'We don't know what you're doing, or why. Parkaboy thinks you're dreaming. Dreaming for us. Sometimes he sounds as though he thinks you're dreaming us. He has this whole edged?out participation mystique: how we have to allow ourselves so far into the investigation of whatever this is, whatever you're doing, that we become part of it. Hack into the system. Merge with it, deep enough that it, not you, begins to talk to us. He says it's like Coleridge, and De Quincey. He says it's shamanic. That we may all seem to just be sitting there, staring at the screen, but really, some of us anyway, we're adventurers. We're out there, seeking, taking risks. In hope, he says, of bringing back wonders.'
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

HACK-A-THON: A world in flux
30 May through 2 June, 2017
Bétonsalon and Ecole 42, Paris

I was asked to conceive of a workshop for artists and coders based loosely on the work of artist Emmanuelle Lainé, exhibited simultaneously in the Bétonsalon gallery. This was thought of as a part skills-sharing workshop, part mediation for Lainé’s work, and it needed to be relevant to both communities.

I proposed to have students read Willian Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition, published in 2004, and to spend an afternoon with Lainé in her exhibition at Bétonsalon. The book was to be a mirror for Lainé’s work, a thing was investigating a similar problem but in a different formal language, more accessible to some, more of a challenge to others.

What interested me about both Lainé’s work and Pattern Recognition was the way each peeled away layers of meaning from the visual world, each investigated how an image or a representation got made. In Lainé’s work, the videos that comprise her installation depict people slowly incorporating the technology of production into themselves. They become intellectual and affective extensions of production. People have stepped into that gap between the thing and how it gets made. In Gibson’s novel, the search is for the Maker of the film clips and, in the end, it is revealed that the Maker is a woman whose brain was injured during a terrorist attack, and that she edits footage as a way to stay conscious, to stay in the world if only very minimally. She, also, becomes a machine of sorts; she, also, steps into the gap.

What the Maker makes and what Lainé makes are images of a process of amalgamation, rather than images of something. That is why I call them images without a center. Rather, they are images that refer constantly to the process of their own production, and thus to the people stepping into the gap between production and product.

From these two models, students were asked to conceive of a machine that produces images without a center. The teams of between six and eight students, which were evenly split between art and coding backgrounds, had to come up with a functional model of such machines in three days. The end results were presented to a jury of arts and information technology professionals.

The most interesting challenge posed by this project was collectively coming to the recognition that images without a center are not un-biased images, they are not simply images-without-people. In order to make an image without a center, it is necessary to acknowledge that a Maker is involved, is central in fact.