What Happened in the Habituation Cages?
This chapter describes what occurred within the Habituation Cages in detail and some of its lasting results. Many factors mediate the experience of the Habituation Cage dwellers, their experience of each other, of others working in and around the performance, the kinds of identifications they did or did not build and the impacts of this experience on their practice as researchers or artists.
The Idea of the Habituation Cages
The goal of the Habituation Cage performance/experiment was to lock an artist and a scientist up together for twenty-four hours in the CodeZebra Habituation Cages, a comfortable but enclosed environment, perhaps a penthouse apartment, with a generous view of its surrounding setting. They are charged with solving scientific, technological and related ethical questions. They are required to discover a system, a process or tool, develop inventions or creative works. The Habituation Cages were an effort to develop a fast tracked method to stimulate artist and scientist collaboration and make use of face-to-face and technologically mediated processes in the collaboration. In this apparently autonomous but completely wired world, it would then be possible to analyze how their identities articulated, or changed and if cohesion occurred over the twenty-four hours. Surveillance creates a performance atmosphere for the collaboration. The Habituation Cages provide knowledge about the temporal conditions of collaboration, especially the first stage of brain of brain and body storming, as well as the physical and virtual space of collaboration. This context allows a deeper understand the process of collaboration and invention. The Cages make these exciting and accessible to varied audiences.
In the role of the lead moderator and performer the PhD researcher, Diamond would follow the pair’s process of exchange, collaboration and invention over twenty-four hours, with the audience. Diamond would facilitate their dialogues and those with the outside world. They would interact with outside moderators, who are artists, scientists or theorists. The result was to feel like an intellectual reality television show. Rather than a Survivor style competition, the goal was for both art and science to stay on the island, but in a transformed state, where they could achieve a viable ecology. The plan was as follows.
The CodeZebra OS chat software would visualize dialogue and emotional processes while video feeds and streams would also provide two way documentation and interaction. CodeZebra OS is visualization software that allows uses to differentiate topics in chat into discrete visual spaces. It tracks the order and patterns of ideas and behavior. It analyses emotion in chat postings and provides a graphic representation of posting styles, eventually building personality profiles. Chat would take place throughout the event. Some moderators would join the lock-up through the software, at a distance, others on site, using both CodeZebra and two-way video stream conferencing. . There would be regular real-time streamed interchanges between the scientist and artist, myself as researcher, other moderators and audience members.
The locked up pair would keep direct to audience video diaries on a regular basis where they would provide opinions of their creative process, personal dynamics and inventions. Every four hours a documentary crew would enter the lock-up and interview the artist and scientist, receiving a report of their work to date, their feelings about and analysis of the experiment. At the end of the twenty-four hour period a debriefing would occur with each of the locked-up pair, the pair together, and me as “keeper” and host The use of a twenty-four hour clock would mean that the body clocks of the Habituation Cage guests, the moderators and the audience, both of the latter distributed around the world, becomes an element of the performance.
The first Habituation Cage experiment/performance took place as part of the 2003 Dutch Electronic Arts Festival. CodeZebra OS, had been a co-production with the V2 Laboratories. For V2, the host of DEAF, the habituation cages were an opportunity to put CodeZebra OS into use in a creative context. As well, Big Brother, one of the first successful reality shows, had its roots in the Netherlands. Thanks to DEAF, the artist and scientist pairs could be locked up as part of the ongoing events of the Festival, implementing the ideas of endurance and surveillance based collaboration performances in front of a large international audience, on and off the Festival site.
The publicity that Diamond wrote for the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival of 2003 asked, “What happens when curious interrogators, opponents or collaborators are locked up together? Will they flirt, shift shape, and cannibalize each other’s identities? Will they invent something that can make our troubled world a better place?” In preparing for DEAF the pairs of artists and scientists came from an extensive cross-disciplinary list that met the criteria above. The final pairs were Wong Wong, video artist, curator, performance artist, On Edge, Canada, paired with Nina Wakeford, ethnographer, sexologist, mobile technologies expert, University of Surrey, UK. Wong is one of the legendary initiators of Canadian video art.
Wong created the performance In-ten-sity where he locked himself into a cage. He went on to make many works the bridged the lines of documentary and fiction, such as 4; Confused, Sexual Views and Main Street Girls. These loosely scripted performances were acted by members of his local community and are similar to to-day’s reality dramas, where actor/participants act themselves in response to the frameworks established by the show director and producer. In the 1980s and early 1990s Diamond’s work as a video artist deployed some parallel strategies of false docu-fiction and deconstructed narratives although Diamond was driven by debates on documentary realism and feminist anti-narrative and Wong by performance art. Wong went on to develop lyrical and documentary works about Chinese Canadian identity. He received the Bell Canada Award for Excellence in Video Art, has had retrospective at Vancouver Art Gallery, and a show at the National Gallery of Canada. His video, performances, digital prints have shown all over the world and are in collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
This researcher’s history with Wong began in 1982 at the screening of one of my early video art works, The Influences of My Mother and soon after at the Video In, the media art centre that Wong had founded with local Vancouver artists in 1973 at the age of seventeen. Diamond served on the board of that entity until 1995 and gained a position on the board of the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1984 as part of a protest action by the artistic community after the VAG censored his work from the opening show of their new building. Diamond worked on this defense campaign for several years. Wong and Diamond did not always see eye to eye on aesthetics or community practice through the 1980s, but have become respectful of each other’s practice over the years. Diamond felt Wong would be an ideal artist to lock up many years after his initial performance and because of his strong improvisational capacities behind and in front of the camera.
Nina Wakeford is the Director of INCITE at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. She has published extensively about her research into virtual field work, collaboration as an ethnographer with media companies, a social history of the mobile phone, “with a view to the future”, methodologies for ethnographic studies of the World Wide Web, gender and the adoption of technology, identity performance, gender and sexual identity; urban Culture for virtual bodies: on lesbian ‘identity’ and ‘community; work and difference in the new media industries. She has led collaborative teams that bring together industrial new media designers, ethnographers and user/participants. She teaches at University of Surrey in the Department of Sociology.
Diamond first met Nina Wakeford in 2001 in my role as writer in residency at the University of Surrey, UK, thanks to an introduction by Lizbeth Goodman. Diamond later invited her to speak at a summit exploring the emergence of mobile media and culture, coupled with the rise of surveillance society, entitled Intimate Technologies, Dangerous Zones. She also participated as a guest scientist for a week during the artistic residency Up Front and Personal. Diamond felt that she would value the opportunity to be both the object and subject of an intensive experiment. She and Wong shared an interest in that ways that technologies are deployed adopted and adapted by sexually different communities. Wakeford’s eloquent interviewing and writing skills would be a fine match for Wong’s interviewing, performance and video skills.
The second team was Mary Flanagan, games designer and artist, chaos theorist, USA; paired with Tom Donaldson, inventor, intelligent systems expert, engineer, UK.
Mary Flanagan at that time was teaching at the University of Oregon. She is currently the Director of the tiltfactor research group at Hunter College. Her research interests include technology and culture, computer games, installation/environments, bio-physical interfaces, virtual space, generative art, viruses, affective tools, game design, feminism, games/edu for girls/women, cyber fiction, performance art. Her networked and computer-based art works investigate everyday life and the influence of technology, including net.culture, computer gaming, and mundane technological tools. The works are created for the net or installation. Flanagan’s artwork has been shown internationally at venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art 2002 Biennial, SIGGRAPH, Ars Electronica, and the Guggenheim.
As an activist media maker, she was the creator of “The Adventures of Josie True,” the first web-based adventure game for girls, and is collaborating on a new project to teach middle school girls computer programming, “RAPUNSEL.” Flanagan’s essays on digital art, cyber culture, and gaming have appeared in periodicals such as Art Journal, Wide Angle, Convergence, and Culture Machine, as well as several books. MIT Press published her second co-edited collection _Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture_ in 2002. I had developed communication with Flanagan because of our corresponding interests in Gender and Technology and had invited her to several events at The Banff Centre because of her software projects, for example, The Human Generosity Project, a Banff New Media Institute summit in 2001. Diamond and Flanagan later were enrolled in the same PhD program.
Tom Donaldson graduated from Cambridge University in engineering, specializing in electronics and information theory. He worked at Scientific Generics inventing new product technologies for major blue chip corporations including Rollerblade, Nike, Speedo, Procter and Gamble, and Johnson and Johnson. He created a wide range of new technologies in areas such as smart fabrics, biometric sensors and advanced materials. He moved to New York where he explored a number of new areas of technology, including object-based video compression, magneto-encephalography, and deep personalization in music selection. He developed an interactive film system using eye-monitoring of the viewer to guide video sequence generation. He designed an enhanced-reality gaming system, incorporating computer-vision elements into a head-up display; and he worked on haptic systems for virtual sculpture. Donaldson was commissioned by ARCH, an Austrian cultural heritage foundation, to design a mobile museum for interactive, distributed artworks. Donaldson became director of CTNY, a software development company that reached the Deloitte Touche Fast 50 index of rapidly growing technology companies. He initiated a project ThinAirMail, a multi-platform mobile messaging solution, which became the company ThinAirApps, successfully sold to Palm Inc.
Moving back to London, Tom Donaldson founded Escape Velocity. Donaldson created ground-breaking artificial intelligence technology, recognized as a leader in highly personalized services. Donaldson established the company, drew significant investment from 3i and grew the team to nearly 20 people over three years. The company and Donaldson himself, received recognition from Business Week, the Financial Times, CNBC and many other investment monitors. Escape Velocity also launched the Sessami mobile Internet entertainment channel. Sessami was nominated for a WAP award for best consumer application. Through Escape Velocity and Sessami, Donaldson became a leading speaker in the mobile Internet and personalization industries. In was in this context that I first invited him to Banff in 2002, to present his work at a summit entitled Intimate Technologies, Dangerous Zones. Donaldson returned to a later summit that I organised, entitled Artificial Stupidity—it featured debates on artificial intelligence.
Flanagan and Donaldson shared interests in intelligence and computation, mathematical systems, bio-physical interfaces, virtual space, generative art, viruses, affective tools, but from very different perspectives, practices and educational backgrounds. They were both assertive thinkers who had some brain storming experience from the corporate worlds.
In the role of curator/moderator, Diamond organized the teams according to these initial topics, understanding that the teams would warp these in ways that were appropriate to their mutual interests, but hoping that the frameworks would stay enough in tact to provide a meaningful but ample dialogue
Paul Wong and Nina Wakeford:
–Surveillance, its pleasures and terrors –Technologies of body and mind that create distance and proximity –Multiple identities in forced and chosen intimacies, in the spaces of the net and web –Performance–near and far –Desire, its technologies and mediations –Actions on the terror, danger and power of mobility –Being locked up –Mutual ethnography–race, gender, desire, counter-cultures
Tom Donaldson and Mary Flanagan
–The process of invention
–Complex systems and complexity theory
–Personalization–computer virology and biology of surveillance
–Evolutionary systems–intelligence, human, animal and machine
–Carbon versus silicon
–What can the presence and decay of the biological provide us with?
–The ethics of inventing life forms
–Games–playing and invention
The moderators, although there for a short duration, would play a key role and my choice of them would be equally crucial. They needed to come from relevant communities of knowledge and have the credibility to intervene into the twenty-four hour process between the artist and scientist and then, between the pair and me. They would interview them, ask questions and give opinions, suggest activities and at times make art works with the pair. The presence of moderators might amplify the identification between the interrupted pair. It also could press them to be self-reflexive about their ideas. The moderators might ally with me or with members of the team.
As curator/lead moderator Diamond worked with DEAF organizers in advance of the Festival to cull potential moderators from guest lists and also found moderators who were off-site and able to commit the time to the moderation process. One Japanese volunteer could not find the right time zone connection to make it work. These were individuals who had a history of engaging in public debate, were comfortable improvising and would commit some level of preparation time to the process. The moderators took shifts of one two hours of varying intensity, with two to three hour breaks in between.1 Several moderators engaged with both teams, as their interests crossed over between the groups and some of the topics were parallel.
The moderators for Team One in order of appearance:
Eric Kluitenberg–Internet activist, theorist and educator, Amsterdam
Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskew—Cree/Métis Aboriginal cultural producer, theorist, performance artist, web master Aboriginal People’s Television Network, Winnipeg Nina Czegledy—new media curator, biotech theorist, documentary producer, Budapest
Steve Marsh–inventor of socially adept technologies and trust theorist, National Research Council, Canada
The moderators for Team two in order of appearance;
Nina Czegledy—new media curator, biotech theorist, documentary producer, Budapest
Mark Tribe–Creator of Rhizome, Internet theorist, NYC
Nat Muller—collaborating member of F0Am new media performance group, sexuality and Internet theorist, Berlin
Steve Marsh–inventor of socially adept technologies and trust theorist, National Research Council, Canada
The CodeZebra Habituation Cages DEAF Festival 2005
What follows is a detailed account of each of the CodeZebra Habituation Cage performances over a twenty-four hour period. This description of the process of the CodeZebra Habituation Cages is written as an account. I fully acknowledge that accounts are anything but neutral, but rather contain the seeds of analysis within them. For this reason I have tried to use as much detail as possible when appropriate. In the chapter that follows, I then analyze and draw conclusions from the key points in the description, linking the analysis back to key elements in the process in a subsequent chapter. I use the present tense as a conceit. It is an attempt to create a sense of presence around the events. I refer to myself as Diamond in order to indicate my shifting participation within the roles of curator/technician/moderator/performer and of course, PhD researcher.
There are two separate descriptions of the performances. There are details on the everyday life activities in the collaboration; the organization and use of physical and virtual space and its impact; the impact of being locked up within a time limited and physically constrained context; the effects of time and its passing; the use of conversation as a context for exchange, exploration and cultural creativity and the use of language in cross-disciplinary exchange; the role of play; the mechanisms given to performers by the researcher and those invented by them; the expectations and realisations of action research for the team; the division of labour between performers; the roles played by curator/moderator, moderators and audience: the topics that are explored; the ways that the performers resisted yet conformed to the proposed research; the apparent role of surveillance in framing the performance; the technology brought to bear in the collaboration and the impacts of technology; the role of technology breakdown and invention; the final results of the collaborations in terms of identification, inventions and future motivation to collaborate and the ways that the collaborator or observers worked with or transcended existing roles or “habitus”. The chapter discusses the use of language analysis systems in understanding the developments in the collaboration through using System Quirk, CodeZebra and an analysis tool that was created to augment these systems and draws conclusions from the resulting analysis. The processes, methods and inventions that emerge suggest the success of the performance/experiments and the actual conditions of their emergence. The potential for ongoing relationship is discussed. Of significant importance are the results of the performances as cultural events meant to engage audiences.
In participating in DEAF, the goal was to structure the DEAF CodeZebra Habituation Cages according to the original concept. The role of this researcher would be to facilitate the process as the curator, lead moderator, performer, video and media producer, software developer, documentary creator, and above all, researcher. Diamond would lock herself inside the DEAF Festival site, while the locked up pair lived on the roof of the site in their own structure. Off-site moderators or those in the booth at DEAF would watch the video stream and could chat with each other and the performers using CodeZebra software. After some hesitancy Diamond decides that those who did not have access to CodeZebra because of firewalls or other concerns could use emails to communicate. Diamond enters these into CodeZebra to enable discussion amongst those on-line and locked-up. The streams were to be available on the DEAF Festival site and on www.codezebra.net. The role of moderator/performer required leading the dialogue when appropriate, setting tasks and exercises for the cage dwellers and monitoring their body clocks in relation to mine. CodeZebra OS chat needed constant stimulation, while discussion took place in through the two-way video streams.
Diamond brought in Victoria Mapplebeck from the United Kingdom to shoot the lock-up at regular intervals and V2 provided two students, Jan and Claudia, from Germany. Victoria Mapplebeck is a reality television and documentary director who had created Smart Hearts, Channel Four’s first advent into reality programming in 1999. Mapplebeck is an appropriate choice because of her ability to capture emotionally direct material in unobtrusive ways and her comfort with the reality genre. The plan was that every four hours, she, or Jan and Claudia, under her direction, would enter the habituation cages. Diamond develops a series of questions that explored the process of collaboration, as well as ideas, and inventions as these emerged. Mapplebeck improvised from these. The inhabitants keep video diaries which also were to stream over the Internet. At the end of the lock-up, in the role of researcher and documentary maker, Diamond undertakes an exit interview with the teams, decanting their experiences.
There was to be eighteen hours between each of the lock-ups. The day after the experiment all of the artists, scientists, moderators and key crew convene for a debriefing dinner in the Habituation Cage. This will be an opportunity to discuss results, experiences and opportunities with the larger group of collaborators yet continue to stream in order to draw in responses from the public. Dinner will take advantage of the practices of on-line and distance performances that continually use the intimacy of a meal shared over distance to bridge physical separation. The documentation from the performance and CodeZebra OS was to remain up for the duration of the Festival (three additional days) at the CodeZebra public location in the main Festival site.
