the Dark Archive videos- being released between Feb and May 2016- click here for a very loooong interview between me and Annet Dekker about the project…

ME- text by Joanna Walsh, read by Tom Woolner and Erica Scourti

END- text by Linette Voller, read by Kati Karki




when everything’s clean we can start again

 first posted on Auto Italia’s blog as a postscript to On Coping: A Reading for Liverpool (The Royal Standard, Liverpool, summer 2015)

An experiment in efficiency and time-keeping: 2 hours to write up some ideas & quotes relating to the device-cleaning workshop run as part of On Coping. Screenshots I took while writing are presented along with screenshots people sent me during the workshop, responding to the words on their cleaning cloths and more generally to our discussion around maintenance (digital, sanity and otherwise), storage, over-load and other fatigues.

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I’m sittin in bed I write this, on my phone. Somehow it felt like this immediacy would make me write more concisely. I need parameters- apparently the task stretches to fill the time, or time stretches to waste all day on a task that could’ve taken an hour. Very familiar.

I’m writing on Evernote, which, I discovered the other day while trying to delete old apps off a new phone, is classified as a Productivity app. Most things are- why use an app unless it saves you some time? When you’ve saved all seeking materials that last forever time then you can start living. I used to have a motto- an adaptation of youth is wasted on the young (is that it?)- that goes ‘Life is wasted on the living’.

Spending so much time managing life that there’s no time left to live it.

What’s any of this got to do with the phone and laptop cleaning workshop😑 😑 well- I just spent the morning doing a ‘brain dump’ which is another sort of efficiency/ prosciutto tool.

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I meant productivity not prosciutto obvs.

So here are some notes.

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Evernote has bizarrely added its own little post-it logo unless it wasn’t obvious what they were. This is definitely a sign that it’s a productivity app- post-its are a shorthand for brainstorming blue sky thinking/ out of the boxing/ dreaming up a new start up for (most likely) a new app

Okay. Going back. Here’s a quote:

“maintenance of digital infrastructures are forms of labour very rarely discussed”
“infrastructure is also the invisible and time-consuming labour that underpins our electronic world” Judy Wajcman, Keynote at Transmediale 2015

I’d been doing this phone cleaning project for a while already when I came across this quote/ sitting and cleaning other people’s phones and then keeping the dirty screen wipes.

Dirt as a kind of medium, an encrypted trace- it tells you ‘something happened here’ but it doesn’t say what. It preserves privacy. It’s also a very micro/ personal scale of materiality of technology- even what Ingrid Burrington refers to as these ‘black amulets’ collect and carry traces of their use, a literal embodiment of the time spent swiping tapping zooming scrolling. Truly intimate data. Wiping off someone else’s intimate data proved to be pretty awkward. A sense of anxiety thT somehow it gave me access to something hidden, something hidden behind the lock screen.

There’d been so much talk of how the internet isn’t immaterial-

“The Internet doesn’t exist, but its effects are real”

– how the greedy server farms guzzling energy linked our everyday devices to much wider geopolitical networks of value, profiteerring, war. And here’s me worrying about the commodification of human consciousness. But I do worry.

At the time I’d also been thinking of what sort of relationship artists have with their audiences, collaborators and friends and family and how these come into their work. I was thinking that I probably care too much about what they think- I have this fantasy that some artists really Don’t. Give. A. Fuck but they’re probably pricks so never mind- and that maybe I shouldn’t acknowledge this thru gestures of attention-giving

My new phone still has my old shortcuts on it (another effieicny tool!) so as I wrote the above, this appeared:

“Giving attention is giving love, is giving away something u haven’t got” (any time for)

I agree with that, mostly. I think it’s a fudged version of Lacan On Love. But love and care and attention are often forms of gendered labour that- like maintenance in general- is less ‘important’ than the grand gestures. The grand gesture of buying flowers so all your friends see, and say aww isn’t he great? but neglecting you in the day to day living of a relationship- not doing the dishes, or asking what’s wrong when you’re pulling that face. The grand gesture of launching an amazing new app/ start-up/ platform/ feature etc, whose functioning relies on successfully culling beheadings, porn and other NSFW content from its feed- millions of microtasks perforned daily and to no applause by mostly underpaid women from parts of the works like Bangladesh where We don’t have to worry about their deteriorating mental health.

