Glitches. Like "system crash" or "failure to reboot," the term entered the lexicon of technology early on and has stayed there since. Recently the New York Times published a piece on the Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden, which is set to open next month. The museum is meant to celebrate human innovation and the fact that we can't achieve success without some degree of failure.
I must admit, when I first saw the headline in my nightly news round-up, I was exhilarated as I thought it was perhaps related to Paul Virilio's idea for creating a Museum of Accidents, an idea he toyed with in such seminal screeds as Speed and Politics and Pure War and advocated for more forcefully in his later years. Essentially, Virilio saw accidents as one of the most significant forces in the twentieth century for it was only through a massive airplane crash or far worse "accidents" that we were able to make meaningful advancements in technology. But Virilio was also not one to dismiss accidents as "failures" but rather as opportunities. The idea has been extended to the progenitors of rap, house, and techno who were basically misusing or using accidentally new gear like the TB-303 that allowed for such paradigm shifts as "Acid Trax."
And while Virilio was able to realize his museum of accidents through a 2002 exhibition, I don't know if the scholar himself could have believed that a mere museum could hold the explosive power of accidents. Going back to "glitching," as the artist Phillip Stearns explains below, the word dates back to ancient Yiddish as in "to slip." As Stearns puts it, "there is a tendency to focus on failure, though personally it isn't something I find productive because the notion of failure hinges upon similar factors giving rise to the perception of glitches." Just like a slippage indicates a rupture or rift, so does a glitch, "that moment which reveals the scope and scale of the rift should we choose to see it."
Or as put another way, in an age of automated drivers--be it the choreography we learn in 'mastering' a new software tool or the way that music production software can impose a restrictive grid on creativity, in some eyes--the glitch is the moment that allows us to snap to and exclaim, "Hey, there's a steering wheel on this thing!" For Stearns, the glitch as first explored in his music studies provided him a way out of, and back into, the materiality of sound. After all, amplified sound always necessitates a speaker, which is then mediated by the physical environment in which the sound is heard in by the listener who receives and processes the sound based on the reference points of which they are aware. All of which is to say for a circuit bender exorcising immaterial sounds from material hardware, Stearns soon realized that the "material mattered, that I couldn't just take it for granted."
And to think that the whole reason I got in touch with Phil in the first place was due to the gorgeous throws and pillowcases he was making with GlitchTextiles. And if you're wondering how we just jumped from circuit bending and digital glitches to bed throws, well, welcome to the wild, ever-evolving world of Phillip Stearns. A living fractal whose "work has been evolving like the branches of a tree," Stearns has been working for over a decade to synthesize his disparate yet interrelated interests in glitch art across a variety of mediums while also trying to avoid the constraints of a full-time job. As such, he come into unlikely contact with the likes of Moleskine notebooks and Christian Dior to help him better realize his always-splintering vision. In many ways, he is truly an embodiment of the artistic nomad that has come into being, s/he who is versed in various technical languages and digital rituals and seeking some way to synthesize it all together. Does it always make sense? Probably not, but it makes for one hell of a ride.
Z: Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you were raised? How has your personal path differed from the one you expected to take? Do you ever wish you had the security of a 9-5 or is the freedom of being an artist and aspiring entrepreneur far more gratifying?
PS: I was born and raised in Austin, TX to a loving family of mostly medical professionals and engineers (It's probably important to note for later that we moved to Colorado when I was in high school). Extended family always seemed close so I definitely benefitted from having an intellectually stimulating environment of loved ones who equally encouraged me to be curious and to use my head.
A side effect of this was a pressure to follow a similar path in terms of my career. I felt very early on that I wanted to make art and was encouraged to think and act creatively, though being an artist was never presented as a viable career path. It was either engineering, science, or medicine. Though no one expressly laid down the law and said it could only be these, any discussion about pursuing a creative career path was met with serious skepticism. Who can fault family for being concerned about your financial well being after all?
When I had to choose my undergrad degree focus, I think that in being the first-born, I caved to the familial pressures and choose to study Engineering Physics. I truly had an interest in theoretical physics. These studies served to establish a firm foundation in math and science that is at the core of my practice today. Though my expectation was that I would be happy in the hard sciences, the urge for working creatively overshadowed my desire to complete the course work. It was time to follow my heart, though I compromised and took only one step away from engineering and one towards music, though it was liberating and set other gears in motion. Now I am more or less maintaining myself from my creative practice, which has taken many unexpected turns as. The 9-5 and the stability that comes with it is always a siren song, whose strains are felt in waves of varying intensities, but there is within me a sailor that wishes to remain lost at sea.
