BREAK MY BODY LIBERATE MY SOUL is a 1 hour performance featuring a 20 channel Frankenstein video organism that has taken over the abandoned R&D Pub in the Stata Center at MIT. The majority of the technology used in the installation is Ewaste collected from the loading docks in the basement of Stata as well as other campus dumpsters or obsolete equipment borrowed from the Theater Arts tech closet.
The old, broken, discarded guts of MIT that have been abandoned in dumpsters and dusty closet corners amidst the rapid development of advanced technology are salvaged, stripped down, and sutured together into a delicate system. Glass tanks are suspended from 20ft above ground containing the insides of CRT TVs as well as liquids and wires, numerous digital monitors are scattered around the room, and a tangled network of cables, wires, and tubes circulate water, power, air, and signal throughout the space. The organism is sprawled across the pub, manifesting itself through the 20 screens that act as windows to its soul.
There is one right way for a machine to work, but everything breaks in its own way. Each piece of hardware and every algorithm it runs has a character that is exposed in its flaws. In an error, a machine opens up an exclusive side of itself to you. It is an open wound out of which technology flows raw and free, no longer confined in its manufacturer’s definition of utility. Sometimes it drips like a leaky faucet. Other times it is an overflowing stream that gushes through the cracks and drowns you in the unexpected colors of its full potential. This work is my attempt to serve as an acolyte for the machine’s catharsis born out of failure.
In practice this is ungraceful. It has been a perpetual cycle of wrangling, wrestling, and fighting through mysterious breaking, crashing, taking apart, fixing, giving up on equipment, having an existential crisis when my computer died, trusting, believing, and giving a piece of trash one more shot. Through reconfiguring the organism’s wirings, hydrating it by filling in and draining tanks, and letting its disembodied voice inhabit my body through my speech, I hope to choreograph the divine intervention of error into this world. It’s never guaranteed, but with a combination of labor and luck, all brokenness can be in tune.
From making a 20 channel video installation out of mostly trash, to having an abandoned Frank Gehry pub at the heart of a leading CS AI research lab as my studio for a year, to getting safety approval to suspend glass tanks containing high voltage electronics and liquids, absolutely no part of this really makes sense - just like a split second flash of malfunctioning pixels on a screen. But it doesn’t have to make sense to mean something. Noise to one, may be to another, a desperate attempt for communication and connection.
Thank you Josh Higgason for getting my TVs to fly, for sharing all of your weird old video gear with me, and for telling me that the crazy thing I want to do is totally doable and then helping me make it happen no matter what. Thank you MTA for letting me borrow equipment. Thank you Mark Hayes and Heather Ryall from MIT Dining for trusting me and providing me with this space. Thank you Alan Molin for being our project liaison with Campus Construction and for helping me work with administration throughout the installation process. Thank you Joe MacLeod, Kyle McGovern, Alec Casavant, and all involved from EHS for ensuring the safety of this project (and for the TV donations from Joe). Thank you to all others involved from Campus Construction, Campus Planning, and Facilities. Thank you Colin Simson from Odeh Engineers for reviewing the structural safety of the installation. Thank you Council of Arts at MIT for funding another one of my projects. Thank you Blue for helping me collect e-waste from the loading docks. Thank you to my strong friends Bolzan, Abe Montes, Artem Laptiev, and Bryan Sperry for being strong. Thank you Mei Kanamoto for beautifully destroying my MIT shirt. Thank you Luke Igel for The Thinking Machine footage. Thank you Yoshi Saito for filming interview footage and documentation. Thank you to the people of Stata who I interviewed, spied on, and who have been peeking and observing for the past months. Thank you to all my friends for letting me disappear and become a hermit in my pub for a semester and for believing in me.
Boston Art Review
input mess - Grischa Lichtenberger, Store Check - Oval, Comfortable - H.E.R, Meditation - Oval, Modular Mix - Air, Burnin’ - Daft Punk, Wake Up Wake Up - Lullatone, Moanin - Charles Mingus