Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man is about Hank, whom we get introduced to as a suicidal man stranded on an island, and who finds a corpse. Thanks to its handy physical functions, it becomes a tool to get him home. He names it Manny and on the journey it seems to slowly get back to life the more Hank talks to it and makes it his confidant and friend.

There’s lots of music, simple dreamy humming folky singsongs against the loneliness in the woods, nostalgic memories of pop culture, including a version of ‘Cotton Eye Joe‘ or the Jurassic Park theme song. Mostly it’s soft breathy singing, a cappella choir style, heavy on the reverbs, sometimes accompanied by a simple guitar or droney ambient sounds – which reminds me: Might 2016 be the year in which we have finally let the “sad bearded white male singer/songwriter” behind us? In this movie the archetype of the bearded sad rejected white man seems to reach another peak – and overcome it. If you can’t see it coming yet, here’s a trigger warning: My take on this film is a feminist one. Swiss Army Man is a long bromantic fart joke going serious and we get to witness that not even death can stop bros from bonding over a woman’s rejection. The wonderful central moment of this bromance and movie is the bus scene in the middle, which does not only not shy from drag and homoerotic undertones but which also takes it seriously. It’s no rough joke but fragile and beautiful.

The bearded folksinger and this movie also share the glorification of nature as authentic and honest in contrast to a harsh (urban) civilization where people can’t be themselves, where they have to play-act and: even hide their farts from each other – sorry, but this movie really is a bit fartcentric, but since ))<>(( we know that even pooping can work in a lighthearted romance, so don’t let this turn you off.

The closer Hank and Manny get back to civilization, the creepier the obsession with the woman of Hank’s dreams starts to look. It culminates a few steps from the wilderness, in the middle of her garden, the civilized green, in the confrontation with her daughter. In the wilderness Manny’s penis was the “natural” instinctive guide that showed them the direction back to civilization whenever Manny looked at a picture of that woman on Hank’s phone. When they end up in her garden and the little girl finds them, Manny’s erection is plain wrong, and what seemed to be natural attraction, what from afar looked like romance in that moment starts to look a lot more like simple creepy stalking. Especially while first you might have thought the picture on his phone is his girlfriend, after a while you get to realize that he has taken it secretly.

I still can’t say if I ‘like’ Swiss Army Man but it’s definitely worth watching and form your own opinion on it. It’s a fresh idea and you will hardly get another chance to see a great Daniel Radcliffe’s corpse being used as a jet-ski anytime soon. It’s well-executed and beautifully filmed, and I still can’t get the final song out of my head. Have I mentioned that the soundtrack is done by two bearded singer/songwriter guys of Manchester Orchestra).

Merry whatever watching

I am currently celebrating the end of 2016 by having got stuck in a bingewatching hole that is quite soothing and well-deserved after last week’s stress, so no false shame here. Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

The Return of Doctor Mysterio was a nice one. Maybe a tad too family friendly. It is not the best Doctor Who Christmas Special (my favourite one still might be “A Christmas Carol”, the one with the flying sharks) but it is a solid one, holding the scale between sad and silly. The story is: The Doctor accidentally gives a kid super powers and the boy grows up right into a Superman / Clark Kent and Lois Lane story. Of course there’s a christmas alien invasion, this time it’s a kind of “open minded” bodysnatchers with guns in their zippable heads (NRA might be proud). (7/10)

The Sense8 Christmas Special was queer as hell but all in all a bad, too long episode. To me idea behind the whole series is that these magically connected Sense8 people are some kind of metaphor for a generation that’s networked via the internet. Like, how marginalized people could find refuge from a hostile living environment via an internet that since messageboards, blogs and Twitter and Tumblr has been a safety net and a helpline for countless troubled souls who have never met offline but still helped each other through bad times. This feeling is somehow woven through Sense8. Well, anyways, this episode of Sense8 even spells it out for the dummies: In one of the many cringeworthy moments of this episode you get a tech geek telling one of the Sense8s about how he feels connected with his internet friends although he’s never actually met them and the Sense8 – with a knowing smile – is all “I know what you mean”. Hmpf. Also the junkie plot. Hmpf. Also: yet another one of those party and orgy scenes! The Twister of orgy scenes. Hmpf. Also the Indian girl’s marriage plot. Hmpf. Damn, Iron Man has more subtlety and depth than this series but I still can’t not watch it because there are hardly any series who have such a diverse gang of hero and heroines from so many different locations and so I’m still hooked and enjoying it. (3/10)

I guess, the problem of too many series right now is that the machine core shows through and kills the magic. I wish more proper writers had creative freedom instead of media companies just relying on the cash machines that mean affect-focussed and carefully psych-calculated story-telling. It feels retro to me, it doesn’t explore possibilities but seems more like reacting to potential audience reactions. Not even audience expectations but really audience reactions. Where it gets statistically proven what kind of plot twist drives what kind of reaction. These days what you want gets defined as what triggers a spontaneous reaction from you, not as what you say you want after thinking about it – I don’t like that. And like cheap horror flicks that rely on ever the same cheap patterns of how to scare you, those series do the same with a whole range of emotions of which they know how to trigger them. Leaves you entertained but kind of empty, with nothing to digest, it doesn’t last. It engages you but leaves you with a vague hunger for more. And it’s not a hunger for more episodes but for better ones. Of course there have always been junk / fast food films or series but nowadays the measuring of what triggers our attention and feelings has become so much more granulated than it used to be, so these mechanisms work better in engaging people. But it’s still like the 150th burger variation at McDonald’s. And I have enjoyed this for a while by now so many series have this similar slightly sickening feel.