Z: So before we get into visual glitches, I was hoping we could talk a bit about sonic ones and your personal path with music. What led you from learning high-end studio techniques to playing the 1's and 0's through circuit bending?
There is a star field of moments I can recall, from whispers of childhood memories to well defined recollections of someone looking me in the eyes and giving me advice (perhaps unknown to them) that would change my whole way of doing things. I'll try to touch upon the brightest stars in this nebula.
I am five and there is a massively powerful storm blowing through, the remnant of some hurricane that had ravaged the coast. I am standing in the backyard, facing into the wind, grass flattened, the wind whipping around me and howling in my ears before the rains set in. I have a red whistle and I am blowing this thing as hard as I can, hearing it distort in my ears. I somehow believe that if i blow loudly enough, the storm will turn around.
I am listening to random records in my parents' collection and put on Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity for the first time.
I am watching The Brothers Quay animations with a friend in his parents' basement.
A composer and good friend of mine plays a piece he has been working on. It involved the sounds of an image scanner's circuits captured with phone taps and sequences of those samples processed using a mind boggling software programmed only with code resembling C.
I have this crush on a DJ I am studying with in Denver. There is something about her that I find irresistible. One night after I shared a recent track I was working on naively hoping to somehow seduce her, she puts on Morrissey, sits down on the couch next to me and asks me if I had thought about making tracks without rhythm.
I am in Sweden for university exchange program in audio engineering. It's my first time visiting any European country. I meet a composer from Australia who introduces me to Pure Data. I also stumble upon Reed Ghazala's anti-theory website.
A good friend and composer from Denver suggests I apply to Cal Arts where he's studying.
A beloved and late professor of mine at Cal Arts suggests I check out Toshimaru Nakamura.
I am touring with my noise/improv trio in Germany. After a moment of profound enlightenment during the Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, I sell all of the gear I was traveling with, and buy a plane ticket to Iceland.
I meet John Hawk in a remote basement level section of the Cal Arts building for his class on Videographics in a room jam packed with analog video gear.
I am at STEIM for my first real residency, and I'm soldering together this insane analog neural network sculpture. Takuro Lippit, a key figure there is skeptical and keeps pressing me to answer why. I can't come up with a good response.
In 2009 I move to NYC.
OK, it's clear I need to bring this back a little....
The through line is this:
1. Studying engineering and physics in undergrad at CU Boulder have me a strong foundation for understanding electronics.
2. While studying audio engineering at UC Denver, I took on a job at the school managing the maintenance of the studio facilities. This meant not only familiarizing myself with the studio block diagrams, but also designing the signal paths, and eventually to assisting in repairing the modules in our vintage Neve analog mixing board.
3. Practical electronics skills, plus theory, and loads of practice soldering set the stage for me to take on Circuit Bending.
4. Circuit Bending became a mindset, a philosophy if you will, and a tactic that could be employed in other domains, not just to battery operated toys, but to other systems electronic and beyond. Maybe praxis is the right word.
5. I moved beyond breaking systems to building broken or open systems, similar to the analog modular synthesis approach, but perhaps more lower level and less groomed. My building blocks here were digital logic chips, specifically the CMOS 4000 logic family. I was less concerned with an analog vs. digital dichotomy, and more interested in systems where the distinctions broke down.
6. The ideas about cracking and extending or opening systems overlapped and coupled with those being developed by the artists I met who were working with glitches in digital systems, predominantly those involved with the material conditions for digital visual culture on the net. Critical perspectives on glitch came to expand beyond the materiality of digital media and address the social and political dimensions concerning the perception of glitches as such.
Around this time my focus shifted to visual and digital technologies for producing work aimed at the basic principles union which they were built.
Z: While you seem to fit a little more neatly into the "glitch" category, what about your work resists such categorization? When you're dealing with signals in flux, capturing a nanosecond of immensely complex change, does the glitch itself almost begin to exert a will of its own? Maybe you can help me understand what about my work you think fits more neatly within the glitch category. I find that everyone arrives at their own interpretation of what glitch is, which means we first have to find some common frame work for understanding what we mean by glitch.