Based on the plans for the performance, DEAF organizers search for an apartment or hotel suite that would have a large open area conducive to dialogue, a kitchen with refrigeration and cooking capacity, two possible sleeping areas, working tables or desks and preferably a bathroom with a bath or shower. The plan is for the space to feel familiar, yet unfamiliar.
What resulted was fortuitous. The DEAF 2003 Festival occurred in Las Palmas a large warehouse used for club nights and some storage on the waterfront. On top of the warehouse was an architect designed makeshift apartment called the Parasite, as though it already were a parallel site. The architect had rendered the building from plywood, a fantastic and attractive example of temporary architecture. It was both office and living space. It was replete with a toilet, kitchen and open decks. It had a substantive feeling of privacy and dislocation from daily life at the same time that one had a panoptic view of the harbor and the city–the apartment sat like a pillbox hat directly on top of the warehouse. It looks out over the harbor on three sides, the city on the other. A view two months before the performance clenches the decision to use it, and DEAF promises it will be cleaned and ready for use during the festival.
The entrance of the apartment comprises of a metal stairway that leads through the roof of the warehouse and directly into the apartment. The Parasite feels like a world apart from the festival housed in Las Palmas, its dusty warehouse. The visitor enters a hallway and mounts a set of stairs inside the structure. These lead to a door, and another set of stairs. At the top of these are two floors; connected to each other by a stairway, the second sitting as an open loft on top of the first. Inside the apartment inhabitants can hear activity on the first floor clearly and if looking down from the loft, see about a half of which was occurring below. This means that while the two floors afford some sense of visual separation, there is very little sound separation between floors. Inhabitants can engage in parallel activities yet remain in communication most of the time, or you can be together in one space. The physical space provides an attractive analogy to the CodeZebra chat software in which a big world of conversation is organized into separate but related topics. The visitor can enter a conversation topic while sustaining awareness of the others’ activities in the chat.
Despite the arrangement with DEAF, Diamond arrives and finds the architectural firm still using the Parasite for storage and occasional work. They kindly vacate for the four days of the performance. The space has not been cleaned for months despite its use and is not fit for habitation let alone habituation. The space heater blows fuses and there is no microwave or cooking supplies. This researcher mobilises a small team and we set to work, storing most of the furniture and office materials and then scrubbing the space as best we could to make it habitable. We then outfit the apartment with a sofa bed in the upstairs living room and placed a cot downstairs. There are additional chairs. The second story has a built-in table that stretches across most of the room, providing a place to install computers and monitors, as well as to eat and work. Thanks to the design company the bottom floor has a full desk that provides a spot for a work station. The apartment is very cold at night. There is a space heater that demands continual strategic placement. The kitchen has a sink, some cooking tools and pots and a two-burner stove—DEAF staff loan their promised and precious microwave after a brief tussle but it has to be run up and down the stairs by the camera crew when DEAF staff are on their breaks and need it, which adds a comic note to the ability to segment the realities of the Parasite, Las Palmas and the actual production of the Habituation Cages and the festival itself. There is shower or bathtub, just a bathroom.
The views out of the Parasite were spectacular and accessible. One could stand beside the table and look out on almost all sides at the harbor, walk on the substantial deck on the ground floor and see even more detail. The city sparkled in the distance. We placed chairs on the deck for the Habituation Cage dwellers to use.
The physical space of the Paradise was critical to the plans, which relied on the tours made several months before DEAF was to open. Resources allocated throughout the existing architecture of the Parasite would allow social interaction, as well as a sense of privacy for sleep or retreat if needed. The kitchen and bar area are key. Preparations involve stocking up on good whiskey and chocolate. The functional kitchen, even if abbreviated would allow for social rituals and mutual care taking to occur. Space planning also includes the positioning of documentation and surveillance technologies so that there would be a minimum of intrusion, the ability for the Habituation Cage performers to set up their own video diaries and for documentary crews to seamlessly jack into the server to record their interviews.
As moderator/performer Diamond installs herself in the third floor of Las Palmas, within the larger DEAF exhibition, in an ample CodeZebra area demarcated by draped fabrics, animal pattern fashions, large floor seats covered with animal pattern sheets and pillows. Several days are spent in sewing a collection of CodeZebra fashion items on the curtains that surround the space and setting up racks of other clothes distributing these near the control booth. The set should be a bricolage of a jungle reality show, a walk-in closet, a 19th century prison, and a Star Trek fan site. This space should draw people, refer to television, whether documentary, reality show or talk show and hence undermine the cool, metallic high art aesthetic of most of the rest of the works in the Festival. Most critical to the entire enterprise is the “control deck” a semi-circular construction covered with animal patterned fabric that could afford 360 degree views of the warehouse and of the lock-up.
The control deck houses computers for CodeZebra OS, the conversation and chat visualization software that I have created. The control deck holds the video playback and servers that would send a two-way stream between the locations. It provides a vantage point for audiences to observe myself as moderator/host, others guests and the screens of the locked up performers. As moderator and documentary producer Diamond resides in the virtual panopticon, the locked up subjects, with their vantage point on top of the building, the actual. As performer Diamond resides in the panopticon, the Festival; the locked up subjects, made accessible to the outside world, only through technology, the virtual. The artist and scientist can communicate with me via video streams and chat.
The Beginning of the Performance: Arrival
The teams, moderators and crew arrive into Rotterdam, flying or taking the train in from locations all over the world. DEAF places them in several of the boat hotels in the harbor near the festival. The 2003 Dutch Electronic Arts Festival is housed at Las Palmas, an old warehouse. Each Habituation Cage dweller and all moderators sign release forms that provide both Diamond and them with the rights to documentation, inventions, ideas and art works that may emerge. Diamond had stocked the Habituation Cage with toys, games, and media and design tools, things to read and watch as well as each other. Diamond had asked them to name items that they wanted for the lock-up and found most of these. One person asked for a dog, and Diamond gave them a small stuffed animal in the shape of a puppy and another requested a cat and they received the feline stuffed animal. They were encouraged to bring tools and devices.
The collaborators did not know each other before the event, although Wong and Wakeford did engage in some initial testing of the waters on how to focus the ideas that I had presented to them. Diamond encourages them NOT to pre-plan their results and to let the process flow once the lock-up began. Their first face-to-face collaboration was shopping together to buy additional supplies, food and additional palliatives that they needed. This was an opportunity for them to start to bond. They were then to go upstairs to the Habituation Cage and began their collaboration journey.
Wakeford and Wong
Through the day that the first lock-up was scheduled to start at 17:00, basic technology set-up is still taking place as we clean out the Parasite and the streams between both spaces and the Internet are not yet up and running. Two V2 programmers have worked non-stop to eliminate a bug that appeared when we tested CodeZebra’s capacity to hold with larger user groups at Future Physical, in a club event, the week before. Bugs appear on site and with less bandwidth than in the lab. 2 Crews scramble to get the set up in place. Supposed project dedicated crews are spread thin on the ground of an ambitious large show, the biggest ever DEAF and not able to support the projects funding them. There is no production manager although there is supposed to be one. Diamond has to call on Anne Nigten, the Director of the V2 Lab to get technology in place that was also supposed to be committed to the project. Nigten, in the midst of a million other details does her best. It is a tense time. 3
Diamond reassures Wakeford and Wong that all is well, while running back and forth between the Parasite and the control booth. Nina Czegledy, a seasoned new media curator and one of the moderators reassure them. Bored with waiting, and ever the curator, Wong goes off to look at new media art works, Wakeford interviews people about the nature of a festival and the set-up process. She wears her ethnographer’s hat and also is eager to understand the context that she is performing in. They are eager to get going, knowing that they have a long twenty-four hour experience ahead.
Upstairs and downstairs, the crews labor in Dutch, German and English. Diamond is concerned that all recordings that occur in the next four days be saved on the hard drives or a dedicated server for retrospective analysis and documentation as agreed and reminds them of this. ANne Nigten, Manager of V2 Labs, labels the computers in Dutch, English and German, “do not erase until backed up for CodeZebra”. The crew assure Diamond that they would run DFSP, “we are not throwing your work away…we will get the things working that will work,” says Eric, one of the young, hard working programmers. Diamond encourages the team to get the minimal in place and get started, “Are we almost ready to go, ‘cause they are waiting…I need to get them up here. They are getting antsy.” 4 There is still no stream between the upstairs and downstairs, one or the other works, not both.
The crew continues to ask for help in setting up. Diamond is caught between being producer, line producer, director and performer. It’s time to make a choice. Diamond tells the set up crew, “If you are not ready yet, it’s probably more important for me to be ready.” Diamond turns her attention to the performance. She decides to bring Wakeford and Wong up to the Parasite. Diamond asks the crew to stand by the door to pick up the shot as they enter. Claudia, the inexperienced camera woman accidentally shoots out the window instead. Mapplebeck follows them up the stairs with her handheld camera.
Wong and Wakeford enter the apartment. Wong says, “We are home!” Wakeford says, “We are home! We are settling in; please join us for a sunset drink!”5 Having walked them up stairs, Diamond leaves. Wakeford and Wong open the Scotch, prompted by Mapplebeck, the video director who says, “Just the right time for whiskey.” Wong begins to describe the new media works he had seen, he in unimpressed and tired, “I feel jagged now, maybe ‘because I was walking around doing the different pieces– I was doing the erotic god piece, you strap on an outfit and it vibrates as you interact with the music.”6 The sun is setting, Wakeford offers binoculars to Wong and they go out to the deck and admire their spectacular dominion: the docks, harbor and city view. Wong reminds them to stay calm, “We have twenty-four hours.” 7The sunset perks them up.
Wong and Wakeford discuss camera position, planning where to locate their activities, both for and outside the camera lens.8 The monitor of the control booth in Las Palmas sits on the corner of the dining room table. Wakeford identifies one of the first postings she has made on CodeZebra and is excited, “See if you can find my posting. non, non above one, see the little one that looks like a pill and then there is a flat green one and then mine appears, the round brown one down there. It seems to have disappeared.”9 The technicians from DEAF are still trying to get the streams to work and will labor for hours. Wong sits in a corner trying to help Wakeford get her own computer on-line. Claudia, one of the camera crew asks his opinions on the new media art he has just seen. Wakeford sits upstairs and they all chat.
Wong and Wakeford sit together looking at CodeZebra. Wakeford is frustrated because the software is not saving messages into the discussion space—she has to restart the system each time to see her new messages connected to others in each conversation topic area. Mapplebeck returns to the second floor and asks Wakeford to do an interview about the project. Mapplebeck runs up and down with equipment. She states, “…at some point would like to do a chat with you introducing the project—with our whiskeys.”10 Wong helps Mapplebeck and Claudia with the set-up. Claudia is still trying to make contact with the stream downstairs.
The interview begins on the chilly, windy outside deck. Wakeford states that they are trying to collaborate, “between people who have been trained very differently—one nearer science, one nearer arts—when we talk about it, we might have the same methods. We might be doing the same things. ”Wong adds, “We are both here because of Sara Diamond’s software, CodeZebra. We are in a lab and we are test guinea pigs.” Wakeford comments on the surveillance, “We are both sitting in this wonderful apartment but at the same time everyone can see us. We might want to think about who is watching who.” Wong grounds it into the everyday,” At the same time…we have to eat, shit.”11 Wong underscores the importance of time differences, a factor that would shape the future events. They are in different time zones. He would normally be asleep at this hour on Pacific Standard Time. Mapplebeck asks them if they have decided on a provisional time zone to be in.
Mapplebeck then asks them about their feelings on being locked up. Wakeford notes that being locked up, “feels like engaging in someone else’s process…an intense brainstorming session. As a sociologist you would never lock yourself up with another sociologist, but with an artist…someone who might have an intense engagement with teams…” has rich possibilities.12 She is open to learning. However, she points to the politics of lock-ups and the cage analogy, the panopticon being the tool of imprisonment, “…most people locked up are under strict surveillance and not have enjoyment.” Wong argues that this is a positive lock-up. The current culture means that, “We are always locked up anyway. I was locked up for twenty-four hours at home preparing to come here, I was locked up for twenty-four hours of travel to get here I was locked up on the boat and Las Palmas getting ready, everything in the last week in twenty-four hours increments—so this is just another twenty-four hours,.” Wakeford continues that Amnesty International uses lock ups as a protest device, “…a means of speaking, for most people being locked up means not being able to speak.” In this instance Wakeford and Wong can speak through Mapplebeck and their own streamed representations. She feels that this is not a public space in any case, protesting as Amnesty would in a market square. Wong counters that this experiment was not framed as a political protest but rather takes place in “physical public space” of Las Palmas and the Internet which is a public space even if privatized. Wakeford counters that you have to know how to find them and Wong argues back that this is equally true of Amnesty—besides they are all over the DEAF Website. Wong expresses his hope that they will claim the space as, “public space for private pleasures”.13 For him, this is “’play space’, to be in front of the camera as an invited performer I do not have to worry that the tech is not working, I am here to work with the tools, not invent the tools.” Wakeford again expresses her desire to work with the technology. Unlike Wong she does not work with media technology daily and wants to use this opportunity to really test and understand the impact of this large array of technologies, “I feel that those are the tools, we should use them.”14 She admits that her attitude may shift. This experience is a luxury for her—most academics do not have the infrastructure to do interesting work like this. Wong warns, “One tool at a time.” This stance would allow the technologies to work and allow for comparative data to emerge.
The conversation between Wakeford and Wong is emerging with a number of key themes that will iterate throughout the twenty-four hours. The first is the definition and redefinition of public and private spaces and the uses of these in both physical and virtual contexts. A second is the different ways that Wakeford and Wong wish to relate to the technologies at hand. Wong is comfortable in working with technologies that are used for social control, such as surveillance cameras and challenging their metaphors. Wakeford is used to analyzing the technologies. Even early on in the Habituation Cage the tension between remaking technologies and standing in as an observer of their negative or positive effects are very different subject positions. Wong suggests using the elements as a means of grounding their discovery process and covering their needs. He centers his investigations both in his art practice but also in his cultural awareness. This spans both the brain storming techniques he employs, his focus on themes and his use of ritual within performance Wakeford and Wong bridge another cultural space, that of gay and lesbian identity. References to desire, sexuality, sexual identities, technologies weave throughout their discourse over the twenty-four hours, although their specific sub-cultures are distinct.
They plan the ambiance of the spaces and decide to keep candles alight all night to make the space feel warm, “Our job is to keep the light burning,” says Wong. 15 They worry about the lack of connection with downstairs and Mapplebeck tells them to, “enjoy the relative calm,” while they can.
Wong and Wakeford then continue to calmly discuss “work surfaces” and where in the Parasite to distribute the many objects that they have brought. Wong would work upstairs, Wakeford downstairs. The space is cooling with the fading light. They soon realize that one of the heaters could blow all of the power in the Parasite, an impending problem for warmth through the chilly late winter night. Wakeford volunteers to, “make sure we have heat.” Wakeford will lobby the crew for heat for hours until an electrician finally fixes the heater. They help Mapplebeck with the lighting set up. Despite Wong’s hesitancy about falling into a familiar role, they have become in part an adjunct to the technical crew. This creates camaraderie with Wakeford and the crew, but will also make it difficult, later on in the event, for them to separate their collaboration from the constant crew chit chat. As another crew member enters their space, Wong declaims, “Ugh! NOW who is here?”16 It is Jan, who is trying hard to solve technical problems. Wong shouts, “Are we streaming? Can you hear me?” No answer returns.
Wong and Wakeford are decorating the space with candles. Wong asks Wakeford if she would like him to teach her how to use a cigarette lighter. She has trouble getting it to light. “We are going to teach you how to do it.” Wong says. She tries to light it and struggles. Wong explains the concept of a lighter—there is friction, fire and fuel, which is why you need to hold the spring down until it catches. Wakeford catches on. They are performing a “how to” script to camera, doing television for an unseen audience. One lighter becomes all lighters in this exchange as Wong remarks that the lighter represents one of the four elements that they should explore in the lock-up—being fire. Water has already been covered with its earlier boiling to make tea. Then there are earth and air.
Wong then fixes the back light on the camera, sighing. Wong joins Wakeford downstairs—they continue to speak and he shoots Wakeford with his own camera. Wong moves upstairs, still shooting, documenting the cameraman who is shooting him, a technical virtuous circle. It is a set, but whose? Mapplebeck is also setting up her camera. Confusion erupts over the camera patches to the video stream. More crew run upstairs to the Parasite from the floors below. Wong advises the stet-up crews about the ways that the video stream might work and how to open up the camera iris to get the best shots given the lighting circumstances, “You can move the camera…the exhibition is during the day…balance the light to compensate. Right now it’s not too bad. I changed the lens. You had it on “c”, all the way open, is there a back light adjustment on the camera.”17
Mapplebeck reminds him that, “he was going to have a holiday from technology.” Wong reminds her crew to charge their cameras. Mapplebeck reminds him, “You said you were taking a holiday from technology! 18 She distributes Scotch. She teases Wong, “this was supposed to be twenty-four hours of play and pleasure.”19 Wakeford is working downstairs on the computer.
