*.exe (ver0.2)

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Executions: conversations on code, politics & practice

Keynote presenters: Femke Snelting and Susan Schuppli

Venue: Malmö University, Niagara building, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, 211 19 Malmö, Sweden

When: 28-30 April, 2016

!! The event has been held successfully, thanks for all your participation. Videos, photos and documentation here

Brief Description

This event investigates the cultural, material and political implications of execution. Software permeates our environment. We co-exist in an increasingly datafied present in which algorithms and abstract coded processes execute across different scales, materialising and operating at the micro and macro levels of our actions.

The aim of this event is to explore the concept of execution in the form of artisitic and critical practice. How can we understand the affective, embodied, performative, programmed processes of execution in the world today? By gathering together researchers working with diverse theoretical and artistic practices, we hope to encourage a critical curiosity and engagement with the theme of execution.

Topics might include:

execution as power / execution as decision / execution as critique / execution as temporal performance / execution as co-constitutive of the human and nonhuman / execution as prescriptive of universalising norms / execution as cruelty / execution as allegorical construct

This three-day event follows the earlier gathering in Dec 2015 for the Executions: conversations on code, power & death (version 0.1) event. There will be keynotes by Femke Snelting (Constant) and Susan Schuppli (Goldsmiths University), as well as workshops lead by the keynotes and also two collaborators, Peggy Pierrot and Roel Roscam Abbing, with each workshop delving further into the subject matters of the keynote talks. The event will finish with an open, day-long PhD masterclass (worth 2 ECTS credits, more details below). The masterclass asks for artistic prototypes dealing with the theme of execution and these prototypes will be available for viewing (at certain designated times) in an informal exhibit held in the Medea space by the ground floor entrance of the Niagara building over the course of the entire event.

These events are instantiations of an on-going discussion by the critical software thing group, a collection of researchers with a common interest in exploring, reflecting on and working with code.

P.S. Note that a few days after execution, from 2-3 May, there will be an event arranged by colleagues that is also happening at Malmö Högskola and may be of potential interest: RADiCAL.PiRATiCAL.


The schedule for the three day event, held at Malmö Högskola, is as follows (locations and exact times of schedule will be confirmed in the coming weeks):

28 April: Keynote presentations and discussion

Location: Malmö University, Niagara building, Room NI:B0E15 (on the ground floor), Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, 211 19 Malmö, Sweden

16.00 Reception

16.15 Introduction of the event

16.30 Femke Snelting keynote: "Modifying the universal: an interim report"

In 2014, The Unicode Consortium decided to add five "Skin tone modifiers" to the ISO 10646 standard that encodes more than 800 emoji characters. Currently, a new proposal is under discussion for a mechanism that would allow further customizations. If accepted, this will ensure that gender variants (such as female runners or males raising a hand), hair color variants (a red-haired police woman), and directional variants (pointing a gun or a crocodile to the right, rather than only to the left) can be encoded.
Unicode is a set of standards, an underlying infrastructure that impacts all use of text on computers, mobile devices and the web. Aiming to include all languages written in the world, Unicode does not prescribe particular fonts or specific renderings of characters, but simply provides a number for each character used in a text. While it might seem that the Unicode Consortium solved the diversity issue by adding modifiers, they actually opened a pandoras box. While the "modifiers" function within the universalist belief-system of Unicode, they start to function as encoded means for segregation. In it's shadow we see the re-appearance of the gender-neutral as a norm, and whiteness as the absence of ethnicity. As the Standards Body insists on importing existing conventions, not at any moment the colonial assumptions underlying the system of encoding is being questioned. The mechanisms are merely techno-centric patches in response to the increasing complexity of cross-device and cross-cultural computing, a situation that demands a re-imagination of compatibility in terms of difference.
Technological systems increasingly represent, form and interact with diverse physical bodies. The bankruptcy of the idea that anything is possible and that networked technologies are a-political spaces for becoming, means that we need to radically rethink what it means to say 'everyone'. In an era that is apparently "post- racial" and "post-gender" we see an actual backlash of racism and sexism, in terms of discrimination on one side, and affirmation on the other side; the emoji standards reflect this tension. If we co-exist with software, what generative forms of representation in/through software can we imagine, that not only represent multiplicity but allow us to materialise it, beyond the Modern regime of universality? What are the possibilities of a politics, aesthetics and ethics that is truly generative? How can we think other futures for computing, so that another type of possible becomes possible?
The talk and workshop are developed by Peggy Pierrot, Roel Roscam Abbing and Femke Snelting in the context of Possible Bodies, an ongoing collaboration between artists, programmers, performers and activists that are concerned with the specific entanglements of technology, representation and normativity that (re)-appear through renderings of the virtual. A complete description of the talk together with suggested reading materials can be read here.

