I Am An Antivirus Program
“Nothing is true;
Everything is permitted”
Hassan I Sabbah
(Taken from The Naked Lunch, 1991)
Tumblr - smash hit web space blogging site since 2007 - provides a perfect host to the website and process I wanted to create. Utilizing its built in features, queuing and the tagging post, I’m able to organise my work flow and my archive of images; All becomes laminar within the post sharing built in tool set.
Tumblr pulls out content from the vacuum of my desktop folders, establishes linearity through the queue, and finally rips into the open space of the tumblr exchange. It is assemblage par excellence with express over-stimulation - and I’m the conductor.
Tumblr is a great foundational piece of internet history, that shares features with other social media pieces, but ultimately its core function is based on old blog models. I can control and tweak very easily but nothing gets lost or overwhelmed by it’s UI, I myself don’t reach a stage of content fatigue, so it’s users hopefully don’t either - there is a necessity on the audience’s behalf to consume the media, become stimulated. Reblog ad nauseum: Tumblr becomes an effective blog site through the interaction of blogs (people), this is where Tumblr really hooked me, it doesn’t close off it’s network systems (the blogs, the content). Everything is allowed to circulate, without being algorithmically curated and the circulation is predicated on nodes of followers and bloggers (generating loops of reblogs from one page to another). Another thing to set it apart; Tumblr still has a coherent time frame (with slight ‘controlled content’ taking form in ‘what’s in your orbit’). The Process of ordering the main feed organises it’s posts organically and according to web-time.
"To the student of media structures, every detail of the total mosaic of the contemporary world is vivid with meaningful life."
Marshall Mcluhan, Understanding Media
A key element of ‘I am an antivirus program’ was it’s controlled existence, to provide the elements of the metanarrative and it’s ‘postmodern contemporary art non-linear’ feel. It feels dated and it feels new at the same time. And those are some fundamental components - Familiar and Foreign, Xeno-diegesis. I build the story of ‘the anti-virus’ through these images, that originate from the webspace, and are recaptured in a vacuum, and re-posted, and later I tell you the narrative from a distance, through a computer screen - where do the edges blur? Even this text piece is a performance.
“Nothing Is True;
Everything Is Permitted”
We are Jogging: Brad Troemel and Lauren Christiansen introduced a new wave of content to tumblr in 2009, two years after the platform launched in its entirety. This project capitalised on the new rhetoric of the internet and functions available to the artists, taking up all its possibilities (and building from 90s net artists). In 2013, with a picture of a Macbook submerged in water in a bathtub, Christiansen and Troemel created what we could call a ‘viral’ moment. The post reached a successful engagement of 512,353 notes (the combined amount of likes and reblogs) as of writing. Something to note, The Jogging itself as a platform had gone through many iterations of itself, generally being an access point in which Troemel could channel niche venture-interests, Blog Gallery Space, Virtual Gallery Space, Institutional critique, viral regurgitator, paid submission page etc.
“Yet here were young artists expending huge amounts of time and effort to make charmingly strange stuff on the Internet for free, and
adopting the vernacular of social media so effectively that their work slipped into the consciousness of millions of people who had little interest in art.”
Adrian Chen, New York Times (2017)
'BRAD TROEMEL, THE TROLL OF INTERNET ART'
Here it isn’t a case of making content for an audience, more than recapturing content, an emphasis on the interactions and non-interactions. The blog is merely a hypothesis on content creating and the entanglement of the real with our new E-personas - like a Johnny Mnemonic character with a virtual package jammed into our skulls ready 2 kill us with the overload of bytes. And I continue to overmine and undermine the content, and the contents content, and the place that content sits in the world - how much space is it actually taking up in my head?
“While Troemel’s work can embody the freewheelin creativity that is the best part of Internet culture, it often falls into the trap of the troll who mistakes a lack of accountability for freedom, provoking with obnoxious antics simply for the sake of generating a reaction, then laughing in your face when you fall for the joke...
