Vulnerable Systems: A Screening of Video Works

Co-curated with Jeanne Dreskin and Roksana Filipowska
Biocode: Performing Transgression After New Media
Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
April 10, 2015

Vulnerable Systems features works by Hannah Black, Zach Blas, Deep Lab affiliate Allison Burtch (in collaboration with Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Aurelia Moser, and Adam Harvey), Frances Stark, and Ryan Trecartin, showcasing interventions into tactics of transgression after new media.

Can performances of transgression take place within sites of informatic control? Rather than using new media as a tool for quantification, the selected works pursue connections via disembodied avatars while emphasizing the particularity of embodied agents. Certain of these depict relational encounters that exceed the constraints of their platforms. Others focus on the capacity for communication, kinship, and organizing through digital means. Others still use masking to evade modes of surveillance, often maintaining the expressive and affective dimensions of human actors. In each instance, recoded bodies issue communiqués from unlikely spaces of regulation.

Across these works, digitally rendered bodies are deployed as a ventriloquial trick. They throw their voices. They present transient, ephemeral identities. They court opacity, bypassing mechanisms of data mining and algorithmic parsing. Enabling transgressive forms of sociality, these works imagine how we might, as Wendy Chun suggests, “create vulnerable systems with which we can live.”

The Biocode screening is part of Biocode: Performing Transgression After New Media, a three-day conference held at the University of Pennsylvania, April 9–11, 2015 focusing on tactics of resistance, disturbance, and defiance in response to modes of surveillance and state control after the digital turn. Biocode was co-organized by an interdisciplinary group of graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, Andrés Castro Samayoa,  Jazmín Delgado Flores, Kevin Gotkin (lead organizer),  Don James McLaughlin, Jeanne Dreskin, Roksana Filipowska, and Mashinka Firunts.

Right: still from Frances Stark, My Best Thing, 2011.