The Snark Dance

collaborative choreographies of collective memory

Dancing with the dead May 11, 2008

So I have been thinking more and more about what graveyards means to media ecologies (which just seems like a new way of explaining society or networks).  There is a long history relating machines and ghosts and the supernatural and technology is definitely an interesting area to explore.   Should this be viewed as being more than just a translation of the enchantment produced within us when faced with the finesse of impressive technical achievement?

My project for the Laurie Grove Bath House in November was an installation dedicated to the building’s ghost who was affectionately called Charley as he whistled the Charleston by James P. Johnson. For my installation I recorded someone whistling the Charleston and played it from the top of the stairs in order to lure people to a step, that when stepped on, projected old footage of people dancing the charleston on the walls accompanied by an old big band playing the song. The following video is nice cause it shows the ghosts of Al Minns and Leon James dancing the Charleston to daftpunk:

Also footsteps to the charelston were lit on the ground so you could dance with the figures.

The point I was trying to make with dancing with the dead was about the history of space and how media is actually able to capture the spectre. As cinema and the phonographs are mediums of disjointed time. Disjointed time is key to hauntology so that these media enable us to see and hear the dead. Due to this I think it is no wonder that phonographs and radio have been used to talk to the dead.

I now see the snark dance as an elaboration of this recognition for the ghosts which inhabit us and who we inhabit. My understadning of psychogeography is a practice in which I may hunt for the spirits encrypted in space that are just as responsible for the active production of space as the living, as the dead are written in the living. Our identities are both breathing and haunted. Furthermore, seeing our own apparitions might be the process that Lefebvre describes in the production of abstract space.

In Nadja by Andre Breton, considered by many as the first psychogeographic novel, Breton answers the question of Who am I? with Whom do I haunt? This I think is important to the interactivity involved in my project as well as the camera with which I implement in this production. In order to escape the colonialist discourse i must commune with the dead and know that the ultimate other to myself is the apparition of my nonbeing. And even this polarity must intersect. Rituals put this pace of in betweeness into action where we dance in th footsteps of our ancestors and our bodies become allegories of the past.

If the camera is the technology of the gaze and therefore in the habit of othering can we not reinterpret the gaze of desire stemming from the void and the mirror as the confrontation of our own apparition? If hauntology is the inversion of ontology then through the looking glass is the realm of hauntology, the spector. And so in complicating the gaze we enter the realm where we are not fragmented but inhabiting many places at once as we haunt through our traces and the inversion that inhabits the spaces of reflection. Ritual is about reenacting the traces of our being in order to bring together one’s being with one’s nonbeing. Ritual creates a space for authentic expereince because it thrives in this entanglement. For more haauntology fun see here.

To conclude i have included a photo from an old newspaper of my late grandmother when she was young. In it I see my own apparition as hauntology finds relationships in encrypted patterns as it uses similarity to create binaries and not difference. In this picture I understand that it depicts a ghost of myself. A piece of myself has died with her and in turn a piece of her lives in me. In our interactions we haunt each other so to ask whom do I haunt? is to ask with who have I invested with my spirit. Our exchanges shape who we are. This is the fabric of spacial production and the essence of place. By experimenting with the fabric of ritual maybe we will find some clues in discovering place through the crypt and how it might be decoded. This is the soul of art and how I can think more deeply about the poetry inherent in media, movement and dancing with snarks.

Picture of my grandmother at far right, courtesy of Florence Morning News,

Florence, SC (Oct 20 1955)


Reform the ritual in graveyard and possibly a night walk in the country side utilizing constellations

Divination practices in order to find ways of moving in a decoding space

Look into how the hauntology of the internet and the digital medium. If internet is a place then what are its ghosts? Myspace pages of the diseased come to mind.

Also how can the web andinteractive technologies allow us to understand the multiplicity of the gaze or the spector in the production of space. I am thinking installations that utilize mirrors and other technologies of reflection or recursion. How might the phantasmagoria influence the way in which footage can be presented? How can these shows be recreated?