Slow reverb sounds echo through the Parasite from downstairs—there is some connectivity at last. Wong plays Chinese Buddhist music—it is on a little recorder that he brought in Shanghai of spiritual trance dance music. He would play it regularly throughout the lock-up as would Wakeford, for calming effect. The image from the CodeZebra control deck in Las Palmas appears on the monitor and all huddle around it. Despite the irritating quality of the sound, Wong and Wakeford are excited as my voice bounces against the walls of the Parasite—at least the two spaces are in contact at last. Everyone waves, “Hello, hello,” to me downstairs. Diamond’s voice is echoing; Wong wanted to know if they sound as incoherent downstairs as Diamond does in their space. Wakeford tells Diamond, “We are good. We are trying to work everything out.” We see someone playing with the camera, making bunny hand images and shadow puppets in front of the upstairs monitor. Claudia and Jan laugh. It’s lightening up a bit. Wong says, “That is Sara down there howling.” This results in more laughter. Diamond’s descriptions of the opening at full tilt drift below slowly drift upstairs drawing the Parasite into the public art show.
A new person comes up the stairs to the Parasite, seemingly authoritative. Clements is the coordinator of Las Palmas, the building housing DEAF and the Parasite. He had no idea that there even was an event in the Paradise. Wong explains to him what the project is, “I can stay up for twenty-four hours. I can nap, once it’s going. This is the other half of it.” He points to Diamond on the downstairs monitor. “Sara Diamond? Sara Diamond has developed the software.” Diamond’s voice sounds out, “whaaaaa, whooooo, hooooo…Helloooooooo…” He notes that, “Sara organized this. Sara is down there wailing away.” 20Wong tells Clements from Las Palmas to come back at 3 a.m. Wakeford begins to interview him. He describes the experiments in the building and their aspirations to become like ZKM. When asked if he would like to be locked up with an artist, he laughs, “No, I my being an artist myself.” Wong jokes with Wakeford, “Twenty-four hours is nothing, Nina.” 21Eventually we figure out how to turn down the audio levels in each space and use headphones for dialogue, eliminating the constant howling.
The technological challenges continue, with busy video and computer crews swarming over the Parasite. Wakeford moves to the first floor. She begins working on CodeZebra OS, setting up a discussion topic. She consistently checks CodeZebra at the downstairs desk to see what is emerging in debates on the CodeZebra OS chat. She is diligent in keeping this forum alive. She lets readers know that she is listening to music on her ibook. She states that she is going to post a definition of ethnography on CodeZebra. She is curious about the ways that definitions such as this one are read in the art world, “Typing it in for reply or to see if they think it’s ironic.” 22 In other words, she is testing the ways that reading happens at the Meta level as well as fishing for a response to the concept of ethnography, a practice at the core of CodeZebra Habituation Cage.
Wakeford then reads a definition of ethnography out loud while Wong hangs over the second floor railing smoking a cigarette. She types the definition into CodeZebra after she reads the definition to Wong.
Ethnographic field research involves the study of groups and people as they go about their everyday lives. Carrying out such research involves two distinct activities. First, the ethnographer enters into a social setting and gets to know the people involved in it; usually, the setting is not previously known in an intimate way. The ethnographer participates in the daily routines of this setting, develops ongoing relations with the people in it, and observes all the while, what is going on. Second, the ethnographer writes down in regular, systematic ways what she observes and learns while participating in the daily rounds of the lives of others. 23
Wong wants to know if she wrote this definition. Wakeford retorts ruefully, “No, it’s cleverer than me.” He interrupts her to find out if the people who she is studying are him and her, and, “what about all these people here,” indicating the camera crew. “Them too,” Wakeford answers impatiently. Wakeford notes that she has a notebook to observe and learn. Wong asks if it’s like being a journalist. Wakeford looks up at him as he smokes and says, “…we’re trying to say, we’re learning people’s lives as they talk about it, whereas with journalist you translate it.”
Wakeford exclaims that the reason she was searching for a definition of ethnography was that Diamond suggested that Wong and she should “ethnography each other”.24 They need to agree on what this means. Diamond’s idea was that both of them are excellent interviewers and observers—much might be gained by some self-conscious analysis of the rituals of their role behavior as an artist/interviewer or as an ethnographer/interviewer. He explains that his friends were more intrigued with her practice as a sexologist than “a quite aggressive sociologist” who he would like, as I had explained her. 25 The crew now continues to set up downstairs where the video mixer sat. Wong and Wakeford banter back and forth between levels. The crew can be heard loudly in the background arguing in German about the set up. The infrastructure of the panopticon is hardly invisible.
This prompts an online discussion of whether or not ethnography could be art, “is ethnography art…in what way is it not art, or rather fiction? Is anything of what the ethnographer produces not a story of her memory, or a dream of her Rotterdam (for example) fantasy?”26Other discussions begin in CodeZebra OS, some initiated by Wakeford, some by me, some by other participants who are online abroad such as Richlach, Susan Kennard, or DalstonGirl, or others at the Festival. Topics include, “Rotterdam Dreams, What is ethnography? We are home!” A discussion begins in response to Wakeford’s earlier definitional intervention on whether ethnography is art. DalstonGirl asks whether or not there is a queer meaning to “zebra…there was in the 80s”. 27 This thread continues for several hours. At the same time, orphan postings appear throughout the Habituation Cages, as people try to make their way through the topic circles, find relevance or start a discussion.
Wong lights candles and plays with the lights, swinging them to create visual effects. He says he is providing Wakeford with some visual warmth, which will warm her soul, her mind, her body.
The fundamental technical problem, apparently inherent in the way that the Festival designed the streaming process is that the audio will always be delayed between each relay. This delay will run from a minimum of twenty seconds to a maximum of 20 minutes. It is already annoying, in just listening to the audio, without adding a video image. These delays between the original audio, its return with a comment on top of it and the return back makes for constant echoes between the past and the present. It makes it hard to keep thoughts moving and context for comments is constantly lost until we learn to reference the question asked with its response. The audio from the large opening downstairs is echoing through the Parasite.
The team and the crew discuss the delays. “Two minutes is not very practical”, says Jan. He jokes, “We should change it into something about time delay,” not realizing that this is already occurring. “Two minutes is enough time for people to run up and down the stairs…we should get people to run up, do something and run down and see their action.”28 Mapplebeck reminds them that they are on camera downstairs, and that it’s interesting when they are doing things together, “If I were you I would stay out of the technical.”29 The “art of delay” will emerge as a consistent theme through the many hours of the CodeZebra Habituation Cages, repeated and elaborated.
Wong has taken over the distribution of media assets. He suggests that rather than have streams and the software together, forcing them to switch, they place CodeZebra downstairs and the Las Palmas stream upstairs. Then they can stream both cameras upstairs and audio. They move the cables to achieve this. He notices that the camera is set up and taped down so that their backs will always be towards the camera. This will bother Wong for hours, until he finally repositions the camera, “One should not have one’s back to anybody.” Mapplebeck, “It does not make for good filming. Wong, “It does not make for good anything.” 30 Wong is having problems with his own cameras; he has brought the wrong size Polaroid film and does not have a battery charger. He and Wakeford decide to rely on her digital camera. “This one is cute of you.” Mapplebeck, Wong and Wakeford try to track down the source of a chilly breeze that is sweeping the Parasite.
Claudia runs upstairs. Las Palmas has lost the video signal from the Parasite now that Wong has moved the cable. The upstairs crew scurries to reconnect them—the signal keeps freezing. Wong and Wakeford explore the other basic technologies they have brought, clips for paper, pens, tape. Wakeford is showing images of Wong that are on the stream to Las Palmas. Wong shows Wakeford the fabric that he has brought, part of their plans to explore the five senses. Claudia and Mapplebeck begin a discussion about new media art. Wakeford joins in and Mapplebeck explains, “We are having a discussion about the limits of specialization in new media art.”31 Wong joins in. He feels strongly that, “just because people work in new media does not mean that they are an artist.” Wakeford argues that new media is a more generous environment than past contexts, “…if people say they work in new media it is perceived that they are creative in some way?” Wong feels, “unfortunately yes.” Wakeford suggests that is because the boundaries are melting between roles, “now it is more fluid. You can be a person who repairs the wires and is involved in new media art. 32 Claudia is happy that the era of genius has ended. Mapplebeck jumps in, stating that the collaboration is what is interesting, not the technology around it.
It is Wakeford’s turn to provide instruction to Wong. She has tried to establish web mail for him so that he can communicate to Elspeth Sage, his collaborator who is trying to log on from Vancouver. He cannot master the ibook or web mail and he utters, “It’s boring!” suddenly. Wakeford, Mapplebeck and Claudia think that he is commenting on the conversation, which has continued without him and are momentarily uncomfortable. Wakeford helps him send the email. The move outside onto the deck. Wong suggests that they, “need a messenger server; we should throw a bottle over the side and dangle it.”33They joke that the crew needs walkie talkies, instead of running up and down. Wong reiterates the idea of having festival participants run up and down the stairs and leave messages for themselves at either end. He laughs that for him it would be one way. He would never make the run back up the stairs. Everyone laughs.
Wakeford takes over making Wong’s posting for him—he cannot master the ibook. Now they both have a frail boundary object between them. Wakeford helps him and asks him about what “On edge” is, the site where he is sending his email. The email encourages people to join the chat and watch the stream. “I am on now, locked up for twenty-four hours, its cool, check it out, log on and chat to me.” 34 On Edge is his company and Wakeford begins to interview him about what it does, a topic she will pursue in far more depth later. Mapplebeck is ecstatic—the lights are working at last.
At this moment, Claudia interrupts. She explains that the DEAF web site would like a pre-recorded sequence from Wong and Wakeford that they can play over the web and as part of the publicity for the entire show as one enters the building. They agree that they need, “a script”. The script, which is approached more like a treatment, provides an object for their conversations and methods to converge upon. They come back to the problem of how to represent their experience several times.
Wakeford starts to teach Wong how to use CodeZebra. He becomes quickly frustrated, finding the system confusing and suddenly overwhelmed at how much there is, “to learn.” The crew’ bustles around them, attempting to get the video stream working. Wakeford makes another plea to get the heater working to several technicians and to Mapplebeck, who is going downstairs to find a missing cable. “Just get us warmth, plead for warmth!”35 Wong looks for gaffer tape to set up his camera borrowing some from Jan. Upstairs Wong expresses his frustration with the delay; it’s now at three minutes. Jan reminds him that they can still see what they are doing upstairs. Wakeford is on CodeZebra. Wakeford tells Wong, “I am going to put words up on the walls.”36
As time moves on Wong and Wakeford both ascend the stairs to converge on the upper floor of the Parasite. Wakeford has been boiling water. Wakeford tells Wong she is going to put words up on the wall from my instructions, “just to see if we want to rebel against them” Wong feels that there is nothing yet to respond to and says, “If anything was working!” Wakeford replies, “We can put something up about that.” Wong retorts, “The failure of technology.” Wong and Wakeford remark on the assurances of simple technologies, Wakeford is comforted by her papers and Wong by his incense, “Thank God I have my josh sticks.” It’s the skill in everyday things, like gaffer tape and lighters that offers reassurance.37 On the other hand, states Wakeford, “I never play like this! I have learned how to use a lighter.”38 The kettle boils as Wakeford works downstairs and Wong makes her tea. Wong suddenly aware of Mapplebeck’s camera says, “This is like a reality show.” Mapplebeck, the reality television director laughs, “It IS a reality show.” Wong still frustrated with the sense of endless waiting to start retorts, “In its rehearsal mode39.”
Through this time, Wakeford has been energetically setting up her space, organizing papers and books. She is worried about Wong and asks him if he is okay. He answers yes and adds an, “It’s just…” 40 The technical trauma is harder for him than for Wakeford. Wong watches the ongoing trouble shooting upstairs at times leaning over the railing to chat with Wakeford.
Wakeford pulls out earlier emails between Wong and herself that included images of nude men that he had sent to kick-start the discussion at a distance, on “desire, its technologies and mediations.”Wakeford begins a list on the wall of topics that I have suggested they explore transcribing these. This is her “habitus.” She works on paper on the wall of the downstairs level, aware of the gaze of the camera and outside world and speaks the topics out loud, “Pleasures and textures.” She makes an aside, “I feel like I am giving a lecture. And then…” Wong comes down the stairs. Wong expresses contempt or perhaps simply incomprehension for Wakeford’s writing project to the assembled crew. Wakeford is being very literal, copying my instructions verbatim. He suggests that Wakeford is “well schooled” because of her neat handwriting. This does not seem like a complement. He teases that had they a projector they could simply,”…beam it there”. 41 He asks if she intends to copy it four times. Wakeford laughs and the whole group roars. Comic relief breaks the tension. The exercise for Wakeford however, is a necessity; she would do it with or without technology. There is a ritual quality to it. For her, writing is an embodied process; it helps her to absorb the ideas, to work them through over time. This kind of repetitive mnemonic writing can become a tool, a means for reassurance and for remembering, Wakeford later proposes. She continues to write, despite Wong’s interjection, reading out loud. Wong’s attitude towards Wakeford’s writing process changes over the twenty-four hours and by the end of the lock-up, he appreciates her “visualization” of their topics and process.
Consciously breaking from the director “habit”, Wong walks downstairs carrying a medley of masks that he had brought, for “later when we need other identities”.42 He describes his collection of masks and of petrified human body parts, “I would buy a foot, a hand…”43He tells of frightening a nosy female custom agent:
My best story was when I was going to New York City and my favorite store is called the bones store, it’s called Maxella’s and Mandibles and they sell bones. And I refuse to buy animal bones but I would buy a rib, a foot and this one time I bought a hand and this one time we came back through Canada Customs and it was late night and we missed our flight and we were in a miserable mood. And this person at Customs was giving me such as hard time and this was all wrapped up and I just waited for them, I just waited for that BITCH to open it and go through my stuff. And she opened it and went, Ahhhh! And I said, it’s my brothers 44
Wakeford interviews him about the masks, playing interviewer/conversationalist, an identity she would occupy comfortably many times during the lock-up. They play with the masks at the desk, putting them on. They are concentrating their activities on the lower level in front of the documentary camera while the crews continue to set up on the second floor.
Wakeford’s writing exercise and Wong’s play with masks has broken through the grey spell of technology set up. They are beginning to collaborate on more than the creation of infrastructure. It has taken over four hours to get to this point. They move to the upper level of the Parasite. Wakeford holds us his Chinese music player and suggests that, you could do a wonderful little piece with people all holding these on the Waterloo Line.” 45 Wong and Wakeford are watching the Las Palmas image and listening to the reverberating audio. Wong again notes the potential for games with the feedback, “it (sic) will just go and go.
They want to write a script for the DEAF website. Diamond’s voice comes through telling them that despite the two minute delay, they are very clear. They whoop in relief. First Wakeford will read from one of her theory books. She is worried that “nothing is relevant.” Finally, she finds a quote. Wakeford begins her reading but has to interrupt herself several times to re-center herself because she can hear her own echo. Wong directs her, “Just forget it’s a two minute delay and pretend its real time, because they are going to receive our video as though its real time.” The stream works for performance, not yet for communication.
Wakeford reads, interjecting comments into her text:
I begin with what has become a question of methodology for me. My mode of inquiry, working with the sociology of women, has led me to take up methodology that takes the everyday and every night world as its problematic. The direct experiencing of this world, an experiencing which is not of raw sensory data that is through and through socially organized. Somewhere, I acquired a habit that sociologists may take for granted that thinking beyond the local to its connectedness to relations beyond the elsewhere. I have begun to see that it is exceptional to have acquired an awareness that … I have begun to see that it is exceptional to have acquired an awareness that is the social analogue to being able…this is the easy chapter!
And analogously I have learned to see where I am embedded in social relations…well one would hope so.
It was written in 1999.46
Wong has a sudden inspiration. He has brought Mandarin flash cards and pulls them out looking at the camera and telling Wakeford he thought she might like them. Wakeford joins him, sitting across from him. Wong and Wakeford play a word game with a set of Chinese language flash cards. They are seated across from each other at the upstairs dining table. They start a guessing game. Wong chooses a card and shows it to Wakeford who responds, at times struggling to find the right association for the images since she does not read Chinese and the pictures are quite oblique. Cards create a cascade of associations and represent a complex use of imagery and language. Wong at times provides the Chinese pronunciation:
Wong: Now what is that piece?
Wong: No streaming, streaming, it’s a river. One of our water things our elements
Wakeford: maybe we can sort them. I am such a categorizing demon.
Wong: we can do that.
We also have chairs. (Shows image of chair) TWA is sitting, TWA and this word is UNG–chair and the back we have English. That is how we say in Chinese is yee…arm chair is yee…in Mandarin.