Even Westworld, of which I have watched the final two episodes of the first season yesterday. Maybe Thom Phipps actually has best summed up Westworld’s lack of creativity in his tweet:

ROBOT: welcome to Westworld, where your DEEPEST DARKEST fantasies come true
ME: OK but I can get pretty kinky
 *LATER* *I’m wearing a cowboy hat*

I found Westworld entertaining, else I wouldn’t have watched it to the end, but I am disappointed. It can get you hooked with its mix of typical HBO brutality and faux-deepness, the discussion of the meaning of consciousness and realness and ethics, and its circling, looping storytelling, but hey, it could have been so much more. Westworld could have been such a great challenging, discussion-sparking series about ethics and entertainment or/and tech industry if it had dared exploring. Instead we get the usual rape and violence fodder dressed up in pseudo-deep suspense chic. There is not even plausible reasoning why people in the future would find a cliche Western plot so attractive as holiday resort. All the possibilities and what you get is men going to a Western world to rape and kill people that can’t fight back. How bloody pathetic and boring. Dreaming up alternative worlds has got stuck and everything ever stays the same. So the black guy Bernard turns out to be a slave, sorry, robot. We get faux-powerful women, the virgin and the whore. They may dream their way up but get crushed again and again, any loyalty and love gets punished, everyone gets better/deeper via the experience of pain and cruelty, there is but faux-liberation and it all stays in the same loops, it’s the ever same power relationships, outside and inside both: the entertainment park Westworld and the series Westworld/HBO. Welcome to the new future, same as the old future aka the past.

But to end on a positive note:

“I didn’t choose the skuxx life, the skuxx life chose me!”

Hunt For The Wilderpeople – what a wonderful fun little gem of a movie! The story: An orphan kid in New Zealand, raised on hiphop culture and on the edge of juvenile detention, gets adopted by foster parents in the middle of nowhere. When the foster mother dies, he is scared of having to go back and runs off into the wilderness, with his foster father/uncle following him. The authorities’ hunt for both gets totally blown out of proportion – Wes Anderson meets Convoy or Thelma&Louise. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is as hilarious as dramatic, as pun- as action-packed, and Sam Neil and especially Julian Dennison as the flippant defiant orphan is wonderful. And of course this film has “majestical” landscape shots. And haikus. And a dog called Tupac. And lots of references to other movies and books. And good music. Pure heartwarming fun. Loved it. Watch it! (9/10)

Mad Max – Fury Road (7/10)
This was so exactly what I had expected that I can’t really say anything about it.


I’ll be doing a little bar djing after Claus Baumann’s talk about LeFebvre’s “Right to the city” and Adorno’s “Duty to deprovincialize” at our beloved Zentralcafé Nürnberg tonight. Whilst picking songs I have made this quick topical mix.



Freddy Ruppert – To hell with this whole damn city
Des Ark – we R kiling this town!!!
Fever Ray – Keep the streets empty for me
Chromatics – In the city
Marvin Gaye – Inner city blues (make me wanna holler)
LCD Soundsystem – Yr city’s a sucker
O.Children – H8 city
Sundays – Hideous towns
Daniel Haaksman – Rename the streets
Baxendale – I built this city (Michael Mayer remix)
Cid Rim – Mute city
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – Empire state of mind
Stevie Wonder – Living for the city
Beat Spacek – Modern streets
The Futureheads – The city is here for you to use
The So So Clos – My block
Go! Team – Keys to the city
Lou Reed – Dirty boulevard
David Bowie – The London boys
Xiu Xiu – Clown Towne
Julia Holter – City appearing
Edith Piaf – La ville inconnue
Saint Etienne – London belongs to me
Gil Scott-Heron – We almost lost Detroit
Vatican Shadow – Cairo is a haunted city (mythic chords)
Ceschi – Elm city ballads



eve massacre dj mix for shvmvin shvmpvin’s PITCHBLACK night.


Antony & The Johnsons – Another world
Pessimist – Orphic
Ital Tek – Cobra
Kuedo – Eyeless angel intervention
Oneohtrix Point Never – Mutant standard
Walters – Armyants
Jlin – I am the queen
Evian Christ – Waterfall
Jenny Hval – In the red
WWWINGS – Shadow realm (feat. Silk Road Assassins)
Lakker – Mountain divide
Farsight – Hymn of safe passage (Luru remix)
Myth – Semagi
1127 – It never drops
Aïsha Devi – 1 percent
TSVI – The healer
Isis Scott – Beautiful $ea
Seekersinternational – Ganapati
Emptyset – Lense

Downloadable from here.



