by Megan (Pitcher) Young
As art imitates life (imitates art) and so on, my work is in that feedback loop running parallel with all human/machine interactions. Writing on the touch responsive system of my iPad is is just one example. It’s a far cry from my old desktop and certainly from my childhood Commodore 64, when punching orders in DOS seemed like magic. So what happens now? The software anticipates my actions. It teaches me, even. Every interaction strengthens the learning system and reveals more of the embedded coding. (Like autocorrect.) The programming action is still there, but it happens without me. Those decisions are made without me? How does it know what I want?
My art practice pounces on both the obvious and covert programming of our social systems. I hack those systems, question their purpose, and magnify their result.
From a generalized standpoint, we already engage in responsive relationships with clear and obvious reactions: If I smile at you, you blush. So, let’s try that. Every time, without deviating, I will smile and you will blush. Again: smile, blush. Then too many times later it is just too boring to stay in that limiting relationship. Sooner or later we try an adaptive deviation. We are more than our computational inventions, after all. We can think for ourselves, right? So, I smile and you move to sit near me. We have adapted the original binary.
Much as I hate to be reminded, so many actions are actually pre-set reactions. Each of us bear some too great resemblance to the acculturation processes of our surroundings. I offer myself as example: When you yell at me, I shrink. This is my response and, sure, yours may be very different. Nonetheless, nine times out of ten being yelled at I will tense every muscle and get ready to run, because I have been programmed to fear.
Now please understand how computers and logic based systems are viewed from a deeply personal, feminist perspective. Nine times out of ten being hit I will cry. Nine times out of ten being made to feel less I will accept. Nine times out of ten being forcibly penetrated I will wonder what I did wrong, because since childhood I have been conditioned to accept blame.
If not called on than unimportant idea.
If short skirt than boys distracted.
If vagina than less.
It’s a tired paradigm.
I like when it breaks.
I return to interactive programming. This time late night breastfeeding mixes with style sheets and art installations. This is my new media. Responsive systems mature to expect and allow for adaptation. Thresholding techniques transfer a user out of one responsive environment into another condition. A viewer can trigger the Max MSP bang fifty times in response to their continued presence in a space. In so doing, they enter a new reality. But, no matter what, the rules and outcomes are already pre-determined. It is beyond your control, that is, until we position user as programmer – object as artist.