With faith in public and private institutions at an all-time low, what kinds of speakers are likely to win trust, acquire authority, and mobilize audiences? How do we recognize ourselves in the routines of comedians, reports of journalists, appeals of activists, manifestos of tech entrepreneurs, and formulas of TED Talks? “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition on public speech organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, addresses these questions with a series of experimental lectures and artworks chosen in response. Freely interpreting the form of the lecture, artists, filmmakers, comedians, novelists, and musicians consider the use of language and media to mold opinion, forge intimacy, marshal authority, and orchestrate movements. “Parts of Speech” culminates in the publication of edited transcripts and videos, composed from documentation, that reflect on the migration of public speech from radio to television to the internet and beyond.
How is evidence deployed in art and literature, as opposed to legal briefs, historical studies, or institutional accounts? How is testimony articulated, circulated, and legitimized? How are the subjects of historical narratives—the “we” that encompasses author and reader—delineated through the selection and ordering of records, which also elides other subjects? How can fiction mediate in the discourses that accrue around unjust systems or violent events and their documentation? This series considers the work of artists, writers, and researchers who trace histories that are obscured, partially erased, or seemingly unassimilable. Plenty of “revisionist histories” provide mildly counterintuitive takes on momentous episodes, eagerly tweak the commonplace narrative, and wonder if we have completely misunderstood ourselves. In contrast, the projects in this series foreground what is commonly filed away as miscellany, or sidelined in favor of authoritative sources that speak of consequential institutions and figures—whose consciousnesses are more easily relatable to those with power. They digest and concoct archival documents, seek to recover lives that have been lost, and tell stories that have not (and perhaps cannot) be told. “The footnote equals the footprint,” in the words of the poet M. NourbeSe Philip. Ephemera is recognized as evidence, as the scholar José Esteban Muñoz observes. “Think of ephemera as trace, the remains, the things that are left, hanging in the air like a rumor.” Active Recollections includes erasure poems that claim “the periphery is a necessary place”; an essay on the stories told by and about followers of self-anointed prophets; a fiction on (the YouTube video of) a police officer assaulting a fifteen-year-old black girl; a navigation of the Central Park Ramble in blueprints and liaisons; a conversation about how works of art act in and on history; a dissection of an invented national craft tradition.
How can political representation be achieved—or recognized as a chimera, or disavowed—through the work of representing politics? How can publication enable this work by supplying a means of producing and distributing knowledge, a site for the translation of texts and contexts, and a fulcrum for the organization of bodies? How can these concerns be mobilized in the aftermath of episodes of state violence that render age-old structures of oppression supremely visible, despite the best efforts to conceal (or normalize) them? Since 2014, Triple Canopy has been addressing these questions with a number of Mexican artists, writers, scholars, and designers, through a series of seminars, public conversations, and performances in Mexico City and New York, as well as the development of digital projects, printed publications, and exhibitions.
In March 2015, Triple Canopy published Headless, an exhilarating murder-mystery by the elusive K. D. Headless is a delirious romp through the world of offshore finance, conducted by a British ghostwriter who seems to have uncovered a sacrifice-obsessed, Bataille-inspired secret society of global economic elites who will do anything to maintain their power. The ghostwriter, John Barlow, is hired by the Swedish conceptualist artist duo Goldin+Senneby to investigate an offshore firm registered in the Bahamas. He agrees to write up his investigation as a mystery novel, to be published under the name K. D. But soon his novel becomes a matter of life and death. The more he struggles to grasp the plot, the further he slips into the dark world of covert capitalism. Before and after the release of Headless, Triple Canopy published essays and organized numerous readings and conversations about offshore finance and human sacrifice.
This series considers how and why we talk about the value and potential acquisition of ephemeral works of art. Passage of a Rumor emerges from Value Talks, a series of private conversations organized by artist Ralph Lemon in 2013 and 2014 at the Museum of Modern Art. Lemon, who is editing this series with Triple Canopy, asked artists, writers, scholars, and curators to consider the allure of artworks that, by nature, resist institutional parameters. Participants also considered efforts by artists to maintain a meaningful degree of autonomy in relation to institutions that confer value upon them and their works. Passage of a Rumor is an expanded record of these conversations, one that necessarily addresses the ephemeral nature of conversation itself: How might discussions that occur in private—about art, race, money, community, and power—be circulated without either compromising their intimacy or promising unmediated access? Rather than purport to exhaustively document or analyze such exchanges, Passage of a Rumor circulates novel versions of lectures, DJ sets, performances, and dialogues, and provides an impetus for the creation of artworks and writings commissioned in response by Triple Canopy and Lemon. Many of these new works will appear exclusively in the book that concludes the series, On Value, to be published by Triple Canopy in fall 2015.
