Sunday, 20 January 2013

On the Ghostmodern Performative Poetics of Snapchat

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

MFA [Notes on a First Seminar]

That thing where you spend the morning discussing in earnest the flawed brilliance of Michael Fried's seminal 1967 essay "Art and Objecthood" although you don't care, much, about the theatricality of mimimalist sculpture objects or about their makers, most of whom have ceased to "matter" now that we're no longer engaged in some critical, theological relationship with the state of modernity [which is not to say that we're not engaged in some critical theological relationship with the state of whatever else], and you're suddenly struck by the following passage, written by the late great Tony Smith, whoever the hell he was anyway:
When I was teaching at Cooper Union in the first year or two of the fifties, someone told me how I could get on to the unfinished Jersey Turnpike. I took three students and drove from somewhere in the Meadows to New Brunswick. It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all except the dark pavement moving through the landscape of the flats, rimmed by hills in the distance, but punctuated by stacks, towers, fumes and coloured lights. This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn't be called a work of art. On the other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At first I didn't know what it was, but its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. It seemed that there had been a reality there that had not had any expression in art. The experience on the road was something mapped out but not socially recognised. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear that's the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that. There is no way you can frame it, you just have to experience it. 
And you think, well, god knows that makes a lot of sense, but what took you so long to figure it out, sir? And anyway you're hungover from trolling a panel discussion where there was free beer in return for the barest of participation in some commercial online gallery's art-and-digital-culture launch event; and you don't care, much, about this stuff either, though it matters that we don't talk about "digital art" because it just sounds embarrassing, and the early mornings are new to you and the structured learning and all the people and the registers and the talking-about of stuff in [what is known as] a critical framework. So you skip out of college early and go back home to sleep, where you dream of
Being forced into some kind of coercive genderplay as a scullery maid in a Renfaire gone wrong with no safe words and a white t-shirt for a wimple/ and sneaking out of a ground floor window onto hands and knees & into the swollen darkness, a big round night, the smell of cooling asphalt and apples rotting on trees, gravel collaborating below you murmuring assent and advice// and then the dizzy greased run through the empty amusement park and into an inflatable funhouse long past its sell-by date/ and clammy with the sweat of others gone before, a little bit of asphyxiation by rubber and an airbag that punches your guts as you grind through the chubby wet cave// and the sudden, shot-from-a-gun feeling of cumming hard like you needed to/ suspended by a bungee cord with all the indifferently pink and blue and yellow fairground lights spinning beneath you/ and the jolt wakes you, or at least you think so, or at least you know you're dreaming/ & you realize then that art really is finished, or that maybe all forms of narrativising are pointless, and the weight of it has you crushed there under a tonne of wordlessness in the kind of crisp dumb torpor you find yourself in when passing-out wasted, your body in sick awe of what is greater and stronger than she/ 
And grasping at familiar narratives you grab your little bible of a smartphone and open up the blue book of Zuck where someone you hardly know has posted this:

And it all makes some terrible kind of sense to you, so you blog it all down earnestly like it were LiveJournal, or like it were a real conversation, or like it was gonna do a damn thing lying there on the two-dimensional page and/or hanging there in the four-dimensional ether, suspended until further notice in a virtual foreverhood far from the Jersey Turnpike as it was in the early 1950s or the Renfaire gone wrong or the swaying dill or the shot-from-a-gun feeling that woke you from your dream. And truly you can't think of anything redemptive about it except perhaps the sense of an audience that redeems the most meaningless thing from its abject objecthood, from being the tree that falls unseen in the forest,  though you - and all the people you know - live in fear that the tree that falls unseen and un-geotagged in the forest is the one unconquered free subject, the last and only thing worth talking about.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Don't Wait For Me at the Airport

and waiting.
Don't wait for me at the airport.
Greet me embarrassed in my dishevelment and frustration,
having grovelled, having been low as a dog on my belly at the border. I am at my worst
at the border. I'm at my worst under the baton.
Don't remember me as obedient.
Don't remember me as subject.
Don't remember me at the airport.
Remember me free. Don't ask
me how I bought the ticket.
Don't ask me how my flight was.
Bitch I dropped into
your life from another planet

New York, August 2011

Monday, 21 May 2012

The Frame: Ikea, Facebook, Bodies and Performance

This is a transcript of a talk I gave at Fierce Festival, as part of Lucky PDF's School of Global Art. You can read more about it here. 

In this talk I want to look at space and framing space – both physical space and virtual space - and I want to talk about the body, making specific use of the performative metaphor throughout; I’m going to talk about performance as survival strategy, which is the only strategy I know, since my own background is in dance and performance - hoofing, entertainment. It’s as much a mode of survival as is the service industry; in fact, this kind of entertainment (circus, club dancing, the sex industry) has everything to do with service. But that’s another story.
The talk will be followed by some experiments in performance technique, for which we’ll all have to be standing in the space, out of our chairs. But we’ll work up to that, don’t worry.