PS: In my earlier music work, I wasn't really interested in working with the kinds of artifacts whose employment as sonic material would categorize my work as glitch. In short, I was working from a tradition of noise and experimental electronic music and viewed my practice as extending the work of early electronic music pioneers such as Eliane Radigue, Pierre Schaeffer, Stockhausen, Xenakis, and Alvin Lucier as well as John Cage and David Tudor. Here indeterminacy wasn't a glitch. The particular voice of a medium, say the sound of dust on a record or the hiss of a tape machine or even the sound of recordings made on these materials as they age we're viewed as artifacts or characteristics of the medium, not a glitch.
The notion of glitch comes into contemporary parlance by way of NASA. The computers they used to put astronaut John Glenn into orbit were digital machines. A spurious change in voltage within a digital system returns unexpected results, just as a scratch in a record can create a pop or skip, but digital systems are complex finite state machines and the artifacts can manifest as catastrophic departures from what's expected, amplified by the layers of binary algorithmic decisions.
The glitch comes into prevalence as sonic material with the advent of CD audio. The artifact of a CD skipping and stuttering is far more disruptive than the skip of a scratched record. Though these things have their own unique sonic qualities, it is because of their context that they are perceived as disruptions. For the musicians using glitches (a notable example is Oval) the isolation of the glitch in one context and its exhaustive use as sonic material reconstruct its perception. There came a point where it was no longer a glitch.
In my view, a glitch, at least in the context of media art, is an irreducible complex of relationships involving the following in no particular order: a finite state (communication) system (including its physical components); a message; a signal; a sender; a receiver; a medium of communication or transmission; the physiological and psychological states of both the sender and receiver; the societal and cultural dynamics that shape the message; and the mind and dispositions engaged in communication. There are also the different protocols employed within the system and the committees, government and other organizations involved in setting and maintaining a common set of standards. These operate together to form the context which gives rise to the perception of a glitch as such.
Going back to the Yiddish root of the word, glitsh or glitshn, meaning "to slip" we can sharpen our understanding to refer to some form of slippage or break with the expected. I find that at this point there is a tendency to focus on failure, though personally it isn't something I find productive because the notion of failure hinges upon similar factors giving rise to the perception of glitches. Slippage obviates a rift between a perceived or anticipated reality and the wild forces latent within world, the very world from which we have fashioned our systems and within which they exist. The rupture was always there, the glitch is that moment which reveals the scope and scale of the rift should we choose to see it.
Going back to glitch art, both sonic and visual, what we call a glitch is an artifact. The artifact itself is the result of an material process occurring within either the physical matter of the communication system or the material of the medium carrying the transmission. For instance, a gamma ray striking the input pin of a logic gate on a computer system fitted on a orbital module circling earth, causing its output to flip from a 0 to 1 momentarily. Also the gradual decay of magnetic field strength on the platter of a hard disk causing uncertainty in distinction between a 1 or 0 and thus resulting in a corrupted or broken image file.
There is also the question of perception. If a material process fails to produce an outcome, it can hardly be said that there is an artifact to speak about. Once the process has some outcome of consequence within the system It has produced an artifact. The degree to which that artifact is perceivable plays a role in its identification as a glitch. This "glitchness" or essence of a glitch, once identified as such, is determined subjectively based on norms established by cultural conditions as well as societal structures operating within the system and the witness.
From this point of view, a glitch artist can operate on several levels. There is the superficial simulation of the artifact or the reproduction of the visual aesthetics associated with artifacts produced by noise, signal degradation, hardware failure, or anything else extraneous to the message encoded within a signal and its normal decoding. You find this in many apps or Photoshop steps, etc. Artists can also appropriate entropic processes, employing them to produce artifacts that would in normal contexts be perceived as glitches. I'm thinking of folks opening up files with the "wrong" application and transgressing the conventions of file formats, altering the data itself, before it becomes pixels or sound samples. Also here you find folks writing their own software to automate or expand this process. Next there's the deployment of entropic processes as a tactic for "glitching" or exposing rifts in other areas, and finally as a framework for analyzing cultural processes and understanding anomalous events as counterpoints to the perceptions (and perceived conditions) whose presence they challenge.
There was a moment where I was working with glitch as a subject and I think that time has passed, perhaps gradually but it is already diminished in the conceptual underpinning of my work over the last three years. I am working towards putting into practice a range of ideas connected to the last mode of operation listed above. The idea is to produce anomalous objects or media whose aim is to draw attention to specific features of the conditions we accept as normal. Another goal is to create work that will operate to undermine the effectiveness of certain cultural circuits in recruiting individuals to work in the service of larger cultural machines involved in manufacturing our current perceived state of normalcy.