The Jogging was an inside joke that doubled as a form of institutional critique. Each work, no matter how tossed off or improvisational,was given a formal title. In addition to being a satirical jab at artworld pretension, this was, Troemel says, a deliberate attempt to use the “social capital” of art museums to help the Jogging’s crappy images stand out among many thousands of crappy images on Tumblr. The Jogging’s sensibility would come to be defined by this irony; it seemed to be pointing out that the emperor hatid no clothes while sprinting by in an invisible Nike sweatsuit.”
Is this the potential danger of the metanarrative? How many layers of irony do I need to operate with to make this a valid project? And how can I predict how this will be assessed by outsiders? (This is the 4th wall metanarrative shtick).
We're always viewing things from a distance but with different lenses, code-switching to understand the intentions, in this sense ‘i am an antivirus program’ serves to enable its users to view it as an open end system. It is the manifold of real websites and design fiction.Those that don't blog or care about the blogging process won’t give a shit, the recovering contemporary digital artists and critics won’t see the project, it’s not like I'm getting featured, this isn't going to be a breakout text-piece sci-fi fantasy text piece, I exist solely in a weird vacuum space - outside a real narrative process.
Tumblr has had it’s digital-epoch’s, transforming and metamorphosing through its evolving UI and UX. The history spans from the founding with David Karp, and the acquisition by Yahoo in 2013, this spanned the majority of developments on the website but the biggest change came with the buy out by Verizon in 2017, and the purge of NSFW blogs - subsequently purging a large user base, which in turn wrote off millions of tumblr’s stock. This led to the latest buyout in 2019 from Verizon to Automattic (Company founders of Wordpress).
Through this web history, tumblr has found itself to be a minor blogsite now, semi-obsolete with the boom of Instagram and Pinterest (the normies still don’t know about are.na). And there is reason for this, as reflected in it’s many corporate changeovers. Tumblr has, through the years resulted in the use of automatic algorithmic censors. The latest censor seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction from an open letter to tumblr complaining about the pornographic exposure Tumblr allowed to minors and an inefficient report button, and Apple Inc. removing their app from it’s storefront.
What resulted was almost the unpinning of Tumblr’s foundations. The blanket bans and suspensions hit artists and ‘content creators’ hard, this resulted in the exodus that I mentioned, the effect of this massive censorship struck massively through the site as it set loose on an automatic algorithm that had to make semantic decisions between pornography and non-sexual nudity. While it feels like Tumblr is a platform free from the astroturfing that is present on Instagram and Facebook, it still had to rely on a blind automation. Hurting valid communities that had helped the site to thrive. Now I come to squat on a platform that could be argued to be just as redundant as Instagram or Pinterest (those types of webspaces),on the outside of the loops of censorship convenience - I hope. Convenience, Metanarratives, stock pricing, Brad Troemel and a niche internet history lesson - god I’m exhausted.
Camille Henrot is the type of artist and researcher I should have been inspired by, aimed to work towards similar outcomes (desktop documentary) but I just couldn’t port myself to that kind of framework, with that style, and medium. But in a sense I am also documenting a creation story - context clues, Grosse Fatigue (2013) is a desktop documentary video project that utilised the Smithsonian Archives to narrate a creation story, The Creation story.
“Highly subjective and intuitive, the work relates the vastness of the universe to the expansive arena of the Internet and points to the impossibility of a unifying system of knowledge.”
In a way I do mimic Henrot’s scrupulous process of archival - nowhere to her extent obviously - but I’m tagging to the best of my abilities each photo I upload (github dump tba), it’s a rewarding process, it starts with a rabbit hole of reverse google image searches, scrubbing through blogs, but I know when to stop going. Sure it's neurotic as all hell, but that won’t stop me now, I'll quit when I quit.