Here is a good one, we are right now in time of year, winter, these are relevant ones, and these are related to what we are doing.
We are doing this one for sure
Wakeford: Looking, eye,
(Wakeford is quite excited)
Wong: How did I say that Nyan Ying (Wong’s face)?
Wong: We are not using the telephone.
Wong: Yes telecommunications, it’s relevant
Wong: Are we dealing with this?
Wakeford: What re those 13:18
Wong: Parallel bars—we are doing things in parallel
Wong: And this one is wind, we are dealing with that today
And we could have used the curtain one too cause we are dealing with that issue
We are using all these elements we are involved with and cause we are locked up
Wong: I don’t think we are doing this are we?
Wong: We are not swinging
Wong: And this water
Wakeford: And that is how we started with lunch.47
In between flashing the cards, Wong instructs Jan the camera operator to zoom in, get specific shots. .48 Wong is in his element. So is Wakeford, she is gathering the cards into categories to use for scripting and to create time lines. She is good at guessing and also intrigued at the ways that cultural conventions enter the interpretation of the images. She loves creating categories. While they guess at almost all the cards, they only keep those relevant to their experience. They banter back and forth, deciding which associations to sustain as themes for the lock-up. They decide to include a “grandfather” card because Wong did burn josh sticks for his ancestors. Some of the cards are, “beautiful art”, others are, “goofy”. They use the cards to open up a larger dialogue about other collaborations and ways of integrating their audience as well:
Wong: That is a beautiful piece of art, mouth
Wakeford: How do you say that?
Wong: Look at the symbol. It’s almost like a mouth, remember Chinese started as pictograms
Wakeford: I brought my Chinese paintbrush so I can copy these
Wong: …Speaking of which (shows image of paint brush on green surface)
Wakeford: Paint brush, art!
Wong. This is green!
That one is green and this one is pink and these are from two sets of cards.
Are we using green?
Wong: This one cause we are run off our feet ant cause we flew here.
We have a second dog.
Wakeford: (to Jan) let’s ask on Chat, which is better
Wong: The orange or the green dog is better representation,
Wakeford: Let our audience decide.49
An image of a ring prompts Wakeford to note that they both have very, very good rings. Wong’s ring was made by a friend who confused two Chinese symbols and instead of creating “everlasting force”, which is Wong’s name, she created, “ever lasting forest”, a more gentle way of saying something similar. This pleased Wong. Wakeford’s ring glows in ultraviolet light, it changes character in clubs. They continue with the card game, playing for over an hour, comparing two different sets of cards with similar images for aesthetics. Wong jokingly calls one card, “international black” and Wakeford falters momentarily, not knowing this is the traditional uniform of the art world. They continue. Wakeford’s favorite card is “white gourd”, which is a marrow with a white inside. Wong says, “I wanted to give you something as a sociologist, when is something not.”50
The banter flows quickly as the game moves on. Some cards represent relationships not objects, others abstract concepts like colors. Wakeford is very good at the “abstract art”. Each card prompts Wong to say, “We are dealing with this or we dealt with this today.” The cards act as a means of resolving all the work done so far, all of the planning, drawing these into the larger collaboration and giving them words and meaning. After each association Wakeford places the cards in careful piles that she has created. Suddenly a lighter appears and Wakeford practices lighting the actual physical one to camera. Wakeford is successful and Wong says, “She now has the basic elements!” They are pleased with this achievement. At the end, Wong and Wakeford agree that, “we have a script of sorts.” After the flash card game Wakeford goes downstairs to see if the audience has voted on which their favorite dog card is. Wong is upstairs. He smokes a cigarette and plays with the strobe lights that Jan has brought. The Habituation Cage is growing calm at last. Wakeford is worried—the downstairs area is freezing. Mapplebeck says, “There are fewer lights” Wong adds, “and heat rises.”51
Wakeford is excited. People are responding to her postings. Diamond’s voice rises above the stream. Diamond tells them that we can see them well, have not received their postings. Diamond asks them to speak with us despite the delay. Diamond is also posting into CodeZebra that Eric Kluitenberg has arrived and is ready to talk. He will be the moderator for this session. Wong finds Eric, “quite handsome.” Wakeford is excited. Her girlfriend is also posting under DalstonGirl. Wong tells Kluitenberg that he is now at a better angle. He asks Wakeford if that is a Dutch look? Wong is excited, the stream is “faster and faster”, and “It looks very lively, and it sounds very lively and it looks great.” 52 We wave at Wong and Wong is excited, “Okay, they waved, they love us.” The delay is down to thirty seconds. Diamond is relieved, “We are finally communicating. It has taken us four hours.” Diamond instructs them to pick up postings in the “we are home” topic space. 53 Upstairs, Wong and Mapplebeck discuss the quality of the different cameras and switching sources. Diamond tells them that their upstairs camera is better quality, downstairs is black and white. Diamond suggests that Kluitenberg start a discussion with them. Wong is impatient, unhappy with the shot from Las Palmas, he cannot see Kluitenberg. Kluitenberg is having challenges getting the chat to work—it’s not sending postings to the right topic.
Kluitenberg says that he has the impression that this is not Wong’s first lock-up project. Wong deflects the question, instead restating that we are always locked up and that he has been for several of the past twenty-four hours. Kluitenberg laughs that in relative terms this can be celebrated as liberation. He goes on to ask Wakeford, “What is working for you so far?” Wakeford describes their process with the cards,
Wakeford: The cards have been working really well, we did a selection of the flash cards for things that we have been experiencing, here is the one for engineer, we saw a lot of engineers today, here is star, we are hoping to stars tonight (Wakeford can be heard)
Wong: So I guess we have kind of used visual cues to deconstruct the multi sensory overload., so we have taken the cards to deal with elements of hearing so the ears make sense, and eyes so the eyes make sense, we went to the market for centering, so now we have pulled the cards aside and we are using them as some kind of a script. They are a visual script of some sort because they contain a lot of the elements we have had to deal with in the last few hours just getting settled in, a chair a table food, colors…54
While waiting for replies to move through the delay Wong and Wakeford discuss their masks, the camera set up. Wong asks Diamond what she is eating and drinking. Banter interrupts serious attempts at theory. Wong asks Kluitenberg whether the 1500 people at the opening had stopped to watch the installation. Wakeford, posting asks, “is the culture queer here?” Both Wong and Wakeford begin to giggle, their situation absurd not earnest. Wong asks, “Where is the cell phone. It would be easier.”55 Wong begins a sound poem, speaking in fragments, mimicking the reverb, “It’s inherent, the discourse, and when we do it, we project, and the audience is paramount, and then the public sphere…” Kluitenberg suggests that they are engaged in an adventurous form of narrative. Wong takes him up, continuing, “But who is the culture, is it queer, or is it here? Then there is CodeZebra, is what you see what you get, we are rewriting, deleting, re-editing, the story of our lives…Upstairs…Downstairs…Out there…My story….No…It’s your story…” Mapplebeck and Wakeford are heard laughing in the background. In between each word the sound from the opening can be heard echoing. Wong threatens to really confuse everyone by repeating endlessly what is heard in the echo, again and again. The opening is in full swing downstairs.
Kluitenberg cannot get into CodeZebra and the stream starts crashing. Wong gets up and starts moving groceries around. Wong, Claudia and Wakeford discuss the camera quality and stream. Diamond comes through the video telling them she is trying to get back on-line with CodeZebra. Wong turns to Wakeford, “This explains why you have to physically write!” She is calm and responds, “It’s making it mine.” Wong says, “Making it yours, but also the visual.” Wakeford, “The act of it.” Wong replies, “The penmanship, the texture of the paper, the scale, the size.”
They then discuss how to video tape Wakeford’s writing process to make it translate to camera. Wong is frustrated by the camera set-up yet engaged with trying to represent this process. This is the first of many discussions about the specific qualities of each medium that they are using. Wong is very concerned that media be used appropriately and creatively.
Wong provides the voice over, “and its very academic of her its some kind of personal discourse between text and text, its all going from hand to mind to hand So what she has written is Your task is to explore together Surveillance its pleasures and terrors, Technologies of the mind that create distance and proximity, the multiplicities of subject positions that we inhabit, enforced “ 56
The installation is swarming with observers and those who want to post. Diamond asks people flowing into the CodeZebra control booth at the Festival to interact with the locked up pair. Some sit with Diamond as she tries to communicate on CodeZebra and through the video stream. Many others surround the control booth, watching Wakeford and Wong, the projected software and myself on another smaller screen. The control booth is near the bar and Diamond has set up pillows where people can lounge, watch the Habituation Cages and have a drink.
Blast Theory’s force majeur, Matt Adams has joined Diamond in the control booth and he is posting, while they drink a glass of wine to celebrate the opening.57 Diamond can be seen and heard upstairs telling them that Matt Adams from Blast Theory was logging onto CodeZebra. Wong calls out, “Get Matt on the chat”. Wong is excited that Matt “from Blast Off” is on-line. Adams begins to post into CodeZebra OS. Wakeford is ecstatic when she finds Adams’ posting, “Matt is logged on and posted, refresh!”58 The Habituation Cages are becoming less of a technical beta test and more of an experiment. Wakeford wants to talk to both Wong and Adams about story telling: She poses the question and begins the dialogue with Wong:
I wanted to talk to him and you about how I tell normally tell stories and how you tell stories. Because how I tell stories, is that I normally go out and spend time in an environment and then write about it or I interview people and then I write about their life stories, whereas I suspect that you do something very different–like I looked on the web at your murder stuff and it’s a story but you were creating it through objects and scenes rather than through interviews with people, that is how it came across.
Wong I am essentially a story teller… I basically tell stories that relate tome, that happen around me.
Wakeford: And how do you decide where the beginning, middle or end of the story is?
Wong: Well that comes down to the story telling technique.
Wakeford: SO I want to ask Matt from Blast theory if he is still there about his story telling technique. How does he tell stories through the body? 59
Adams questions the value of story telling altogether, “I’d love to hear more about why stories are valuable things, in the context of a culture awash with stories.” Wong leaves the desk momentarily. A discussion on the value and values of story telling breaks out on CodeZebra. 60 It is linked to the debate about ethnography. Wakeford argues the value of story in creating understanding. Adams argues, “…stories are code.” The audio begins to break up, with silence interpolating his statements. He continues, “Stories get too much credit for how to organize fictions…there are many other ways of organizing information…our work has really been around game play and narrative threads.” The broken audio seems to underscore the notion that traditional fictions are not relevant in a time of complex technologies. Kluitenberg picks up Adams’ earlier question. He wants to hear Wong and Wakeford’s explanation of the value of story telling.
This is a moment of possible linguistic and theoretical clash. Their conversation implicates objectivity in research. How much is a story anything more than a starting point from which to understand its structure and the point of view of the storyteller? Wakeford is arguing the value of story as an ethnographer who writes an account in order to understand and analyze its culture and context. Adams and Kluitenberg are questioning stories as part of a critique of mass culture and narrative realism. Wakeford answers with apparent irony, “Wong is busy lip synching at the moment, but stories in general I think are a way of organizing knowledge that have great cultural power—but then so do games, and I like the idea that games are another way of organizing information chunks (although I hate the word chunks). But maybe oral histories are another way? Folk songs? I like the intensity of a story when it engrosses you.”61 Wakeford is aware that Blast Theory’s current work draws on game structures rather than narrative and is curious about how this structures experiences.
Wong goes off, “to refresh his candles”, as all shout, “Refresh! Refresh!” to Matt Adams of Blast Theory. Wong asks, is that Matt from Blast Off? Wakeford and Mapplebeck joke about Wong’s renaming of Blast Theory into the banality of Blast Off! Wong jokes about misnaming him whispers conspiratorially, “Matt from Blast Off, come up!” Mapplebeck, also clearly frustrated with the technical challenges, encourages Adams to come upstairs. Wong decides he will go downstairs and “make an entrance.” Wakeford says that it’s not allowed and talks him out of it. Wong offers snacks and drinks. He swings the lights. This is against Diamond’s rules. She tells Wong jokingly that he could not take hostages. Diamond is the prison warden, not he. Wong decides to use CodeZebra at last in order to post to Adams. He is looking for a posting entitled, Matt’s kiss. Wakeford is trying to teach him how to use it, so he can “play”. Wong questions if he will get to “play”. He finds the software hard to use. Wakeford has become expert at CodeZebra. She no longer is annoyed by the constant refreshing, logging on of identities or occasional crashes. She draws Wong in and he is suddenly intrigued by the software and the level of activity on it. “Where did all these bubbles come from?” Wakeford tells him that its people chatting. She opens a posting for him and Wong is heard typing animatedly into CodeZebra. 62Wong notices, “The visuals of CodeZebra are very beautiful. They are very active in all the cells.” He says he is watching things, “undulate…it’s all about looking beautiful,” but, “it is a very archaic system, since you have to relocate everybody and find them every time ”63 Diamond can be heard chatting with Matt Adams in the background. Wakeford is seen taking field notes in her notebook. Wong cannot find Adams’ response but has fallen into CodeZebra, and is “grooving in the background.” I am trying to help Adams post while trying to solve Pogo (Elspeth’s) problems in accessing CodeZebra, which is not compatible with Macs.
The video stream which was showing a great deal of activity from the opening that was occurring in the warehouse below seemed a notable contrast to the Parasite. It is still relatively tranquil upstairs, despite the constant technical issues. Wong returns upstairs to the table. Wong mimes into the camera, pretending to repeat phrases that were said earlier, “This could really confuse them!” 64 Diamond can be heard in the background explaining the technological problems that CodeZebra is encountering, “We have started to train it so it does emotional readings of the postings. We could not…” Wong, listening retorts, “There are a lot of could “nots”, we thought, maybe, its not convincing.”65 Anne Nigten of V2 has arrived and we talk about the software issues. The V2 lab has accidentally placed the wrong version on the home page, so that all participants in the space have to navigate around it each time to find the correct chat.
Las Palmas can hear them perfectly, but now cannot see their postings on CodeZebra. Diamond urges them to chat on the stream and CodeZebra when not on camera, the software and the time lag will catch up, “When you are not on the diary camera come and talk to Erik and I.”66 Wong plays with a toy 3D lens while they wait, “the delay is sooo…long”, he moans. The audio delay is about a minute at this point. Wong begins trouble shooting his business partner Elspeth Sage’s problems logging onto CodeZebra—it is not MAC friendly and she is a MAC user. This is a disappointment for them, a sidebar of technical “habit” for him. Wong checks in with the group, “How are we all doing?” Wakeford explains that she, “Has performance anxiety that they are not doing the task.” Wong jokes that this is why, “you need to be retrained…because everything we do…we take an image of the ship, we realize the technical set-up…”67 Wong and Wakeford capture images to send to Pogo as JPEGs. They animatedly discuss their photo methods with each other. Wakeford gets music on—she offers “Gomez! Musicals! Shine!” Wong is happy that Thursday will be smoother because of their travails. Mapplebeck hopes it will be more about collaboration and less about communication technology. Somewhat ironically Mapplebeck can then be heard for twenty minutes, checking her camera’s audio, “Monday, Tuesday, one two, one two, Monday, Tuesday…”68 Wong is looking at the material that he shot in Venice and Rotterdam, comparing it and sharing it with Mapplebeck and Wakeford. He tells Matt he is okay but editing photos and shares his plans for his upcoming show as part of the off-site Venice Biennale. Matt responds to the music, “…it’s a great thing to be playing Sham 69. “If the kids are united they will never be divided”. He admits that he is defeated by the three minute time delay, “Unfortunately I feel that the delay is so strong I do not feel that we can have a conversation and the software is taking a little trip.”69
There is a pause while Wakeford and Wong are working together upstairs. Diamond mistakenly says that Wakeford is doing her field notes and Wong is having a break while elicits a frustrated outcry from Wong–they are there and attentive. Wakeford has become expert at making CodeZebra work. She tells others how to negotiate through the chat system, “if we start from the “we are home” bubble…you can start a new conversation…Wong is playing with fire…see the threads but not the topic, you can see where you close.”70 Meanwhile Wong comes downstairs and gives Wakeford a shawl. It has become very cold on the first floor of the lock-up. There is a cracked window and sporadic heat. The “heater” problem is not yet addressed. Wakeford moves upstairs while talking with myself and others in the control booth in Las Palmas. The delay is too long–she moves downstairs and chats in CodeZebra. She moves to the wall where she continues writing her thoughts in response to the chat and the context
Diamond has told Kluitenberg to take a walk around the show and return towards the end. He is clearly frustrated. Kluitenberg returns to CodeZebra much later on in the opening. Wong plays with the lights, swinging them back and forth, creating an “earthquake”. It is quite beautiful; the Parasite seems to be swaying under his illusion. He now logs in on under a new name, DEAFeric. He requests a response to his questions about the sense of presence and definitions of ethnography that unites them or fails to. Wakeford talks about their card selection from the flash cards. He asks that they change cameras, “Images are so important…you need to change cameras so that we can see you.” He would like to talk about the lock-up and, “the ways that you simplified the technologies that were around you, like using cards.” He notes, “You seem to have settled in well. I think we may be more locked up here than you are!” Wakeford explains that they have lost the upstairs camera and are now downstairs. She posts, “Do you mean that the cards are like technologies? 71 Wong says that they are communication devices.” She speaks for both Wong and herself on the chat. This is becoming a common dynamic of their collaboration. Diamond types, “…the cards are simple technologies are they not? …Signifiers within the technological space…because they demand attention.” 72The audio stream is too slow for communication. Inspired by the flash card story, Kluitenberg starts to write questions on a card to hold up to the camera in the control booth for them to respond to. He is interested in how Wakeford researches through interviews, how Wong in Murder Research combines fiction and fact.