Z: You've collaborated with the art collective Faile for their Times Square installation. For some reason, I saw that right after listening to the gorgeous Moleskine Phase piece you did and while I have no clue if you did the music for both, the pop-Reichian stylings of the phasing composition was breathtaking and frankly I was expecting something much more staid and "arty" to be honest (which is to too ambiguous or unsure of itself to make an aesthetic staid.)
A friend of mine put me in touch with Faile when they were putting together their Times Square installation because they needed someone to design and fabricate the electronics for their prayer wheel. Part of how I've managed to survive the economic pressure cooker of NYC is by taking on technical roles in projects for other artists. I did a lot of soldering, wiring and programming for that piece, but no composition.
The Moleskine Phase piece was a move to explore partnering with brands to produce creative content and build a portfolio that could lead to developing some of my more ambitious projects leveraging their support. I did the composition and produced the installation with the speakers using loops from the composition. All the samples were sounds made with Moleskine products. Again, a tactic for surviving NYC without a full time gig. I think it's precisely because I had at the time built my musical reputation on working with feedback and improvisation with electronics, that I took this on as a challenge. Working with a commercial client is a totally different beast, and at the time, I took it viewed it as a project distinct from my usual practice.
Z: Could you speak to some of the seminal texts you've read over your life and speak to how theory has related to your various artistic practices? Your transposing of the glitch onto house wear like bedspreads and pillow casings seems like a sly continuation of Deleuze and Guattari's to work within capitalism to subvert it (a point I'm severely oversimplifying here.)
PS: Noise: A Political Economy of Music opened my eyes to the material effects of a confluence of societal structures, technologies, systems of economy, social relationships and modes of cultural production that seemed as much to guide to development of an art as much as the artists themselves. After this text, I shed a range of ideas I had about genius and about a work of art originating from the singular efforts of an artist, and a foundation for seeing works as artifacts of a larger dynamic system of relationships between different actors was laid.
From that point on theory started to play an increasingly important role in shaping my thinking and guiding the conceptual directions and development of my work. In grad school and the few years that followed, I consumed the writings of Paul Virilio, Friedrich Kittler, Raymond Williams, Wittgenstein, Barthes, Adorno, Agamben, and Baudrillard with a voracity I haven't matched since.
Funny that you connect the blankets to Deleuze and Guattari. I haven't read them as thoroughly as I should. Apart from their writings on the notions of smooth and striated space (the nomad and the state) and the body without organs, everything I know of their theories comes from references to their work made by other writers I've read.
The act of domesticating the glitch was bidirectional in terms of its subversive affect. For me they are a bit complex, not only in terms of their content, but in how they wound up changing my life, not just my artistic practice.
The idea of translating glitches to textiles wasn't what I initially set out to do. I didn't yet view the digital images I was producing as glitch works. They were the results of circuit bending digital cameras, "glitching" in a sense, but my line of inquiry was aimed at exposing the rift between the perception of digital photography as a continuation of photography's rich photochemical cultural practice and its reality as a computer simulation materialized using hardware that merely mimicked the hardware of its "analog" predecessor. Printing these images seemed to play along with the lie that what I was doing was photography and displaying them on screen played too much into the digital nature of the images. Neither was a material critical of either tradition in terms of addressing the historical conditions of image making embodied within them.
I turned to textiles following a cue from fellow circuit bender and glitch artist, Jeff Donaldson. He and I worked together on a couple of different audiovisual projects and it was encountering his translation of glitches into knits that intrigued and inspired me. Weaving created the original screen, both in terms of obfuscating veil and in terms of visual medium for displaying imagery. An earlier body of interactive music compositions, that I fashioned from raw electronic components woven into stretched burlap, marked my first use of textiles. When describing these, I wrote about the connection between the musical computers and the historical connection to computation and weaving to discuss the juxtaposition of hardware and software present in the work. Thanks to Jeff, I was able to reconnect with this idea. By chance the first weavers I found to translate my images to fabric woven blankets using computerized Jacquard looms. For them, a typical customer uploads a .jpg of their baby, dog, family, hotrod, etc. to their website and receives a blanket with the image woven into it. My images introduced a "glitch" into this system as a symbolic gesture, though the significance was quickly subsumed as demand for the blankets turned into a real business. I had also hoped somehow to play on the elevation of a kitsch object to a medium of abstract art, but that too was lost. I am increasingly seeing other artists turn to these very same blanket weavers to produce their work.