Two filmmakers seek props and direction in the aisles of a department store, the words of physicists overseeing the Large Hadron Collider echoing in their heads. They obtain footage of SubTropolis, a cataclysm-proof storage space dug into a Kansas limestone deposit. They encounter the Crypt of Civilization, a time capsule of cultural artifacts opening in 8113 AD. They hone their messaging skills with New York pigeoneers. This series of videos by Frank Heath, part of the issue the Long Tomorrow, considers the relationship between the technologies pushing us toward collapse and the apocalyptic scenarios we incessantly invent. On the Beach takes its title from the classic Cold War novel by British author and aeronautical engineer Nevil Shute, in which the sole survivors of a global nuclear disaster pass the time as radioactive fallout drifts across the seas. Heath’s adaptation, like many previous ones, explores our collective capacity to envision the end.
This series is an audio archive of Speculations (“The future is ______”), organized by Triple Canopy as part of the exhibition “EXPO 1: New York” at MoMA PS1 in 2013. Triple Canopy invited writers, artists, scientists, activists, economists, and technologists to bet on futures they want to see realized and to describe them as clearly as possible, while considering what demands these futures make on the present. The speculations took the form of lectures, debates, discussions, and performances. Rather than think in terms of utopia, dystopia, apocalypse—totalizing scenarios with preconceived conditions and plots—Speculations (“The future is ______”) proposed a continuum of overlapping moods ranging from optimism (however dark) to pessimism (however bright). We know all the ways the world will end, and yet we continue; our action in the present implies an optimism about the future, even if that optimism is skeptical or worried.
This series is devoted to Pointing Machines, Triple Canopy’s contribution to the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Pointing Machines is an installation titled after the simple eighteenth-century measuring tool for reproducing sculpture in stone or wood with a system of adjustable rods and needles. The installation consists largely of reproductions—by handcraft, 3-D printing, and photography—of paintings and a colonial-era wash basin stand, once part of the wide-ranging collection of “Naïve Painting” and early American furniture of Colonel Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch. Triple Canopy asks how the meaning of artworks shifts as they are commissioned, made, collected, disowned, replicated, photographed, exhibited, and published, taking into account the role of circulation systems as varied as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and eBay. The installation connects the history of reproduction by technical and artistic means to the recent, remarkable collapse of the difference between objects and information. It is part of an issue of the magazine, also titled Pointing Machines, that continues the reproduction and circulation of the displayed objects beyond the museum’s walls, and includes essays, artist projects, discussions, and performances.
Common Minds is a series of essays and conversations that address the contemporary infatuation with the brain, the limits of neuroscience, and how the knowledge produced by researchers and clinicians operates in other realms of culture and society. The series aims to facilitate discussion about ideas that are too rarely scrutinized outside of a specialized setting, despite their sweeping effect. Recent criticism in magazines and academic journals has justifiably deflated—and perhaps tempered public enthusiasm for—the tumid, reductive claims of pop-science scribes. But such venues are dominated by professional journalists and scientists debunking other professional journalists and scientists. Departing from these conventions, Triple Canopy invites artists and writers to contribute analytic essays, linguistic compendia, and prose poems; a video rumination on blindness and perception, a collage-survey of the persistent vocabulary of phrenology, and a two-thousand-year genealogy of images of the brain. Common Minds is coedited by Dawn Chan.
“International Art English,” by Alix Rule and David Levine, was published by Triple Canopy in July 2012. The essay, which analyzes a corpus of press releases sent by e-flux in order to describe the language of contemporary art, circulated widely and generated debates about the relationship between language, legibility, and power in the art world—many of which are represented in this series. The authors trace the particularities of International Art English to translations of French and German critical texts published in the 1970s in journals like October. The widespread use of the Internet has, they argue, accelerated the development of IAE, turning it into a kind of lingua franca; the proliferation of international variations—French IAE, Scandinavian IAE, Chinese IAE—ends up diluting the authority of critics, “traditionally the elite innovators of IAE.” Given these developments, Rule and Levine ask: “Can we imagine an art world without IAE? Without its special language, would art need to submit to the scrutiny of broader audiences and local ones? Would it hold up?”
In fall of 2012, Triple Canopy initiated Corrected Slogans (A Publication in Four Acts), conceived as the magazine’s contribution to “Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art,” an exhibition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. For the first and second acts, Triple Canopy’s editors staged a pair of public events at 155 Freeman Street in Greenpoint: a symposium titled Poems for America and a seminar titled Automatic Reading. These events brought together artists and writers to discuss how conceptual strategies have transformed (and might still transform) conventional notions of expression and of reading—both as an exchange between an individual and text and as a public activation of the written word. The third act was a special issue of Triple Canopy’s online magazine, Corrected_Slogans, consisting of a selection of pertinent works previously published by Triple Canopy as well as newly commissioned projects by Erica Baum, Caroline Bergvall, and Gareth Long. The final installment of the project was the book Corrected Slogans: Reading and Writing Conceptualism, which documents the previous acts but also elaborates, edits, amplifies, and contradicts via annotations, additional artworks, and critical essays; the form and content of the public discussions are reinterpreted using tools specific to print in such a way that the book enacts the conceptual strategies being discussed. Each act of Corrected Slogans was integral to the same dynamic process; the project as a whole represents Triple Canopy’s ongoing attempt to define an expanded field of publication.