Someone’s got to do it though/ and no, there’s no app for it, not yet. Hito Steyerl talks of the process of deciphering buttholes from bunches of pixels

‘What are the social and political algorithms that clear noise from information? The emphasis, again, is on politics, not algorithm.’

[ Proxy Politics: Signal and Noise]

Just went for a loo break. The idea is I’m going to write for two hours. I’ve heard- and it seems true- that if you just focus on ONE TASK- you’re much more likely to finish it. And that by tricking yourself into writing (or doing anything else you have a love-hate relationship with) for a very short period of time, you might end up with a book. Multitasking as a curiosily ineffective way of saving time. From the Manifesto of Rivolta Feminile, a group of Italian feminists active in the 70s-

We detest the mechanisms of competitiveness and the blackmail exercised in the world by the hegemony of efficiency.

Attributing high value to “unproductive” moments is an extension of life proposed by woman.

Rivolta Femminile Manifesto (1970)

What is an unproductive moment? Sometimes we lie together and I try and feel ‘oh, THIS IS SKIN’ or as in the zen saying, ‘every moment is the best moment’.
Moments aren’t in competition with each other.
The other day he said I was competing with the duvet, coz I suggested he was hugging it, instead of me. Competing with an inanimate object, a new low!

But really. Things have so busy in the past six months (or is it a year?) I can’t even imagine. I’ve become my own worst nightmare- colour coded to-do lists, post its all over my wall, a million schemes. And a fear that I’ll never have time to do ANY of it, like a full blown fomo grass-is/greener syndrome, looking for value everywhere and being unable to find any, anywhere. I will look back at this and say ‘that was burnout’- as if it only happens once.

Burnout, treading water. Cleaning and re cleaning- the work is never done. However clean it is, soon it will be mucky, soon the storage will be filled up and I’ll be deleting photos and videos quickly to try and take another. Even the photos are in competition with other, even tho there is endless space for our ‘moments’ now, as endless as the energy used to prop up the cloud(s) is endless.

>> After the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage?

Mierle Ladermen Ukeles- Maintenance Art

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So in this workshop. We sat in a circle, on the floor. A kind of group therapy situation (I assume- I’ve never been to one) with optional, though entourages sharing. Embroidered screening cloths were passed around, which were used to clean dirty devices with, in between digital cleaning: deleting, moving, sitting, unfollowing, logging off. Like an AA meeting, an opportunity to confess and rectify some digital sins, mute some people, ask why you can’t delete those photos of your daughter even tho they’re backed up in 5 places. A dream of disconnection, which only has value in relation to the norm of connection and mostly seems to be undertaken with a book deal or article in mind.

It’s been an hour now. I’m feeling very tired. Maybe I won’t do the whole hour after all. I’m still on Airplane mode, still on Self Control. My addictions always get he better of me, I can’t help it, I’m a Greed personality which means I always want MORE even if it’s of a Bad Thing. Like scrolling Facebook with insomnia or lingering over other people’s Moments.

Recently I’ve been thinking about hiding. And secrecy. 

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Evernote Snapshot 20150813 183703.jpg-4 Hiding from what?

From admitting I’ve been miserable, or from the fact I might just be lost. Of course like cleaning and maintaining, staying On The Path (whichever one it is) is a daily task, a constant challenge. Sometimes I look in awe at friends who seem so…buoyant and wonder how they manage without hours of meditation/ medication/ therapy etc etc. but then I’m sure that exactly how I come across: buoyant and together.

I’m going off topic now, really tired. Everytine I do. Body scan I relate thee is a layer of concrete solid exhaustion.