Wong remarks on the ways that the time lags in CodeZebra were like the early days of “video delay experiments. You get people up here to see themselves and then run downstairs and see themselves.73 He is referring to the technical crew who run up and down the stairs to see if the stream is working between Las Palmas and the Parasite as well as to artists such as Joan Jonas’ Vertical Roll. The video stream with its two minute time lag nonetheless begins to demand more attention as the audio echo rises from it as even more audience pours into the opening. Wakeford picks up Wong’s point and weaves it into CodeZebra. “I love the idea of time delay being the art itself.” It’s difficult to work with the technical difficulties, but also working through them,” says Wakeford. She is concerned about her body and refers to her bodily time, “I’m on caffeine now—chocolate and coffee instant drink warming…”74 Richlach respond in a posting entitled Color Coding, “I love the fact that your coffee-and-chocolate posting appears on a nice rich brown background.”75 Conversations that start face-to-face in Las Palmas or in the Parasite or occur through the two-way stream are also taken up in CodeZebra and vice versa, amortizing the topic over time. The entire performance suddenly seems to amplify a complex relationship between past, present and future, with the delay prompting anticipation and reconsideration in every attempt to communicate using the video stream. Wong asks Eric who he is anyhow and why he is there, “I am here because Sara asked me to.” 76 Wong urges him to come up. Eric is not sure that he is allowed to, “cross the boundary.”77
While this conversation occurs, chat on other topics continues in different conversation topic spaces. DalstonGirl, one of the consistent chatters continues her interventions about whether or not zebras are queer. Richlach underscores the subjective role of the ethnographer moving it towards the story debate:
…perhaps…but I think that if you use such a broad brush to paint with, you loose all sense of any interesting details… I think what you’re saying is that the ethnographer filters all experiences through her own intellect/values/etc, and what she chooses to record, how she records it, etc, is a result of who she is. But any documents produced by a *member* of that culture/society are also filtered by a person. “Documentary” is also filtered, edited, pieced together from materials chosen by a person. My dream of my own life is a “fantasy”, but it’s also “the most authentic fantasy possible”. I guess what I mean to say is, it’s interesting to view the world this way sometimes…but if you do so always, it ceases to get you anywhere…78
Mapplebeck records an interview with Wong and Wakeford. It is six hours into the Habituation Cage performance. Wong and Wakeford sit close to each other upstairs, amiably sharing the space. Wong and Wakeford describe their state of mind in the interview. They “are getting into it now. We are now six hours in. It’s eleven o’clock.”79 At this moment, ironically, Wong asks the crew to keep their voices down so that Wakeford and he can record and concentrate on their performance—like a director asking for a quiet set. Wong feels that they have found “the rhythm” of the lock-up at last after the first three hours of chaos and constant set-up and interruption, he restates the metaphor of “a message in the bottle that you dangle down and see who reaches.”80
Wakeford is wearing a mask, thrown back on her head with little ears remaining visible, appearing playful. Wakeford says she went through a period of, “Oh my goodness, we are not achieving enough… I went through a tense period…but you calmed me down, by making me feel like it was part of the process. I’ve stopped doing these, my wonderful performance in my own handwriting, although I am really glad that they are there.” She reaches out to them, “Oh it’s also very warm.” The list writing also was a means of creating references which she thinks Wong does in his head, “…reexamining and re-filtering, to visualizing, processing, okay got it. Making the text mine, read through writing, like reading a book and writing notes, process of reading is writing,”81 is her comfort zone. She speaks of the crew,”…it’s all about finding a comfort zone with all of them in this environment, what part do they play?”82
Wong talks about creating the rhythm between the crew, Wakeford and he because they were there for the same time, “for the first three hours it was pure chaos in here.” They concur that they have succeeded because they set up and established a filter that separated Wakeford and Wong from the crew by using the flash cards. “It was quite centering that we did something between us, the cards…We kind of faced them to the audience, but we did not ask everybody else in there.” Wong feels that entering a performance mode was critical. They used the masks to do this. Wakeford describes the sense of “actually performing Sara’s questions.”83 Wong admits that for awhile he was trying to retreat. He went into the other room and Mapplebeck turned the camera on him and he realized it was reality television and then thought, “Well it IS deal with it.” He was okay after that.
They are curious about how body rhythms would affect them as time moved on. Wakeford is interested in the gaps between their body time and those of moderators or audiences coming on in North America. Both see their work so far as pragmatic rather than creative, helping to create infrastructure, “getting the place functioning, so that we can communicate.” This has involved doing simple things, like bringing the food upstairs in preparation for dinner, closing doors to keep in the heat. Wong sees creating an infrastructure for communication and for play as the modus operandi of CodeZebra. Wong notes that infrastructure is only visible when it is in breakdown.
Eric Kluitenberg ends his session downstairs. Diamond has given permission for him to go upstairs and visit on camera with Wong and Wakeford. This was not part of my original plan. However, given the proximity of the lock-up, it seems critical to let the Cage dwellers share experiences with their distant collocutors. Diamond is curious to see whether or not identification emerged between them and thought a face to face encounter might indicate this. Diamond realizes that their ability to create a relationship might well have been through mutual suffering, “Since Eric has had such a hard time making contact it would be a reward,” Diamond tells Wong and Wakeford of my decision. Wong encourages the visit—he goes back to his video diary and Wakeford calls out for CodeZebra postings, “I have posted more on the web if there are any Banff people who want to contribute.”84. She is responding to Richlach, currently in Toronto and Susan Kennard in Banff who have been on the chat.
Victoria Mapplebeck, the video director, escorts Kluitenberg up to the Habituation Cage. He looks sheepish, a bit annoyed and tired. He has not enjoyed the last hours. He explains that he is a theorist and a cultural organizer, that he has been to The Banff Centre and that he had been very curious about the performance. Seated together, in close proximity at the dining room table in Paradise, they discuss the limitations and mediations of the technology and experience. Kluitenberg asks for a brief comment from both of them on what they have achieved. Wong feels that they have built and resolved one hundred parts in the last hours. Wong underscores the ways that Wakeford and he have created “infrastructure” and done the “housekeeping” in the last hours, “the light bulb is no longer glaring.”85 Kluitenberg, asks, “This desire to abolish this distance – what happens when we finish setting up the infrastructure and it actually works. What happens at that point? I mean it’s also a deferral of that point where we actually need to communicate.” Wong and Wakeford state that artists work around the technology, using whatever means are necessary to make the context work. They return to the flash cards as a successful example of communication tools. Wong feels that they capacity of CodeZebra will grow in leaps and bounds from their experience to that of Mary Flanagan and Tom Donaldson. They are suddenly anxious that they cannot see my image on the screen “is she down there?”
The flow picks up again. Wong is adamant that there needs to be specific decisions around the creative use of technologies,”… as an artist who has used video through the days of fax art and transmission stuff, the question always is, I am interested in how to explore ideas for these things, not just reproducing my ability to talk to you but using it in a different way.” An ongoing theme of Wakeford and Wong’s conversations is reiterated, the need to use technologies for specific purposes, not just reproduce what other media can do. Wong is interested in participating in spaces where he can subtly subvert codes.” Wakeford notes that, “it’s interesting how you take some practice that people are doing in some way that is kind of mundane and then subvert something slightly that they are doing. That is one way of creating a commentary on it. The other way is to create something completely separate which comments on it. To create a piece in a gallery that comments on it” She underscores one of the key dynamics of CodeZebra Habituation Cages, here, we are doing both in a way, we are engaging in the activity and we are commenting on it.”86 Wong is pleased with this analysis and Wakeford proceeds to write it down, “Shall I write this down, ‘engage in activity and comment on it’”?
Wong says that he had little expectations before the lock up. Kluitenberg describes his challenges. He had thought that he would be in a text chat environment, not in the intensely performative space of a live video stream in the midst of a major opening. He had prepared thoroughly however. He checked their biographies and questioned why they were together. This question opened a dialogue between Wakeford and Wong who assessed their compatibility. Wakeford rereads my memo to them that underscored their work with desire, “unspoken desire and unregulated desire,” as Wakeford restates it. 87A discussion of sex spaces on-line occurs. Wakeford again notes that while they both work in this area, she is a documenter and Wong creates spaces and then documents the results. Wakeford underscores her role as participant observer, “If I am participating in it at all I am also standing back and documenting it.” This comment prompts Kluitenberg to ask about art and ethics, “Is an artist allowed to indulge”? Wong says, “Absolutely.” and Wong will continue to challenge him. He describes a student who built an online persona who wrote fictional stories that included the lives and persona of other on-line characters. Eventually, her stories began to effect their lives and then, her own. “These people were reading this and reacting to it.”88 The conversation continues in depth. The student could not disassociate reality and her virtual life, eventually finding a new partner on line and on-line counseling. Kluitenberg insists that there are real life consequences in virtual intervention. Wakeford argues that social scientists are restricted from such interventions by ethics standards which forbid duplicity. Artists can take such risks. The role of social scientists is then to ask questions about impact.89
They return to a discussion of the new media technologies. Wakeford feels that the experience is about the desire for something that is, “Almost!” That can be the sustaining quality of new media, because it almost works, so you stay watching. Kluitenberg notes that, “…still they found out that they could not hold a conversation, like at a table.” He questions the loss of communication. 90 Wong talks about the emerging nature of new media, like video almost twenty years ago. Wakeford asks, “What conversations are necessary to have at a table and what can be sustained elsewhere?” He was curious about whether Wong and Wakeford were acting in a way that was “truly” to each other rather than an imaginary situation. Wakeford seems to see the fact the technology changes the situation as a tautology. She does not think that duplicating unmediated face-to-face presence is the point.
Reflecting on the discussion about realism, ethnography and narrative in CodeZebra OS, she notes the value that gaps create for fantasy to enter a situation. On a negative point, new media remains concerned with a, “fantasy of technology”, not actual technologies that meet those desires. Wong feels that new media is not yet an art form, it lacks fluidity. He feels that most works do not sustain audience. 91 Wakeford remarks that it is the promise of its potential that makes it desirable. The conversation indicates different opinions on whether the CodeZebra Habituation Cage should try to amplify the authenticity of presence rather than reflect on it. Eric Kluitenberg prepares to exit as Wakeford reminds us, “We still have a heating issue!”
After this intriguing interchange with Kluitenberg, and to create consistency, Diamond asks that at the end of each moderation period, the moderator mount the stairs and discuss their observations with the Habituation Cage dwellers on the experience under the scrutiny of the video camera, also streamed to the web.
Mapplebeck’s presence in the space is an important dynamic with Wong and Wakeford. She spends a lot of time with them in the beginning, discussing their experiences in the lock-up, their frustrations with technology, goading them to express frustration or conflict. She influences where they position themselves by her camera set-up. She directs their performance for the camera. As expected, their address to her is different than the minute to minute rhythm of their long-time process together, their video diaries, or the rhythm of Wakeford’s postings into CodeZebra. Wong performs for the camera, Wakeford is contemplative and analytic.
At this point in the evening Mapplebeck tells Wong and Wakeford how to use the diary cameras. Diamond is insistent that she leave the space as we are all about to be locked in. Jan will stay with me, doing occasional shoots and overseeing the tempestuous video stream. Diamond has not had an opportunity to leave, get warm clothes or food and ask metaphorically for “supplies.” Over the next half hour Wong begins to cook, prepares a “doggy bag” and some Scotch for me. Jan brings it downstairs. Diamond tells them that Mapplebeck has left, that she will check in regularly and chat with them. Wakeford is in, “Rotterdam dreams”, one of the topic areas.
Wakeford sings in the background as Wong starts elaborate meal preparation. He and she banter while Wakeford chats downstairs on CodeZebra. Audio easily permeates the Parasite and they talk easily between floors. Wakeford later joins him in the kitchen. Wong feels like he has been hosting for six hours, “I feel run off my feet. It’s great to just concentrate on cooking.”92 They are cooking for Jan, the cameraman and Diamond as well as themselves. Diamond has locked herself in without food. Wakeford says, “Let’s send them a bit of everything.” Wong reiterates, “It feels like you and I have hosted a dinner party and now everyone is gone home.” 93 They chat about how they feel. Wakeford says, “I am not feeling so bad”. Wong says he will crash at 3 a.m. early in the morning. Wong asks, “Whatever happened to someone coming up here every four hours?” The video do not visit on as regular intervals as planned now that Mapplebeck has left the building and only Jan remains. Diamond’s voice can be heard in the background thanking them for the Scotch they have sent to me on Jan’s last run. Wakeford assures Diamond that they will be sending “fish, rice, salad and dessert.”
Diamond asks Wakeford to look at one of the conversation topics, “You might want to look at the shape of the “We are home,” conversation as it, “really has a nice feel for the dynamics of posting.” Wakeford agrees and adds, “I like the way that different conversations seem to flip between threads.”94 Diamond is interested in analyzing how various types of topics adapt to shapes based on which participants respond to each other and at which time. The threads weave the geometric pattern of each topic. The three of us begin to settle into a more direct, intimate dialogue, referring to an invisible audience who will be watching the stream or participating in the chat. It will create a greater flow of dialogue between Wakeford, Wong, and I, as well as outside moderators.
Wakeford and Diamond talk about the process to date, what progress if any has been made towards goals and the tools—at least for the moment, the late night time lag is much less, there is no other demand on bandwidth from the show. Diamond tells her, “I might have found an audio feedback strategy to ride levels and turn them down right after I speak.” Diamond can hear Wakeford and Wakeford can barely hear me. We again adjust levels. Diamond explains the pleasure that Diamond is encountering watching them cook and on a two burner hot plate at that, knowing Wong’s gourmet abilities. Jan the camera man gets our full plates from Wakeford and Wong and brings them downstairs to the control booth. The team eats dinner together, separated by floors. Wong inquires, “Hello Sara how is your dinner?” Diamond replies, over the time lag, “Wong, it’s delicious, hot food and of course our microphones because we are online dining.” There are sounds of chewing from both floors. They sample each dish with relish.” Diamond tries to talk to Wong and Wakeford, but Wong tells Diamond that her audio is breaking up. Wakeford makes conversation, back in ethnographic mode. She interviews Wong about his role as a producer, what this job entails. She is curious about the relationship between artist and curator, the differences between producer and artist. Wong says that On Edge has done many productions in the UK, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Cuba and Ireland for example.
Throughout the meal Diamond interjects with thanks for the food. The sound of her voice breaks up and clearly annoys Wong. She is out of synch and it interrupts his responses to Wakeford. Wong tells Diamond again that there is poor audio quality, “since we started eating…Is your microphone not plugged in? You are breaking up.”95 Wong gets up to fix the audio and notes the time, “Is it really one o’clock?” They are over one third through the process. Wakeford says, “It doesn’t feel like it…it was three hours of being interviewed and then a bit of peace.”96 Wong shares his cooking secrets with Wakeford. He has added olive paste to the rice. Jan and Diamond share the meal with them. Conversation is slow and the spaces are dark. Wong has turned down the lights in order to have a pleasant atmosphere for dinner, he feels invisible, that nobody is seeing them and Wakeford laughingly reminds him that, “they are streaming to the world”.97 The audio fades away. Jan comes upstairs to check the audio problem and adjust the darkness. They have paused the camera somehow. Conversation centers on mundane but important concerns. Is the water safe to drink? Is there a security guard in the building? Wakeford is curious about the origin of the strobe lights and whether they are a normal part of cinematography. Jan chuckles. He brought the strobe lights up in desperation because he feared there would be no lights. Wong has played with them all evening. They were an unexpected gift.