Futuresonic: Unplugging and Networking May 9, 2008

Filed under: enchantment and technology,Futuresonic08,Networkin',treasure hunting — danceswithsnarks @ 8:05 pm


Well do I have to spell it out for ya? Courtesy of Caroline Heron

Last week I attended futuresonic in Manchester. Futuresonic was really very good for me to embrace technologies and innovation after a period of extreme nostalgia. Tradition is important but innovations can really still be very useful in facilitating their understanding when used in a balanced fashion. The theme of futuresonic this year was “The Social” so there was much focus on open source culture, social events as well as unplugging.


(All photos of friends workshop are courtesy of Aram Bartholl, via Flickr)

Aram Bartholl presented two performances at the festival as well as a workshop which created networking scrapbooks. Scrapbooks were made using stamps, old label makers and carbon paper in order to replicate information in face to face interaction. We were provided with stamps with various logos for social networking sites which could be filled out for later online networking…Low tech, crafty and fun…love it!

The process:

Below are some images of me making my book and exchanging information with a new friend. There is also an image of the big book which is the server I guess you could say:

I participated in both of Aram’s performances at Futuresonic. His first one entitled WOW was inspired from the online game World of Warcraft. A few of us carved our full names in green and suspended them above our heads with the help of volunteers. We then went along with our usual business about the conference and the city. This was done in order to mimic the interface of WOW in which players have their screen names floating above their avatars.

Screen shot depicting World of Warcraft of an avatar with screen name floating overhead

Here is a clip from our performance, courtesy of Caroline Heron:

The second performance, Chat, was similar except this time I had a speech bubble hanging over my head. This crafty bubble was made by Aram so that text could be typed on a portable keyboard and projected on to the speech bubble. We then went out into the streets and bars at night and chatted people up. Unfortunately, I could not find any documentation of this event. However, I have included a video I found on youtube, courtesy of Aram Bartholl, of one of his Chat events from Ars Electronica:

Another genius idea was a project entitled my space, your space, our space. This was an unplugged myspace where people were invited to make their own space within a box with an envelope at the back for messages. All the boxes were displayed behind a shop window on a busy shopping street. If someone had left you a message you would be notified by a paper icon in front of your box:

Both photos of my space, your space, our place, photo courtesy of Caroline Hero


Futursonic also held many lectures about urban gaming. I found out about how GPS systems are being used for the creation of games such as geocaching which is a forum for treasure hunting using GPS devices. Also I met someone from 7scenes which is a company that creates software that allows you to tailor mobiles in order to create games and document movements through the city. I think this would be an excellent tool for clue hunting. I have also discovered twitter which allows for texting information from mobile phones. All in all futuresonic has managed to cure my technophobia. I have signed up to four new networking platforms (who knew there were so many!) since and I am now started to giggle for gadgets!


  • setting up sites for unplugged network production
  • Getting crafty
  • Now that I am growing less technophobic I want to look into the 7scenes software and see how it could help with collaborative film development and gaming.
  • Also twitter might be a cool way to start making up rules and creating game impromptu

Just thought I would throw this in… May 8, 2008

Filed under: enchantment and technology,hotdogs,processing,the gaze — danceswithsnarks @ 2:54 pm


Magic and allegory May 7, 2008

One of my favorite reads so far in the study o finteractive media was words made flesh by Florian Kramer. In this essay Kramer discusses, the cultural imagination, the history of software and the history of computation with examples from the occult sciences. The relationship between the occult and technology is a fascinating subject. Thinking about culture in terms of calculations is very fruitful for the mechanical allegories I have been thinking about. Also, are rituals not methods of calculation, at least of identity?


These are all really huge questions but rather than ignore them I want to make a breif note here. I have currently been researching astrology and ancient treatments of the heavens. I am very interested in how I could use constellations and the zodiac in interactive art and psychogeography. Furthermore I find the occult distinction interesting as it seems to suggest that these sciences are irrational others. The surrealists’ mission to enchant the mundane is very much about questioning dangerous logics which make accusations of irrationality, thus mechanizing the human condition. I suppose the irony in the surrealist project, when thinking about magic and the othering gaze, is that surrealism also fell into the traps of its own critique.