Anyway, since this is an art school, let’s take it back to basics. I’m going to start with the frame. In theatrical terms we might think of the frame as the stage - think of proscenium arches! In the meantime, the Merriam-Webster defines frame as:
1. a border or case for enclosing a picture, mirror, etc.
2. a rigid structure formed of relatively slender pieces, joined so as to surround sizable empty spaces or nonstructural panels, and generally used as a major support in building or engineering works, machinery, furniture, etc.
3. a body, especially a human body, with reference to its size or build; physique: He has a large frame.
4. a structure for admitting or enclosing something.

We need a frame to exist and it was ever thus. At some point we might have defined ourselves by occupation, which we might have trained for in youth and where we’d expect to remain throughout our lives. In the precarious liquid modern, however, we might have several careers or non-careers throughout our lives –  the latter might include the service industry, for example. Something they still don’t address in art school, since art is supposed to be a bourgeois concern, is how to survive when you get out of there; and I intend to talk more about survivalism in a minute, but bear with me.
In the world of work we talk about “performing roles,” which makes transparent the sheer theatricality of professional identity. Super-curator Bourriaud talks about the figure of “the Radicant,” who he sees as the nomadic artist figure in an Altermodern world that is “global from scratch.” Certainly it’s true that our sense of self and community is no longer rooted in the same kind of geographic spatiality as it once was: as actors in the social world, in other words, we don’t have a set stage. I’m not sure this is something to celebrate unambiguously, so I take issue with the unquestioning privilege implicit in Bourriaud’s discourse – his liquid modern nomad is just fine bouncing from vip airport lounge to art fair to vip airport lounge; another nomad of the liquid modern might be walking between borders carrying 1.5 kilograms of pure heroin in her stomach or her anus. But this, right here, is also a privileged discourse, so let’s stick to the point; the point being that home and community no longer mean what they did, for many reasons, some of which are to do with socio-economic circumstance and others to do with cultural shift. Zygmunt Bauman, who writes a lot about precarity and modernity, observed that “One thing which even the most seasoned and discerning masters of the art of choice do not and cannot choose, is the society to be born into - and so we are all in travel, whether we like it or not. We have not been asked about our feelings anyway. Thrown into a vast open sea with no navigation charts and all the marker buoys sunk and barely visible, we have only two choices left: we may rejoice in the breath-taking vistas of new discoveries - or we may tremble out of fear of drowning.”

Whenever we encounter a new temporality or spatiality, there’s a lot of talk of survival; it’s hard to imagine now, but the big cities in which many of us grew up were once brave new metropoles, socio-economic hives of a density seldom seen before in cultural memory (at least in the Western world, quote unquote). Back then, psychiatrists and urban theorists were talking a lot about agoraphobia and claustrophobia, which are spatial malaises concerning the scale and density of place; nowadays, meanwhile, everyone’s talking about Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, which can be seen as pathological sensitivities to [hyper]stimulation. Or otherwise, perhaps, as evolutionary prototypes for survival in a blinking, popping, semio-capitalist world of wall-to-wall screens and nonstop hyper-connectivity. So if this talk jumps around a lot, it’s because I’m especially contemporary in that sense.

One thing I’ve been thinking about lately, in my own work and research, is how and why IKEA and Facebook have become such ubiquitous, omnipotent, world-dominating psycho-spatial paradigms. My current conclusion is that it’s because they offer a very seductive illusion, or mirage, of a kind of order that simply doesn’t exist any more. They offer us a frame to exist in, to shelter in, when all else is in flux and crisis. Right now I can’t see this - 
as anything other than a brilliant, genius, terrifyingly cynical play on the psychological homelessness of not just one generation but several. The frame has now literally become a box, or several boxes – space-saving storage solutions we will fill with the objects we use to underpin our sense of self, our very identities neatly compartmentalized like so many shiny little horcruxes. Facebook, too, offers a whole system by which we might organize and present our social and demographic selves – there are boxes to fill in and a < frame > to inhabit < / frame >. We love this shit because it makes us feel like the contingency and terror of growing up in the uncertainty of post-postmodern times can be controlled, or at least temporarily eluded; as though the tastefully veneered cabinets - with doors that close neatly on their hinges - could possibly save us from the skeleton in the closet and our detonating nuclear families - to which IKEA is especially proud to cater. As though having your status Liked by the object of [your] desire could ever replace a real kiss; as though a Facebook poke (not that one ever gives a Facebook poke) could ever replace a real fuck. The only way to survive Facebook is to see it as a stage of sorts, and to see yourself as a performer. Be professional. Put on a good show, but recognize when and where the show is over. Strippers, clowns and drag performers - my colleagues and contemporaries, historically - all recognize a very clear divide between their performative avatar and their irlselves; likewise, we use Facebook strategically (choosing to hide or disclose various aspects of our self-identity; collapsing or cementing the url/irl divide); yet nonetheless it remains a performance, inasmuch as it remains a stage. And in order to survive it (especially considering the propensity of Facebook and Google to use the metadata of our metaselves in the creation and honing of market demographics) it would be wise to recognize it as such: a performance in which you are playing someone a bit like yourself. To survive Ikeafication (and when I’m talking about Ikea, I could also be talking about any conglomerate purveyor of branded goods and lifestyles) we could regard those units and products as sets or props in the great liquid-modern telenovela, and not necessarily as realizations or manifestations of our needs or desires, as Ikea would have us do.