The projects that have followed, Fragmented Memory and Vestigial Data, are aimed extending two traditions. First, there is the extension of tapestry and its rich history as a visual medium into the age of computerized automation and image making by fully taking advantage of all the consequences of employing such technologies. Second, there is the extension of photography fully into the digital domain.
If we claim that digital photography extends its photo-chemical predecessor, then we must locate the concept of film and the process of development across the leap in technological mechanisms involved in producing an image. If the sensor is left permanently unaltered by the light which falls upon it during an exposure, then it cannot truly be considered analogous to film. If film physical holds the advent of light upon its surface, then we must look to the storage media for its analog. Any digital storage, then becomes "film" in an extended, post-digital photography. The conversion of the contents of that film, the data contained on the flash card or within the file structure, is then analogous to the photochemical development of that film to produce an image. By extension, any software that we can conceive of that translates data into an image, can be used to "develop" the digital image.
The tapestry works are post-digital portraiture. For Fragmented Memory, the film was the RAM on my laptop, whose contents dynamically reflect my interactions with the computer and the actions I take through it. A snapshot of this data contains an impression (my digital footprint), a negative of my actions. This data was copied to my hard drive and selections were later developed into actual images using software that I co-wrote. The translation of the image into a woven material used simple techniques for creating tapestries on Jacquard looms.
Z: How did your collaboration with Dior come about? And what drew you to textiles in the first place. Having had several high-profile collaborations with established brands, what is the allure of such commissions?
PS: I worked with Dior on their Cruise 2015 collection. The whole project was a bit of a surprise and a shock. After successfully launching GlitchTextiles from those explorations translating camera glitches to blankets, I received a lot of positive press. One morning, I opened up an email from someone asking if I had a distributor in Paris of Milan. My response was that I was working on it, but in the meantime they could purchase material from my website. Which they did. I didn't think anything of it until a few weeks later, they identified themselves as the manager of textile development for Dior, and Raf Simons wanted to use some of my fabric in an upcoming collection. Of course I said yes.
The obvious allure of working with such high profile brands is partially financial, the Dior partnership wound up funding my next major work and helped me update my computer hardware, but taking on a bigger project like this forced me to learn new skills and familiarize myself with the realities of production and logistics as well as legal (IP) concerns. In a sense, it was a way to get better acquainted with the multi-headed beast of Globalized Capitalism.
In terms of my role as artist and designer, there was also no compromise involved. It wasn't as though I was putting my name on something that I didn't care about, or some brand was putting their mark on something I cared too much about. GlitchTextiles, in my mind, is something that is separate from my art practice. As a business, there are different concerns and goals involved. The original impetus, to bring an appreciation of the beauty of glitches into the home, still brings me joy, and so long as it doesn't, there will be GlitchTextiles, but I don't sit still well and creatively my attention is on other ideas and different projects.
Z: I was hoping you could speak a bit about how you see your visual and musical practices informing one another. Many of the artists and designers I've interviewed in the past several months--Scott Daly, Dan Houghland, and soon Jaime Zuverza--all come from musical backgrounds and some continue practicing in both. Where are in your trajectory as a musician, do you feel, and how does it relate to your work with textiles?
PS: My musical practice atrophied as I explore other materials, processes and mediums, but has still found its way into various projects, but it's mostly manifesting as audification. My use of sound is still deeply connected to its material conditions at the moment. Of course there are still other avenues I want to pursue sonically, but they're not strictly connected to my work with textiles. I think I'm more concerned with the underlying medium of both. At this point, digital sound and digital textile designs are outgrowths of computation. The same could be said of the work I've done with software; 3D printing or animation for example. Underlying everything is some box running code. Though I'm hoping to familiarize myself further with different programming languages, I am looking towards a moment in my practice where what I do doesn't necessarily have to look a certain way or be made of a particular thing. If the subject and idea behind a work demands a particular set of materials be used and employ a particular set of processes, regardless of whether they involve a computer, then that is what will guide the making of the work and the way in which it manifests itself to us.