Die Darstellung der Digitalisierung, Stigmatisierung von Smartphones und ein politischer Einwand gegen digitale Enthaltsamkeit

Archivierung des Vortrags vom ersten SOFT RESISTANCE Abend, am 30.10.15 im Zentralcafé beim MV (ca. 45min.)

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Gegen digitale Enthaltsamkeit, für mehr Auseinandersetzung mit den Veränderungen die neue Technologien, insbesondere Smartphones und mobiles Internet uns im Alltag gebracht haben. Das Soziale, das Zwischenmenschliche ist von Technologie druchdrungen, wir spielen miteinander Cops, indem wir anderen vorschreiben wie sie ihre Geräte zu nutzen haben – no Selfies, keine Handyfotos auf Konzerten. Warum das unsinnig ist, wie das Soziale vom Technologischen durchdrungen ist, wann Facebook Telepathie einführen wird, und warum wir uns auch aus politischen Gründen für all das mehr interessieren sollten, das versucht EVE MASSACRE in einem Vortrag zusammenzudenken.

Vortrag mit Slideshow auf Youtube:

Nur Audiostream:

Download als Podcast:
MP3 high quality (320kbps – 108mb)
MP3 low quality (192kbps – 43.3mb)

SOCIAL RESISTANCE – ein neues Baby von eve massacre: Ein Abend zum Zuhören, Zusehen, Trinken und Reden – Salon eben. Mal ausprobieren. Soft Resistance versucht abendfüllend anregende Wissensvermittlung und kritische Gedanken rund um die sogenannte Digitalisierung mit Musik und anderen Kunstformen zu verbinden.Während die einen über Smartphone-Sucht, Social Media und selbstfahrende Autos schimpfen, und sich nach vermeintlich authentischeren analogen Zeiten sehnen, möchten andere die Intimität der dauernden Verbundenheit, die durch digitale Kommunikation möglich geworden ist, ebenso wenig missen wie AirBnB App und GoogleMaps. Digitalisierung durchdringt und beeinflusst immer mehr unserer Lebensbereiche. Wir wollen uns damit künstlerisch/musikalisch, sozial/politisch kritisch auseinandersetzen, sonst wird ja nie was aus dem fully automated queer luxury communism.
Das waren die Flyer:
Und ich hab auch an die Cookiewarnungen gedacht:

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Worum geht’s mir mit SOFT RESISTANCE? “Salon zu smarten Geräten, kritischer Kultur und melancholischen Geistern” hab ich es untertitelt, und so offen würde ich es auch gerne lassen. Trotzdem etwas mehr erklärt: Ich will das Thema der zunehmenden gesellschaftlichen Durchdringung von Digitalisierung über meinen Blog raus tragen, in einen Offline-Diskurs. Das öffnet mir noch mal einen anderen Blick und es findet – meines Wissens – in Nürnberg noch nichts ähnliches statt und das fehlt mir. Digitalisierung meine ich hier im Sinne der Verwendung von meist datenbasierten Services auf Smartphones und Computern zur Kommunikation, Information, Bildung, Unterhaltung, Überwachung, Kontrolle usw. Mich interessiert daran, was dadurch sozial, politisch, gesellschaftlich passiert. Soft Resistance stelle ich mir als einen Abend vor, der zwar aus einer theorieverliebten und politisch engagierten Ecke kommt (links und queer-feministisch muss ich, denke ich, nicht dazu schreiben, wenn ihr schon auf diesem Blog gelandet seid, ebenso wenig wie die Verbindung zur Musik), aber: ein Abend, der eine niedrige Einstiegsschwelle hat. Mehr Kneipe in die Theorie bringen, mehr Theorie in die Kneipe bringen. Ich will dass der Zugang gratis ist, freue mich aber über Spenden, denn es ist schon ganz schön arbeitsintensiv – das mag ich nicht leugnen. Ich will mit Soft Resistance Kunst, Musik, Theorie, Biertrinken und Politik verbinden, und Diskussionsräume öffnen. Künstlerische Performances von Gästen (dieses Mal war es WndHnd) und theoretisches lautes Nachdenken. Gefährliches Halbwissen. Offline und online.

Es gibt zahllose Themen, die mir für Soft Resistance einfallen:
– Social Media und gesellschaftliche Meinungsbildung
– gesellschaftliche Kontrolle durch datenbasierte Services, z.B. Smart Cities und Demokratie
– die Veränderung des öffentlichen Raums on- und offline
– Werbung als der Pick Up Artist des Internets (das ist ein Thema, an das ich mich schon lange mal setzen wollte)
– Sharing Economy und die Veränderung von Arbeit
und so weiter.

Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

 I have finished two books that I had been carrying around with me far too long. It feels quite good. David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks was one of them. I loved the first part. It told the story of a tomboyish UK girl in the 80s, who runs away from home for reasons a grown-up could find hard to understand but Mitchell manages to get across just fine. I enjoyed the next part, in which Mitchell portrays a group of young bon-vivants on a skiing trip with all their fun and desires and secrets. Where he lost me though was the really long middle part about a middle-aged white male writer who is very much in love with himself. War reporter, author of books. It drags and drags and drags. It made me drop the book for at least half a year before I went on, still not managing more than a few pages in a row. At some point though the book picks up pace again and it ends just as intense as it starts: In a dystopic future setting in which the young girl from the start has turned into an old woman. Of course there is magic too, a battle of parasitic timelords is the arc that is meant to hold the book together but, well, magic realism can get quite boring when it loses itself in endless new plots just to show how in the end the almighty author manages to show how everything is connected. I got a love/hate relationship with magic realism ever since I have read Rushdie’s Midnight Children (which I liked). If you got no clue what magic realism is about, just check the magic realism bot on Twitter. It’s the essence. Though he creates rich worlds and characters, in The Bone Clock Mitchell sometimes loses grip of the tension that holds a novel together, so in short: This book is too long but when it is good it is really good.

The other book is Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It is a tough read if you only find time to read in short spans every other day because it is a bit complex. But I wholeheartedly recommend it if you have got the time for long reads and sinking your teeth in. Which I finally have now that I am on holiday. It is a sci-fi novel told from the perspective of a soldier who used to be Justice Of Toren, a spaceship with an AI that connected many soldiers. So the main character is not just a spaceship but also hundreds of people, all connected with each other in one mind. To be even clearer: dead humans made into soldiers. A bit like the Borg idea but also not at all like it.  It is identity sci-fi, playing with what makes a person a person but also with gender (everyone is a “she”  – or are they?), power relations  and colonialisation. Of course there are splendid fighting scenes too and there is as much social bonding as an AI soldier can be imagined capable of. The book is heavy on the world-building side which I usually do not enjoy that much – endless descriptions of planets, space tech and alien cultures are not my thing – but Leckie does it in doses that don’t neglect the storytelling. I will definitely get the other two parts of the trilogy, too.

P.S.: This is my first time blogging from my phone. Wifi here in the mountains is a bit shaky and this seemed quicker. 

Was ich so treibe

Es ist erstaunlich, wieviele Dinge du tun kannst und dir bleibt trotzdem dabei das Gefühl, du müsstest eigentlich noch viel mehr leisten können. Die absurde Sehnsucht nach handwerklicher Arbeit, bei der du im Gegensatz zu sehr vielen Bereichen der Geistesarbeit irgendwas Handfestes vor dir liegen hast, hat mich heute dazu verleitet aus einer schnöden Fertigpackung ein Brot zu backen zu versuchen. Das Ergebnis duftet zwar nach Brot, aber konsistenzmäßig spielt es eher so in der Liga Pflasterstein.


Hier seht ihr es in einem glorreichen Screenshot. Ich hatte es mit der neuen Stories-Funktion von Instagram gepostet, mit der sich Bilder oder kurze Filmchen online stellen lassen, die nach einem Tag automatisch wieder gelöscht werden. Ähnlich wie bei Snapchat, aber. Aber! Bei Snapchat kommt es aus der Idee heraus, Bilder oder Filmschnipsel als Kommunikationstechnik zu verwenden, während es bei Instagram aus einer Inszenierungsidee heraus kommt. Vorteil ist bei Instagram aberr für Menschen wie mich, dass es einfach mehr Leute nutzen, die ich kenne. Und ich mag es, so ein paar Bild/Film-Schnipsel aus dem Alltag von Leuten, die ich kenne – egal ob off- oder online Bekanntschaften -, durchzugucken. Wäre schön, wenn es sich aber auch auf Instagram als Kommunikationstechnik durchsetzen würde. Ein paar meiner Freund*innen posten schon so. Andere ziehen aber auch hier dasselbe eigentlich archiv-orientierte Inszenieren durch. Hm. Das ist ja aber eigentlich schon der Rest von Instagram. Am besten gefällt mir an der Funktion allerdings tatsächlich, dass es dich nicht automatisch mit öffentlichen Likes oder Zahlen wie oft es angesehen wurde nervt. (“nervt” = dazu motiviert, es zu gamen, also etwas zu posten, was besonders beliebt ist.) Du kannst zwar nachsehen, wieviele und wer es angesehen hat, aber dazu musst du es selbst noch mal aufrufen – es schreit dir nicht entgegen wie sonst auf Instagram und Facebook. Ich sehne mich letztlich immer noch nach einem Social Network, ohne Quantifizierung und mit Ephemeralität. Miau.

