Institutions are just begging to be hacked. They claim to be public, but they employ proprietary tools, implicit social codes, and controlling spatial arrangements steeped with cultural assumptions. They clash with the kitsch culture of everyday life under the domination of Facebook’s news feed and Google’s black-box search bar. There’s a rupture between the institution’s high culture and its assumed public’s low culture. The artist Omsk Social Club Feat. PUNK IS DADA did just that on November 19: She hacked the institution on multiple levels in a way characteristic to her immaterial practice. Her work “Scene Afterform: Bona-fide Sites and the Meta Community” at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, a one-off new media intervention that ran over the opening hours of the museum (10:00-17:00), incorporated site-specific larps (live-action role playing games), sound, and video to connect the exhibition rooms of the museum with its storage site and a hacked backend component of the museums website. The artist spoke about her motivations for creating this work inside the space of the institution, her interest in larp, and the constitution of a “meta-community” that intersects the real and the unreal of our social, cosmic, and unified selves.
Benjamin Busch: Your work questions the way art institutions direct our movement based on assumptions and linguistic cues. What techniques did you use to disrupt those assumptions for viewers of the intervention?
Omsk Social Club Feat. PUNK IS DADA: As cultural viewers we desire a definitive community and language; the museum fills that void. Looking at how we navigate the museum is key to cracking its organizational structures and opening new terrains of looking. I’m interested in how museums (institutions) log information into us? Is that movement actually coming from the viewer’s own interpretation or is it enforced? You know, you walk in, you read the text, the wall text, then you go to one piece of work, you read the tag, then the next piece of work, then the next piece of work. For me, it’s much more interesting to try to work through the viewer’s psychogeography rather than the institutional set geography.
BB: So in a way the viewers at the exhibition are more the site for your intervention than the actual space of the museum?
OSCFPID: Yes. My work includes multiple participants that act as sites and larp nodes. Like traditional larp players the larp nodes in this meta-larp took on characters but kept their psychological real spaces too. The participants were active inside the museum, offsite, and online. Eight unique participants were in the storage unit working directly with me over the span of the museum day, but we were streamed visually into the museum’s exhibition space. Four more people were active larp nodes in relation to the storage unit and the website. There was also a set of three films and two sound essays that filled the installation. The end documentation and anything the museum held was deleted and the work only lived on in those that experienced it, so they become more than just the site they are the work.
BB: You’ve told me that your work might be a bastardization of larp. Still there are strong parallels to that cultural practice. For example, larps resist documentation, because they take place in the mind and body of each participant. From the outside, they might not make sense visually.
OSCFPID: I came to the conclusion not to release visual documentation due to what I did at the intervention. I spent eight hours building an installation inside people, mentally and physically, through a four-tiered constructed space. This cannot be expressed in documentation of the audience or participants inside the space. I had built into the video stream a default audio blocking device and the footage was deleted — I’m trying to build an immaterial practice and this cannot be translated via still-photo imagery of the actual happening. The video essays I used in the museum is the closest projection of the work that can be seen by a secondary audience.
BB: Does working with the psychological real space of participants relate to Jacques Rancière’s idea of the emancipated spectator? That’s someone who can go to a theater piece, for example, and sit in a chair and absorb the experience. But what they’re doing is not passive, because while they’re watching this theater piece, their mind is changing. They’re being influenced by the themes that are taken up. So what we normally consider something that’s passive, with this in mind, even sitting in a chair at a theater can be an active process of perception.
OSCFPID: Yes, only I think that my work is more like a very long night, sweating and dancing on barbiturates and E. I have more of a 90’s-rave, oversaturated aesthetic (laughs) rather than sitting in an absorbed state, and if it is absorbed it may be more like a trance or k-hole. I imagine the viewer you describe to be sitting in a plush velveteen seat in the dark. Almost kind of a comfortable position, and just allowing the mind to cognitively explore what was in front of them. Maybe my work is more like trying to re-enact the experience what the viewer might absorb from an Oculus Rift headset rather than a theater-goer.
BB: Rancière speaks about community and its relation to spectacle, while you’re speaking about “meta-community” as a fluid concept of social space that allows people to move freely between concrete and virtual reality, from IRL to URL. Where does this community begin?
OSCFPID: I believe the individual is where the community begins, because until you actually have a strong hold of yourself, how can you be in a community? Maybe it’s a very kind of anarchistic way of looking at it, that self-design and self-organization should be a priority that then will intrinsically create a community. So I guess in the way in which I look at this idea of meta-community, it is a concept or higher level of abstraction to our current ideas of community.
BB: Taking the technological changes of our time into account, digitization and instant communication, do you see the meta-community as something that can go beyond the filter bubble tribalism of Facebook or this algorithmic populism that emerges from that?
OSCFPID: I guess, but I also… I’m not a luddite. I don’t want to preach decreased usage of Facebook or Instagram or whatever. My hope is by using real and unreal traits of these networks then we’ll also start to bend our own realities.
I feel right now the state of world politics is unreal. The Right are bending our reality — the Left have to catch up on this, and maybe we need to start bending reality too, seeing the impossible as possible. Anyway, what or where is reality now? I feel like we’re stagnating between two spaces: IRL and URL. We do live in these filtered, tribal communities. We live as realistically inside them as we do in our day to day lives. Maybe even more so, because as soon as I walk into my Facebook feed, I know much more about the people I pass than I do if I walk down the street. I’m still getting the same movement and the same traffic of commuters on the street as on the feed, so which is more real? Which is really my community?
BB: Would you say we could consider an art institution to be a platform similar to the way any of the social media that we use on a daily basis are a platform?
OSCFPID: Not exactly, because I think the institution doesn’t work as an echo chamber. It’s more sporadic in its audience, nationality, and physical ability to offer culture. I also work within a very specific knowledge bracket as far as my artistic output is concerned, which is not necessarily something that is particularly seen by the everyday viewer. Deep ecology of the mind in relation to the deep web and sub-culture algorithms is not something the everyday viewer reads over breakfast.
It’s very easy, I think, particularly for post-1985 generations — you can become incredibly fixated on this object that’s always with you. The screen is always lit. You can read and acknowledge information in a very quick and effective way. You can start drawing conclusions and parallels and segments all because this computer allows you to do it. Not only from your own self, but also from the algorithms that it’s outputting. So this is constantly building a very tight space of reference. It’s almost like you’re constantly drifting yourself deeper into your own unique gorge.
Omsk Social Club Feat PUNK IS DADA lives and works in Berlin. She has exhibited widely across Europe most recently at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Bergen Kunsthalle, Gold and Beton Cologne and “Vomit Apocalypse” for Glasgow International and Kunsthalle Zürich. Last October she attended The Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood residency in Sri Lanka curated by Angelo Plessas.
Her practice spans from visual to theoretical production so she has also contributed creative and critical texts to Status Effect curated by Andrew Varano, Websafe2k16 and Oncurating.org – Alienation and Estrangement edited by Dorothee Richter.
She was recently awarded the 8th ARTWARD Junior Prize and also pioneered the spectacle Ying Colosseum. She works heavily with the concept of Cosmic Depression – The theory of depression caused by digital utopia (Paradise without Ecology).
“Zen, Speed, Organic: 3 lifestyle diets.”
Benjamin Busch is currently researching critical modes of architectural production within the field of spatial practice. Treating architecture as a symptom of abstract processes, his artwork and writing investigate complex fields of relations within the built environment.
Video Credits: Scene Afterform: Bona-fide Sites and the Meta Community 🙂 2016 Omsk Social Club. Music Produced by PUNK IS DADA and Vonverhille