‘Exhaustion as a status symbol’‘ says vulnerability guru Brene Brown.

hashtag Smugbrag– for the artist who has t all and wants to make sure everyone knows about it, but also knows it gives of the wrong yuppie/ Protestant work ethic odours if shouted too loudly. One eye on the clock, or around the room for other, more unity people. Signifiers of slumming it gloss over a hard business nose. I do it too. Pragmatism- artist got to eat, artist got to produce/ project social capital, those two things don’t always sit together. Sweet compromise! The real skill lies in projecting or generating  enough social capital that those compromises, that pragmatism, gets overlooked.

Outsiders become insiders but can claim the privilege of both if they cultivate and maintain their outsiderness. But it’s a tricky balancing act. Now I’m wondering why he out Jenny From the Block on my playlist (I have theory- his playlists are evidence of love, each one carefully considers so that I read meanings into them, deciphering How He Sees Me from the choice of title- for sown reason the document with the quotes won’t load but I was thinking of Apophenia- the tendency to see patterns j chaos, human faces in clouds, winning streaks at the casino, undying love in a string of text messages, paranormal activity in random unrelated phenomena. Things make sense coz we need them to/ We don’t see things as they are but as we are, said Anais Nin.

I’m almost at an hour Nd half. My mind is wilting. I had wanted to say something about hiding, occlusion and making visible. I got so annoyed of this rhetoric of illumination- the idea that we can stand outside things, shining lights into dark corners and as if by magic, MAKE VISIBLE. it’s a thing in what could be called Infrastructural Critique- a logic of showing how the Internet or technology or sue elephants or whatever works, that suggests a critical distance, a standing beyond the issues and processes being made visible.

That implies a gif eye view, an untainted separation of viewer and viewed. BUT Everything gets dirty in the end. And every act of making visible is also a making of new knowledge- it’s not that there is an objective reality just waiting, wanting to be uncovered. Meaning, like reality, is performative- and contingent. Two people couldn’t, wouldn’t make the same thing visible in the same way. Subjectivity creeps in, but is often disavowed.

I’m running out of brain. This quote was very important to me- Wajcman, quoted at the start also points out how ‘Busyness is a cultural (not technological) construct’. Technology is social before its technical, to misquote deleuze.

“Chrononormativity is a mode of implantation, atechnique by which institutional forces come to seem like somatic facts. Schedules, calendars, time zones, and even wristwatches inculcate what the sociologist Evitar Zerubavel calls “hidden rhythms”, forms of temporal experience that seem natural to those whom they privilege. Manipulations of time convert historically specific regimes of asymmetrical power into seemingly ordinary tempos and routines, which in turn organize the value and meaning of time.

Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds

Near the end now, adding quotes in a panic coz I don’t want anything to be left out. Like this is my chance which is probably true- I won’t get any more time than this. Institutional forces- of being always on, always moving, available, flexible, come to seem like somatic facts. My lateral hip pain, an outward expression of the implanted belief that I must always be busy that there is- or should not be- no off button. My batts are running low and the threads between things running low. I think I know what I mean. High performance turns on itself so that darkness becomes a cover, a safety blanket. A knowledge in darkness, that’s where I’m going. I have run out now. The ‘brilliant darkness of the unknowable silence’. Or just to the shop, my turn to cook

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Look how daft I look posing as ‘sleepy but WORKING gaddamn it’ in bed

By chance YouTube played me who moved my cheese and it said the most important thing is to LAUGH AT YIURSELF

so I’ll go do that now


Staying with the Trouble: Resident Artists’ Show and Open Forum

Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen

Resident Artists’ Show and Open Forum
Friday 26th- Sunday 28th June
The White Building, London

The open studios event for the last cycle of The White Building’s #stacktivism residency programme will feature work by artists-in-residence Kei Kreutler, Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, Erica Scourti and Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen around geopolitical landscapes of data, experience encryption processes, browsing decoys, satellite constellations and estranged astrologies. Working on- and off-site over this spring, their practices deal with differing conceptions of infrastructures, contemporary networks, geologies, and narratives of scale and subjectivities.


