In the ’80s I learned to write notes to my friends in BASIC.
10 PRINT “Hi”.
Something like that.
In college I took a class called INFORMATION SYSTEMS that taught us to identify the parts of a database, several times. (Field, record, file.)
2. Rapid Growth
In the ’90s I met this guy who worked for AOL. He lived in Florida and I lived in California. He was the guy you called if you were online too long and wanted some of your money back. Most people had no legitimate reason to ask, they were just horrified by how much they were spending per minute using AOL. He had this big, warm laugh, and he would pop into a chat room and just write: CREDIT DENIED! Because it was what he typed all day, but nicer. I could hear him laughing, even though we couldn’t talk on the phone while we were in a chat room. Eventually I married him.
I survived Y2K, but my relationship with the boyfriend (who followed the husband) did not. I was obsessed with wanting him to want to get back together, and one day he emailed me to say he and the new girl broke up. He was sad. So I emailed him a picture of a see-through blue dildo. I felt like a kind of pioneer, sending a picture without any text. He got the message.
At the end of the ‘00s a random guy added me on Myspace and shortly after that I flew to Brooklyn to meet him (I checked his website and Googled his address first), and we spent a long weekend watching downloaded movies. Watch one, download the next, repeat. He had taken an immediate dislike to me as an actual person, so we were both very grateful for the movies.
I prefer to write in solitude. I enjoy the intimacy of my brain telling my hands what to do and my eyes following along on a screen, discovering what I have to say. I sit in a certain chair, by my favorite light and keep my schedule open. With patience, perhaps something subconscious emerges.
I don’t care for my laptop anymore. I open it and find Facebook following me around, LinkedIn tattling on everyone I know, Google reading my email (yours too! I know!); Amazon and Zulilly are tripping each other to get into my pockets. Since Snowden, I never feel alone. Two’s company, but 17 security agencies and all of Madison Avenue are quite a crowd. Culture isn’t pushing, it’s pushy.
Pushing back, I am shopping for a typewriter, I write handwritten letters.
5. Death or Rebirth
People have always used walls to say things. Always. People need walls for self-expression like singers and actors need audience—to fulfill an action. A few years ago I knew some artists who said they wanted to get away from capitalism and the gallery mindfuck and just put art on the street, where maybe it would connect with people. So they could be sure that they exist in the world.
Throw away art!, one said. I like to do studies for oil paintings on paper, and I put those paintings outside, said another. Completing something in an ordinary but essential way is what I think they were doing, using the walls. But was branding already pushing them to choose these colors, those figures?
A few years ago the word #Occupy showed up on walls in my neighborhood; scrawled, careless and contrived, with the halfhearted handwriting of someone passing out flyers for a deli. Still, the Internet had jumped its own fence, landing in the streets. People have always used walls to say things. The #Occupy tags made me wonder who was now speaking.
6. Death or Rebirth?
A lot of art is painted outside now, during the day, in my old neighborhood. This art is different from whatever is pasted and whispered and screamed at night (in solitude, perhaps something subconscious emerges). When you do not seek permission or wait for a curator, you seem to have something different to say.
But a curator can offer a prime spot, free paint, exposure. And with or without help (permission?), blogs and Instagram and Flickr and Google will preserve your art (for free!), so it will never, ever be lost, and you will always exist. This kind of exposure could lead to very big things.
You know, because of the database.
From “A Zine Project for Concrete to Data” by Hrag Vartanian at Steinberg Museum of Art. 2015. Printed pages. Floor Installation.