I recently went to a discussion on the serious side of magic and the stars with Peter Forshaw and Nick Campion that was part of the Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art at the Barbican. Forshaw and Campion are academics who specialize in astrology and other aspects of the occult. I found this discussion very useful as it spoke about the obssessive categorization of the ancients in order to understand the universe. Things on earth were reflected in the heavens and this takes me back to the notion of the allegory. The allegory can be seen to represent the paridigmatic pattern between large and small bodies. Can our own technologies also be seen to mimic these patterns? For example, can the architecture of the computer be an allegory for the architecture of the city?


I kept the occult discussion brief because I personally do not know enough about it. I will keep up the research and keep it posted here at a later date.

For now I want to think about how the body can be used as an allegory. I want to do walks that transpose the macroscopic and microscopic through the paradigm of the bodies and address the following themes:

  • The cosmos: using astrology?
  • The Earth as a body/ the elements
  • The political body: National museum as setting, using traveling networks such as hospitality club
  • The human body: Hospital or hygienic walks like cleaning the city
  • Microbes/atoms

I have been thinking about settings like the British museum or a country field at night where i can expirement with constellations.

Treasure hunt: to go back to the hunting theme…The goldbug hunt got me very interested in the science of cryptography. One method of cryptography is transposition codes. I wonder if a transposition code could not be worked out through the body allegory in order to create an interesting space for expressing relationships between the macrocosm and the microcosm. The process of decrypting is why I enjoy the hunting poetic very much as it puts you in the position to suspect everything and create strange relationships. I want to develop a hunt that enables the surrealist technique through the relationship between objects and ideas in the creation of clues. Again a big challenge to the snark hunt is creating a context that enables automatic clue formation.

Also, one project I have started working on is creating zodiac poetry. this is a collaborative poetry project based on the exquisite corpse game of the surrealists. However I have been experimenting with ordering the poems in terms of the participant’s zodiac configurations. So for example I will order the participant’s astrological relationship to the alignment of the planets to inform the sequence in which each verse is placed.


Messy Reflections: snarks, dialectics, surrealism and mirrors

Here I would like to speak about the difficulty Caroline and I encountered in reflecting upon the snark hunt and how we wanted to take our psychogeography further.

We found the absurd, circular-like logic of the snark dance as something useful. We loved absurdity in so far as it made thoughts move in messy directions so that ends could not meet. Even still there is something in this movement I find very meaningful. I think this makes a mess of dialectics and I am pretty sure this is what the surrealists had in mind in their use of strange juxtaposition as a creation of new spaces for thought to roam freely from the fascism of linear logics. The cycle of absurdity is very interesting especially when we look to how this can apply it to the space between polarities (which might be understood as the gaze) in relation to recursion or the application of the absurd to reflection and the infamous gaze.

A side project I had been working on was a documentary or ethnography of a pie and mash shop in East London. A major challenge to this project were the many mirrors within the setting that kept revealing the camera in our footage. This made me very aware of my own Western gaze towards East London. Seeing myself behind the camera and in front of the camera made a maze of my thoughts in determining where I could situate myself in a responsible representation of this project. I reconciled the situation by juxtaposing the mechanics of my cinematic project to the mechanics that were in the shop. The winding sound of the machines used to make pies echoed the sound of a film projector. Using the allegory of mechanical production was actually a very interesting technology with which to confront the gaze. I think that allegory is a useful device in which to make some sense or meaningful experience within the labyrinth created by complicated modes of reflection.

In thinking about the history of cinema in relation to the history of anthropology and this thing called colonialism I began to think about the surrealists. One thing Caroline and I loved about avant-garde cinema was its creative use of the mechanics of documentation in order to produce surreal content. One major critique of surrealism is the feminist critique as the surrealist movement has a very sexist undertone. For example the ubiquitous objectification and disfigurement of the female body in surrealist painting (think Dali). The surrealist manifesto was not signed by a single woman and female contribution to the surrealist project is severely marginalized. Leonora Carrington (a contemporary of Breton) has produced writing and paintings that blow many surrealists out of the water! But I bet even some of the biggest fans of surrealism have never even heard of her.

