also tubes

Feb 1- Mar 28

Jeff Thompson – I Feel Love for Others – 2019

Faith Holland, Amay Kataria, Everest Pipkin, Jeff Thompson, Lee Tusman

In this meditation on the interrelationships between humans and the internet, artists deploy code-based projects pondering the functions and limits of the body in a broad sense, and the ways in which our technologies reflect, accentuate, or further problematize these characteristics. The exhibition serves as a glimpse into one way that we might experience these works as they live on in networked spaces.


It is no coincidence that asking someone about electricity regularly results in a comparative analysis where plumbing and the flow of water serve to bring a clearer understanding of the magic behind flickering screens. It is perfectly reasonable after all. With any luck, most students of electricity took a bath long before they tried to understand the 60W bulbs in the vanity.

Be that as it may, in a career-defining moment, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens described the internet as:

“…not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

We might be wise to question whether Stevens knew very little about the internet, or whether he merely chose the most clumsy pedagogical tool in his repertoire (in fact, anyone who knows much about packet switching or traffic shaping knows that the internet is a bit like a series of tubes, though it is not in fact, a series of tubes). Unfortunately for Stevens, his remarks landed on the ears of a generation who would come to be known as digital natives that were gladly taking control of the Web 2.0 tubes. Stevens words were criticized on the Daily Show and they moved from national television onto the net, he became the star of music videos and remixes, and his search results far-outnumbered most everyone I have ever met. Quite interestingly, whatever useful conversation he might have intended about net-neutrality was lost, and instead, his meandering metaphor became fodder for those digital natives who felt misunderstood, and effectively misrepresented, by the generations who preceded them.

Maybe this exhibition is about making Net Art after that memory, but that’s not really what I spend my time thinking about. What I’m really thinking about is my bathtub. Or a bathtub. Or, I’m thinking about the future – the one where a tiny human will experience electricity before taking a bath (Is that the future, is that already happening?). In his work, Amay Kataria asks “Can machines be our companions? Can they feel and express themselves as we do?” – but also, I need to know, can they pour the baby’s bathwater? Will the machines teach your child to control the faucet using bandwidth metaphors? Do the machines know that you’re children are made of the same stuff that they’re floating in? A rather organized series of TCP packets swimming in a pool of countless aimless TCP Packets. 

The artists selected for this exhibition create critical reflection points for thinking about how much we are in fact like the internet, and how much it has grown to be like us. Their work grows out of networked experiences and engagement with a visual language racing at all deliberate speed. Through various modes, these artists compare experiences online with those familiar to life inside a human body.

Everest Pipkin hides bodily functions in the console (in this case, a tool built into contemporary web browsers), unseen, unless you know where to look. Undoubtedly the viewer is asked to engage with a host of questions that ask us to consider differently abled bodies, what bodies show us, what they hide, and the ways in which all of those functions mirror the behaviors of technical interfaces.

In “Babble Wall”, Amay Kataria explores a sentimental voice assistant constantly listening to its surroundings and desperately wanting to be stimulated by humans around it. He asks “By using technologies like Artificial Intelligence, can machines convince us to blur the lines between a living and a non-living being, such that we give them the same care, affection, and attention like we give to other living beings?

Faith Holland mines the internet for our deepest pleasures, then she hides them from us in her work “Visual Orgasms.” She describes the work thusly: “Filmic media has put pressure on sex to be visually consumable. Actors perform for a camera and an audience, for maximum visibility rather than pleasure… Visual Orgasms exaggerates this mandate to ‘make-visible’ by creating excessive moving image collages that depict metaphors for orgasm with no actual depiction of sex.”

In Lee Tusman’s avatars the viewer is impersonated by digital animations who follow along with our sounds (presumably vocal) and raise questions about how we talk about ourselves IRL and then online.The urge to challenge and subvert the technology might be raised, or we might play with this temporary avatar; I wonder what could it mean to loan this platform my voice and who have I become?

Jeff Thompson develops coded projects that raise questions about computers, networked technology and the way that code presents itself to us. In his elevated Turing Test “I Feel Love for Others,” Thompson develops a browser plugin that stands in for the familiar “I am not a computer” meant to reduce spam and bot submissions across internet forms. 

About the Artists:

Amay Kataria is a Chicago based artist, deriving interests from philosophy, history of control, and cybernetic theory. His art practice is a platform to think, elaborate on ideas, experiment, play and meditate on externalizing the internal affairs of my body’s interaction with our society. His creative acts create a bridge between the biotic (human) and abiotic (machine) in an attempt to pause and pay attention to the aesthetic possibilities of systems. Every act functions like a systemic metaphor, assembled with the craft of computation, code and algorithms.

Everest Pipkin is a drawing and software artist from Bee Caves, Texas, who produces intimate work with large data sets. Through the use of online archives, big data repositories, and other resources for digital information, they aim to reclaim the corporate internet as a space that can be gentle, ecological, and personal. They hold a BFA from University of Texas at Austin, a MFA from Carnegie Mellon University, and has shown nationally and internationally at The Design Museum of London, The Texas Biennial, The XXI Triennale of Milan, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, among others. They are currently based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

Lee Tusman is a new media artist and curator interested in the application of the radical ethos of collectives and DIY culture to the creation of, aesthetics, and open-source distribution methods of digital culture. His artistic output includes interactive media, video art, net art, experimental videogames, sound art, websites, twitter bots and micro-power radio stations. He enjoys working collaboratively in collectives, on nomadic projects and in ephemeral spaces. Many of his works feature themes of self-identity, mistranslation and new methods of communication in contemporary internet culture. In addition to his art practice, Tusman has curated dozens of exhibitions and performance projects at universities, galleries, institutions, and alternative spaces including The Hammer Museum; Riverside Art Museum; Babycastles; California State University, Northridge; University of California, Riverside; Pew Center For Arts and Heritage – New Spaces/New Formats; Space 1026; Little Berlin; Hidden City; and many others. He is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and has been interviewed by The New York Times, Al Jazeera, NPR, LA Times, NBC, Metro, CBS, Technically, AQNB, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wire, and The Smithsonian. Tusman’s projects probe the boundaries of exhibition-making, featuring multidisciplinary works and new technology. His most recent project is Room 21, a new performance project with composer Jace Clayton for The Barnes Foundation, supported by Pew Center For Arts & Heritage. He studied at Brandeis University and received his MFA at UCLA in Design Media Arts in 2017.

Jeff Thompson is an artist, musician, programmer, educator, hacker, curator, explainer. Assistant Professor and Program Director of Visual Art & Technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Faith Holland is an artist, curator, and educator whose multimedia practice focuses on gender, intimacy, and technology. She has exhibited at venues such as The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), NRW Forum (Düsseldorf), Fotografisk Center (Copenhagen), Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (Boulder), Human Resources (Los Angeles), and DAM Gallery (Berlin). Her work has been written about in Artforum, The New York Times, The Sunday Times UK, Elephant, Hyperallergic, Broadly, and The Observer. She has been a NYFA Fellowship Finalist in Digital/Electronic Art, an artist-in-residence at Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning and Harvestworks, and a finalist for Fotomuseum Winterthur’s Post-Photography Prototyping Prize. This is her third solo exhibition with TRANSFER.