Wong now sets to work reframing cameras, moving the hangings and décor around, establishing streams. He talks about how messy their cage is, “This place is such a disaster.”98 Wong asks Wakeford to check her emails for communication for him—she is his route out to the world. She complies. Wong is eager to “reshape the room” for the group on Thursday. Wakeford remembers that a moderator is coming onto the chat. They clean up the dinner remains and the space. Diamond chimes in, “It’s very cute to hear Paul reshaping the shoot.” 99We are still having trouble hearing and seeing each other. Jan adjusts the audio and goes up to the Parasite to tell them that they can be heard. Diamond tells them that Diamond heard them all along. “Uh oh,” says Wong. “I hope we didn’t say anything too horrible.”100
The audio from the downstairs control room was now clear. Wong sets out candles around each floor. Wakeford is chatting on CodeZebra and emailing on her own computer. Jan the cameraman comes up to document. Wong and Wakeford can be seen and heard downstairs, but the lag is at times one minute. Wong feels, “.that they had a nice meditation time, very nice. The speed the four of us are working at means that we are getting more done. Hurrying it creates chaos.”101 We have accommodated the time lag by working in our own spaces and then replying when the sound arrives. This allows a reconsideration of ideas as their flow continues. However, Diamond also notes that she experiences a double handicap, “I can see you, hear you without gaps and then I speak and you have moved on.”102
CodeZebra serves as the theory discussion environment, with a dense set of considerations posted by Wakeford at 1:30 a.m. Wakeford writes:
…the view is still stunning and really peaceful up here. The film crew is gone–the heaters are pointed at us. Paul is tapping on my ibook and I’m on the PC a quiet kind of intimacy, sharing electronic and personal space. we were just saying it felt like we had together, without quite realizing it, hosted a large dinner party, all of whom had just left, and we are doing that kind of ‘what do you think that guest was like that type of chat I wonder, with my sociologist hat on (which I seem to have lost, largely) whether there are recognized or categorizeable stages of intimacy of collaboration. I’ll have to try and work them out – and note them down ideas anyone?103
The video stream seems to freeze momentarily. It has developed a strange, literal bug, where it freezes for several seconds on key words such as “intimacy”, or, “time”. Undaunted, Wakeford and Diamond continue their chat on CodeZebra—they begin the discussion of intimacy, one of their assigned topics. Wakeford and Wong have invested in the performance despite the challenges with technology. After all they are locked up. However, it feels that their interest is deeper. Diamond describes the way it feels outside the Cage. It is, “a communications field, it’s like losing a sense.” Wakeford notes that, “all accounts are filtered.” Paul is setting up “amazing shots” in his video camera, according to Wakeford. Wakeford is excited that Wong is, “using his process of story telling through the camera and our actions.” 104
The three agree that it’s the time of night for “web cams”, technologies of intimacy as well as voyeurism. Web cams are, “so different from chats and emails, a frisson of the visual and sense of presence.”105 Diamond also tells Jan not to tell them that they are occasionally inaudible— Diamond wants them to believe that my surveillance is constant. Wong reiterates the reasons that he improvised his poems earlier when the, “…audio was being really delayed. I was improvising with those disjointed things because that was how we were getting it…the whole idea is not to duplicate the phone, but create another dimension, not be so literal.”106 Wong argues that what is needed is a poetic approach. The discussions about the condensation of time also support thoughts of poetics, which results in a debate about definitions. Wong initiates this verbally and Wakeford types into CodeZebra, Diamond uses the subject line in CodeZebra to make the small poem that reads, “Poetry implies synthesis”. Diamond then annotates in the body of the text, “or is it lyricism, is it language, is it metaphor.” Wakeford asks rhetorically “what is the poetic”? Wakeford thinks of poetry as condensed and dense. She is not sure that is what this moment calls for. Diamond and she talk back and forth about how to achieve a screen shot—they are chatting in CodeZebra, sending emails to each other and talking through the video stream. Wong begins to improvise, “There is wind blowing, it is airy in the loft tonight”, as he swings lights back and forth. Wakeford asks if we ever had circular stories, she had one as a kid and it was comforting, “There were three travelers crossing the moor…” Wong answers that that is the three of us right now. Diamond later notes that there are some story telling traditions where the teller only gives a fragment of the story to different people and then each person makes up the whole, finally sharing both the fragment and their version. This is what we are creating. This becomes a deeper conversation with our next moderator.
Wakeford returns to ethnographic form. She asks Wong to recount when he knew he was an artist and why he became one. “In high school–I was seeing so much by artists that was such radical stuff. I saw it as a way of being with no rules.”107He notes that, “he still hangs out with the same people. We were the first post hippies.”108 He parries back with his own interview questions, “When did you decide to become a sociologist?” She poignantly explains that she went through school, studied for her PhD and then a year later realized that, “she was a sociologist”. She had been following in her academic parents’ footsteps. Wong begins shooting video to the rhythm of the music, and playing with the lights, creating visual intense effects. Later he lies on the ground and drinks scotch. Wakeford continues to discuss her PhD…Wong loves working on the floor—it turns out Wakeford does as well. She might move up and work on the floor where it is warmer, having filled the walls with notes. She tells Wong that she built her PhD by laying out the key concepts on the floor and ordering these so that they fit the room, “…the sophistication of my PhD was determined by the small size of my floor, so I had to limit my themes,” she jokes.109 It is a wonderful parable of physical editing.
This discussion is timely as Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskew; a Cree/Métis performance artist joins us as the next moderator. Diamond notes that Maskegon-Iskew is on line and suggest, “…you can talk to him.” Diamond warns them, “….talk to us with the delay factored in…I will post into CodeZebra for him.”110 He is in Winnipeg, in the depths of winter. His style is dramatic, lyrical and poetic. He has not read his instructions and as a Mac user will rely on Diamond. He will watch the stream. He will email Diamond. Diamond will post his emails in CodeZebra and Diamond will read them into the video and audio stream. Wakeford and Wong can respond. 111 Wong tells the group that he will lie on the floor and listen to music. Wong sets up a display of CodeZebra fabrics and objects, all patterned, next to the cue cards in the fish bowl, where they are residing. Diamond laughs, stating, “People watching us will think we are having a strange conversation.” Wong responds, “We ARE having a strange conversation, Sara.”112 All laugh. Diamond says, “The gaps are monumental but pleasurable, I am starting to talk in staccato”, in a staccato voice. Wong rotates the strobe lights to highlight the zebra patterns. He says, “I am doing my sit-ups.” “A mélange of a mélange,” Diamond notes. The group is at ease at last. Diamond lets them know that there are many postings from Maskegon-Iskew. 113
The group is already in a multi-level series of parallel events, all happening in different but simultaneous environments—CodeZebra, real time in the Parasite, real time in the control booth, on the stream at both ends and on the Internet, on video diary recordings and on video interview recordings. Now there is the addition of Maskegon-Iskew communicating with Diamond via email, Diamond’s translation back to CodeZebra and speech into the stream, Wong’s verbatim comments occasionally entering CodeZebra through Wakeford’s postings. It creates a sense of engaged intensity and active listening between the four of us. There is another layer. Wong talks to Wakeford and Diamond, they respond, chat with each other. Diamond enters Maskegon-Iskew’s ideas, responses and directions. Wong plays with the camera throughout this process, sending images out in a visual mix down that at times respond to Maskegon-Iskew’s words. Diamond tells Maskegon-Iskew what is in the chat; he follows the stream on his computer.
Wong notes that its 3 a.m. with a one minute lag. Wong shoots his crotch, plays with lights, and whimsically infers gay disco dance culture.114 Maskegon-Iskew tells Wong to put the lights between his legs. Diamond makes up a poem, “Lap top on lap to keep me warm. Light bright stick and Wong keeps pulsating along.”115 Maskegon-Iskew dubs this new form, “litero erotocism’s magic wand”. Meskagon-Iskew leaps in with poetic magic realism in what seems to be an ideal style for the late hour in Europe. He speaks of the violation of Aboriginal cultural rights and materials, “…the selling of bear gall, spider seeding the world with people who were helped by bear, wolverine and meteorological rage…the rage of the spirits against desecration, super storms!” In mid sentence he cries, “Hi Paul! Lovely to see you!”116
Wong and Wakeford are discussing the nature of naming and memorials. The warehouses such as Las Palmas and condos are named after former Dutch colonies. “They are the remnants of Dutch colonialism”, says Wong. It used to import the loot from the colonies and now its become this art centre…there are thousands of computers, hundreds of projects from all over that have taken many years to develop that are basically primitive things…very early stage.” Wakeford is curious whether the art is a direct form of colonialism or simply a means of colonizing the neighborhood. Wong feels that the international quality of the exhibiting artists is made invisible by the term “Dutch” Wakeford thinks the naming of buildings is a kind of joking, standing in for unthinkable acts. Wong reminds her that silences would be worse and that Rotterdam has many monuments to its dead. They left a “remnant of the Jewish ghetto wall. Now there are only three small arches.” Wakeford sees this as an argument for local histories that can translate that past, into a “history trail.” Diamond joins in the discussion of the Hotel New York memorial, of lost suitcases belonging to Jews who could not escape. 117
A discussion starts on the politics of CodeZebra. We agree to talk about how, “zoomorphism operates…is this when animals place their spirits onto us?”118 Wong wonders about its aspirations as a “moving democratic space.” Diamond argues that it’s not intended to suppress conflict but to order them and indicate emotional as well as content dynamics. It’s a means of mediating conflict. Wong expresses how happy he is suddenly, “I am napping for the people.”119 He dips into sleep suddenly and starts to snore.
Wakeford and Diamond agree to start a topic on Electricity, responding to Maskegon-Iskew’s postings about the complicity of art culture with the devastation of nature. Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskew responds to the debate about electronic art, expresses his concerns about the waste of energy that is:
…surging around the world for industry, domestic use, and spectacle, are created and maintained at great costs to the non-human environment that can and will/is fighting back. Digital artists float delicately in this violent surge…120The idea of networking, of electronic community development is interesting when put alongside the erotic rage of the massive energy streams it rides on.121
Wong tells Wakeford he is not asleep. Wakeford and Wong start to worry that Diamond is cold, that Diamond has lost her heat altogether, an unconscious segue from the electricity discussion. Ahasiw leaves the discussion to walk home. The group reviews the previous hours. CodeZebra we feel has the temperament of a one or two year old. “When you refresh, it jumps around like a little unwieldy beast.” All have slowed down and Wong comments that this is an ideal pace for dealing with technology.
Diamond begins to analyze their dynamic. She feels that they have, “really quickly created ground rules for exploring this experience together…and understood what was needed to make each other comfortable.” Wong and Wakeford have built a dynamic where they co-witness each other’s expertise. Their experience together increasingly seems to be about process, performance, experience and then analysis. Wong produces art works and at points, Wakeford responds with analytical texts as well as moving forward with discrete dialogues. Diamond underscores the value of “home living” and mutual care and the exclusion of the “social” from “constructed collaboration…the social within the social.”122 Wakeford agrees that it is, “like losing a sense”, but on the other hand, they have, “3 computers up or running or trying to…candles…cameras…still it seems like all our senses might be captured, but still something might slip by.”123 Diamond’s environment is somewhat concurrent with theirs I note. “I too have a heater, appropriately pointed up my skirt for intimacy…I like the candles and the music is helpful.”124 Throughout our conversations we interrupt each other, apologizing for jumping the gap, not waiting for the end of a comment in our excitement to communicate. This process works poorly for people used to finishing others’ sentences for them.
Diamond makes some observations about CodeZebra OS. It encourages the talker, as more text and more postings means that a topic is easier to find. “Of course if it gets too big it is also a problem.” We return to the discussion at hand, how are intimacy and collaboration linked? Wakeford notes that while, “…it necessarily gets more intimate with long uninterrupted time periods…breaks in contact can also create longing and intimacy.”125
They are playing CodeZebra music that was composed by Nick Ryan of the BBC for the CodeZebra Budapest dance and software installation of 2001. “Can you understand? Conditioning, convergence, continuous variation, conversation, decomposer, composer…”126 Wong is changing camera angles to better capture Wakeford as she chats. Soon it’s almost half way through the lock-up; about 3:45 a.m. Wong rests on the couch. Wong is breathing deeply, partly asleep. I tease Wong that he was doing, “active listening” in his sleep. Wong jokes back, “horizontal listening, I was active all day.”127 Wakeford makes strong coffee for Wong and her. They are pleased with the music.
Then Wong records his diary, adding to it in sequences, with interpolations from Wakeford:
…aside from the glaring blaring lights, these are chip cameras, I don’t know if the people who set up the cameras here except for Mapplebeck who I know is correct, set up their cameras, they are all digital cameras and have low light settings, I could spring up and do all those things, but CodeZebra being here is team work, kind of going with the flow, so I am going with the flow, an letting things happen over 24 hours, we are now at hour eleven and have 13 more to go, I lay down on the floor and got fifteen minutes of horizontal half sleep time.
He feels that it, “is quite alright”, to have the camera pointed to someone who is sleeping. It makes him feel secure, that someone would intervene if he was in danger. Wakeford speaks off camera from downstairs about how sleeping in front of a camera was like falling asleep in the middle of a busy road. Wong asks whether or not sleep is private time. He goes on with his diary,
Nina is very happy down there in her corner with two computers one on chat, and I seem to be very happy playing it up on camera, playing the visuals. Nina is happy with the “textuals”, as Nina calls them. Wong says, “Nina is happy in her corner.” 128They can hear each other between floors. ” 129 its so beautiful with the water on all sides—we are on an island which is like those little zebra colonies you have down there which are all islands—so we are all captive on little islands on islands of communication, Nina is on her island, Sara is on her island, we are all on are islands surrounded on all 360s with water.
Wakeford is impressed with Wong’s ability to shape the visuals, “’cause I take it for granted just point the camera and see what happens ’cause you are just documenting real life, so it’s a real privilege to see you setting up shots.” Wong replies that is why one medium should not duplicate another, however, “I think its quite alright to have the camera on someone sleeping it was a nice shot.” They will return to this conversation.
At 4 a.m. Wakeford returns downstairs to use CodeZebra while Wong moves around the kitchen and upstairs area—Wong hangs over the railing and chats with Wakeford at intervals. Wakeford prepares for her video diary, to “capture the mood.” 130 Wakeford in her diary whispers intimately to camera, “Collaboration tank experiment going well.” She considers the tasks Diamond set for them, “have they discovered a system, a process or tool yet?” Wakeford feels that they discovered tools they brought with them, the flash cards the best so far, “They were simple and childlike…a translation device between two worlds…they were in at least three scripts and they had non-obvious pictures, so the translation was not always easy in the pictures…there were a lot of them and we could think about telling stories.” She continues:
Comfortable in several senses, sitting in front of the computer with various kinds of text and the heater. Paul has been working on the visual and I have been seeing the process of how he sets up shots, I like to be on the textual side of thing because it creates a kind of balance. In front of me is a visualization of some of the CodeZebra ideas on fabric in fact one of things I am enjoying is the amount of fabric and textures here. When Paul said brings textures and things to touch, I did not realize how much it means and the transformation of the place with the fabric and smell and josh sticks is keeping many sense alive even though my brain is fried. I was writing about what I am learning in my diary, in my notebook, well I am actually learning that I should draw on process, so that is about process. And. I think I like the time scale, the way the time is flowing and the ways that we are now working through ideas slowly even if they are not slow ideas, coming up with brain storming of interesting issues with fewer people. It sometimes leads to greater depth or insight, I am enjoying different rhythms. We were talking on the CodeZebra site about intimacy. Eric was suggesting that the intimacy might be less or not real because it was mediated and the tension between those ideas I am carrying on thinking about here. What spaces do we have to work with, how do we create intimacy between them, getting into other people’s spaces is a crossover, the heating. I think the set up because it allows different little kinds of nests and beautiful creative connections separations and creative connections; I am not sure about the levels of exhaustion. Also the kinds of effects that surveillance will have as we get more tired, I noticed that we were not paying attention to audio anymore, I am aware that the microphone is there but I somehow stopped linking it to the audio stream. I have integrated into my life world and space as an object but I have not managed to grasp on to the fact that the object is linked to an effect that goes out to the world. I don’t know when that disconnection happened and maybe that is similar to what Paul says about not noticing the camera. And yet I really liked the fact that he lay in front of a camera and slept yet I know I could not lie in front of a camera. Anyway that is it. 131
Wong is on the sofa/bed. Wakeford returns downstairs and chats on CodeZebra. Diamond and the upstairs group converse through the video stream. Wakeford wants to know Diamond’s response to her diary. Diamond notes that the ways that different pacing has different kinds of depth interests her as well as how questions unfold and answer themselves within the process. Diamond is happy that Wong has made a series of technical changes. It’s like DIY medicine in the face of, “all these surgeons and medical professionals operating on your for three to four hours to-day.”132 Wakeford is still excited about the cards. The most memorable card is the white gourd card, its white interior belied by its smooth gold surface. Yet it is the card for white. Wakeford is now trying to “put the cards into some kind of temporal order”. She is using them to create a narrative about their experience. She finds after time that she cannot make a single line. Instead, Wong suggests she tries a grid structure. She does this while Beethoven’s Fifth blares. Maskegon-Iskew has returned to his email having made his way home. Maskegon-Iskew describes a dismal winter scene of howling dogs, sad, hungry, under clad children. He will stay with us for a considerable time.