Was mich derzeit so rumtreibt, ist vor allem die Vorbereitung für meine Future Hiphop & Bass Party SISSY BASS, die ich immer nur zwei mal im Jahr mache und die weniger Deko-aufwändig, dafür aber für mich schön nerdig musikalisch aufwändig ist. Ich höre mich seit Tagen immer Abends quer durch neue Grime, Juke, HipHop, Afrobeat, usw. Tracks und liebe es. Hoffentlich schaffe ich es morgen noch, wieder mal einen kleinen Mix zu machen und ihn online zu stellen.

Tagsüber hält mich seit Wochen vor allem das Booking für MV40 auf Trab: ein zweitägiges kleines Festival, das wir am 21. und 22. Oktober zum 40. Geburtstag unseres Veranstalterkollektivs organisieren. Mit Einladung an weggezogene Ex-MVler*innen – ich hoffe, da kommen auch einige. Wenn das alles so klappt, wie’s gerade aussieht, werden das zwei wunderwunderschöne Tage bzw Nächte. Aber super-fingernägelabknabberlevel-spannend, das Booken für so ein Festival. Dauernd ist noch ein Act oder wieder ein Act in der Schwebe, und noch dazu hatten wir uns vorgenommen (auf Anregung eines männlichen MV-Mitglieds wohlgemerkt! Bless my gang. ^^), ein möglichst von weiblichen und/oder queeren Künstler*n geprägtes Line up zu machen, und erst gegen Ende dann männlich dominierte Acts dazuzuergänzen. Und halt: No fillers, just killers. Bin gespannt, was am Schluss rauskommt – wir können’s hoffentlich kommende Woche verkünden.

Zu der Festival-Orga kommen noch stundenlange Diskussionen, die wir seit Wochen führen, weil (wieder mal) Umbaupläne für das Gebäude, in dem wir veranstalten, anstehen: dem K4 / Künstlerhaus. Das Veranstaltugskollektiv, in dem ich dabei bin, der Musikverein, enstand dort in selbstverwalteten Zeiten, dem KOMM – Nürnberg war einst ein echtes Aushängeschild für Soziokultur. Nun, es gab immer wieder Anläufe für den Bauabschnitt, der jetzt angegangen werden soll, aber diesmal sieht es ernster aus und wir sollen aus unserem Haupt-Venue, dem Zentralcafé, raus – da soll stattdessen ein Burgerrestaurant rein -, und in einen komplett neuzubauenden Kellerbereich ausgelagert werden. Was die Vor- und Nachteile sind, und was uns Sorgen macht, auf praktische und auf ideeller Ebene, das ist ein ganz schön komplexer Haufen Diskussionspunkte, die uns derzeit umtreiben. Auch damit werden wir hoffentlich kommende Woche mal in eine öffentliche Diskussionsphase übergehen. Dafür sitze ich gerade an der Formulierung eines Statements. Knifflig.

Was hat mich noch beschäftigt? Einige Vorträge hab ich gehalten, in anderen Städten, die doch auch immer etwas Vorbereitungszeit gekostet haben, aber allesamt gute Erlebnisse waren. Und ein Interview für den Spiegel hab ich gegeben, das wohl in der Ausgabe vom 23.8. erscheinen wird, Thema Digitalisierung, Social Media. Haben sogar einen Fotografen vorbeigeschickt. Ich hasse doch fotografiert zu werden. Aber war dann doch recht amüsant. Bin gespannt, was rauskommt.

Serien hab ich auch endlich mal wieder geguckt, nach längerer Abstinenz. Zuletzt Cucumber und Banana (Tofu steht noch aus) – 3 abgeschlossene Kurz-Serien von Russel T. Davies (Queer as Folk, Doctor Who, Torchwood) über queere Beziehungen in Manchester. Schon recht clean, aber es ist wunderbar erzählt, von großartig komisch bis tieftragisch. Und reißt sogar nebenbei das Mietwucher/Leerstands-etc. Problemfeld an. Und das von illegalen Putzkräften, die wie moderne Sklavinnen gehalten werden. Letzteres in Musicalform. Groß. Wirklich gut.

Außerdem schließe ich mich dem Lobeschor für Stranger Things an – eine schöne Hommage an das 80er Coming-of-Age Loser-Teenboys Kino, und auch musikalisch sehr gelungen. Ich weiß nicht, ob es deswegen besser gelungen ist als die meisten Remakes, weil es eben kein direktes Remake ist, sondern mit Elementen aus verschiedenen 80er Filmen spielt. Kann schon sein. Das war bei Super 8 ja ähnlich. Und hallo: Winona Ryder! Auf jeden Fall lesen dazu: Jana Sotzko (The Dropout Patrol, Soft Grid) in der Jungle World.

The Night Of bekam ich empfohlen und habe stattdessen erst mal das britische Original geguckt, das den etwas uncatchy Namen Criminal Justice trägt, aber das ich ebenfalls sehr gelungen finde: Jede der zwei Staffeln ist in sich abgeschlossen und begleitet eine Person durch den Strafvollzug. Dabei ist jeweils lange offen, ob die Person schuldig ist oder nicht. Ich finde es vom Erzähltempo, von der Auswahl was für Momente gezeigt werden, sowie von den Bildern her richtig gut gemacht. Aber vor allem die Uneindeutigkeit der Schuldfrage, die dir eine klare Sympathie/Antipathie-Figur entzieht, macht die Serie aus. Das bietet Raum für das Durchdenken deiner Vorverurteilung. Auch eine Empfehlung.



