2007, St.Petersburg, Russia.
Mio asked a few artists and designers to write exercises and interventions that they do when feeling lonely or lost.
She got some interesting results.
Below is my exercise – Being an octopus – that I enjoy doing when I feel stressed. I recorded it as an audio guide. The German language version is below the fold.
Being an Octopus
Imagine yourself as an octopus inhabiting the landscape of your body. Think about the place in your body where it feels comfortable, where it feels at home, this octopus. My octopus lives in the back of my head, warming my neck. Where could the nest of your octopus be?
Now imagine this octopus floating in the landscape of relationships. There are other octopuses, objects, or situations floating around it. Each of your eight arms is reaching out to different directions. Each one is holding something. Or touching another octopus. Holding a situation. Repelling something. Playing with something.
Think of the situations you are currently dealing with and let the octopus hold them. Picture the octopus arm as it holds, or tries to hold such a situation. Maybe there is nothing to hold? Maybe the grip is particularly tight? Who is holding the situation at the other end? Or is the octopus arm touching another octopus’s arm directly? Maybe the octopus is holding on to something? Or is being held? The octopus has eight arms with which it can grab hold of things. Go through each of them and imagine up to eight situations.
Now, let go of them one by one. Imagine the octopus letting go of a situation. Whatever the octopus lets go of doesn’t fall or disappear, it stays where it was. Let your octopus arm contract, curl up. Go through all the situations you imagined one by one. Release your grip on them, let them stay where they were, roll up your octopus arm and withdraw.
Now all the octopus arms are rolled up. The octopus is floating, unconnected, with its arms comfortably curled up under its body. Sense how that feels. Does it feel airy and bright? Warm and protected? Allow yourself to linger in this state for a while.
Now start to roll out one of your arms again. Touch whatever you like, not necessarily what you’ve held before. Explore it. Caress it. Hold on to it if it feels right. Or go on to find something else.
Repeat this procedure several times with the free arms, but make sure to let one or two arms remain unconnected. They are free to explore yourself and the world.
Feel yourself connected again. Listen to how that feels.
Sense how it feels to know that your octopus arms could let go or grab hold of something again at any time.
ZKM, the german media art museum, published my research on Strategies of Arrival, done under guidance of Bruno Latour.
It’s made up of three parts:
The first one is the most spectacular I guess, but make sure to check out the others too. And, once the museums reopen, check out my piece at the current ZKM exhibition Critical Zones.
But also, [redacted], look at this guy. Look at this photo of a bangladeshi guy holding a small basket of starfruits. Fifty thousand people liked it when he posted it on [a social media website]. This guy, Momtaz his name, titled it “Dragon fruits on my rooftop garden”, and was giving respectful replies to all the comments that followed. Saying he doesn’t sell the starfruits but grows them to give to his friends and family. You know what’s remarkable about it? How normal it is. This whole situation just reeks of normality and authenticity. His whole posture, the way he is holding the basket, his face - damn even the title is incredibly basic. Dragon fruits on my rooftop garden. He doesn’t want to impress anyone. Does not want to achieve any special significance through his work, nor is he ashamed of it. He does not care for popularity or attention. He just grows starfruit on his rooftop garden, to give to his friends and family and is content with that. Can’t we all be a little bit more like Momtaz? Can’t we not detach the expectation of intellectual significance, artistic value or however else we derive our self-worth, from the things we do? If you are not a massage therapist, a cook or live life like the guy doing the primitive technologies youtube channel, then the concepts of work, value, self-expression and self-worth will be disconnected anyhow. Wouldn’t it make sense to follow the wisdom of this old psychodelic soviet animation : “Do a good deed and throw it in the water”. Meaning “do good and don’t expect anything in return”. Like Momtaz does.
I used neural networks to recognize and remove human bodies from videos, simultaneously trying to fill the void they left. Why? Well, as we are externalizing not just our bodily actions to tools, but our decision process to all-knowing, all-loving AIs, the traditional, perceivable image of what constitutes a human body has become obsolete. It seems oddly fitting in that case, for disembodied neural networks to remove our outdated bodily image.
Mira Hirtz performed for the camera. I then used Mask_RCNN to do body recognition and Generative Image Inpainting with Contextual Attention to fill in the emptiness.
This was a test for Bruno Latour’s upcoming exhibition on the Critical Zone. Made in November 2018.