Friday 6:30- 9pm

CLEAN THOUGHTS (video performance)
Erica Scourti
“When everything is clean, we can start again”

Kei Kreutler
The night will close seated in a circle. Having emerged from distributed conversations under the alias INFRA_LIFE, the workshop traditionally centres around the questions: What do you envision for the world in the next five years on political, personal and network scales? How can we re-configure or hack existing infrastructure and institutions to meet our shared goals, and what will we have to develop ourselves from the ground up? Staying with the past is also possible.

Saturday 12-6pm
All day open studio

Sunday 12-6pm

Exhibition Tour- led by the artists

2-4pm Open Forum

Prompted by Donna Haraway’s injunction for staying with the trouble, an open forum[n] conversation will focus on critical discussion around questions of art and/ versus activism, the complicity at the intersection of art and technology, and how contemporary global and self-scales[o] are produced.

A mix of friends, interested parties, academics, and other artists have been invited to respond to these questions in an open discussion format chaired by Erica Scourti. More details will be announced later in the week.

WHERE: The White Building, Unit 7, Queen’s Yard, White Post Lane, London E9 5EN MAP
WHEN:  Friday 26th- Sunday 28th June

INFRA_SPECTION Screening and Discussion

CS1349985-02A-BIG7pm, Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Come by the White Building for a screening and discussion featuring magic, black boxes, and red stacks, with videos from the Haunted Machines mini-conference at FutureEverything 2015 and transmediale: CAPTURE ALL 2015.

This event will be the first in a series of informal screenings, readings, and discussions held at the White Building’s studio space with current artists-in-residence Erica Scourti, Matthew Plummer-Fernandez, and Kei Kreutler.

Ping us on Twitter (@Erica_Scourti@M_PF@keikreutler ) for more details, and expect there to be (some) beer.

WHERE: The White Building, Unit 7, Queen’s Yard, White Post Lane, London E9 5EN
(next to Crate, Hackney Wick)  MAP
WHEN: Tuesday 14 April 2015, 7pm

dreaming of electric tweets

Wrote this piece on affect recognition and other stuff almost a year ago and never got round to posting, later added some bits and then forgot about it. Decided to post without rejigs- it just about makes sense (except I’m no longer sleeping with screens as I have the boy to do that with)

download (1)Despite being a person who goes to bed surrounded by phone, iPad and laptop, sleep is usually one of the few places I’m not perennially plugged in, so last night’s dream of checking Twitter interactions seemed to signal a new level of saturation: an always-on zombie, dreaming of electric tweets. Not coincidentally, I’d been reading Jonathan Crary’s 24/7, a chilling indictment of life as value-extraction game where sleep holds out as a final frontier of valueless repose, along with daydreams, rest and the “useless time of reflection and contemplation”, all of which act as problematic barriers to the monetisation of all experience. For one, no technology is as yet capable of intruding into our dreams to program appearances of Twitter, or any other product, service or brand; also, unlike online behaviours, dreams can’t be recorded for clues about what sneaker or holiday destination your subconscious is hankering after. Which is just as well, since, as the facilitator of a Cryptolcass at Mozilla’s London HQ pointed out, a possible future where recorded dreams can put you in jail is reason enough to start taking privacy seriously, before it’s too late.