The process of maintaining the blog is an interesting site to examine, especially when compared to Henrot. My actions seem almost absurd in comparison, nihilistic, as I go through web spaces I would never of thought to explore, introducing myself as a lynchpin - mmm not really, I feel more like a sleep deprived maniac pinning things on a cork-board (a forum cork-board, a substandard cultural smörgåsbord). The process can be condensed to internal macros of “Click, Click, Drag and Drop, Ctrl+V, Scroll down, Click”, and something has gotten mixed up with a scroll up of the archive image folder (no, I will not provide an instructional, or screencaps of the process, you get the idea).
But more surprisingly, I find it relaxing, meditative, I have turned myself into a part of the blog, the anti/virus - Helping to ensure the replication process transpires correctly. Tumblr, and Me, we act as a phenotype, blueprints for each iteration post. It’s a bouldercore process, and I sure do love to wake up in the morning to get it rolling. The process (subsequently the process book) is all constructed and connected through the ‘tagging’ process, functioning similar to an index, or in-itself the index of a blog. The search bar on the website collapses into a connection of strings attached to the tag, organises accordingly to what has been entered. There exists two layers of tagging on antivirusprogram2020.com.
First there is the popular tags, found from some nondescript analytics site, putting first and foremost the R-rate of the blog (handily broken down into a formula; C(0) * k = # ) - this is the metric for ‘virality’, the potential for something to go viral. And whilst Virality is important, it is not the centrepiece here with ‘antivirus’, if anything it is the counterpart to ‘antivirus’.
The internet is plagued with virality, metric tracking, it’s an empiricists wet dream. Metrics, metrics, metrics. Gone are the days of html 1.0, hello astroturfing. Tumblr is enigmatic of contemporary webspace, 11 years on from it’s conception not much has changed visually or functionally, it still has a stream of images and media flowing as a channel on the users front page, this can be comparted into a reblog or like. But, like with most social medias, it has a back end algorithm functioning away, user behaviour can result in content suggestions and blog recommendations, in part it promotes interconnectivity and community, in another way it is once again the permittance of allowed content on the website.
Watching the watchman, K-hole was really one of the first successful nu-media brand-consultancy (artists acting as trend forecasters), providing an exhumation of niche internet cultures. Establishing themselves with a foresight of new trends and behaviour, and striking that viral gold in 2013 with ‘Youth Mode’ (thanks 032c). Like a group of witches huddled over a cauldron, in went jorts, crocs and the pseu- do-nihilistic generational ennui of our times and out came Normcore.
“K-Hole became fascinated with trend forecasting after a friend who worked at a subscriber company introduced them to the expensive reports. Full of purportedly valuable information and insights, these reports would help any company truly understand–and, more importantly, market to–youth culture. K-Hole directly parodied the industry’s reliance on the gospel of trend forecasting, and by blindlylatching on to normcore, the fashion industry wrote the punchline in a highly complex joke about itself.”
It’s this narrative development that I adore from K-Hole, their capacity and ability to infiltrate their cultural buzzwords into the collective conscious of big name brands - they pulled a prank using expertly analysed media and corporate embodiment. ‘Cultural strat egists’ / ‘Trend forecasting report group’ / ‘analysts’ / ‘oracles’ Anything is possible if you can present the right pictures, the right image - as long as the wordings right, the semantics are there and you’re following strict self-imposed rules based on real world data, you can shoot for the stars and tell people you’ll never miss.
"K-HOLE produces a public form of consumer fiction"
For all my minor hostilities, K-hole has played an obvious unconscious inspiration to my work for more than a while (beyond even the invisible scope of this piece). They are a puzzle piece within the creation of this narrative...
“By utilizing the language and visual lexicon of the trend forecast, the group has turned it in on itself, critically examining not just the propensity of consumer capitalism towards constant obsolescence and reinvention, but also its complex, knotty relationship with the affects and emotional landscapes it both produces and feeds off.”
