Guest Curated by Chelsea Thompto

This exhibition has been curated around the ideas found in the Transcode Manifesto by Chelsea Thompto. The works were curated into the exhibition for the variety of ways they enact the ideas outlined in the manifesto. The artists included in the show are:

micha cárdenas
Anaïs Duplan
Everest Pipkin
Chris E. Vargas

This exhibition will take place concurrently at Unrequited Leisure for the month of September, and it will also include a space at New Art City opening September 18. Additionally, the works in this exhibition are hosted on sites around the internet. As such, this site serves as a point of connection between these various spaces enacting trans practice by facilitating the viewer’s migration across and through various web spaces.

Transcode work examines code as a base material in culture’s generation of meaning and narrative. The “code” of Transcode refers to: “a system of signals or symbols for communication,” as well as “a system of principles,” and “instructions for a computer.” Transcode work then, is an interruption of and traversal between codes. An effort in placing oneself at the sites of meaning making, exposing the codes (structures, processes, laws) which undergird supposedly inherent truths (of gender, of ownership, of land). 

By seating work in this space, Transcode opts out of and interrogates the drive towards linear, binary, and static logic, offering a means of imagining otherwise the categorizations and narratives put forth by these logics onto fluid subjects.

Screenshot of Redshift and Portalmetal by micha cárdenas, 2015

The works in this show take on codes and codification in a variety of forms, including conventions of narrative in cárdenas’s work Redshift and Portmetal shown above and Duplan’s work The Lovers Are the Audience Who Watch. The branching narrative of cárdenas’s work also challenges us to think about historical and future narratives of colonization. Each artist presented here interrogates a particular set of codes through practices that engage code as both subject and material. 

Video: The Lovers Are the Audience Who Watch by Anaïs Duplan, 2018. (Watch on Vimeo)

Central to many of these investigations in a careful consideration of the viewer’s positioning. In Duplan’s work above where we are faced with scenes of people being watched by an audience. This places us in the position of being a ghost or second audience, seeing the impact of an audience to which we are not apart and forcing us to think about the role of audiences more generally. 

This strategic positioning of the viewer as a method of engaging codes continues in Pipkin’s work Default Filename TV (shown below). In the work, Pipkin offers us a stream of videos, posted to Youtube, whose file names have not been modified from the device from which they were originally created. The work also doesn’t provide any textual descriptions or comments associated with the video, this sets up a situation where the filename itself becomes an integral part of the way we make sense of what we’re seeing. This heightens our awareness of both the materiality of the digital image as well as the process by which a video moves from its originating device to an online platform, inviting us to interrogate aspects of our visual culture often overlooked in our daily consumption digital media.

Screenshot of Default Filename TV website by Everest Pipkin, 2019

Continuing to reflect on the systems and institutions that structure what and how we see brought forth in Default Filename TV, Vargas’s Museum of Trans Hirstory & Art (shown below) moves this investigation from systems of digital image making and sharing to that of the institution. In imagining this new institution, Vargas uses institutional power as a material to expose the process by which institutions reify meanings and histories. Through the creation of a museum, he asks us to reimagine what a museum could be and interrogate what they have been. 

Screenshot of Museum of Trans Hirstory & Art website by Chris E. Vargas, 2015-Ongoing

Throughout these works the artists challenge us to see and question underlying structures and norms. By engaging codes as material, form, and subject these works beckon us to move across, beyond, and through often violent systems and to help us imagine new ones. 

By placing these works in conversation with one another and with the Transcode Manifesto, I am modeling the potential for this manifesto to act as a framework to understand trans cultural production that emphasizes the unique power and perspective of trans folks wield in their interrogations of code.

Chelsea Thompto

New Art City

A parallel showing of this work will take place on the virtual platform New Art City.
A link to the space will be added here on September 18th.