As well as potentially landing people in jail, technology that could directly access our minds, and dreams, would be manna for marketers, giving an even more accurate portrayal of what it is we ‘really want’, and then targeting ads to meet- and shape- these desires. The notion that ever more responsive, telematic, intimate devices and software will end up not just being able to read the contents of our mind, but to actively shape it, has also been a long-standing concern of dystopian strands of science-fiction, in books that herald the complete commodification of the soul and the pliant zombie citizens it produces. In Transmetropolitan, a dark comic series by Warren Ellis, advertising has penetrated into the dreamscape, with sponsored messages bombarding the protagonist Spider Jerusalem in his sleep. Similarly, MT Anderson’s Feed extrapolates current trends of targeted online marketing to telepathic levels, where ads pop up in users minds in response to life events- a break up, a job loss- with what algorithms have deduced would be their most likely behavioral response- ice-cream binge, shopping splurge or revenge fantasy. Most of Philip K Dick’s output could also be read as a (fairly accurate, it turns out) prediction of life once people’s affective responses can be parsed into useful data.
i2w2b While these scenarios are still mostly fictional dystopias, Google’s purchase of various AI and robotics companies, like DeepMind and Boston Dynamics, suggest that ‘divination of private consciousness’, and it’s hidden desires, is big business. Perhaps with masses of Very Big Data plus algorithms fuelled by some artificially intelligent juice, search engines will finally be able read between the lines of your URL history, emails and social media interactions and deduce what you want to search for- and buy- before you even know. Of course this still signals a belief in the separation between us (desiring humans) and them (deducing algobots/ machines/ etc), when it’s probably more a process of entanglement where it becomes impossible to tell ‘who makes and who is made in the relation between man and machine’, as Donna Harraway put it.


But anyway, the parsing of affective responses and the insights they provide into our supposedly unfettered desires, is becoming big business. For example, new affect recognition imaging technologies promise to track what consumers ‘really’ feel/ want, according to the changing weather of facial expressions; and Dataclysm, a book by OK Cupid’s CEO book, draws conclusions from data gathered about users’ dating proclivities, thereby telling who they are when, as the subtitle puts it ‘they think no one’s watching’.

In both cases there seems to be an underlying belief that their data, or rather, the reading of it, unwittingly reveals elusive truths that not even the users themselves are truly aware of. Both rely on the algorithmic parsing of this data into ‘fact’- the muscular micro-movements into emotional states, or the eyeballing and clicking on dating profiles into facts about what men want (youth, apparently…). Needless to say, the conclusions (‘facts’) are codified by existing conventions- around what happiness, sadness etc look like, about how different genders interact (usually with the assumption that there are only ever TWO genders)- and therefore you could say, the process of reading and interpreting data has as much agency in the shaping of meaning as the data itself. That’s a long-winded, verbose way of saying that data, whatever that even means, does not just ‘mean stuff’ objectively and apart form the society and culture that’s measuring it.


Still, the idea of algos reading private consciousness suggests that they become both technologies for accessing inner experience, as well frustrating barriers to its efficient conveyance: an interface which enables communication but always prevents direct, unmediated, one-to-one experience, where what I feel, you feel. Boulter and Grussin call the desire to efface the medium so as to allow the represented content (of the video, computer game or innermost desires) to appear more realistically to the viewer the logic of immediacy, a longstanding tradition within Western art. This erasure of the medium or support gives the viewer the illusion of power by obfuscating the reality of the technical interface and its over-arching control of the viewing (or playing, or whatever) situation. The development of ever-smaller and more portable, wearable tech could also be seen as a desire to remove the pesky interfaces and merge more seamlessly and enjoyably with information flows.

More broadly, the notion of invisible or transparent infrastructure upholds an impossible dream of immaterial connection, and a state of denial towards the social and geopolitical realities that facilitate our tech. Recent debates around Stacktivism, for example, have emphasized the materiality of technology and the physical consequences of e-waste, energy-guzzling servers and the mineral harvesting involved in hardware construction. Stacktivism, has been described as ‘a conversation about those hidden technological and social infrastructures and the conventional metaphors that mask them: the cloud, the smooth and playful industrial design, the invisible interface.’

Getting off that fluffy cloud and scratching the surface of these smooth machines by becoming aware of the very material conditions that support them becomes an act of resistance against the ambient control of interface-less technology that aims to unite us with the contents of the network. If our data has become perhaps an interface through which our ‘inner world’ is mediated and known, then scrutinizing this process could also be about making visible the very real, material ways it’s collected, used and monetized through our always-on, and always-on-us- technology.