And this comes to my position of explaining what the rest of the project is about, but from this you can gather that the use of Tumblr, the integration of social media (be it slightly obsolete) is an extremely meditated choice, with it comes it’s own reflexive channels of analysis and allusion - “nothing is true; everything is permitted”.
K-Hole, Youth Mode: The Death of Age (2013)
The New Human type cannot be properly understood
without an awareness of what he is
continuously exposed to from the world
- Theodor Adorno. Minima Moralia (1951)
To be concise, the study of the Graphic Designer is in part the study of Media, the study of media is the lens of relational activities and connectivity. And this is the permitted virus. Adversely, the antivirus program is a research protocol invested in studying the autonomy available to a Graphic Designer, and an extended hand to all fragmented sectors that require a similar reclamation. We can not change the medium as the medium is predicated on the message (use my square space code for a 10% discount)- we are fixed in this web 1/2/3/4/5.0 and the control of knowledge will be met with the streamlining of UI and UX design. Design tools like the adobe programs will continue to increase their premium and their monop- oly hold on the design space - to be a designer is to be implicated with this process, regardless if you pirate software or notThis is where I raise flags against the tepid conglomeration of blog sites and web in general, the astroturfing of the internet has only amplified the feedback of Graphic Design.
You’d typically call this commercial design. Commercial design fits the criteria of an evolving media world;
“It is important to note that this ultimate stage of pictorialization was a reversal of pattern. The world of body and mind...was not photographical at all, but anonvisual set of relations”(Mcluhan)
Commercial Design started to drive an efficiency science behind it’s aesthetic - you make the access mode immediate and your engagement success is far higher, and you do this through the pictogram, and when photography came about, that too was made into a design appendage.
“To understand the medium of the photograph is quite impossible, then, without grasping its relations to other media, both old and new. For media, as extensions of our physical and nervous systems, constitute a world of biochemical interactions that must ever seek new equilibrium as new extensions occur.”
This is potentially a valuable understanding of media, and thus design, presented by media theorist Marshall Mcluhan, commercial design (and all art and design in a sense) are schizophrenic presentations of the world, they accumulate meanings outside the presented scope of an advertisement, or typography - they link the relational experience of the mass media consumer, as Mcluhan states. However, this is not all, he states an ‘equilibrium as new extensions occur’ - in my context now this weighs with a great importance, we know the new extensions already, something that Mcluhan unfortunately didn’t get to experience fully, and that’s the web, the modern computer, the pocket mobile device. These are in their own rights mediums, your OS (operating system) is a computer language medium that dictates other program mediums, the access mode to the rest of the systems of design, websites contain live feeds and streams to distant realities, it’s all so lucid but at the same time it feels like an astral projection. At times this can feel nauseating, that collapsing feeling of ‘space’ and ‘time’.
This presents a wider problem with modern design, technology has embedded itself into the core of the practice since the dawn of paper and pen, stone and chisel etc. The problem being that while technology has stopped gapped connectivity, it refuses to go further - refuses to return the creativity of a design practice unless commandeered. This has led to the necessity for the designer to code, and script, to kit bend and utilise AI - once again “fragmenting” the work role.
“Under conditions of electric circuitry, all the fragmented job patterns tend to blend once more into involving and demanding roles or forms of work that more and more resemble teaching, learning, and “human” service, in the older sense of dedicated loyalty.”
Graphic design namely has done well to adapt and reshape, showing its versatility in the age of digital design. Not only that, it hybridizes aesthetic models much like a fashion season generates new styles, which keeps design itself fresh and alive, while sometimes slipping into the contrived and over-saturated. But is the “human” service really what Graphic Design is becoming? It certainly hints to this with the proactive design studio model. Interaction and Bureaucracy, it’s an efficiency tactic. All design requires hierarchy even if that hierarchy is to not have one. I see the office space, I remember the spider plant, I see the shore line, I see the whitecaps. The workers space is a micro-territorial space of capital politics and a grab for faux socialism in most cases, in some, it is an honest attempt to form comradery - the cafeteria is an effective grounds to reinforce or detourne this thinking. People like artist Olafur Eliasson effectively install a commons space for the studio team to interact and communicate, job roles are made equal in that space.