On October 29, 1969, computer scientists at UCLA, the original node of ARPANET, sent the first host-to-host message to colleagues at Stanford. The message: “L.” “Did you get the L?” UCLA asked. “Yes.” Then: “O.” “Yes.” Then: Stanford’s computer crashed. This series is devoted to examining the technology that underlies Triple Canopy’s work, within the broader context of digital publishing and design. As additional elements of Triple Canopy’s new publishing platform are released in the coming months (including the numerous modules that compose Alongslide, the article-layout system, which will be packaged as an open-source application), we will publish essays and conversations that describe their function and logic. We will also address the technological architecture of various other publishing platforms; the distinction between content and collections of content as articulated in a database; the dynamic relationship between coding languages and editorial strategies; the confluence of historical print design tropes and contemporary digital design standards; and how a publication might resist the prevailing passive forms of attention that inhere in a culture—online and IRL—characterized by excessive production.
This series considers the transformation of publication, authorship, and readership in the digital age and beyond. We easily recognize a publication as a bound set of pages, containing words and images by one author or many, assembled by editors, artists, and designers. But in the past half century pages have been transmuted into cassette tapes, DVDs, discussion boards, websites, and apps. We conceive of Triple Canopy as charting this expanded field of publication, moving among media and formats, annexing terrain not conventionally associated with the magazine (whether communication networks or disused storefronts). The series—named after a class organized in 2010 by The Public School New York—represents Triple Canopy’s attempts to rethink publication amidst the inevitable churn of novelty and anachronism that characterize the “digital age,” as the distinction between experience online and IRL narrows. It includes media excavations and Web 1.0 reminiscences, software experiments and samizdat scholarship, as well as polemical writings by the editors—on writing after conceptual art, on syntaxes of verse and GIF, and on publishing after the shift from disciplinary to tech-enabled control societies.
What is media studies? A field of study that focuses on the dissemination of information to an audience across a broad spectrum of channels. A branch of knowledge that deals with forms of communication such as the Internet, television, radio, books, and periodicals. A field of study concerned with mass media, the nature of these media and the ways in which they shape individuals and society—history, content, effects. The process of putting one's self in the place of the other person's attitude, communicating through significant symbols. The search for the great community. Top seven signs your content goes viral. The effort to discover the means by which a scattered, mobile, and manifold public may so recognize itself as to define and express its interests. We are all familiar with the media, which so influence our perceptions, interactions, labor, leisure, cognitive development, sexual behavior, and political activities. You can find more information here.
Reading—reading aloud, reading aloud texts authored by others (and sometimes rewriting them first)—is a creative act, a way of devising new forms of authority. Written text is now increasingly detached from the unifying format of the book and is accessed online, circulated and reproduced digitally, viewed on myriad screens. What, in this context, might it mean to represent a text by voice alone? What does the sound of reading—alone or with a chorus—contribute, alter, or signify? The works presented in this series are reimagined by means of voice. Their authors attend to the ways in which sonic elements, a pause for (human) breath or the odd cadence of audio generated by a text-to-speech program, contribute to the sense and feeling of a written work. Here the new is less important than the now, the presence of an audience and the presence of the reader. This series includes adaptations of classics and appropriations from popular culture, interrogations of the past in the present, and the performance of allegedly illegible novels. Instead of reading silently, we submit to the power of speech, chant, mumble, whine, declamation, and even, in at least one instance, song.
How, and for how long, have we written and composed the self in literature and art? Multifariously, more or less forever. Some of the foremost practitioners of self-portraiture can effortlessly be recalled: Parmigianino, Courbet, James Joyce, Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Larry David. (“The mirror is our teacher,” remarked Leonardo da Vinci.) What forms does the genre take amid today’s proliferation of selfies, auto-portraits, mirror-gazes? The works in this series reflect expanded capabilities in the digital realm for presenting the self, not necessarily or simply as subject but as concatenations of processes—those of manufacturing texts, reproducing likenesses, collecting and stealing, acting and lying, wandering and surveying. Searchable but not locatable, the “I” that speaks in these works may not be the same as the eye that looks or the hand that writes. The self may be turned inside-out. Some places to explore: in the air and in reflections, across correspondences and the surfaces of objects, among detritus and keepsakes, in faulty memories and bad inheritance, in history and in lore.