Reading time: 3 minutes
June 1, 2016 – June 30, 2016
Every month Marginalia invites an artist, curator or project to provide a series of images that will serve as the background of Terremoto, in relation to their practice and current interests. At the end of each month, the identity of our guest is revealed and the whole series of images is unveiled.
14 Thesis on DRIFT (DERIVA)
1. The most direct path between any two places runs over a straight line. But the most direct path is rarely the most interesting.
2. “We tell ourselves stories in order to live […] We live entirely by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” (2) And yet stories fail. They turn out to be mere spectacles —sedatives that dull our consciousness and destroy our political will.
3. Our task, therefore: to destroy, interrupt, and shatter linear narratives. Our organizing principle: the computational logic of databases. Our subject matter: Mexico and its violence.
4. Our challenge: To represent reality without ceding to the temptations of the spectacle.
5. We seek to understand material things. We are interested in the ways in which people make a living.
6. An analogy: If traditional media are tourist guides, DRIFT is an invitation to get lost.
7. A straightforward description: We travel the country collecting fragments of everyday life, using the tools of, photography, journalism, criticism, fiction, and film. But instead of assembling these fragments into a bedtime story or some other device designed to produce an illusion of coherence, we classify our spoils following subjective criteria. We then run an algorithm designed to choose a number of fragments and present them in a sequence that doesn’t follow the three-act structure of Aristotle’s poetics, but rather a logic of digression and association.
8. The result is that each encounter with our work —whether in a movie theater or on our website— is unique. No two DRIFTS are the same.
9. Our hope: That an unexpected juxtaposition of fragments will help the drifter experience new narrative forms, tell new stories, and expand the definition of violence.
10. The purpose of this exercise is aesthetic, but also political. A spectacular narrative doesn’t explain —it obfuscates. A predictable narrative doesn’t move forward —it bites its tail. A stable definition does not define —it defends. Drifting, on the other hand, arouses, accelerates, and expands.
11. A corollary of our democratic intentions: We begin from the premise that impersonal algorithms are political. All algorithms —from the one that chooses the photographs in our social media feeds to the one that controls a missile’s navigation system —embody an ethical intention. It doesn’t matter whether their creators know it or not: Algorithms are never neutral. Software can be racist. Platforms can exclude. Protocols can be anarchic. Our projects hopes to make explicit an often-forgotten aspect of computation: Numbers, like words, are never objective.
12. Another corollary: Our project is a dialogue. We aspire to treat our audience as more than a collection of passive spectators. Before each show, we ask our guests to answer a series of questions —some of them qualitative, some personal, some emotional. Our algorithm then considers these answers while deciding which fragments to show. Each DRIFT emerges from an encounter between the subjectivity of each audience member, our subjective classification of our spoils, and the embodied subjectivity of the algorithm.
13. It’s important to emphacize that these questionnaires aren’t mere answers to that most idiotic question: o On the contrary: Our algorithm prioritizes rare and unsual answers. A truly democratic system doesn’t allow the majority to drown out the weakest voices.
14. “The spectacle is not a collection of images, but rather a social relation mediated through images.”(2) Our reward: A new social relationship among the members of our audience and among ourselves as researchers. A new relationship with each other, as human beings.
Text: Nicolás Medina Mora
DERIVA: Analia Goethals, Nicolás Gutiérrez Wnehammar, Santiago Mohar Volkow, Pablo Somonte Ruano
(1) Didion, Joan. “The White Album.”
(2) Debord, Guy. “La Sociedad del Espectáculo.”