“The studio, as much as we don’t like it, means working in your own little departments, compartmentalised. And there are hierarchies even though everyone’s a part of the democracy. The kitchen is a nice leveller.” 9
It’s a universal ideology that falls into a majority of Eliasson’s work that provides an effective future-proof for how the operations of studio practice should be carried out (see the Auteur myth10). My cynicism is only symptomatic of the consumerist prerequisite that allows design to exist in the first place - a degree in the topic definitely is met with a careerist sentiment, to be financially viable within a milieu of art and design subjects. Graphic Design should not try to divorce itself from this grouping, it stands stronger with the complex wovings and multitudes that allow it to bloom as an individual practice that arranges the practice of others. The efforts here are a concern with the design practice no less, and how ethics and politics are sequestered by a shifting responsibility of effects, how and why Graphic design mutated into the corporate virus that it is now.11
”All media work us over completely.
This is Mcluhan’s sentiment from his writings in the 60’s, and It stands up true to this day, more so than ever. Algoration (the use of data algorithms to curate a web feed) are notorious and globally implemented into most ‘social media’, but outside social media, it’s used as predictive data. This is the “reversal pattern”, Graphic Design puts a face to this slippery coded underbelly. The automation of design media has become an efficient business strategy to overmine its user base data, and subsequently requires illustration. To be concise, the study of the Graphic Designer is in part the study of Media, the study of media is the lens of relational activities and connectivity. And this is the permitted virus. Adversely, the antivirus program is a research protocol invested in studying the autonomy available to a Graphic Designer, and an extended hand to all fragmented sectors that require a similar reclamation. Language dictates media – media manufactures consent, therefore language manufactures consent. A small quibble no less, that the Graphic Designer goes to bed with media every day. And in the morning they arise with vast spawns of editorials, emailing lists, content posts - lots of fucking content posts by content creatures. The homogeneous sprawl of media is a compounded expository of new design conditions.
“Today, the mass audience can be used as a creative, participating force. It is, instead, merely given packages of passive entertainment.”
The passive entertainment is reflexive of its audience, an audience that is content on not being challenged when engaging and consuming media, not being challenged when creating and releasing it - the language logic is a false preposition - things don't have to occur in the forefront of our percepts, media can be a stealth operation for critical theory or a dog whistle for nazis.
Even a glass of milk is steeped in meaning.
“The photograph is just as useful for collective, as for individual, postures and gestures, whereas written and printed language is biased toward the private and individual(s) posture.”
Mcluhan and designer Rapheal Roake seem to fit perfectly in collusion with one another here, Roake states that “All design is a political act”, this fits Mcluhan’s collective principle for the photograph precisely, as this explicitly gives backing to the relational dynamics of media itself, it sits in the collective sphere - the global village.
It all begins to feel like a fever dream, the spectres of Helvetica, Comic sans and Papyrus jumping on your chest as you’re paralysed in a waking dream. Blink and you’ll miss the horses head 144hz refresh rate. The grid settings of your life are closing in tighter and tighter as you cant kern in a moment for peace, please adobe I’m plugged in to your creative cloud let me use my kettle already, yes dear, they’re wacom tablet plates, we threw out the cutlery and replaced them for healthcore eydroppers and ironically shaped candles ($200 MRP). The decoherence of the 21st century is here and it’s got anthropocene smeared all over its lips. Everyone wants to fuck their OLED displays, the screen is constantly flirting with me, it bulges and writhes along with it’s circuitry like an obscene Cronenburg slide show, and with a tilt of the hinge, it rips my hands straight off the bone. It’s simultaneously psychosexual and completely meaningless, but there doesn’t seem to be any Big Other alternative, can you see the demons wearing the guise of post-modernity, and where they emit a solar flare? Just tryna game the system can’t you see, if I shake it at just the right moment, at the right angle, I’ll get an additional diet coke. You don’t understand how fucking much I like diet coke. A man who finds himself among others drinking diet coke is irritated because he does not know why he is not one of the others drinking diet coke. I have graphic design Stockholm syndrome, what do you mean you don’t know who Gerrit Noordzij is? At this point going outside will trigger my flight or fight response, I’m afraid of being swooped by seagulls while I’m bound on a rock, I sleep in a bed with a faraday blanket, I’m absolutely glowing, washed in sunlight.