Wong lies in front of the camera on this couch. Prompted by Wakeford, who suggested they bring objects, he brought, “The Time Machine, by HG Wells, an invention, with a preface written by this author written for this edition and design by W.A. Dwiggens…Copyright 1895, 1923. This edition is 1931, beautiful old typographical style, the kind of typography that is raised print that you can feel”. 133 Wong reads the preface, in “ye olde English”, which critiques the style of writing as that of, “the work of an inexperienced writer.” It traces Wells’ decision to write the book in a moment of deep impoverishment when all of his articles were wait listed for publication. The ideas were inspired by students’ debates in the laboratories of the Royal Society in the 1880s. Wells was prescient:
It is the idea that time is a fourth dimension and the normal present is a three dimensional section of a four dimensional universe. I am going to read that again. (Repeats it again). The only difference of the time dimension and the others form this POV lay in the movement of consciousness with it, whereby the progress of the present was constituted. Obviously there might be various presents according to the direction in which the advancing section was cut, a method of stating the conception of relativity that did not come into scientific use into a considerable time later as obviously, since the section called the present was real not mathematical, it would possess a certain depth that might vary. The now is therefore not instantaneous, is a shorter or longer measure of time a point that has still defied its proper appreciation in contemporary thought. 134
Wakeford explains to Wong that Wells suggested that, “the way we understand time is only one ways of understanding time.” Maskegon-Iskew asks Wong to show the illustrations to the camera. Wong continues to read the preface which references The Time Machine in previous manuscripts, all now lost. Wong comments, “It’s all about a lost text.” The correlatives with CodeZebra, where postings have disappeared only to show up later, are not lost on Wakeford or Wong. Wong continues, reading the beginning of the last chapter:
I have already told you about the sickness and confusion that comes with time traveling. In this time I was not seated properly in the saddle but sideways in an unstable fashion. For an infinite time I plunged on the machine as it swayed and vibrated, quite unheeding how it went and when I brought myself back to look at the dials again I was amazed to find that I had arrived. One dial records days, another thousands of days, another millions of days, another thousands of millions of days. Instead of reversing the levers I had pulled them over so as to go forward with them and when I came to look at these indicators I found that the thousands hands was sweeping around as fast as the second hands of a watch into the future. 135
Wong comments that, “It’s a bit like what we have been doing, where we have been in the middle of time…and crossing time zones and gaps in time and lapses in time.” Wakeford laughs, “And other people’s time.” Wong adds, “And delayed time.” Diamond suggests that we are living across, “the gap”. Wong says, “We are the gap.” Wakeford jokes, “gap and proud.” Bad pun, all giggle. They decide that The Time Machine is an operating manual for CodeZebra. Diamond laughs that CodeZebra is as efficient as this 19th century technology. Wakeford and Wong discuss digital time; it’s a simplified way of coding and decoding time, its not regular clock time even. I note that Wong and Wakeford, despite their proximity to me are in a different time zone because of the gaps in communication, Ahasiw in yet another. Diamond’s postings of Maskegon-Iskew’s emails into CodeZebra are now faster than the video stream. 136 This prompts Wakeford to create a discussion in CodeZebra, “Quiz on the Time Machine”. She asks about its less obvious themes, beyond the morality of science though a clever series of absurd questions.
Diamond, Wakeford and Wong check in with each other. Wong is tired, napping on and off. Wakeford is not exhausted, a word that Diamond finds very expressive, but is tired. Maskegon-Iskew is quiet; Diamond implores him to “speak up.” There is silence as Wakeford works on CodeZebra postings. Diamond suggests that they have been in a place, “where a minute is a big piece of elastic.” Wakeford tells Diamond she is moving furniture, trying to set up a warm place to lie down downstairs. Wong and Wakeford again discuss Wong’s earlier nap in front of the video camera. She could never fall asleep in front of a video camera. Wong asks if it’s too revolutionary for Wakeford. She feels that, “it does not compute, like street sleep…it does not work out—you have to watch out for traffic.”137 Maskegon-Iskew has taken a still of Wong sleeping off of the Internet and sent it back to us. He is pleased to be a part of “an international pajama party.” Wakeford jokes, “Internet snooze.” Wong feels that he has never been so intimate on the Internet before.
Wong is resting. Diamond asks Wakeford about her perceptions of the DEAF set-up. Was it like commercial trade shows that she studied? Diamond talks about the technical challenges, “They are piling packet on top of packet”, at DEAF and hence the usual breakdown of media that is strained beyond its capacity.138 Wakeford asks what would happen if we were to design assuming breakdown would occur since it always seems to. Wong, napping, mutters, “I agree.” Diamond suggests that an important component of Internet art has been a critique of technology and its corporatism. Wakeford and Diamond chat about Technologies for the People and Mary Flanagan’s Phage which drives your hard drive through psychoanalysis, and extracts it and your obsessions. Diamond notes that artists like Jodi were early interveners, critiquing code and the network. New media is caught between deconstruction and making new environments that work seamlessly. Diamond also feels that new media would, “prohibit doing breakdown well.”139 Since breakdown is endemic to new media there is no technical stability that can be used as a constant, comparative state. Wakeford points out that the “staging of technology” in physical space rather than on-line makes it harder to do because of the expectations of public performance. Wong moves the camera around to get a better image of Wakeford while she is chatting to me upstairs.
Wakeford dedicates one of her video diaries to a discussion of privacy. She notes the ways that there are many spaces that are not monitored by the cameras. The lock-up is in the Parasite, a very private public space, because of the scale and because they know where the cameras on—they feel that they remain on control. She considers the activities that Nelson Mandela undertook when imprisoned to keep his mind keen, like reading the Economist. She notes that they really did not need all the games that they brought. She is pleased though that they discovered a process tool system, especially the flash cards, “simple translation devices between worlds…with not at all obvious pictures.”140
Wakeford returns to the chat downstairs after her diary. Diamond is online with headphones. Wong has headphones on and is standing in the upstairs area. Wong sits on the ground and plays with his flash cards. Wakeford is online and Wong plays with lights. Wakeford comes upstairs and makes coffee. She sits down close to Wong upstairs. Wong lies on the couch and talks to her. Wakeford changes the camera angle and Wong the video feed. Mushiko Kashuwara, a cultural historian from Japan joins us and chats briefly for awhile. Diamond keeps insisting that they focus the camera. Wakeford asks Diamond about a set of glasses that she left on the table for them to play with. It is “a distorted 3D reality lens”, Diamond jokes. Wakeford jokes that people hardly need more distortion than currently exists in our culture. She runs downstairs to check the heater which she is concerned is in a dangerous position. Diamond suggests that Wakeford, Wong and she review the toys and games that they brought with them. They have used very few of these tools. Wong laughs that there was not a lot of time to play with these—they had dinner at 12:30 a.m. They “worked out many bugs for Thursday for those guys”. He offers to moderate on Thursday, “to set it up Thursday and moderate on Thursday, “’cause I will be here and I know the environment intimately.” Diamond politely thanks him and tells him that there are a plethora of moderators already. She also notes that she has learned because of the time gap to, “use context based sentences.”141 She does not want the two experiences to meld too much other than through my role as convener.
Wong is talking to Wakeford and asking her to adjust the lights. Diamond continues to think about the “intimacy question” and post, “I think intimacy is circumstantial and can be one of those fleeting things that can be produced through the right alignment of bodies.”142 Diamond is interested in “awe” as a factor of intimacy. She laughs that, “…it is funny to be getting stage directions in the midst of an intimacy conversation…intimacy (sic) is when perfect frictions align.”143 Wong responds with a card, “The parallel bars…”, and Wakeford picks says, “In the flash card deck!” We are in synch. We continue to play with language. Diamond says, “It’s when inhibitions worn down by delight or exhaustion…or by being parallel.”
Wakeford feels that the issue they should discuss is, “public intimacy”. She skeptically suggests that American intimacy is performative, an opportunistic takeover by the therapeutic cultural industry. Diamond posts the question of whether trust is core to intimacy, like in the current situation. Wakeford feels that trust is critical to the success of this event, “do you trust this woman”, inferring me.144 Wakeford is concerned that the discourse of intimacy cannot occur outside of a therapeutic vocabulary, which she thinks is distressing.
Diamond tells her that she concurs that it is a challenge, but not a simple one, which is why she had organized a residency at The Banff Centre in 2002 entitled Upfront and Personal that looked at intimacy, the rise of reality television and the performance of self, comparing these to artists’ self-portraits. She also created a summit called Intimate Technologies, Dangerous Zones, which is where Wakeford and she first began our dialogue. She describes a debate she had with Jean Baudrillard when they were both on a panel in Seoul Korea for Media City (where Diamond was one of the international curators and a conference speaker and Baudrillard a keynote). He suggested that all culture had been driven into absolute banality because of reality television. Diamond disagreed. Diamond thought reality television was valuable in making public the private and everyday erotic, “making social” the domestic, although in a context that did not allow resistance or reflection, but at least allowed commentary:
…in away I find the performance of emotions in public repelling but also a means of socializing, making social a whole series of question made social in a context that does not allow resistance and reflection upon them but still of value rather than reification of the family or private space which in some ways is a kind of dead space. (Wakeford thinking) The right to have access to the erotic in the public space is something artists have fought for, to erase the notion that you have to contain your identity in the bedroom to allow the liberal state to give permission or repress desire.145
This opening up of the private to analysis and social discourse had long been a feminist project. Diamond thought it rightly allowed our daily lives to be understood as performances, as learned not automatic constructions. Diamond and Wakeford discuss whether or not individual Internet culture is another more acute subset of this extended social, “aching for your text on a chat sex line, aching for your text on my mobile, versus aching for your call…”146 In the meanwhile there is absolute surveillance of personal postings by all manner of human and non human actors, from spy ware to the CIA.
Diamond is intrigued by this discussion of therapeutic discourse and reality television. Diamond is optimistic that the CodeZebra Habituation Cages may be a different kind of “writing the self”, one that allows for transformation and self-reflection through the discursive and creative process of the individuals who are part of the performance, while still borrowing from some of the more compelling elements of popular narcissistic culture. Diamond and Wakeford discuss “the public performance of intimacy, the ways that technologies have been turned into tools of desire; whether intimacy is trust; about the ways that fear was part of creating certain kinds of desire, about cuteness as a strategy; about gender and intimacy, about gay male eroticism, Genet…” Diamond describes, “Some shyness and attempts to describe…a sense of awe…something that happens under conditions of vulnerability.” 147 Wong is dozing and at points Wong comments through his sleep.
Wong contributes to the discussion on intimacy by finally fully falling fast asleep under the watchful gaze of the camera. Wakeford and Diamond chat on video and in CodeZebra. Wakeford continues to work on the computer downstairs while Wong naps on camera. Wakeford speaks into the microphone me during this nap. She comes upstairs from the computer. Wakeford is at the table with the microphone and I am on the monitor. Diamond talks about how the next CodeZebra game is a sound game, “where you can pull apart pieces of sentences and they float around in the air.”148 Wong sleepily asks who Diamond is talking to, Wakeford answers that it is she who Diamond is addressing. He falls asleep again.
Wakeford discusses the differences between, “doing intimacy” and “talking about intimacy.” There is another category, which is politicized of “talking about talking about intimacy.” She is interested in to what extent that dialogue is considered to be gendered research. Diamond has started to yawn and has to remind herself that she is on camera. Wakeford says, “You are on camera with the cute yawning.” Maskegon-Iskew sends one of his last postings, “Jean Genet enforced intimacy, incarcerated intimacy, and sadomasochistic intimacy. Tansi Sara. He asks Diamond to ask Wong to get my head and Wakeford’s into one shot. Wakeford and Diamond laugh; Wong is finally far too fast asleep to adjust cameras.
We debate whether CodeZebra is cute or camp. Diamond feels that she mobilizes cuteness to engage people into CodeZebra. Wakeford suggests that its sense of self-consciousness is ironic. She decorated a chair to make a point:
I put out this silly chair which is a silly chair which is an Ocelot chair and then Eric my programmer brought in a little baby zebra and he put the zebra on the lap of the chair and I thought this was about cuteness, also parental and also disciplinary., And I thought it was a funny image for our conversation because interesting because cuteness sis a way of taking the terror of things that are threatening and intimacy is certainly threatening to some people and cuteness is also a way of talking about forms of power and authority it’s a way of sugar coating those lessons but cuteness sis also very associated with the intimacy of children before we learn certain kinds of boundaries and repression and it’s not a criticism and obviously I am strategizing to use cuteness as well as tackiness, as a means of warming up the space of new media and allowing people to be playful 149
Diamond and Wakeford finish this discussion with some considerations of both intimacy and surveillance, contexts that seem at odds with one another. Yet the objects of intimacy are actual technologies that connect us have become signs of our relatedness in our dialogue of the last hours, “…the radio mike in my pocket—Sara’s headphones (because this is how I knew my voice was reaching her body in the small hours), the downstairs heater…” have all become means to draw up together, to bind us. We wonder if this stands in contradiction to the panoptic condition. Wakeford asks, “How would be know if we were post-panopticon? We come to fetishize or at least perform our surveillance.” 150She ponders how to do participant observation on this. Diamond perceives this context as one that happily occludes the dividing line between participant observation and action research; between performance as theory; performance as art or cultural form. Diamond has placed the collaborating researchers under the lens and asked them to do triple duty, to live, shape and analyze the process. The time gaps are perhaps fortuitous—allowing a reflection that is usually only retrospective.
The Parasite video stream starts crashing and freezing at regular intervals beginning at 6:08 a.m. This prompts me to also nap briefly, also under the camera’s gaze. I am sleeping with Wong in a manner of speaking. How exciting this must be to watch from afar.
Diamond is back after her own nap, “I can HEAR Wakeford typing. It’s comforting.”151Diamond summarizes the conversation in CodeZebra so that Wakeford can respond:
We also delineated privacy, and secrecy, the latter being the right to have secrets and the former a set of rights and ideas very aligned with the bourgeois revolution. Etc. and needing interrogation, cause socialization of this space is not necessarily bad. I am typing and pulling at my face and hair cause I am tired so those barriers for e.g. that reveal bits of me, are perhaps best not shared, but are also bits of me, for e.g. We also decreed that intimacy in part has to do with bodies…152
Wakeford and Wong are eighteen hours into the Habituation Cage performance/experiment. Diamond initiates a discussion about the space of the Parasite. Diamond is interested in how they have divided its use and their use of it. Wakeford and Wong both feel that the space allows for privacy, because of the arrangement of up and downstairs. They are not pushed to the walls—it feels like they are “not live all the time, that there are suspended moments of privacy”.153 Wakeford notes that they would have needed a cat to have the feel of a really intimate space. The cat would have demarcated spatial use in different ways and they would have had to respond to it.
The discussion on CodeZebra shifts from time and space, back to intimacy and privacy. In Privacy in Public, Diamond asks, “Continuing from intimacy. I would like to ask you about privacy, especially in such a public environment.”154 This discussion continues as Nina Czegledy joins in as the next narrator—she wants to know if their views of intimacy and privacy have changed with their almost twenty hours together. The Festival is open again and visitors join Diamond in the control booth. It’s ten o’clock in the morning and Diamond has tried to freshen up in the cold water warehouse taps. There is significant time lag again. Wong decides to respond to the issues of privacy through the video diary camera while Nina Wakeford chats on CodeZebra and through the stream.
Wong makes his video recording. “This is the first formal address of the morning…it is 10:05 on Wednesday the 27th. I can be heard laughing in the background. Wong says, “Sara just came on air and laughed, that is sixteen minutes earlier!” He describes his sleep at 5:30 in the morning. I just turned the camera on me and slept, I was sharing that privacy of sleeping…sharing that moment of sleeping. Wakeford said that for her it was like lying down in the middle of the road. Wong says, “I feel completely safe in doing that…sharing my sleep pattern…having someone watches me sleep in this private space it might be a security feature. So is sleep private time?”
Wakeford notes that the two levels allow for incredible privacy, they have not even explored the whole space. Diamond shares her experiences as the “prison warden/zoo keeper” and other performer/moderator:
What has been incredible for me was that I too was locked up here. Went in, in my party dress and with out supplies. I was lucky to have good prisoners, or at least well endowed prisoners who were willing to share with me, likely out of altruism. But it could have been for other freedoms or privileges. So, I was fed, given good scotch back, and all I had to do was sleep on the floor.155
Wong speaks to Nina Czegledy and the assembled audience. He shares his perceptions of the privacy that existed in front of the camera–a performative privacy Diamond notes. Diamond types his comments into CodeZebra. Diamond also types for Nina Czegledy who sits next to me, as well as me. These postings are by “Did you get help?”