Magritte (1929): Je ne vois pas la (femme) cachee dans le foret meaning I do not see the woman hidden in the forest. A great example of the surrealist objectification of the female, it depicts prominent figures in the surrealist movement. This image was found in a fantastic article on the blog: Letters from a Librarian.

Now I would like to argue that the objectification of the woman in the surrealist project stems from the movement’s relationship to the history of cinema. The camera is the technology of objectification as its very mechanics are the gaze hatis higly gendered. The cinema allows for the audience to see as flaneur not flaneuse (the prostitute).

Now I do not want to go into this much further. But why the gaze whether it be gendered or colonialist is important to this blog is that it presents something for the interactive project to think about. The gaze should be complicated in interactive based projects and media. The potential for reflexivity in these projects could compromise the simplicity of the gaze and therefore the process of objectification. If the gaze is reflected upon itself it was in my recent experience then what is then objectified?? Does this not echo the complexities of the digital postcolonial age. Do internet networks do the work of multiple reflections opening up passages for the gaze to be distorted?

Using the mirror or echo allegory has really helped me in my filmmaking but I also hope for it to challenge my research for the creation of interactive activities. I think part of role playing is our individual rituals of gazing… Who are we allowed to gaze at and in which context?

Returning to the snark… how does an empty signifyer affect this discussion? What happens when a hunt is for an object that does not exist? This is something that caroline and I did not take into enough consideration before hand. I think in order for this to work we would have to really implement our theatrical skills. Maybe our acting abilities just arent up to par for such a task. However until then, I think something to take a away from this experience is this rethinking of the dialectics that I believe the surrealists were aware of in their praise of the absurd. Through the absurd I think we are able to fill inthe gaps of strange juxtaposition in order to form a new space for synthesis. I am not saying that the surrealists advocated the unraveling of absolute spirit. However, I think there is something to be said for this process.

Also the Surrealists were able to create a playful atmosphere for our thoughts to roam. This is something I really love about the genre. So what I ultimately would like to do is to take surrealist technique and exorcise the gaze. I think this has to come from reflexivity from all sides.. the technology of recursion could underline the labyrinth of our being inorder for us to escape modes of othering. Now if this soundslike a complicated mess, I think it is supposed to be, but maybe such a mess can be magical.


I think that putting absurd cycles into movement would be great. Maybe tryingto walk in a perfect circle around the city. Or playing with the circle line. Implementing different typesof cycles in these walks…The moon cycle, the day cycle, a bicycle?

circulation as allegory: This again approaches my interest in documentation. Circulation of products, the body, etc. Reproductive cycles and the digital age.

Using mirrors in order to create interesting film projections or installation.. This is something I have been thinking about using besides editing for film experimentation.

recurssion in programming and networking…messy feedback loops to reflect the messy dialectics

the technique of absurd juxtaposition in networking


There’s a thirst for everything May 6, 2008

Filed under: enchantment and technology,treasure hunting — danceswithsnarks @ 12:00 pm


I think it is fitting to begin the blog with my first hunting for a snark. This was the first hunt I conducted after reading Lewis Carroll’s poem. I began this project with my dear Baroness Von Heron, AKA Caroline. She had a thrist for psychogeography and I for fiction and poetry. We saw an obvious corrolation between the act of fiction and the act of space. In fact, psychogeography has primarily found its expression in works of fiction (I will elaborate on this in the next blog). The correlation between these two interests and our mutual interest in participatory creative actions, provoked our collaboration, and hopefully, teach us about provoking further collaboration from others.

What I found very enticing about the poem was the circularity and absurdity of the hunt. I related to the poem’s voyagers as hunters searching for an inconceivable creature with the best map, a blank. I am often frustrated with the constructs of the academy and having a blank map was very appealing. I imagined this map to be my escape from control cultures and debates about the post-cybernetic condition. Interactive art is often swallowed by the hell that is technological discourse. I call it hell because it is a place where the soul dare not enter. Yes! Technology provides excellent new passages for interactivity. However, I have been to one too many technology infused art displays which have made my heart bleed. And no, this is not an overly dramatic reaction; Art, theory, whatever without poetry is hell. I will shout it from the mountain tops!