17.00 Susan Schuppli keynote: "Computing the Law // Searching for Justice"

Computing the law.png
This talk explores two distinct mechanisms that have responded to the injustices of conflict and war in ways that are suggestively computational. The forums of the International Criminal Tribunal with their elaborated “Rules of Procedure and Evidence” have, I argue, transformed the juridical apparatus into a quasi-machinic set of operations that compress the affective realm of experience through the legal strictures of testimony and cross-examination. Moreover, the protocols that govern what counts as a evidence and who counts as a witness are scrupulously attended to, such that the subjective dimensions of testimony and the expressive qualities of material evidence are systematically flattened and disarticulated of all affect as witnesses and exhibits moves through the circuitry of the court. By contrast the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has no legal mandate but is organised by a quest for justice and ethical demand that the perpetrator of violence account for and admit to wrong-doing might be characterised as a kind of “incomputable object, one that operates in excess of calculation. The distressing and often-times novel forms of exchange between victims and perpetrators, which includes re-enactments and the performance of cultural rituals produces a surfeit of information that is not conditioned by legal codes that would render such expressive forms of testimony subservient or inadmissible. Unlike the rule-based logic that organises the Criminal Tribunal, the affective processes of the Truth Commission can’t be fully captured by an instrumental or algorithmic conception of justice. A complete description of the talk together with suggested reading materials can be read here.

17.30 Conversation between keynotes

19.00 Dinner

29 April: Workshops

Location: Malmö University, Niagara building, 5th floor, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, 211 19 Malmö, Sweden

Registration: please note that spaces for these workshops are limited, to register a place at one or both workshops fill out the following form

09.30 "Towards a Politics of the Unresponsive Script" - workshop with Susan Schuppli (2.5 hrs)

During this workshop we will use the occasion to explore some of the moral and ethical implications that have emerged with the wide-spread application of algorithms to all manner of contemporary problem solving, especially as concerns automated decision-making and digital targeting practices. From self-driving cars, predictive policing, credit-scoring, high-frequency trading to anti-terrorism operations and robotic warfare, states and corporate actors, in particular, are increasingly turning to algorithms to manage and control all facets of our lives. We will also consider the provocations that “now casting” and “horizon scanning” present as emergent methods for moving data analytics beyond their established roles in prediction and forecasting to that of a temporally responsive tool for investigating evidence about the future in order to act in the present. Ideally workshop participants should come with some case studies or examples in mind that we can discuss and explore together.

12.00 Lunch

13.00 "Modifying the Universal" - workshop with Femke Snelting, Peggy Pierrot & Roel Roscam Abbing (4 hrs)

We would like to use this afternoon to speculate together on how compatibility and multiplicity can co-exist. We will collaboratevely interrogate the customisation mechanisms that are already implemented in Unicode, seeing how they subvert the universal from the inside. Through a collective close-reading of documents relevant to the current proposal that introduces gender variants, hair color variants and directional variants, we will try to get to grips with the technical and political structure of Unicode. As an outcome of the workshop we will formulate a comment to the current proposal for new emoji mechanisms: http://www.unicode.org/review/pri321
Please bring a laptop and many devices: smartphones, tablets of all kinds.