I do not feel that there has been an invasion of privacy I expected Nina W. to be here, I got really tired at five thirty, cold and turned the camera on myself to share the privacy of sleeping, by sharing sleeping, Nina, said it was like lying down in the middle of the road, as unnatural to me as going into the middle of an industrial crossing and lying down. I feel completely safe doing that, sharing my sleep pattern, in fact someone watching me would be for my safety, watched by everyone like in prison or jail, no harm could come to me,. It made other people go to sleep.156
Diamond is pleased that Wakeford and Wong are reviewing the key points of discussion for the last hours—repetition will underscore the importance of these ideas and new ones will emerge. They agree that they expected, “public demands”, so they did not feel invaded. Wakeford talks about creating, “a zone of privacy” by not being at home, it’s a “space away”. Although there are no curtains, there are no neighbors. They could control their space; they knew where the cameras were. There was, “complicity with surveillance”. Nina Czegledy asks Wong when he feels most “public.” Nina Wakeford at one point drapes fabric over her head. The glare on the monitor is making it impossible to see the screen and hence use CodeZebra. She stays under her fabric for much of the rest of the Habituation Cage performance. She speaks from inside the fabric. 157I type in Wong’s answer. Wong talks about the nature of performance art, and points where honesty slips through in intimate public events:
…sometimes public performances that are intimate, you can sense that the audience is touched, and then when the work is out of context at a different time, can happen overnight for a person, you go oh why did I do that, happens in daily life, slips out in a moment of passion or anger. This is the same.158
Nina Czegledy pursues this discussion. She is concerned that by restaging historical events such as torture or personal humiliation, victims are not freed from memory by culture, but rather, traumatized yet again, by becoming a “poster figure” for torture. Nina Wakeford expresses concern about “outing public figures who support discrimination” as a loss of privacy rights, even if there is a perceived greater good. Wong wants to know if there is an automatic morality code for public figures. Diamond raises the problem of “bare rights…a term that represents people who have been stripped of their human rights, their rights to nation state protection.” This is a current, new condition. Wakeford notes that these two kinds of rights share the spectrum of privacy rights. She notes that, “…our privacy here is a pleasurable withdrawal from mundane things.”159 This is very different from, “who gets to speak, who gets to speak for others, when we speak for others who cannot/will not speak, i.e. for suffering.” I ask about this.
Diamond realizes as the discussion progresses that the thinking so far has made the notion of privacy a spatial one and used terms such as private and public spaces as though these were controlled, physical entities, not concepts. Nina Wakeford notes, “People treat spaces as though they persist over time. E.g. we treat our Parasite as a place which persists—yet it is learning our ways over time.”160 This discussion of spatial memory will soon be taken up when Steve Marsh, the next moderator joins the discussion. On camera they state that they feel that the discussion on privacy did not resonate at quite the same frequency as intimacy, because the Parasite allowed for privacy.
Wakeford has sustained a means of looking outward, beyond the Cage in two ways. She either chats through CodeZebra with Diamond and with others who log onto the chat system as moderators or consistent contributors. She also engages for a number of hours in a deep audio (and video) conversation with Diamond about the nature of intimacy and privacy. Wong in the meantime is creating media pieces, working with the video camera, playing with instruments, lights and other toys, resting or sleeping. At points, the connections between the virtual space of the stream and software and the lower floor of the Habituation Cage were stronger than the connections between the lower and upper floor of the Cage. Later on, Nina Czegledy joined the discussion as a moderator and the discussion on intimacy and privacy opened up to include Wong, with Wong and Wakeford reasserting their conjoined space and Nina Czegledy and Diamond seated together.
Wakeford and Wong join up upstairs to review all of the artifacts that they had not used in the lock up. They want to make sure that they cover the five senses. 161 Diamond has asked them to review their “activity bags, our safety activities” which they do, to camera, what we brought and why we brought them, “…we have installed our process, our system and our tools in front of Camera Number 1 upstairs at 12:30 on Wednesday.”162 They annotate the collection as they move through it, most of it not used so far in their collaboration. Wakeford has brought a book on ethnographic field research, “Writing Ethnographic Field Notes” by Emerson, “It’s the one I used to quote from last night.” Wakeford brought a silk backdrop, to represent work on sexuality. They note that they want a new invention, “an integrated time demand meter”. 163This is not dissimilar to an invention that Tom Donaldson and Mary Flanagan will try to create in the next Habituation Cage. There are musical instruments, “portable trance music” that Wong picked up in a Buddhist temple. This is Wakeford’s favorite object so far. It has contradictory properties—one cannot take the battery out. Wakeford loves making models–she has brought modeling clay, which got cold overnight. She might use this to model a system or device in the next hours. Nina Czegledy interjects to ask what they will do for the rest of the time. They will work with the materials.
Wong feels its good to see what Wakeford had brought in her bag– that they, “…have enough ideas of things she cares about and I care about…to be there for days and not get bored”. Wong contributes analogue technology, an old analogue television tube, a transistor. Wakeford adds a tiny calligraphy set, with ink and brush to paint lettering. Wong has a small stack of pornography—there are women and men together and some scenes with women and women. Wakeford and he battle about the relative authenticity of the lesbian images, “typical nails, earrings and shoes”, scoffs Wakeford. They look at the technology ads in the pornography magazine. Wong reminds them, “…that it is sex that drove the Internet and the VHS revolutions.” Wong shows his Venice photographs that correlate with water, one of the four directions. There are a pile of CDs, many unopened. There is a magnifying glass, note books from Wakeford and ways of marking them up, pieces of copper to bend into other things. They both contend that, “there are enough ideas to be here for days.”
Wong and Wakeford are downstairs. Sunlight streams through the space. Wong declaims, “We are talking live from the top of Las Palmas in the Parasite, and we are reaching out to you, wherever you are. We want to touch you. We can feel you, speak to us.” Wakeford laughs in the background. “I feel suddenly godly up here…its twenty-four hour dementia setting in.” He jokes, …I want to spin some records…there is the glide of trams and bicycles, subways zooming, sun hanging in the sky, sunset in three more hours, slight late winter haze.”
Wakeford and Wong talk about data knitting. Wakeford has to dive under a fabric tent that she has made around the computer in order to see the screen. They are proud of their installation, “our collaboration, our tool”. Picking up the theme of DEAF, and responding to Steve’s question on what data knitting is, Wakeford feels it’s a more open metaphor, “It’s an alternate to the net as a structure, more creative than a network. Wakeford reminds Wong that if you start with a bad pattern it could be a problem. This has been the result of their sculpture Wong suggests, “And I combined one item at a time in show and tell, things, and props…into thought bubbles. We let things mingle…ended up with a pile of stuff that we brought to stimulate activity…looking at a knitted, woven, matted pile of combined ideas and new narrative flowed from that, because we carefully selected what we would bring.”164 They decide that they liked the tactility of this process and Wong suggests that it was like, “a big bulky old hippy sweater but made by the Italians”, Wakeford feels that it would be sold in Prada. Yet Wong adds, it would be “proletarian…she comes from academic and, he jokes, “I am with the people…”165
He notes that they should add all the games that Diamond rushed to buy them, ‘cause we did without ours too, obviously a panic attack, a jig saw puzzle, stuffed animals, kitsch stuff.” He feels that Diamond was worried that they would be bored. Wong is proud that he has not been bored over the twenty-one hours, “not a millisecond”. Of course, he spends a lot of time by himself and can “entertain himself marvelously well.”166 An important part of their installation is the addition of concepts or phrases in relation to objects. The flash cards helped with this. They feel that they have crossed cultures—that there is a tactile pile, their sculpture is also an ethnographic pile. It stands in relation to The Internet which is, “on the other hand is a flat surface”. They have built a “methodology of tactile piling”, that builds another dimensionality, a three dimensionality to the Internet.167 Diamond sees it as a mnemonic pile-up—a creative heap of devices to stimulate associations and thoughts.
Wakeford reviews the things that she has learned. She has learned about pace—about starting with her text, reassessing three hours later, approaching the goals in a different way and still getting to it. Another theme is trust on the Internet and in physical space–the role of trust in collaboration. “We did this because we trust Sara in a manner of speaking—we both agreed to come (Paul you are speaking for yourself.) I did not trust it just happening, realized the collaboration is about fulfilling objectives. This is very different than Paul’s methodology about understanding the process as already the product from the beginning…we created what this is by understanding the cards.”168 Wong and she joke as Wong puts images up that Wong has caught the linear ways that Wakeford works. They are skeptical about what is, “wrong with the equation”? They are still laughing, not bored or cross.” They decide to do more of the same; they have their rhythm and are happy they made their sculpture as evidence of process.
Wakeford and Wong continue their analysis of their Habituation Cage experience and their collaboration. Wong feels that, “they naturally assumed our positions.” This notion of a natural order based on professional practice did not break down as much for Wong as for Wakeford who consistently challenged her methodology as she clung to it, while Wong immersed in the flow and play of the process. He finds working with a keyboard tedious. Wong was comfortable working with audio and video and holding conversations with Wakeford, while Wakeford “liked dealing with the chat room”. He felt he was “performing the words, putting them back into space.” They worked in parallel. It is like he had copied out the original tasks but translated them into another language. He reflects on Wakeford’s role as analyst and concept driver, “To see the way she works made it more clear about where I have been going. We got to witness each other.” Wakeford responds that it was informative to see someone, “creating a visual image” and still be able to engage. “You never said, don’t talk to me, I am creating a visual image.” Wong replies, “Well, you never said to me, well, I am chatting…” The collaboration has demystified both the role of artist and scientist.
They talk about the shifting nature of their expectations. Wakeford was clearly anxious in the beginning because of the breakdowns of the technology. Wong called on his work as an artist with technologies, his practice of refusing protocol, re-engaging and subverting…not allowing himself to be dictated to because of expectations. This parallels the ways that Wakeford sees knowledge and her role as teaching the nature of boundaries so that these can be broken. She needed to place the experience into a larger practice of ethnography—not as an experiment or data analysis. She “came in thinking I could do an interview.” She clearly became far more immersed in the process.169
The impact of the technology challenges wore on them because they were aware of the twenty-four hour limit to the performance. The sixteen minute delay “becomes a huge proportion of twenty-four hours.” They needed to know who was watching and what do they care and do “we” care. Both Wong and Wakeford saw the experiment as most meaningful, “when it was connected to the discussion of intimacy and privacy.”170
They move downstairs onto the balcony to continue their discussion. They created their data knitting sculpture, which they might wear, to “sport the ideas”. 171 Otherwise Wakeford fears, it would have been, “all mouth and no trousers”.172They are heady with the process.
Wakeford works on CodeZebra under the fabric, under the intellectual tent that she has made. Wakeford then moves downstairs reviewing the list of achievements on her list with Wong hanging over the balcony. Their moderation session with Steve Marsh is beginning. He is in Ottawa. He wants to know if mobile technology enhances the feeling of godlikeness. Wakeford is chatting with him and reading his postings in a new topic space, Mobility and Identity. He wants to know if he has an identity if he does not have a phone. An audience member echoes this question in the CodeZebra control booth at Las Palmas.
Marsh had posted earlier in order to begin a discussion of “techno privacy” but it had not been taken up. He returns to the question of cultural memory and technology that emerged hours before, “If our technology helps us to remember, how can we forget anything and how can we live with that?” This relates to issues Nina Czegledy has raised about the problem of memory for victims of violence. Nina Wakeford suggests that, “we need perhaps more ways of forgetting.” She is concerned that he cannot hear them through the stream. He can. She says, “It’s all about mobility…wish there was more of it, so you could be a bit closer.” She tells Marsh that she is “channeling” Wong through her keyboard. “Mobility around here means being comfortable with mobility around a keyboard.” Wong tours Steve through the Parasite with his camera and Wakeford tours Marsh through the postings on CodeZebra. They have found a way to bring him into their physical and virtual spaces. He thanks them for the tour, “What a wonderful place you have there.” He asks for more information about data knitting and their cross cultural installation. It’s -27C in Canada.
He jokes with Wakeford about her shroud—she is under the fabric typing to him. He describes his research in neural networks that are trained to forget. I ask Wakeford whether she is “data rather than beta blocking, Nina? The shroud is a wonderful metaphor for the mysterious, black boxes of technology.”173
Steve Marsh asks them to review the questions that I gave them, what their learning has been. He is listening to the stream and responding on CodeZebra. Wong stands in front of the list. He returns to the question of technology and mobility and whether mobile tools in specific amplify a sense of control. Wong says that they have been in a sense, “sitting on top of the world. They have been living in their 360 degree surveillance, thrown into surveillance, with “twenty-four hours in an inundating movement of people and technology.” Wakeford points out that it’s a bird’s eye view, the colonial view, the panopticon, “We are surveilling as well as being surveilled. 174Steve Marsh wants to know what we take forward from the “tactile” nature of the sweater into mobile and distance-based technology” and what we might lose. Wong stands in front of the questions and suggests the Wakeford answers the one on, “technologies of the body and mind that create distance and proximity.” Wakeford replies that the twenty-four hour structure assumes that you are putting your body through a regime. Increasingly, we think our bodies are dependent on technologies to keep going. Wakeford pauses and notes that she is not sure she could have made it through the twenty-four hours without the Internet being there.175
Wong has moved upstairs and begins to talk about sexuality and the web in response to questions by Wakeford. Wakeford moves back and forth from and to the kitchen, as she engages in the dialogue with Wong, the camera crew and Marsh. Part way through this discussion, they ask Marsh to send a photo or post a web image of him… Wong wants an image of him, to make him more concrete. Wong discovered the pleasures of sex on the Internet though webcam to webcam. His first exposure to web cams was on December 21, 2002 (through collaboration with HorizonZero.ca that Martha Ladly and Sara Diamond led). Since then, he “found great sites” and used it as a means to meet people. While he uses web cam to web cam he does so where he deconstructs and plays with the codes, watching codes and subverting these. He adds lighting, framing and silence, then breaks the silence and opens up the space of webcam eroticism through performance. Wakeford feels that sociological research on text chat spaces has shown that there is nothing new on-line—it’s the worst stereotypes of “the oldest fashioned” sexual practices. Wong agrees, but finds that some people embrace it as of the moment, and “perform”. Wakeford points out that the power relations are the same as in reality. It is fascinating that men are now trading pictures of their wives still stereotyped a means for men to trade with each other through pictures, like trading cards. 176 Wakeford has moved from interviewing Wong to debating him. Marsh responds that he finds it an interesting idea that there are systems of value for sex online. He asks, “At what point does a sex picture lose its value?”177
Marsh’s photograph comes through and looks, according to Wong, “very Canadian”, with a river in the back ground and a woodsy look. Marsh replies that it was taken last October in Banff. Wakeford wants to know where Marsh’s mobile technology is.
Marsh responds to a statement that Wong has made hours earlier about the ways that systems of repression and control have gotten bundled with the Internet, with spying and its technology. Wong is concerned about censorship and control. 178 Marsh asks perhaps rhetorically, “do scientists have the responsibility to keep artists free from these chains?” He then responds to the debate on sexuality and the web and describes “active badges”. His own “stuff” is, “agents for matchmaking using chains of people/social knowledge…It’s about building communities. Active badges might well be a useful means of building communities, but they have their problems, so question: does this kind of technology allow self-censorship? Will we only meet people we think are good for us and what will we lose then?”179 Diamond responds that she had briefly left to attend, “a data anxiety panel. These are all artists concerned about the erosion of privacy and the demand that we have technology that can track us in order to have i.d. and an identity.” I remind the group that memory may be the first human technology, with voice.
Mary Flanagan has joined Diamond in the control booth. She joins the conversation, “to me technological systems have their own inherent forgetting in hardware, obsolescence, lost passwords, accidental deletions, etc.”180 She also picks up on Marsh’s point on science and art collaboration, suggesting that visualization is a place for a merging of disciplines. Steve points out while he is a scientist, he is also a cultural activist in that he believes, “we can push for the acceptance of all cultures…but the tension exists, and we’re thinking differently.”181 Nina Czegledy, also with us downstairs has the last word on this debate, “I think that the tension is artificial, and is created by institutional politics rather than the nature of the collaboration itself.”182
They begin their final interview. Wakeford feels that they have, “gained things, nothing has been lost.” They may have “softened on some of our positions, on our approaches…both came in slightly suspicious, but not sure of how to operate. Collaboration is about give and take…in this instance, give, not rope off.” Wakeford says she is happy to apply for a research grant to continue. 183
They complete their final interview with Mapplebeck. Wong says that “Twenty-four hours is fucking with time”, with time and space…the fact that they are from different time zones and communicating with other time zones…the fact that they have been dealing with different kinds of time tools and then the variables of dealing with delayed time.” 184
Wong jokes to Wakeford that he has lost twenty-four hours of his identity. He says that there was too much sugar and non-stop eating. He needs to have a shower,” “debloat”, do a cleansing and be in the sunshine. Wong and Wakeford note that their bodies were missing even though they played ball and could go out on the terrace. The experience was in part marked by meals, longs bits between lunch and dinner.
Diamond comes upstairs from Las Palmas and hugs them, “Wow! She says Wakeford shouts out, “Sara! Oh, wow, we are not even packed yet! We survived.” The three drink champagne and debrief briefly. They are not sure that the place survived. It is chaotic and needs a cleansing before the next team can begin their performance. Wong tells Diamond that it has been mostly very calm up there. They leave reluctantly, vowing that they want more time together.