Pokémon Quo?


Nevermind Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality will bring a whole new WTF level to everything, and by WTF I mean that it will make many people aware of the different kinds of reality they live and question what even is ‘real’. Pokémon Go, an AR geocaching game turns the whole world into a playing field. You can catch Pokémon wherever you are, little and big (mostly) public spots become Pokestops or Gymns. In this way AR frees gaming of the geographical limits not only of where you can play (which is what mobile devices have done), no: AR adds a layer of gaming to your whole physical world, the gap between gamer and avatar becomes smaller.

Just like the fascination with snapchat filters with Pokémon Go it is the mix of the known and the unknown, the acquainted and the new, that’s part of making the fun so accessible for so many people. The geocaching element makes you experience your environment in a new way – everywhere could hide something to be discovered. You discover things in your environment you’ve never payed attention to before and things you know suddenly become charged with new meaning when you discover that they are Pokéstops or Gyms. Of course it also helps that Pokémon are part of pop culture mainstream: thus the new AR layer has something you are already acquainted to. So you can experience your neighbourhood streets as something new and because the AR layer has these cute creatures you already know it has a reassuring element, is not only a strange new techy thing.

This acquaintedness, an air of nostalgia even for the older ones, might be why even though it has only been released for a few days by now P-Go seems as the ice-breaker for the uncanny valley of AR tech. If Google Glass had been released after P-Go things would have gone better for it. Some might be interested in the Pokémon fever because it offers new ways of marketing stuff to you, and yes, Pokémon Go of course is about making money, and the ways in which it can be used for making money via marketing might be what we will hate about it soon. Just as with almost every new tech thing we let into our daily lives. Capitalism is why we can’t have nice things for long.

I find the side effects more fascinating than the possible ways of exploitation. As if by accident P-Go might be something that help a lot of people realize how deeply tech is interwoven in their daily life. So it might be one more step contributing to end digital dualist thinking: One more step towards an end of thinking online and offline as either/or. Weirdly, when I turned on P-Go while I was on a walk lately I not only cared for the AR creatures but somehow it also seemed to sharpen my eye for the birds and squirrels that crossed my way. For some people it has a similar side effect as the smoking ban brought in my experience: I have gotten to know so many new people thanks to the smoking ban because it made us leave the circle of friends we go out with and it makes us leave the loud clubbing area for a cigarette or two. This has created new small social spaces. A friend of mine said he doesn’t get P-Go because he games because/when he doesn’t want to go out (which I fully understand). P-Go players suddenly go and meet each other. As an Inverse article puts it: “Remember when you were told not to play with strangers? In 2016, everything has changed.” Or as Danah Boyd describes it “In New York City, they ran into their neighbors who, on similar hunts, laugh and joke as they show each other their phones and share a moment. This game invites people to wander around their physical environment and see their surroundings in a new way — even prompt a “see something, say something” response in our security-obsessed world.”

Taking gaming to the streets has another side effect though. I don’t know if the game makers are aware that our cities aren’t neutral places. My bet is that they don’t care. This geocaching AR game reminds us of limits in public space that are set by our place in society. Starting with having money for a mobile data rate to play it while walking through the city. If you follow #blacklivesmatter or #reclaimthenight you are very aware that public space as equal playing field that democratic states seem to guarantee is a very theoretical and fragile thing. Last week-end on my way home from a show I realized quickly that a woman walking the streets alone at night will not hunt down her Pokémon as carefree as a man. Omari Akil has written about how playing it as a black man actually could put his life in danger. That’s just two of hundreds of examples.

We agree on a societal consensus of how we talk about our realities and what is acceptable to talk about, I think in journalism it’s called the Overton Window. This middle ground is only the lived reality for some, for an imaginary middle. We often don’t talk about our different experiences because we are so used to them that we take as given that everyone knows. First blogs, then social media were a massive step in making these different realities visible, for breaking the Overton window. The more different people started voicing their opinions and experiences, the more confusing the world got for those who live closest to the imaginary middle ground. The further away your lived reality is from it, the less problems you might have with a society that suddenly realizes that there is not one single objective fixed reality but that there are many fluid ones instead. The closer you are to society’s middle ground reality the scarier the world has become. Which might be one of the reasons for the big right-wing movements growing: For them giving the realities of minorities more space and more justice feels like their safe narrow world gets taken away. In this way social media have tought us a lot about social tensions, about community forming, about power relationships and much more.