19.00 Dinner

30 April: Masterclass

Location: Malmö University, Niagara building, 5th floor, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, 211 19 Malmö, Sweden

11.00 Masterclass discussion of contributed prototypes or articles working with the theme of execution

Participants in this PhD masterclass will present practice-based prototypes or articles working with the theme of execution for discussion and feedback from Femke Snelting, Susan Schuppli, staff members of Malmö University and other participants in the class. The masterclass is intended for researchers and artistic practitioners working with questions of code, politics and practice. Participation in the masterclass is worth 2 ECTS and more details on this will follow soon. There are a limited amount of participant spaces in the masterclass, but guests are still welcome to attend the masterclass. Full details and course description are available here. Contact bo.reimer@mah.se with any questions or to register for the masterclass. Currently registered participants of the masterclass will be adding details of draft their contributions over the next few weeks:
*Olle Essvik
*Olle Essvik & Linda Hilfling
*David Gauthier
*Geraldine Juárez
*Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard
*Helen Pritchard
*Anuradha Reddy
*Molly Schwartz
*Eric Snodgrass
*Winnie Soon
*Magda Tyzlik-Carver and Andy Prior
*Michelle Westerlaken

19.00 Dinner


Susan Schuppli (London):

Susan Schuppli is an artist and researcher based in London. Her research practice examines media artefacts that emerge out of sites of contemporary conflict and state violence to ask questions about the ways in which media are enabling or limiting the possibility of transformative politics. Current work explores the ways in which toxic ecologies from nuclear accidents and oil spills to the dark snow of the arctic are producing an “extreme image” archive of material wrongs.

Creative projects have been exhibited throughout Canada, the US, Europe and Asia. Recent and forthcoming exhibitions include Casino Luxembourg, Extra City Antwerp, Stroom Den Haag, Shanghai Biennale, Charlottenborg, Galerie Wedding, Witte de With, Fundacion Proa and Bildmuseet Sweden. She has published widely within the context of media and politics and is author of the forthcoming book, Material Witness (MIT Press, 2015), which is also the subject of an experimental documentary.

She is Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths. From 2011-14 she was Senior Research Fellow on the ERC project Forensic Architecture led by Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator). Previously she was an Associate Professor in visual/media arts in Canada. Schuppli received her PhD from Goldsmiths and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program after completing her MFA at the University of California San Diego. For more details, see http://susanschuppli.com/

Femke Snelting (Brussels, snelting{at}collectifs{dot}net):

Investigating interrelations between digital tools and creative practice, Femke develops projects at the intersection of design, feminism and free software. She is a core member of Constant, an association for arts and media active in Brussels since 1997. The collective work of Constant is inspired by the way that technological infrastructures, data-exchange and software determine daily life. Femke co-initiated the design/research team Open Source Publishing (OSP) and coordinated the Libre Graphics Research Unit. She teaches at The Piet Zwart Institute (Rotterdam), a.pass (Brussels) and erg (Brussels). For more details, see http://snelting.domainepublic.net/

Peggy Pierrot (Brussels, peggy{at}maskenfreiheit{dot}eu):

Peggy Pierrot works on projects linking information, media, activism, radio art and technology. She runs a publishing house, Venus Negra, publishing on popular cultures, Black Atlantic, music and science fiction. A sociologist by training, she holds a postgraduate degree in multimedia engineering. Peggy worked as a journalist (Transfert.net, Le Monde diplomatique, Minorités.org) and as editorial/technical webmaster in media and non-profit projects. She lectures on African-American and Caribbean litterature and culture, science-fiction or related topics.

Roel Roscam Abbing (Rotterdam, roel{at}roelroscamabbing{dot}nl):

Roel Roscam Abbing is an artist and researcher with strong interest for the issues and cultures surrounding networked computation. In an often collaborative practice he has worked on projects about the internet's infrastructure, DIY techniques and wireless community networks. Currently he teaches at the Digital Craft department of the Willem de Kooning Academy and is involved in a year long project looking at the possibilities for communication after the death of the WWW. For more details, see http://roelof.info

Organisers and Partners

Critical Software Thing / Malmö Team: Eric, Linda and Molly

Medea, Malmö University

K3, School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University

The Center for Participatory IT, Aarhus University