"As for the anticipation of reality by images, the precession of images and media in relation to events, such that the connection between cause and effect becomes scrambled and it becomes impossible to tell which is the effect of the other"
*lifestyle burnout vs weaponized burnout*
being very concious of the opportunity to burnout
(the chance to just go off the grid and dissapear)
////////3strategies/// for burnout
>downgrading (getting a flipphone).
>peacing out (basically going off grid)-announcing your absence in a conscious way.
>nondisclosure (a position that is so privileged you can be using your private email when
you’re the secretary of state) _ (the reality of not having to participate on a specific cloud) (a
network that runs outside of the visible network) (designers of the network, do they?) - a lot of
people can’t afford not to respond.
lifestyle burnout uses financial capital to camouflage your life
weaponized burnout uses social capital to take control of your life
- Jean Christopher (In the comments section of Insights 2015: K-HOLE, New York)
hosted by the Walker Arts Center, summarizing K-HOLE reports
These collective postures translate into all modern media and are littered with effects. One is singular and rhizomatic in any given instance of engagement towards media and the invisible hand of the ‘designer’. And on the contrary the medium is an assemblage of arborescence and is later politicised in the factory line assembly - a by-product of ‘essential’ capital labor. The capital fiction is overwritten by the post-market mythos of a company and it’s figureheads, it’s in-house publishing team use individual members to feature in nice magazines. Effects, we are overcome by so many different effects daily, to the extent that we become desensitized to the potential the subsequent causes and effects, modern reality makes sure to compound these consequences of media to a sensory overload of hysteria, the neurotic ones take to pinterest to organise themselves. We like to order things, It gives clarity and comfort within the dysphoria and entropy of our lives, pinterest, tumblr, are.na, instagram are all negentropical solutions in an overstimulated digital environment.
“Instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience coexist in a state of active interplay.”8
To understand this I need to clarify that the medium, the message, the photograph and all subsets of visual and nonvisual information are communication - it goes without saying - but this establishes the politicised and astroturfed space of Graphic Design, a designer is expected to make commercially viable work to thrive, and usually this is achieved by co-opting styles to any degree appropriate to a brief. This results is the parody, the hyperstition and hyperobject -an overly ironic and self aware ventilation apparatus that keeps the gimmicks of Graphic Design alive. The overtures of a design piece can appear stark placid and regurgitated. It’s very much easy to default to a ctrl-c, ctrl-v automation process. Reinforced no less by an Rene Thom’s Catastrophe Theory18 autodidact push of some educational institutions - more concerned with juggling design briefs than focusing their teachings on a core design system (despite their ever love for the Bauhaus - yes huni the library is open).
Of course, with the new emphasis on a technology dominated world we are expected to rely and reinforce the techno-dependent designer (work smart not hard). And we are yet to catch up to this mutation in design, where design was once a phylogeny of different features that collected to assume a physical medium, centered on type, constrained by fibres and ink and oil - these components have congealed onto the Macbook, the ergonomics of physical/digital unbound the Designer from the difficulties of a physical medium. So why do we remain in the realm of rehashing typefaces and conventional media, why are we tied down to the revolving doors of design trends - surely now than ever we have all the components, all the tools to produce new design movements, this can’t keep up
When the circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?