[I know I’ve been implicitly drawing conclusions throughout about where one’s “true” identity may be sited, but I want to make it clear that I don’t know and don’t care about whether there is one true site or however many false sites; I’m proposing strategies that are part of a working process, and I will say now that they’re all utterly subjective, and you all should just do whatever feels right.]

But let’s cut to the chase: I'm here to give you a basic training in physical performance – physical because I want to put the body back into the frame. We are not our bodies, necessarily, but we are stuck with them, the inconvenient truth of them. The fact that we get tired, we get hungry, we get horny, we need to shit: defecation is a seriously messy way of processing data, but so far we haven’t come up with anything better, so we may as well get into it. [Not into that! Unless you're into that.] But into the idea of our bodies as visceral and incredibly sophisticated hardware, running programs that - like Final Cut and the Adobe Suite - are so complex and powerful that we have no choice but to behold their workings as we once beheld the mysterious workings of God. We can get off Facebook, or move house for the hundredth time, or skip town entirely as a nomadic artist-Radicant, but so far there’s only one way to truly escape your body, and that is to die.

And because many of us have become so alienated from our bodies (which has everything to do with socio-economic circumstance, cultural shift, and the nature of labour in contemporaneity and virtualism in general) I want to try out this idea of physical performance, which makes transparent the potentiality and the discomfort of the body; no, I don’t expect it to be easy, and neither should you. And maybe part of this experiment, too, is to see how heavy users of social media feel as bodies in a common space; to reintroduce the gravity of us, and finally to embrace it.

Okay, everyone - get off your chairs and find a space somewhere in the room. 


Friday, 2 March 2012

Stockholm Syndrome [& Other System Failures]

Arcadia Missa SURVIVAL SERIES presents:
Stockholm Syndrome and Other System Failures
A solo exhibition by Jesse Darling
31/3 - 8/4

OPENING: 30/3/12



1. Embrace and explore the [post]structural possibilities of precarious living;

2. #OCCUPY and RESIST (strategies might include: spending unproductive time at consumer retail outlets; developing a successful online brand to help you W̶i̶n̶ ̶F̶r̶i̶e̶n̶d̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶I̶n̶f̶l̶u̶e̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶P̶e̶o̶p̶l̶e̶ accrue and disseminate affective capital for a better world; booty jamming; crying in public).

3. TMI <-- ≓ / ⋟ PIDH = ☯/ↀ

4. Always "be" "yourself."




Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Disgusting Songs For Lovers: 14/02/12

All love,
Jesse Darling xxx

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Social Media Marketing Strategy: A Masterclass In 3 Easy Lessons

[Also published on]

Lesson One:

Lesson Two:

Lesson Three:


Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Subjective History of 2011 in 23 Pictures

Looking hard at the world is an act of insubordination in the face of capitalist [sur]realism.
Please scroll down for a [con- sub- and para-] textual catalogue of affect, obsolescence and precarity. And against all odds, this.

Opening Soon
Newington, Edinburgh

Home Entertainment
Clapton, London

Fix My iPhone
Clerkenwell, London

Untitled (Vodaphone)
Finchley, London

They Playin Playstation Games (o2)
Seven Sisters, London

I'm Lovin' It 1
Seven Sisters, London

I'm Lovin' It 2
London Bridge Station, London

Jesus Loves You
Piccadilly, London

Fall In Love Not In Line (Be The Change)
St Paul's, London

Was The Rider Using Ear Phones?
Aldgate, London

I Can't Help Myself
Stamford Hill, London

I Must Not Use Facebook at Work
Chalk Farm, London

Follow Fashion, Spend Money
Tottenham, London

Mystery Prize £1.00
Hackney, London

Reduced to Clear
Hackney, London

R U Homeless?
Greenpoint, New York

Home/Back to Your Journey
35000 ft above the Atlantic Ocean

Find Your Way
Red Hook, New York

I've Done It, I've Undone It
(Sue Tompkins at) Frieze Art Fair, London

I Have Done My Duty
Hackney, London

He's Got To Go
Holborn, London

Haunt The Government
Shoreditch, London

Princes St, Edinburgh

Jesse Darling, 2012

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Accidental Revolutionary: A[nother] Retrospective