Many people though don’t realize that social media – just like AR – already are a new layer that augments our lives. Geographically seen, social media is an invisible layer – AR makes it a bit more visible. And humans are visible creatures. Pokémon Go is just a silly little game but with its step into using AR as a visual layer over an environment you know it helps understanding in a casual fun way how deeply digital technology is interwoven with our everyday lives. AR taking us outside, connecting us via actual public spaces, taking the digital networked experience to the level of collective experience on the streets seems to hit a nerve. When we discuss platform politics of Facebook, to most people it seems like a “take it or leave it” thing, a neglectable theoretical dispute. Leave Facebook if you like it. That this can mean being detached from an important part of social and work networking still is quite incomprehensible for many people. AR might take social justice discussions to urban space, join them with the discussions about online spaces. When a woman complains she can’t write something publicly on the web without getting a wave of abuse and thus feels restricted in her movement it seems theoretical, ‘virtual’ to many. When she says or shows by a video that she can’t walk along the street without getting harrassed it isn’t. If it takes a silly game to unite people in ways that make them realize their different experiences of the same space it’s a good thing. And if it makes gamers aware that games are real social spaces, I won’t complain. When this gamer is worried about P-Go because “we should absolutely expect everything that happened in MMOs to happen here, because AR is an MMO” I wish he would see that a) life is an MMO and b) MMOs are life (things that happen in the social spaces of games affect real people). But his text shows how deeply this little game already inspires some people to think about how digital tech and life are intertwined.

turn off gps and exif - pokemon - twitter quote

There’s rightful criticism, of course there is. Pokémon Go shows the power and disruptive carelessness of companies. If your house becomes a Pokémon Gym, it has consequences – P-Go is great alone for all the discussions about public space it sparked. Should there really be Pokémon in Auschwitz? Are Stolpersteine okay? Should Pokémon be allowed to funerals? Should cats or parrots or other cute pets be? And so on. On the other hand the usual conservative criticism that tries to police the careless fun of exploring new tech also has already set in. From calling it not real hence anti-social, and some new kind of narcissim, and writing things like “people don’t have time to go to protests but they wander the streets playing Pokemon”. Why compare these things? It’s not either/or. Play is not not caring. Protest is caring and caring is only the other side of careless fun. As Ted Leo has put it in a song about St. Feliu, “Costa Brava”: Take some time off, drink some wine, (play Pokémon Go!), and “we’ll forget the fright and remember why we want to be brave and that there’s something to save.” So let’s enjoy it, let’s embrace the fun AND the critical tensions of public spaces on&offline and privacy and commercial pressure this little game might make us aware of until all the capitalist leeches will kill it. And, to quote Danah Boyd yet again: “Rather than responding out of fear, let’s step back and start thinking about how we can create more opportunities for young people to be meaningfully connected in an augmented way.” Just as this article on Pokémon Go as the future of learning does.

staywokemon - twitter quote

Is the internet sad?



Does the internet know the pattern of my ups and downs? Does the internet know why I’m quiet, why I’m noisy? When my absence means I’m broken and paranoid and when it means retreat and peace? Does the internet know when I’m all retweets I might be too fragile too offer anything that might spark response? Does it know when I seek dialogue? Does the internet know why there are days on which no word makes it from my mind through my fingers to the screen alive? Does the internet measure the periods between that and my joyful and careless and loudmouthed content? Does the internet understand? Does the internet judge? Does the internet caress all my posts, my tweets, my searches, my geolocation info before it stores it away? Does it kiss them goodnight? Is the internet daddy? The internet is at its best when it stays vague. A liquid multitude being you can’t put a finger on. If the internet wasn’t that hazy *more* than the sum of all the voices with which you connect through/with it, it wouldn’t feel so intimate. The internet is a phantom limb you weren’t aware of having lost. A phantom limb with a sock puppet you hold up against yourself. Does the internet read between the tweets? Is the internet just as overwhelmed as me on the other side of all this content? Does the internet sometimes jump joyfully into puddles of what I have posted so that all the feels splash all out of their categories? Does the internet feel like the fifth wheel whenever I adress someone directly instead of posting to the internet? Is the internet a lurker? Would the internet hurt me? Is the internet a toughguy MPC that would at any time tear a lighthearted post from years ago out of its safe context into the brutal spotlight of so many eyes that it becomes so heavy that it will crush my life? Will it have been worth it? Does the internet understand the complex terms under which I interweave my life with it? Does the internet read the TOS? If no one else, can at least the internet read me? The internet knows that you are dead if everything you do is unsullied, is legal, stays within the lines. The internet knows that it’s not life if everything you do makes you feel dirty, feels like you overstep a line, feels illegal. A sacrifice: You should feed your life at least one daily act of disobedience to keep the world alive. You should feed the internet at least one daily act of irregularity to keep it alive.

VR and art: experience as creativity

To VR!

Virtual reality and art

I had the pleasure of thinking about VR and art for a talk at re:publica TEN. Some of the first questions I have asked myself are: What’s special about virtual reality, what makes this medium so radically different, why is it considered as significant a moment as when perspective entered painting? I will blog some fragments of my thoughts split up into a few blog posts.