The horror of the Futurist project was that it was, in principle, fascist. Turning away from the past is not only foolish, it is an act of violence. Naturally Futurism was no stranger to violence, as physical violence stems from conflict of the spirit. I do not mean to degrade the art of technology by any means; the realms of technology should not be reduced to the realms of gimmickry. However I do feel that there is often a use of cutting edge technology that translates art into gimmickry. Furthermore these techniques are not strange to the unplugged industry of contemporary art either. Because technology (and art is a technology) is an extension of our being, for it to be invoked through the gimmick is to degrade our being. This degradation is very much a consequence of the ubiquitous screwiness of consumerism.

I am reminded by Alfred Gell’s The Enchantment of Technology and Technology of Enchantment. In this paper, Gell argues that art is the employment of the technology of enchantment at its very basis. However, I would like to make a distinction between the enchantment that is found in the gimmick and the enchantment that shakes your being to its core. The gimmick is such that it should feed off of human emotion in order produce a particular response from the audience. This is what commercial art seeks to do. I have felt in many art shows as though someone is trying to sell me something. This becomes even more frustrating when I realize that the only thing I am being sold is the same piece of crap that is selling me something. Basically selling is being sold….Oh the splendors of the art industry! Actually, no thank you. I think I will go and admire the window displays at Selfridges. At least I can buy a perfume or something if I get the urge.

I digress. Yes, the poetic of the snark I found to be brilliant as I thought a hunt through the city could provide inspiration to turn anything into an object for the imagination to run wild. The poem left things very open as they actually are if you ignore cultural constraints. However this everything can be very empty and lonely. Vastness is a very frustrating poetic to work with. It is a challenge to point a group nowhere, especially for a hunt. Producing clues for something that does not exist, believe it or not, is hard to do. We thought of lying and saying there was something in order to get people to start finding clues of their own. The poetic of a snark hunt is that all should be lost and anything is left to interpretation. This can be slightly disorienting and I think it should require a lot of practice and dedication to master the art of the snark dance. Vastness is a method, not a project. I think this was a major lesson for the Baroness and I.


Our snark hunt began with staying up all night together watching Avante-Gard movies. The significance of the Avante-garde, especially with regard to cinema, would become apparent later (I will save this for the next blog). I love surrealism and was hoping that some sleep deprivation might be an interesting way to wake up the imagination for the next day. We hoped that this tactic would allow for us to become less familiar with our surroundings so that we could see them for our mission rather than the daily grind. This did not prove useful for anything but crankiness.

We set out from Liverpool street station. In the theme of tale chasing we went on the circle line and thought we would look for clues to tell us when to get off. I cannot recall why we got off at Baker street but someone holding a sign with an arrow soon led us in the direction of the residence of Sherlock Holmes. The keeper of the Holmes’ residence was very helpful for our snark hunt and even went to fetch Mr. Watson on our behalf. However, Mr. Watson could not help us find the snark and so we carried on to regents park. I must see keeping up with the fiction of the snark hunt soon proved to be very tiring. However I do feel that we explored areas of the city that were off the beaten path. We also found some pretty amazing clues, some of which I have included below. I think the trouble with the project, at the end of the day, was finding a way to frame it in an engaging way. Framing the project was to be Caroline and I’s major collaborative challenge. We struggled for weeks to write a project proposal together, but I will discuss that at another time.

Number clues:

A swan gives us a clue

John’s 2 cents:


I will have this section at the end of every blog in order to get some blogging happening. This way every post might lead to a new project or projects if we are lucky!

What does everyone think about testing the seas of openess to the point of vacuous vastness? How might this help thoughts concerning open source culture, for example??

If the city is left completely to be reinterpreted by a certain poetic, how might this be acheived? Possibly by spreading a myth through the internet. I am thinking about how rumours might cause actions??

Also using found objects (clues) in such a way could prove really useful for collective story telling. Here a see fertile grounds for the snark hunt in all of its vastness.

A project concerning numbers and the landscape?