All this reading about unproductive labour, queer temporality & the politics of affect is making me feel wicked good about having spent my youth just doing drugs & serially falling in love.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer: Kitchen Sketchbook 1

I was like why would anyone make a painting, like, ever? Like what's the fucking point, it's 2011. But lately I've come to see the value of materiality in objects and images: a bold assertion of corporeality, an antecedent instinct which appears as a primal scream in the face of virtualization. Not that there's anything wrong with virtualization; it's simply the state of things (as Baudrillard would say, with a big libidinal shrug), neither good nor bad. But mark-making - and corporeal assertion - suddenly looks like an act of radicality in the late-capitalist liquid modern: bodies on the street; sharpies on cardboard. This feels instinctual, like a reclamation: LOOK at us, LOOK! The peasants are revolting - messy, meshy, immediate. The aesthetic tropes of the new revolution are borrowed equally from folk and outsider artforms and the propaganda materials of Glasnost and Perestroika. It's a singularly handmade, unvectored kind of aesthetic. And what am I doing about it? The last time I saw my own handwriting was when I signed my tax declaration. For the rest I'm typing slender little aphorisms into an iPhone, toc toc. Neatly parsed into 140 characters. Tick, tick. A whole life spent online. Tick, toc. I never used to be so afraid of the instinctual-libidinal song that flowed from my crayons and magic markers: what the hell happened? Is it a feminist issue? Either way I figured I should get some practice in mark-making in order to overthrow the counter-revolutionary horror of imperfect speech. Fuck the spell-checker and fuck helvetica. And fuck the sleek graphical interface of the new world order.

So I installed a whiteboard in my kitchen and bought some markers. It's not revolutionary but it's a start. Free your mind, etc, and the rest.

"Every grand theory & noble sentiment ought to be first tested in the kitchen - and then in bed, of course."
- Charles Simic

[London, December 2011]

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Who Says You Can't Run From Yourself?

Who says you can't run from yourself?
It's always worked for me.

But how, you say; I've always only ever been who I am.
But who are you, really? Who is anyone?

Nobody's really anybody.

How to run from yourself in 7 easy steps:

1. Leave town.
2. Leave the country.
3. Change your name.
4. Change your hair.
5. Fall in love. Fall out of love.
6. Get drunk. Stay drunk.
7. Keep going. And don't look back.

And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
At least, until you're ready to meet the person you've become.
But by then, it'll probably be about time to start running again.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

On [Protest] Signs & the Signified

This post was published in the awesome and revolutionary Fight Back! A Reader On the Winter of Protest [which is full of good stuff, PLUS I designed the cover. Go get yours asap].

The work of art is an act of resistance, at best, in that the act of resistance posits a vision of how things could be otherwise. This is the real function of art: to celebrate what we know to be human, and to keep asking questions beyond that. I am an artist, and artists deal in signs: I originally published these photographs as a response to the various discourses about who was really behind the protests. Was it violent anarchists, bourgeois intellectuals, kids from the banlieues who listen to Dubstep? Or people just like you? Or all of the above?

Well, I was there too. I was angry about the cuts, as we all should be, because they affect us all, students or not; they reinstate the outdated feudal protocol of class privilege at jurisdictorial level and stand in opposition to what we have come to understand as our basic human rights as residents and citizens of this country. In universal terms education is both a right and a privilege, but access to education was one of the last great things about Britain, and absolutely worth fighting for.

And yet this anger is transformed into something like pride at the moment you find yourself marching to the beat of a hundred disparate voices and sound systems united - not by a complex ideology, but by an immediate and intuitive sense of rightness.
In the spirit of non-violent resistance, and in the spirit of this feeling - something like pride, a little celebratory and a little inflammatory - I began collecting signs; for signs are signifiers, and signifiers are incantations that invoke change. The artist Patrick Brill (aka Bob and Roberta Smith, whose work includes signs and placards hand-painted with whimsical, subversive slogans), in a recent piece for the Guardian, wrote that "the arts are a universal language, reminding us that the factors that unite us are huge, wonderful and exciting, and that what divides us is small and mean."

Whatever you may have read, these protests were huge, wonderful and exciting, and these signs are works of art in the proper sense - a handwritten cardboard many-headed manifesticon in urgent creative response to a power that would see all good things vectored and laminated and priced-up accordingly. The signs speak of the wit, charm and diversity of the protesters, which is the reason I am proud to stand among them. Who was behind the protests? A picture is sometimes worth a thousand column inches: let the signs speak for themselves.

To paraphrase an old anarchist rallying cry: the brain is an organ twice the size of your fist.
Keep thinking; keep feeling; keep fighting.

JD., London, December 2010