Immersion vs narration

A fascinating point about VR for a user is the disappearance of distance to the piece of art, to the world of experience. Pimentel and Texeira already have written about this anti-semiotic character in the 90s: In VR you don’t need signs that you have to translate – like letters in a book, or pictures on a screen. In VR you can immerse directly into the work of art. They wrote: “Simply, virtual reality, like writing and mathematics, is a way to represent and communicate what you can imagine with your mind. But it can be more powerful because it doesn’t require you to convert your ideas into abstract symbols with restrictive semantic and syntactic rules, and it can be shared by other people.”

To restrict thinking about VR art to only this point would do it no justice though. VR as mere anti-semiotic immersion into a virtual world would mean to only be fascinated by the perfection of the illusion, if not get high on your powers as creator. It would mean to only see the medium as an extension of things like 3D film effects. Something, that helps the audience feel even more like being inside of a fictional world. Yet this is how many makers think about the possibilities of virtual reality right now: as immersion into an experience or as identity tourism. If it’s a rollercoaster ride through cosmos or the stay in an isolation cell, both means thinking VR as possibility to make a user experience the author’s version of a story more intensely.

This already hits on problems when you consider storytelling: How do you lead a user along your plot when she is *in* the story? Classic storytelling doesn’t work when the user becomes an autonomous character in the story. How can a linear story be told if users can look and go whereever they want? Incentives and rewards, copying ideas from games? Well, possible but that means but applying other media’s means onto a new one.

What about forgetting about plot? Could a space to explore be enough? There already exists wellness VR with spheric sounds and meditative landscapes. Or take the Guardian’s VR experience about life in an isolation cell: It works this well because an isolation cell per definition is a small limited space. There is not much to explore and to interact with. Same goes for Notes of Blindness, in which the audio diary of John Hull – who slowly went blind – got made into an audio-visual VR experience. Sounds of the world that surrounds you, original voices telling you their story: both VR experiences mix narrator voices and an experience of a somehow restricted space. It works by setting limits to the user’s possibilities. That’s not really a satisfying solution for the storytelling problem though. It just means not exploring the great specific possibilities of the medium but instead limiting them. The user’s leash gets just a little bit longer. He or she is allowed to take a 360° look, do a few things they get led to do but the author wants the audience to stay passive and under their control. The user is thought as a character in the author’s play.

If VR stays limited like this it might be quite fascinating for a while but the novelty will wear off. Then this path might lead to VR fizzling out like 3D tech for ages, to not much more than a special effect.

VR experience as creative act

A more adequate approach is to see the audience as co-creators of this virtual world. Not placing them into a fixed plot but only creating an environment: a world of potential experiences in which the user forms their own experiences. No complete and linear story that the user plays through. Let the autoritarian narrator disappear. The experiencers (the users) bring their own wishes, ideas, their whole background and context into the VR world. They only create the virtual work of art by how they interact with this world.

So as a theory VR art could mean an ephemeral and personalized virtual experience as work of art: No second person will be looking around in the same way, no second person will interact with the virtual environment in the same way, no second person will create the same story in that virtual environment. Thinking the user as co-creator seems to be more appropriate for the medium. Unlike with books or films you have no finished product / object but it only comes into existence when the user puts on their VR gear and starts interacting with the artificial reality. And it no longer exists when they take it off.

Isn’t it a kind of nice and empowering thought that this way, somehow, about 50 years after Roland Barthes has declared him dead already, with the VR medium the author could die a second time? With Barthes it was about wether or not a work of art should be interpreted against the biographical background of its creator: He emancipated the individual approach. In VR the author dies the death as plot-crafting, storytelling hand. Virtual reality as empowerment of the audience, of the user: Experiencing becomes a creative act.

VR as erotics of art

Or even: In VR experiencing becomes a passionate creative act, a sensual creative experience. Immersed in a virtual world you can act more free of consequences. It is an ephemeral world: there’s no product, no archive. What happens in VR (could) stay in VR. Susan Sontag wrote – even a few years before Barthes (jouissance) – in Against Interpretation that art is not about one correct interpretation. Approaching art can not be restricted to assuming a fixed meaning that quasi was hidden by the creator. She denied that experiencing art correctly would mean to figure out that hidden meaning. Instead she called for an erotics of art and shifted the focus to the emotional sensual individual experience of a work of art.

If you transfer this to the creative experience of VR, you could say VR not just liquifies and personalizes interpretation but does that to the very form of the work of art. It makes for an erotics of art in which the user is audience of and creator of and character in the VR artpiece at the same time, by each user’s very own individual VR experience/creation. Like a wave of pleasure the VR art of work only exists in the moment of interaction with the individual user. Creating while VRly immersed as erotic exploration. It is a medium in which you no longer have a fixed work of art but a liquid plurality of a work of art: all the different threads of experience/creation that different user experience/create are equal ephemeral works of art. The autor who creates the VR environment is but a designer, an architect, is but the maker of tools.