Z: For me, watching visual glitches has always been akin to listening to "free" music, be it free jazz, noise, anything structureless really...or that subverts structure. What does It mean for you to capture a glitch in a frozen moment...it feels almost wonderfully paradoxical to capture an inherently capricious signal for all eternity, or as long as the fabric lasts. What role does ephermality and disposability have in your work, if any? Your textile work in particular seems like an effort to memorialize or extend the life of these nanosecond-long glitches...does that hold any water?
PS: One never captures a glitch. One only ever has either the artifact it leaves behind or the memory of the moment where it was that glimpse of the rift, or perhaps some mixture of both. In regards to any image, it's only an impression on the medium and the impression it leaves on the viewer. The thing it refers to is gone, and as a result, is hollow, waiting to be filled with whatever is brought to it. It's just as paradoxical to take a selfie, or to have that printed on a sweatshirt. The gesture is one of grasping, perhaps at some form of persistence, but I don't do this in order to memorialize the moment. I'm not concerned with the grasp or the denial of death it signifies. My interest is in the image as index, exposing the rift between perception and reality. That this narrative has been lost with the movement of glitch aesthetics to the mainstream is just one of my reasons for moving on.
Z: As you pointed out in our initial chat, which I had never fully appreciated, the world of glitch art is relatively new when compared to the genre of glitch music that came into being in the 90s via Markus Popp and his fellow Ovalites' transmuting of digital glitches--often obtained by taking a sharpie to a CD--as well the Mille Plateaux label's legendary Clicks+Cuts. Whereas glitch art has seemed to arise out of the circuit-bending scene as well as experiments with video synthesizers and other more analog gear. Not to ask for a history lesson, but how do you characterize the development of the glitch scheme in the past twenty years?
PS: I'm not a historian, so I'm not really able to set you straight, I'm afraid. In my limited view of the history, there were three lineages that have overlapping branches with varying degrees of twists and tangles. From the perspective of glitch as a music practice, a prior tradition of bending braking and cracking the media, to borrow Caleb Kelly's words, was extended to digital audio tools. Kim Cascone does a great job of describing the historical context of glitch music. As far as circuit bending goes, it shares many connections with the development of experimental electronic music, but is its own distinct variant, centering on hardware modification, live performance, and instrument building over taming artifacts in a controlled studio environment. Circuit bending spilled over into video are and then image making as the core techniques and philosophies were applied to different devices. Concurrently however, artists were also exploring artifacts in digital media. It's predominantly the work of the artists exploring digital media that set the stage for what we know now as glitch art. Iman Moradi does a lot to trace its development in his book Glitch: Designing Imperfection. I don't have a chronology of writing from here but further developments have positioned Glitch Art as a critical framework for approaching cultural critique and critical theory.
Z: What role does collaboration have in your work in general? Many of your pieces have been created in conjunction with others and even your textile work involves a considerable degree of logistics and networking to create a cost-effective production line. Do you think the classic view of artists as isolated geniuses is outmoded in the communications age? Art itself has seem to taken on a similar design-minded functionality that relies on fabricators and artist assistants to realize one's vision. How would you characterize what it means to be an artist in 2017?
PS: I sometimes feel that collaboration is one of those overused terms, like curate or choreographed. As an artist, collaboration entails the inclusion of another party in the creative processes concerning the conceptual development and evolution of a work. I don't automatically count hiring someone to weave my textiles as a collaborative arrangement. I do however acknowledge that when I work with the TextielLab in the Netherlands, that I am to some extent collaborating with their product developers there to produce a fabric and leveraging their knowledge and skills. They are helping me see things about the weaving process I wouldn't normally have access to, but they're not necessarily actively engaged in guiding the conceptual development of a work. I don't think it's a matter of the isolated genius of the artist so much as it is proper attribution. Art has a long history of employing outside labor and some works make it a point to employ new forms of labor to expose the contours of its market. James Coupe's use of Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MT) in General Intellect is a prime example, though he doesn't name those he employed with MT in the credits or list them as collaborators. I guess this is just an example of how complicated the issue of ownership and attribution can be. As far as it relates to being an artist in 2017, I think that much of the work done by the artist is in pulling things together and finding connections between things. It's certainly not a skill unique to artists, and the result owes much to the other parties involved, whether it be the institutions that fund or support the project, or the fabricators or other artists employed to realize it. To localize what is unique and special about the artist or to frame it as genius is surely to use outmoded frameworks to approach the question.