “Champagne” King “Love Come Down.”
Last year around this time I sent out issue #25 about Jackson, MS; Our Lady of Ferguson; and more.